It was the 30th US president and lawyer, Calvin Coolidge, who once said that no person was ever honoured for what he received, rather honour has been the reward for what one gave out to the society. This, no doubt is a statement of fact and true reflection of the avalanche of the prestigious Newspapers awards bestowed on the performing and unassuming governor of Enugu state, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyichukwu Lawrence Ugwuanyi by four national newspapers, namely, The Sun, Vanguard, Leadership and Independent this year. These awards, which are well deserved of the outstanding governor, is historic and unprecedented in the annals of newspaper awards in the country. This seems to be the first time a governor will be scooping four newspapers awards at a time. While The Sun, Leadership and Vanguard newspapers honoured Ugwuanyi with the Governor of The Year 2018, Independent honoured him with Governor of The Year 2018 For Grassroots Development.
That these awards came after painstaking assessments and scrutiny by the management and Board of Editors of these newspapers is clear testimony and true manifestation of Governor Ugwuanyi’s verifiable and remarkable achievements in office in the face of obvious and enormous challenges.Also coming after Gov. Ugwuanyi’s three years plus in office is a pointer to the fact that while the governor had wholeheartedly concentrated attention on his core agenda of providing good governance, peace and basic infrastructural development in the state without noise or fanfare, these newspaper organisations were diligently keeping tab on his administration’s activities, taking recognition of its giant strides in all sectors of the state economy. For those who may not have been following, governance in Enugu State and may ask what Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has done differently to deserve these awards, he is a governor with a difference, many firsts and feats. It is a public knowledge that Gov. Ugwuanyi, on assumption office in 2015 was confronted with enormous challenges of paucity of fund, backlog of salaries, infrastructural deficits especially in rural areas, huge debt profile, insecurity, pre and post-election legal encumberances and others. Because of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) ’s loss of the presidential election in 2015, Ugwuanyi became the first governor of the state to be in opposition party since 1999. At the time, his predecessors were in office, PDP was in control at the centre and they leveraged on the situation to enjoy a lot of advantages. That is not the case with Gov. Ugwuanyi.
Many had expected that with the myriad of daunting challenges before him, Gov. Ugwuanyi would complain or engage in witch-hunt, blame game and buck passing. Unlike his colleagues, he didn’t do so for one day, rather he stoically and quietly took the bull by the horn, by humbly providing solution to these challenges. With his wealth of experience in private sector and administrative astuteness in public office, Gov. Ugwuanyi knowing that Enugu State is third from the bottom in the monthly Federal Allocation sharing formula, quickly tightened the loopholes in the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which shored it up tremendously.
In the area of appointments and project allocations, Gov. Ugwuanyi spread it across the three senatorial zones of the state, using necessity, impact and competence as a benchmark in making choice. His government has through prudence and fiscal discipline reduced drastically the cost of governance, thereby made fund available for projects executions and other obligations that have direct impact on the lives of the people. Gov. Ugwuanyi had on assumption office, adopted inclusive, live-and-let live approach to governance, a development that created peaceful atmosphere for his perceived political opponents and opposition parties to operate at par with the ruling party in the state, without any qualms.
Enugu state being civil servants state, Gov. Ugwuanyi made workers salary a top priority of his government. In the last three years plus of Ugwuanyi’s administration, workers in the state receive their every 23rd of the month and receive 13th month in December as Christmas bonus. Even when monthly federation fund was delayed in June and July last year due some differences between Federal Ministry of Finance, NNPC and other federal revenue generating agencies, Gov. Ugwuanyi paid workers’ salaries for the two months without federation allocation. While many workers are at loggerhead with their state governors over salaries and other benefits, workers in Enugu are on the same page with Ugwuanyi to the extent that they gave him award as Workers’ Most Friendly governor. They and other affiliate workers’ union have endorsed the governor for second term in office. This is unprecedented in the workers-governors’ relationship in Nigeria.
Apart from these, Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration has constructed and renovated over 589 primary and secondary school blocks and at the same time employed over 4000 teachers, empowered 750 youths under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme. His government took massive road construction to rural areas that have not witnessed such since the creation of the state. Such rural areas include Amuri in Nkanu West Council Area, where Agbani-Amuri road that was abandoned for more than ten decades was constructed. Also in Akpugo in Nkanu West, the government constructed Ogonogoeji-Ndiagu-Akpugo road, from Atavu Bailey Bridge to Afor Onovo. The road was the first state government project in Akpugo since the creation of the state.
The popular Ninth Mile road that has been synonymous with traffic gridlocks especially during festive periods was decongested by Ugwanyi’s administration with the construction of a new bypass road that terminates at the Enugu toll gate along Enugu/ Onitsha Express way and reconstruction of Amankwo- Ameke- Amah Junction Bypass road. Having also received government attention is the Nkalagu-Eha Amufu road in Isi-Uzo Council Area that has been abandoned for more three decades. Not left out is the popular Opi Nsukka road which is a gateway to sleepy town of Nsukka. The road has been dualised with pedestrian way and traffic light.
The list of roads and other basic amenities provided by Ugwuanyi’s administration in both rural and urban areas that have opened up the state for investments is endless. At the last count, the state government has spent close to N50b in the construction and renovation of more than 500 kilometres roads in the state. All these were achieved, despite paucity of fund and undue distractions from the pre-election legal tussle between Gov. Ugwuanyi and his kinsman, Senator Ayogu Eze that lasted for more than three years, before Ugwuanyi triumphed at the Supreme Court. Under the governor’s watch, Enugu has remained the most peaceful state, having recorded the lowest crime rate in the country. Governor Ugwuanyi is the most accessible and ever handy governor in the country today. He is not only always in the state most times, he is always handy to attend to urgent problems that require immediate solution or succuor.
Across the state today, it is believed that Gov. Ugwuanyi’s government has given much to the people, since coming into office despite the obvious and daunting challenges, capable of derailing or distracting any government. Apart from the gale of endorsements that have trailed his reelection from different groups/bodies, including religious, traditional and professionals, the common saying by majority voters in the state ahead of the election is that Gov. Ugwuanyi has performed well and deserves a second term. With all these remarkable achievements in office, it is obvious that Gov. Ugwuanyi is a pacesetter and governor with a Midas Touch.
Ezea writes from Enugu