By Samson Ezea
Today, Friday, January 21, 2022, the pacific, humble and performing Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi will be honoured and decorated with the most prestigious National Peace Award as the Most Peaceful Governor in Nigeria by the National Peace Award Committee headed by the President, Dr. Suleiman Adejoh. According to Adejoh, “the choice of Governor Ugwuanyi as the Most Peaceful Governor in Nigeria is because of his peace activities and advocacy programmes in the South East and the country at large. He said: “Governor Ugwuanyi has demonstrated competence in promoting peaceful co-existence in Enugu State through various avenues, including mass empowerment of young people, infrastructural renewal and putting Enugu on the map of development, consistency in peace and conflict resolution strategy, he embarked on always.
“After the award presentation, the Governor will go down the history as the best governor Enugu has ever had. Other responsibilities can be accorded to Governor Ugwuanyi in the project 2023, because he has the capacity to unite the country. “With the national election coming up in Nigeria, if anything is to be zoned to the South East, then Governor Ugwuanyi should be considered for such position.” “He is simple. He is performing. He is down-to-earth. He has contributed immensely to the entrenchment of peace in the south east by extension Nigeria and that is what we need for Nigeria to move forward.” This award just like the previous ones conferred on Ugwuanyi is a product of careful assessment, examination and acknowledgement of Ugwuanyi’s peaceful overtures, dispositions and initiatives that have yielded fruitful outcomes and results. Adejoh’s description of Governor Ugwuanyi is apt, factual and undiluted. Indeed, Ugwuanyi deserves the award of the most peaceful Governor in Nigeria, being a pacifist per excellence and a leader without boundary. The award is timely, coming at a time the country is in dire need of a genuine peace maker and a leader that has capacity for and commitment to true national healing, national dialogue and enduring peace. Since assuming office as governor in 2015, Ugwuanyi’s peaceful disposition to governance has endeared him to many within and outside the state. It has also put Enugu state in the global peace map as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. It was because of these peaceful qualities, that Ugwuanyi was also honoured with the Peace Ambassador Award during the International Peace Day on September 21, 2020 alongside other Nigerian leaders. So honouring Ugwuanyi with the award of the most peaceful Governor in Nigeria this time is not surprising to those who have followed his political trajectory and leadership exploits since he came to political limelight.
Despite assuming office at a time fragile peace, communal conflicts and political crises cum differences were at its peak in the state, Ugwuanyi has never been daunted or relented in pursuing peace and security in the state till date. He has remained a champion, symbol and epitome of peace in the state. He has pursued peace with sincerity, diligence, integrity and fear of God. He has rebuilt broken bridges, reconciled the irreconcilables and mended cracked walls within and outside the state. He has sacrificed a lot for peace to reign in the state. Even with his exalted and powerful position as governor, he had continued to stoop to conquer. He has become a pencil in the hands of God to keep the state on the right track and peaceful. He has strongly demonstrated his penchant for genuine peace in every situation, without minding whose ox is gored. With Ugwuanyi’s numerous peace initiatives and overtures, longtime political rivals and warring communities in the state have embraced, dialogued and resolved thier differences in the interest of peace and unity in the state.
The relationship between the executive and the legislature has remained cordial. It is not different in that between the state government and workers as Ugwuanyi has remained one of the most workers’ friendly governors in the country today. Even the oppositions in the state are in total agreement that Ugwuanyi’s peaceful and tolerant disposition has promoted democracy, rule of law, sustainable and enduring peace. To the low and high within and outside the state, Ugwuanyi is a genuine peacemaker who is always ready to sacrifice anything for peace to reign. He has been consistent and practical in his peace pursuits and overtures. It is for this reason that many laurels, awards and honours have been given to and conferred on him in this regard by some national dailies, reputable national and international organisations and groups before now. Ugwuanyi’s milestones in peacemaking is worthy of emulation and a lesson to be learned. It is at the same time a challenge to political leaders, especially in Enugu State, where Ugwuanyi has become an exemplar and a model in leadership. It is a lesson because political leaders ought to be peaceful and pursue peace at all times. It is a challenge, because majority of political leaders find it difficult to be peaceful and at peace with themselves and others. They are often intoxicated or carried away by perks of office and power, forgetting its ephemerality.
Ugwuanyi is conscious and mindful of that thus has remained himself in power- humble, focused, accessible, peaceful, diligent, taciturn, lenient, forgiving and caring as well. His peaceful leadership style is exceptional and unique. As one of my friends will always say, Enugu State has a priest in leadership and politics in the person of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who has resolved and settled lingering crises without rocking the boat or offending anyone. Ugwuanyi’s enviable peace stride is not accidental. It is as a result of the diverse and multi-faceted crisis solving, peaceful measures and approaches he introduced and adopted in the state. They are unique and novel.
Even whenever crisis which is synonymous with human life occurs, Ugwuanyi’s government and other relevant agencies in the state had often intervene promptly and appropriately to nip it in the bud or resolve it amicably. Severally, Ugwuanyi has surprised many by personally and directly getting involved in resolving some of these conflicts between communities, groups or individuals conflicts, deploying the stoop-to- conquer tactics and carrot approach. This positive and peaceful method of Ugwuanyi’s administration is responsible for the tremendous development and giant strides of the state government, individuals and organisations across the state since 2015. Not carried away by the successes recorded by his administration in that direction and not resting on his oars as usual in his pursuit of peace, Ugwuanyi after the 2019 election set up and inaugurated a 17-man committee on conflict resolution in Enugu Government House. The committee which is first of its kind in the state is headed by a renowned investment expert and experienced lawyer, Dr. Uchenna Ogbu.
Inaugurating the committee, Ugwuanyi said the body is saddled with the responsibility of reconciling individuals, communities and institutions.
The governor said his administration, in the past five years, has “strived to build an Enugu State of our dreams, where there is peace and common brotherhood.”
He pointed out that the committee was set up in recognition that in every community, there are bound to be conflicts because of individual differences.
Ugwuanyi, therefore, urged the committee to ensure conflicts are resolved through dialogue and reconciliation, thereby helping government to discharge its responsibility.
Reiterating his administration’s resolve in setting up other institutional and legal frameworks for dispute resolution, the governor stated that “Enugu State is the first state in the whole of Southeast to set up the Multi-door Court House in 2018 and the third in the country after Lagos and Abuja”.
Responding on behalf of others, Ogbu thanked the governor for finding them worthy to serve in his government and assured him of their readiness and commitment to deliver.
Since then, the committee which is made up of former state and national lawmakers with broad experience in legislations and conflict resolution has playing a vital and complementary role in consolidating and sustaining the peace and unity Ugwuanyi’s administration has worked on and for the people of the state since coming into office.
It is not an overstatement for one to say that the major preoccupation of Ugwuanyi’s administration for years now is about building bridges, mending the broken hearts and reconciling the irreconcilable differences of Enugu people, knowing full well that nothing could be achieved in the atmosphere of chaos and insecurity.
Prominent among the age-long conflicts/crises resolved by Gov. Ugwuanyi include the Oruku/Umuode communities crisis in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State. This conflict has lingered for years with endless court litigations without solution. It took sincere approach and intervention of Ugwuanyi for the two warring communities to sign a historic peace accord in Government House Enugu on Monday April 8, 2019.
Others are Ugwuaji/Ogui Nike communities conflict in Enugu North Local Government Area, Akwukwe/Akwuke Uwani Autonomous communities crisis which is being resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Apart from these, through his Midas touch and magic wand, Ugwuanyi has been able to reconcile prominent politicians with different political leanings in the state, whose political differences and struggle for power by all means has been threatening the peace and security of the state before now.
Ugwuanyi is like water. He has no enemy. He is a genuine and renowned peacemaker in leadership like no other. He is a governor of all irrespective of status, religion, political affiliation and gender. His peace model will remain a reference point to students of peace and conflict resolution.
Ezea writes from Independence Layout, Enugu State .