Why Umahi will do another four years in Ebonyi

February 11th, 2019

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.

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