The sea of heads that crowded at Orba community in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State a few days ago at a thanksgiving Mass for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s reelection bid has a story behind it. The people have witnessed history and they have come to attest to it. For centuries, their territory was desolate. It was forgotten. It was virtually unknown. But the new order in the state has put it on the map. It could now be located. It could be talked out.
I encountered this history a few weeks ago through the ambitious project called Udenu Ring Road. This road, traversing no less than eight towns and villages, is a voyage of discovery. It tears through virgin land, an unknown terrain, laying bare communities that were, until recently, light years away from civilisation. The Ring Road, a dual carriageway, complete with streetlight and first-rate drainage, is a freeway to modernity. It has brought the Stone Age to the limelight, stripping it of all its rawness and exposing a newness that transforms and electrifies. The road makes a mockery of the many years of neglect that many communities in Udenu have suffered over the years. It reminds the people that there is still life after the five fire stations built in neighbouring Orba in 1962. The road is, indeed, an ambitious, life-changing project. But what is most remarkable about it is that the people did not ask for it. They did not even know it was possible. It is the brainchild of Governor Ugwuanyi. He is driven by the spirit of service, the spirit of transformation. I see in the Ring Road and the 14-kilometre Nsukka city road, originating at Opi Junction, a conscious and deliberate effort by the government of Enugu State to move the state away from one-city status. Nsukka, under the new order, is standing tall as the next big city after Enugu, the oldest capital city of the East.
In fact, stories wafting out of Enugu State make a mockery of neglect. Just recently, the people of Ngwo, who had suffered neglect from successive administrations in the state for 35 years, had cause to jubilate. The ongoing reconstruction of the dilapidated Milliken Hill Road, which had been abandoned for decades, has brought tears of joy to the affected communities. The last time the road was rehabilitated was in 1983, during the regime of Chief Jim Nwobodo.
The stories of transformation, which make headlines in Enugu State, contrast sharply with what obtains in some neighbouring states, where acrimony and rancour rule the air waves owing to the irresponsible disposition of the governors. The Ugwuanyi approach has no room for acrimony. Rather, it promotes oneness and unity of purpose.
A common refrain, which a newcomer to Enugu State is usually regaled with, is the story of the obvious, that Enugu is a one-party state. The opposition exists only on paper, not in real terms. The story is that the governor is running an inclusive administration that does not view Enugu and its people from the lenses of partisanship. The governor has accommodated every indigene of his state under the huge umbrella of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP). For the people, the consideration before them is not the party by whatever name it is called. Rather, the governor is the party. Where he finds shelter is where the people are drawn to. It has not always been so. But that is the state of affairs under Governor Ugwuanyi .
What could be the magic? It is easy to decipher this once you lend your ears and eyes to the streets, villages and communities of Enugu State. There you will be told in clear terms that Enugu is on one page because the governor is running a government without barriers, a government without boundaries. This being the case, there is no reason for the people to segment. Everybody has jumped unto the victory bandwagon being driven by the governor. In the same vein, the Ugwuanyi approach has rendered the opposition redundant. They have no story to tell. They have no lies or propaganda to sell to the people. They are, therefore, lying comatose. What is making waves and attracting headlines instead is the uncommon accomplishment of the governor.
In a country where greed and cronyism are the order of the day, the Enugu situation is a model to aspire to.
There is so much hot air in most states of the federation owing to the sharp division between the government and the opposition. Ekiti State is in a ding-dong affair owing to the battle of supremacy between the ruling PDP and the rival All Progressives Congress (APC). There is no love lost between Governor Ayo Fayose and those who are opposed to what he stands for. By next month, the battle of wills will come to a head during the governorship election in the state. At moment, tension has reached fever pitch proportions.
Rivers State is another example of a state that is tension-soaked. Governor Nyesom Wike is at war with the opposition elements in the state, led by his immediate predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi. In fact, politics in the state has descended to the level of do-or-die. The result is that blood-letting has become commonplace in the state. As we move towards the 2019 elections, each side of the divide is sharpening its claws, ready to devour the other.
The situation in Imo is a different ball game. Here, the people are at daggers drawn with their governor, who they accuse of reducing governance to a family affair. The governor has not helped matters with the anointing of his son-in-law as his successor. The people are crying, why? This has caused a major crack in the governor’s camp, leading to his fellow partymen and women staging a coup against him. The governor is now fighting for survival and this, certainly, is fuelling discord and tension in the state.
The list of states where governance has taken flight owing to the war between the governor and the governed is long. But we cannot say the same thing of Enugu State, under the present administration. The state is, unarguably, the most peaceful state in terms of relationship between the government and the opposition. The opposition is considered to be non-existent here because the governor has embraced one and all. That is why nobody is challenging his reelection bid. The series of endorsements from all quarters, which the governor enjoys, attests to this. The governor may not be the best human being on the surface of the earth, but the secret of his success is that he has drawn a line between public office and private life.
Some public office holders are failing because they have allowed their personal idiosyncrasies to override service to the people. They need to learn one or two lessons on how not to govern. In doing this, their ultimate focus should be on the people. If they do this, the Enugu scenario will replicate itself in their domains. And the country and its peoples will be the better for it.