Enugu: Power rotation, changing face of governance and development
When common sense, unity, trust and sincerity prevail, nothing is impossible to achieve. In such a situation, there can be a “gentleman” agreement on power rotation that will be binding on all parties irrespective of political leanings. This seemed to have worked well in the political power equation of the coal city, Enugu, since the creation of the state.
With the creation in 1991 from the old Anambra State, it had three senatorial zones; namely, Enugu-east, Enugu-west and Enugu-north. Of the three, the north has the highest population. Also with the creation, the two former governors of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Chief Christian Onoh now hail from Enugu East and Enugu-West zones respectively.
It may not be out of place to state that it was for this reason that during the General Ibrahim Babangida’s ill-fated transition programme of 1992, the founding fathers of the state agreed and insisted that the Enugu north zone (Nsukka people) should produce the first civilian governor of the state.
Although some people, among them Chief Hyde Onuaguluchi from Enugu west who was a strong governorship aspirant on the platform of National Republican Convention (NRC) and Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu from the west, who was also a strong governorship aspirant on the Social Democratic Party (SDP) platform tried their best to win the election but to no avail. While Onuaguluchi was disqualified in the primaries, Gbazuagu lost to the eventual governorship candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo who hails from Ukehe in Igbo-Etiti, Enugu north zone.
Nwodo’s tenure was truncated in less than two years in office, following the military coup of November 17, 1993, led by General Sani Abacha.
With the return of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999, Enugu-east zone was favoured to produce governor for the state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The decision of the PDP in this direction was in line with the vision of the founding fathers of the state, some whom were PDP members. Chief Victor Nduka Agu from the west tried his luck in the PDP governorship primaries, but lost to Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani from Enugu east. Nnamani subsequently won the governorship election in the state. He won his second term in office. While in office, the people of Enugu east had the major shares of developmental projects in the state at the detriment of the other two zones-west and north. It was during the period that so many roads were constructed in the eastern zone. The Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus, Nigerian Air force School, ESUT permanent site and others were sited in the zone.
When Nnamani was about completing his second term in office, he kept many including his party faithful guessing on whom and where his successor would come from. After much dilly-dally and prevarication, Nnamani and the PDP stakeholders, in line with the gentleman’s rotation agreement in the state, backed Barrister Sullivan Chime from the west as Nnamani’s successor. Contested against Chime in 2007 and 2011 was Okey Ezea from Enugu north who did so on the platform of the Labour Party and Progressive Peoples Party (PPA), but failed mainly because of the prevailing rotational principle and the PDP’s dominance in the state.
With Chime in the saddle, Enugu west zone witnessed and enjoyed tremendous developments in all ramifications. Nothing was left out for the people of the west in the area of governance, projects and human empowerment. Just like the era of Nnamani, all the key federal appointments in the state including that of minister was kept in the west for eight years of Chime’s administration. Not that the other two zones-north and the east did not witness government’s presence during the era, they did, but it was too minimal and insignificant compared to that of the west that has the yam and the knife.
Within the 16 years of Nnamani and Chime as governors of the state, their governments never had problems with financial resources, because it was an era of excess crude account and high Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) coupled with the fact that the PDP was in control of power at centre.
Efforts within this period to create Adada State to assuage the agitation and long suffering of the people of Enugu north zone (Nsukka) proved abortive. This is despite the fact the Enugu north zone has the highest population and by extension highest number of voters in the two communities; namely, Enugu Ezike in Igbo-South Council Area and Aku people in Igbo-Etiti Council Area making away with the trophy. Also in the area of human resources, the zone is not lacking, having produced 46 professors, several other outstanding personalities in different areas of human endeavours.
Being mindful of the prevailing situation in the state and after due consultation, Chime before the completion of his second term in office had in one of the Enugu PDP stakeholders’ meeting announced that Enugu north should produce his successor, because the decision was in line with the rotational principle in the state, a majority of the stakeholders did not object.
During the party primaries, three-time member House of Representatives, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, from Udenu in Enugu north zone, emerged the party’s governorship candidate. Ugwuanyi won the governorship election, His party, the PDP lost power at the centre for the first time in 16 years of the country’s uninterrupted democracy. Apart from this, the nation’s economy nearly became comatose, following the crash in oil price globally. Prevalent was states’ rising debt profile, paucity of fund, bailout fund syndrome and other economic challenges that were unheard for in the last 16 years. Some, especially the people of Nsukka in Enugu north have even asked: “Why all these economic challenges now that Nsukka has produced the governor for the first time in more than three decades? Some had erroneous believed that the people of the zone were jinxed and cursed. If not, why should it have been the lot of the zone to produce the governor at this critical time in the country’s history?
Not daunted with these challenges, however and having realised that leadership is about taking responsibility and solving problems, Governor Ugwuanyi has taken the bull by the horns in governing the state since he assumed office. At a time, it is becoming increasingly difficult for most states to pay workers’ salaries talk less of embarking on capital projects, Enugu State under Ugwuanyi has not only paid workers’ salaries regularly, the government has also embarked on several capital projects across the state.
Among the ongoing the projects are the popular Opi-Nsukka Road that is an entry point to the Nsukka. It is a road that was abandoned for years by successive administrations. The road which is now under rapid construction by the Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) is being dualised with well-constructed drainage to control erosion. One of the lanes is nearing completion and is already giving Nsukka a facelift expected of a town housing a renowned university, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). Others are the Obechara Road junction –Umuakashi Mechanic Village– Ikenga Hotels Junction. This is being handled by the construction giant, Arab Contractors. The Post Office Roundabout, Odenigbo Roundabout, Ogurugu Road– Ikenga Hotels junction, and the Enugu Road Nsukka Junction, Umezebi–Nru junction–University gate are all under construction within the university town of Nsukka. The others include Ohom Orba Junction– Imilike Ani – Ezimo Uno – Ezimo Agu– Imilike Ogbodu Aba – Obollo Afor Roads.
The Ameke Ngwo-Nsude Junction bypass and Ninth Mile Corner Bypass nearing completion will ease the perennial traffic gridlock at Ninth mile area. Serious work is going on Abakpa Nike Road, Nike Lake Road, the Airport Roundabout–Orie Emene– St. Patrick’s College – Eke Obinagu Road Project, Mbanefo II New Haven. They will all have streetlights upon completion.
Work has also reached advanced stages at the Workers’ Estate at Ogbeke. The State Government has paid 30 percent Equity Contribution to enable interested Enugu State civil servants from Grade Level 01 to Grade Level 10 acquire 100 units of one bedroom flats at Elim Estate, Ibagwa, Nike, Enugu. The beneficiaries have been selected through an open lottery system held at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu. Also on the verge of completion is a medical diagnostic centre in Enugu. Related to this is the construction of three new Specialists Hospitals in the three Senatorial Zones. The flag-off of the scheme took place at Orba, Udenu Council Area of the state.
Governor Ugwuanyi’s strength lies in his ability to maximise his political sagacity, humility, accessibility, eclectic approach to issues and sincerity to keep the state peaceful and together.
Not even some few initial doubting Thomas’s or the opposition members, who had thought that the overwhelming challenges the administration inherited would weigh him down, can hesitate to attest to the development today.
There is no doubt that Enugu north zone deserves urgent attention especially in the area of infrastructural developments, than any other zone, having been neglected for years. Even then Governor Ugwuanyi has been fair, equitable and considerate in giving appointments and embarking on projects in the face of paucity of resources and loss of power at the centre.
The people of the east and west owe Ugwuanyi a duty to rally support for the administration in reciprocity to the people of Enugu north zone.
This will not only help in fostering enduring peace, unity and rapid development in the state, it will help to sustain the seemingly rotational principle of governorship seat there. With the developmental strides of Ugwuanyi’s Administration it is hoped that the lost glory of Enugu State as the headquarters and symbol of the Eastern Nigeria would be restored by the time his tenure is over. Besides what is good for the geese is also good for the ganders. •Ugwuoda is a development scholar and he lives at Uwani, Enugu State.