By Samson Ezea
As a young man who was desirous of making name in journalism practice more than a decade ago, I was fortunate and privileged enough to commence practice of the noble profession on politics desk. Writing and covering politics, politicians and their activities exposed me to many things and brought me in contact with many politicians and critical stakeholders, of which Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is one of them. Since then, I had meticulously followed Ugwuanyi’s political trajectory and leadership exploits, just like other colleagues of his who are political players.
Without mincing words, I can confidently say that Ugwuanyi, who will clock 57 years tomorrow, is not a typical Nigerian politician, who politicises and sees everything from the prism of partisan politics, even after elections. This is the attitude that has been the bane of good governance, peace, development and security in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999. For Ugwuanyi, partisan politics is secondary, while good governance associated with the general wellbeing of the people and peaceful coexistence is primary. This has been his leadership style before and since 2015 he assumed office as Governor of Enugu state amidst daunting challenges. He is not pretentious about it. No wonder, he has been often described as a compassionate leader and a rare humanist.
Of utmost concern and worry to him at every given time is how to take care of the people, especially the downtrodden. He believes so much in humanity and has massively touched lives. He has built roads, hospitals, schools and others in the rural areas across Enugu State. These rural areas or communities have only been remembered or accessed by politicians before and during elections. But with Ugwuanyi government’s massive infrastructural development and opening of the rural areas across the state, which has led to the completion of more than 248 rural roads and still ongoing, the situation has changed for good for the people of Akpugo community in Nkanu West Council Area, Nimbo and Nkpologu in Uzo-Uwani Council Area, Ogbodoaba in Udenu Council Area and other rural communities across the state. Ugwuanyi was born on March 20, 1965, into the modest and cultured family of Mr. David and Mrs. Veronica Ugwuanyi, of Ohom Orba in the present Udenu Local Council Area of Enugu State during the Lenten period. He was christened Lawrence and was also given Igbo name-Ifeanyichukwu, meaning that nothing is impossible with God. A name that is meaningful, philosophical and symbolic and spiritual in all ramifications. It is a name that has lived with him and has continued to manifest in all his endeavours. Ugwuanyi just like his siblings was brought up in a God fearing way. Growing among his peers, he shone like a star both in academic and extra-curricular activities during his primary, secondary and tertiary education pursuit.
His exemplary leadership quality began to manifest early in his life as a secondary school student at the prestigious St. Theresa College, Nsukka, where he was outstanding in character and learning. After his secondary education, he secured admission into the Nigeria’s foremost university, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and M.Sc. degree in Marketing, majoring in Public Relations. Later, he obtained MBA degree in Finance and Accountancy from Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT).
While his colleagues scrambled for white collar jobs, Ugwuanyi, who had always believed and preferred working for and with his people for the common good of all, picked a job at Premier Brokers Limited, a prime insurance broking firm in the Southeast zone owned by the five states of the zone and African Continental Bank (ACB) now defunct. After many years of excellent performance, he rose to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Premier Broking Firm. In 2002, he became the 16th president of the Rotary Club of Emene, Enugu. Without hesitation and in appreciation of his rare philanthropy, the people of his town, Orba, in an elaborate traditional ceremony conferred on him the title of Dunu Gburugburu 1 of Orba, meaning the man of the people. Satisfied with his exploits and track record in public and community service, Ugwuanyi’s people beckoned on him to offer himself for political office. His foray into the murky waters of Nigerian politics commenced with his quest to serve as chairman of his local council area, Udenu. Despite losing the opportunity to political intrigues, Ugwuanyi remained undaunted and focused in his political pursuits, banking on God and his people’s support and prayers.
In 2003, true to Ugwuanyi’s belief, expectation and hope, the political opportunity came calling. He won the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest for Igbo-Eze North/ Udenu Federal Constituency seat. He overwhelmingly won the election and his constituents enjoyed his quality representation. He was rewarded and appreciated by his people with reelection in 2007 and 2011, making him the longest serving House of Representatives member in Enugu State before 2015 general elections.
While in the House of Representatives, he moved so many motions and initiated some people-oriented bills. He also chaired and co-chaired some many committees, including Marine Transport committee which he chaired for eight consecutive years. While in the House of Representatives for more than a decade, Ugwuanyi’s desire to contest for Enugu State governorship seat on PDP platform in 2015 received massive support across the state. He won the PDP governorship ticket, contested and won the governorship election in Enugu State in 2015. Unfortunately and for the first time since 1999, his party PDP lost the presidency to the All Progressives Congress APC in the same election.
On assumption of office, Ugwuanyi was not perturbed by the change in the political equation at the centre. In the face of the obvious and daunting financial challenges occasioned by the country’s recessed economy in 2015, Ugwuanyi first sought the face of God and handed over the affairs of the state to Him. He faced his job with utmost diligence, equanimity and fear of God. Knowing that nothing could be achieved in an atmosphere of crisis and insecurity, Ugwuanyi’s administration aggressively embarked on peace and security initiatives. First, he reached out to Enugu people, which include the opposition members, youths, elders, religious leaders, women and politicians, asking them to join hands with him in moving the state forward. He reminded them that elections were over and the wellbeing and peace of Ndi Enugu remain paramount.
The 450 autonomous communities, three senatorial zones, 17 local government areas and 260 electoral wards in the state have felt the impact of Ugwuanyi’s administration one way or the other. Apart from rejigging and repositioning the state security apparatus for optimal performance, it was Ugwuanyi’s government that first introduced and commenced the Forest Guard model in the country with the recruitment and equipping of 1700 personnel to work as Forest Guards in the state. Other states across the country are implementing the same model today. The state, despite not being an oil-producing state or ranks high in the monthly federation allocation has become a reference point in financial and human resources management, courtesy of Ugwuanyi’s prudence, fiscal discipline and transparency. Under Ugwuanyi’s government, Enugu State’s Internally Generated Revenues has improved significantly and the state has performed creditably well in the Ease of Doing Business. Not too long ago, his government was honoured with Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN) as the second most accountable state government in Nigeria. It was for Ugwuanyi’s performance in office and others that four national dailies-The Sun, Independent, Vanguard and Leadership, independently found him worthy of honour in 2018 with different and unprecedented awards at the same time, after painstaking assessments of his steady and sterling performance. These awards were first of its kind to any governor in the southeast region, if not the entire country since 1999.
While it is expected that his family members, friends and well-wishers will roll out drums today to celebrate him, Ugwuanyi will in his usual manner celebrate his birthday in a low key at the orphanage homes and homes of the elderly and the less privileged. Hurray and many more rewarding years ahead, the indefatigable leader at 57.
Ezea writes from Independence Layout Enugu