By Samson Ezea
When I wrote an article during the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s 57 birthday recently describing him as a rare humanist @57, many who have not followed or following his political trajectory and unique leadership exploits, before and since he joined politics were in doubt of my judgment and sincerity. They were ignorant of it, having relied so much on social media manipulations, planted lies on it and beer parlour rumours to form opinions about Governor Ugwuanyi and his government. They have become so vulnerable and susceptible to the social media rantings and lies to the extent that they cannot differentiate lies from the truth.
It is not out of place seeing them being jittery, and cynical of what I wrote about Ugwuanyi and his giant strides during his 57th birthday. It is expected of them, because that is part and parcel of human life. Some of them called me praise singer and others said I am a sycophant. I am not perturbed or distracted by their antics. In short, I have since forgiven them and moved on, because they cannot give what they don’t have, don’t know what they are saying and cannot just know what they don’t know. This is especially when they are not ready to research, investigate and read wider for more information and knowledge.
Just as I have told many, if saying the truth about Governor Ugwuanyi and his administration’s giant strides in different sectors in the face of economic challenges will make me a praise singer, I will like to be one and remain one, knowing full well that truth is always bitter. In days that passed and ahead, I will be vindicated by the unfolded and unfolding events in the state.
Typical of such events was the recent celebration of Governor Ugwuanyi’s 57 birthday. Since coming into office and unlike his colleagues and highly placed individuals, Governor Ugwuanyi has consistently insisted on and maintained a low key birthday ceremony that is usually about caring for the wellbeing of the needy, elderly and children in orphanages and giving back to the downtrodden in the society. That was why his friends, Nsukka Professors and Council Chairmen keyed into his longstanding philosophy of philanthropy and humanism in organising his 57 birthday recently in Enugu.
It would be recalled that the Association of Nsukka Professors in collaboration with friends of Gov. Ugwuanyi, voluntarily paid hospital bills of discharged indigent patients in both federal and state-owned health institutions in Enugu State as well as faith-based organisations, totaling over N27.3 million, to commemorate the governor’s 57th birthday.
According to the President of Association of Nsukka Professors, Prof. Osita Okanya, the association and friends of the governor paid N16,950,000 medical bills of discharged indigent patients in University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku/Ozalla; N4,900,000 at Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu; N2,405,000 at ESUT Teaching Hospital Parklane, Enugu; N1,000,000 at Bishop Shanahan Hospital Nsukka and N2,062,000 at Faith Foundation Hospital, Nsukka, totaling over N27.3 million.
In the same vein, the 17 Council Chairmen in the State cleared the hospital bills of discharged indigent patients and donated food items worth N6.7m in celebration of Governor Ugwuanyi’s birthday, which is line with his life philosophy. The Chairman of Udenu Local government, Chairman of the seventeen Local Council Chairmen in the state under the auspices of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and National Publicity of the august body, Hon. Solomon Onah, said they paid 6.7m hospital bills of the discharged indigent patients and donated food items to orphanage homes. Hon. Onah explained that the Council Chairmen visited Bishop Shanahan Hospital Nsukka, Children Orphanage in Ibeku Opi, Enugu Correctional Centre, Ezeagu Correctional Centre, Mother of Christ Hospital Enugu, Enugu Cheshire Home among others.
It would also be recalled that Gov. Ugwuanyi, shortly after the symposium organised in his honour during his 57th birthday celebrated the bash with the elderly at “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”, where he identified with the aged tenderly and made a donation to enable them celebrate his birthday with him. At the symposium, the governor expressed gratitude that the Nsukka professors and his friends kept faith with his standing principle “by defraying very huge hospital bills for discharged indigent patients in many hospitals across the state, saying: “For this, I am indeed very grateful”. The theme of symposium, chaired by former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, was “At Peace with God and Neighbour: Understanding the Mantra of Governance in Enugu State”.
The first paper, entitled: “Understanding Governor Ugwuanyi’s ‘Enugu State is in the hands of God’ Against the Backdrop of the Biblical Moses and the Literary Ezeulu of Achebe’s Arrow of God” was presented by the Vice Chancellor of Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian Anieke. The second paper, “From Ashua to Nrashi: An Interrogation of the Nexus between Environment, Struggle and Reward among the Igbo of Nigeria,” was presented by Prof. Damian Ugwutikiri Opata of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. While the third paper delivered by Rev. Fr. Emeka Chikezie Ngwoke, PhD, of Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, University of Nigeria Nsukka, was entitled, “Peace and Security in Enugu State: Building on the Bedrock of Conversation”.
Senator Ayogu Eze, Prof. Aloysius Okolie (Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, UNN) and HRH Igwe Abel Nwobodo were Discussants. Other dignitaries include the Deputy Governor of the State, Hon. Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; members of the Federal House of Representatives from Enugu State, PDP State Chairman, Hon. Augustine Nnamani; State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Emmanuel Edeh; Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi; Senator Ben Collins Ndu; President, Enugu State Customary Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice George Nnamani; members of the State House of Assembly, State Executive Council (EXCO), Council Chairman; former State Chairmen of the PDP, Chief Engr. Vita Abba and Chief Ikeje Asogwa; and Chief Chinedu Onuh. With this, and other numerous philanthropic and humanitarian gestures of Gov. Ugwuanyi, which has consistently spanned over a decade, anybody who is still in doubt of the rare humanism in the personality called Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is economical with the truth and living in self-denial. What a best way to celebrate the birthday of a rare humanist and welfarist. Beneficiaries of these gestures, who may have been stranded in the hospitals before now for being unable to raise money to offset their bills will forever be grateful to God, Ugwuanyi and his trusted friends. We are not unaware of situations where discharged patients are abandoned in the hospitals by relations due to lack of fund to offset their bills. Some sell family land or use it as a collateral to raise money to clear hospital bills of their relations. Ugwuanyi and his friends by this singular action have relieved the direct beneficiaries and their families of heavy financial burden in this critical time.
Before now, testimonies abound on how Ugwuanyi has given hope to the hopeless and saved lives when it mattered most. We are quite aware of many Nigerian personalities and public figures, who are not up to Governor Ugwuanyi’s status, but lavish millions of Naira with friends and families in a birthday bash, without remembering or reaching out to the needy and elderly in the society. There are few Nigerians of Ugwuanyi’s calibre, who are conscious and always reaching out to the less privileged and downtrodden from time to time. They are rare and Ugwuanyi’s takes lead among them. He has been himself and very consistent in humanitarian gestures.
The philanthropic actions and humanitarian deeds of Ugwuanyi’s friends, Nsukka Proffessors and Local Government Chairmen in offsetting hospital bills of many discharged indigent patients and donating to the orphanage and elderly homes is a clear demonstration of true friendship, strong belief in Ugwuanyi’s life philosophy and what he stands for. It is also a clear manifestation of the much-talked-about rare humanism and welfarism in Governor Ugwuanyi, which placed him high above his compatriots in the leadership and politics of the country.
Ugwuanyi’s friends, Nsukka Professors, Council Chairmen and all that celebrated him and with him during his 57th birthday by reaching out to the needy, downtrodden and less privileged are indeed exemplars and true humanists.
Ezea writes from Independence Layout, Enugu