By Felix Uka, Abakaliki
Some people speculate why the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Ebonyi state, Senator Sunday Ogbuorji’s campaign is weak.
But those who know the political configuration in the state are not puzzled about that. The scenario is such that ahead of being the Deputy governor of the state, the incumbent governor, Engineer David Umahi had been the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and as the Deputy governor managed the political structure of the administration of former governor Martin Elechi, then, his boss. So, has the structure, he knows how to climb the ropes, the intricacies such that, even when in 2015, Elechi let loose the state’s apparatus against Umahi’s bid to succeed him (Elechi), Umahi beat him to the contest.
Senator was Commissioner for Economic Empowerment in the Elechi’s cabinet. His outing as a contender to Umahi might have been a serious matter if the Senator had any serious structure, followership, or any relationship with some major stakeholders in the state. Ogbuorji could be a governor who has neither friend amongst his kinsmen, who has neither any notable politician as his associate, nor any structure in place.
The Vice Chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers, Ebonyi state HRH Eze Romanus Iyioku explained that such a governor could lead with impunity.
Of course, the most dangerous politicians are those that emerge through the instrumentality of imposition. They are worse than Military dictators.
A number of stakeholders in Ebonyi say Ogbuorji is merely laying a bet. His major trouble is the much Umahi has impressed the electorate, from across the state.
A book: Behind the Mandate written by Mr. Felix Uka, a journalist in Ebonyi state captured the state of affairs thus: Umahi made astonishing impression on the people through uncommon measures.
First, he engaged a number of political appointees who believe in him and was able to convince them that it was not business as usual, rather, that they should be ready to make sacrifices.
Another factor that boded well for the Governor is the choice of Dr. Erick Kelechi Igwe as his Running Mate and ultimately the Deputy Governor. Igwe proved to be a suitable match for Umahi’s speed and attention to detail. This rare combination led to the execution of projects.
Also, the wife of the Governor, Chief Mrs. Rachael Umahi is a pillar of support to her husband, especially, given that she carries on humbly in her relationship with people, shorn of the showiness and pettiness that often characterize the office of First Ladies. Her generosity and virtuous approach to matters created conducive atmosphere for the Governor to steer the ship of State without distraction. With her pet project, Family Succour and Upliftment Programme (FSUP), she has been able to reach out and touch the lives of some of the under privileged. Her interest is building houses for 171 indigent widows, providing for them and the vulnerable. Of course, her husband had on several public gatherings described her as the beautiful wife of his youth. Some observers say it is the manifestation of the Biblical avowal that: whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.
With such clement atmosphere the Governor is focused, and as a result of which he has been able to make life-touching decisions that have culminated into the progress of the State.
First, his speed bespoke a man who had caught visions straight from above. Within the first three months of the administration, he invested about N1.8 billion in the procurement of roads construction equipment and employed the services of six expatriates.
Before then, he appointed Engineer Fidelis Nweze , formerly, a Director of Civil Engineering in the State’s Ministry of Works as his Commissioner for Works and Transport. With these facilities and men, work took off across the inter-city roads in the state capital. They started with reconstruction of roads within the Abakaliki capital territory under direct labour arrangement. All adjoining churches and schools along the roads had their entrances also tarred. The median of the streets was decked with interlocking tiles that gave a perfect finish to its outlook. As the roads reconstruction spread round the city so did his fame and compliments even from his erstwhile opponents increase. At the same time four flyovers were built.
The other Umahi Magic was the installation of street light virtually in all the major streets in Abakaliki and its environs. It spread along the Abakaliki/Enugu expressway; stretched from the Rice Mills Junction to the Ezamgbo community. Lit from the Spera In Deo Junction to Onueke Market and Rice Mill axis. Decoration of the Government House frontage and the Udensi Roundabout with water fountains has added beauty to the city.
While these were ongoing, the State government collaborated with the 13 Caretaker Committee Chairmen in the 13 councils of the State and bought 13 pieces of bulldozers and 13 pieces of graders for the purposes of opening and reconstructing roads in the rural areas as well as for the mechanised rice farming in each of the council areas with the target of over N20 billion Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) expected from rice production in 2016.
The Ezza/Ezillo peace accord: The blood spillage and destruction of property which began on 10th May, 2008 between the Ezillo and Ezza/Ezillo communities of Ebonyi State presented the area as a war theatre. It was a gory sight as its landscape was dotted with human carcass, burnt houses and cars. The Abakaliki/ Enugu expressway was impassable.
The State government under Chief Martin Elechi tried its best to restore peace to the community having set up various committees and sub-committees.
Unfortunately, the matter remained unresolved. Elechi on Thursday the 2nd day of October, 2008 in a special broadcast stated among others that the peace committee also recommended that, “for peace to reign permanently at Ezillo, the Ezza/Ezillo should relocate to Egu Echara land originally allocated to them by the Ezillo people through customary method of land allocation (imabe ogbu).
Government accepts that recommendation”. Instead of serving the purpose of peaceful resolution of the impasse, that position of the government tended to have fanned the embers of the clashes, more so as the Ezza people felt that the resolution indicated hatred for them by the Elechi-led administration. Umahi inherited the situation. It was one of the first tasks he undertook. He addressed the psyche of people of the two warring communities and made them feel the sense of love and accommodation in his administration. Thereafter, he set up committees to; find out the underlying factors as to why the bad blood and feeling of hatred had persisted. Under the circumstance, the two communities built up confidence in the administration. Indeed, that led to restoration of the much desired peace in the Ezillo/Ezza-Ezillo communities.
Another factor that endeared Umahi and his administration to the people was the uncommon recognition and affection which his administration showed the populous Ezza clan.
Hitherto, the Ezzas had felt unwanted and nursed the feeling that the Elechi-led administration did not favour them. Their suspicion was that there existed a conspiracy that they should not be encouraged to get State power because of the fear that if given power they would use it to dominate other groups.
To his credit, Umahi broke that jinx by creating opportunities and appointing Ezzas to positions of trust. Thus, the key office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) was given to an Ezza man, Professor Bernard Odo, later, Dr. Hyacinth Nwokwu, also an Ezza man.
The Commissioner for Works and Transport, Engineer Fidelis Nweze, is an Ezza man,. They were given the position of the Commissioner for Water Resources, Mrs. Euphemia Nwali, Commissioner for Agriculture, Chief Ogodoali Nome, also an Ezza man.
Even the prestigious office of Chairman, Traditional Rulers Council in the State is held by Ezeogo Charles Nkpuma, a respected Ezza man. It is also exciting to mention that the State’s Chief Judge, Mr. Aloy Nwankwo, who has creditably acquitted himself in office for a long
time is a highly regarded Ezza man. Many others from the area are accommodated in the incumbent administration in one position or another.
Even so, abandoned roads in the clan are being reconstructed and the street light extended to their ancestral home, Onueke. Though the Ezzas ordinarily, deserve fair share of appointments and projects allocation, what makes the Umahi/Ezza romance significant is because of the purity of the trust and confidence which the State Governor reposes in them.
The Ezzas, however, are not lone beneficiaries of the current government’s magnanimity as every local government area or community in the State receives commensurate attention from the David Umahi-led administration which does not operate a parochial or prejudiced system. The administration according to some observers give the impression that every part of Ebonyi State is a stakeholder that deserves equal attention like others in the distribution of amenities, infrastructure and appointments.
Another amiable trait that played to the credit of Umahi is that unlike the typical Nigerian politicians, he let his doors open to even the low and high in the State. The mobile telephone numbers he had been using right from his days as the State PDP Chairman is yet in use. No Personal Assistant or any other person holds or keeps his telephones, and so he could pick calls from any person. Those who know him closely revert to text messaging when he cannot pick their calls, knowing that he would later reply. This makes him an accessible leader whom the citizenry can easily reach and acquaint with their observations or plight.
The number of non-indigenes of the State who are appointed into various positions of authority puts in plain words why Umahi enjoys uncommon followership. Apart from Anambra-State-born Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Hon. Charles Akpu-Enika, residents of the State who hail from Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo States are appointees in the administration.
Five Hausa men are appointees of the government. They are Alhaji Salisu Mohammed, Technical Assistant to the Governor on Herdsmen, Alhaji Haladu Ismail, Technical Assistant to the Governor on Herdsmen, Alhaji Sule Mohammed, Technical Assistant to the Governor on Sports.
Others are Hajiya Asmau Gambo, Liason Officer, Lawal Hamajoda, Liaison Officer. The Yoruba community is not left out. How and where Ogbuorji can start from.
The conviction of many people in the state is that if credible and fair elections are conducted, Umahi would coast home with victory against Ogbuorji.