Chief Ugochukwu Akpa is the president-general of the Association of Ebonyi State Town Unions, with membership cutting across 140 autonomous communities therein.
In this interview, he X-rays Governor David Umahi’s leadership in Ebonyi State in the past five years and affirms that the governor has performed creditably in the areas of infrastructure, health, education, agriculture and sustenance of peace.
Governor David Umahi has just clocked five years in office; how would you assess his administration?
Simply put, Governor Umahi has performed creditably well, compared with past leaders that have piloted the affairs of the state. First, there has been a convergence of powers of the three arms of government and that is the major factor that determines good governance.
Irrespective of the paucity of internally-generated revenue, low receipt of Federal Allocation and non-inclusion in the derivation fund of oil-producing states, Ebonyi State, within these few years of his regime, witnessed all-round development in the urban and rural communities.
With the collaborative effort of the Federal Government authorities, he has intensified agricultural and other socio-economic policies that have ranked the state high. What is most interesting is his governance style of seeking guidance and advisory from the elders’ council on vital projects as well as on security matters. Oftentimes, he involves us (our association) and traditional rulers in his government in order to ensure grassroots enlightenment.
How have you been working with your colleagues both in the state and in the South-East; have the governors been cooperative?
I want to acknowledge the efforts of the town union presidents and their officers at the various communities of the state. In liaison with the traditional rulers, we have been working in partnership for the progress of the state and I commend their efforts so far. We have also been relating with the Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU) at zonal level and the outcomes of our deliberations have been fruitful.
We get fully involved in security duties, supervisory-wise. In this COVID-19 period, for example, we deployed our members to enlighten and monitor the operations of security outfits in our communities, particularly the worrisome issue of infiltrators into our communities from other states.
To answer the second stanza of your question, the governor has been very cooperative. His Excellency has even approved the sum of N10 million for each of the 140 autonomous communities in the state for the town unions to embark on any projects of their choice. We’re also gladdened that Ebonyi was among the first states to acquire state-of-the-art molecular laboratories as Nigeria recorded the index case of COVID-19.
Could you throw more light on why you applaud the governor’s governance style, which areas particularly interest you?
The Umahi administration has promoted the participation of citizens in governance and has put in place sustainable programmes for youth empowerment in order to dissuade them from crime. He has equally appointed a lot of them, including women, to participate in grassroots governance, thereby making them to effectively claim their right in the democratic culture. A lot of these youths, male and female, have also been empowered to own their own farmlands.
But I must say, regrettably, that, irrespective of this benevolence and notwithstanding the massive enlightenment on this laudable agricultural policy of his, there is still apathy on the part of some citizens of the state. My optimistic view is that Ebonyians would soon be reaping the benefits of these agro-based programmes in this farming season, irrespective of the COVID-19 scourge.
Unfortunately, some persons and groups have made unfair comments against Umahi’s agric policy. All I will tell them is that these critics are detractors who do not want to see anything good in his dynamic and strategic approach to micro and macro socio-economic development of our State, Ebonyi. I urge our people to discountenance such criticism. Maybe the perpetrators criticising the agricultural policies are doing that with selfish political interest. Good enough, beneficiaries of the programme have criticised the unwarranted attack.
How about the security challenges?
The issue of security challenges confronting us is enormous but we have been able to confront them. We have now come up with a definite proposal that might give a lee-way to getting reasonable solutions.
Good enough, our stat’s Chief Executive, Engr. David Umahi, is achieving peace and orderliness and the association of town union presidents are working together with him to actualise that mission of having a peaceful and orderly state.
Initially, we had the problems of inter-communal clashes in some areas over land issues and crises among few communities with their neighbours at our borders with Cross River and Benue states. Ebonyi also is not left out in the Fulani cattle herdsmen problem, with the incessant menace of their cattle on our farmlands. But, in truth, the present administration is strategically tackling these issues.
If you were to advise the governor, what few words would you have for him as an individual and as representative of the grassroots leaders in Ebonyi State?
The governor should consolidate and stabilise the peace, which he has brought to bear on our land, as his governance has indeed been anchored on peace, unity and development. As the Chief Executive, he should continue to play the fatherly role. With the economic hardship scenario, Engr. Umahi should device appropriate means of beefing up the internal revenue of the state as well as insist on his consistency on due process.
Any unbiased assessment of his performance in the past years would adjudge him from what is on ground as having achieved greatness. Those who have eyes to see can easily testify to that in the affirmative.