Press conference by Sen. Emmanuel Onwe, Hon. Commissioner Of Information, Ebonyi State

February 12th, 2019

Every age in every society is challenged by varied and multiple existential problems. These problems are usually and primarily manifested in the economic, political, social, cultural and moral dimensions of the society – be it a province, a district, a state, a nation.

Throughout history, each generation and each epoch throws up men and women who are burdened with the salvation of the collective destiny of a society whenever such a society is beset with peril and danger; or when maladministration engenders underdevelopment, corruption, nepotism, bigotry, backwardness and lawlessness through unimaginative application of resources, insularity and ignorance. Our nation has struggled through many perilous episodes in its history, some of which had clearly threatened its very existence as a nation – the most apt reference is obviously the Civil War.

But historians are acutely aware that other dangerous episodes have convulsed this nation, throwing into serious question its cohesiveness as a plural society where multi-ethnic and multi-religious identities could thrive and its citizens cohabit and prosper as a united entity with common aspirations. The re-establishment of a democratic order in Nigeria two decades ago, following the dark years in which military adventurism eroded the structures of our nationhood, brought about a renewal of hope in the destiny of a nation that would be governed according to the Greek tenets of democracy as eloquently espoused by one of America’s great leaders (Abraham Lincoln) – “a government of the people by the people and for the people”. The imperfections that have characterised our attempt to rise up to that edifying definition of democracy are fully acknowledged. It is recognised that in the broad sweep of history, these are pretty much teething stages in our grand experiment with the best form of government yet invented by man.

Imperfections or not, we must strive with every sinew, every muscle and every drop of sweat and blood in our national body to attain the glory of a matured and workable democratic process fit for purpose. Predictions of doom had been made, when they prophesied our catastrophic implosion as a nation in 2015. Such a disastrous fate is presently in abeyance; we survived the dark clouds of 2015 that hovered over our nation like the sword of Damocles.

But I must, sadly, warn that the prospects of our nation ending in such perdition hovers in the horizon and the actions and dangerous rhetoric of politicians might ignite flames that could well incinerate us to ashes. But this can be avoided through the courage and heroism of all patriots, irrespective of gender, creed, ethnicity or political affiliation, who are possessed of a burning desire to see the emergence of a virile, truly independent, peaceful and advanced Nigerian Republic where justice, fairness, equity and inclusion are taken for granted as the quintessential codes that underpin our national character. As I pointed out earlier, history has an uncanny way of throwing up men and women at special moments in human social progress who are called upon to achieve unique and extraordinary feats for their people.

In Ebonyi State, ours is that lucky generation, and 2015 was the year appointed for the merger of two significant destinies – Governor Umahi’s and Ebonyi’s destinies embraced in a confluence of great significance. It is at moments when cowardly men connive and collude to wreak havoc on society purely for selfish ends that the rest of us must stand up and let our collective courage rise with danger – and strength to strength oppose. That courage is the statue of liberty we carry in our brave hearts; it is the flag that we hoist in declaration of our freedom – individually and collectively.

On behalf of the vast majority of Ebonyians, the millions who are persuaded by the dramatic and positive transformation of this state, I pledge our lives to defend the democratic will of the people to freely and transparently exercise their democratic franchise during the forthcoming general elections. Rumours have their place in the heat of electioneering. Innuendoes, allegations and counter-allegations, threats and counter-threats, boasts and exaggerations, et cetera, et cetera.

These are usually benign and form the stuff of which political banters are made. Often, they are designed to stir up confusion or panic in the opposing camp. But should these negative tactics ever become malevolent or hostile, they will be resisted with commensurate counter-measures. The People’s Democratic Party in Ebonyi State is fully confident of winning the gubernatorial election in the first round and on landslide proportions. Therefore, all members and supporters are urged to remain calm and go about their door-to-door canvassing without fear of molestation, or assault or intimidation. The Governor of Ebonyi State is the Chief Security Officer – he is the man in charge and he has the full measure of the protection of ALL law-abiding citizens.

As we go about our political quests according to the laws of the land, we must also be fully prepared to wage a lawful resistance against any form of intimidation or manipulation by any institution or group of individuals who may choose the criminal path of attempting to thwart the democratic process or overriding the will of the people. We will wage a lawful resistance of any attempt to fraudulently declare an unearned result through the aid of any institution. We will be guided in our actions by the constitution and laws of this republic! Governor Umahi’s commitment to the rapid structural and psychological transformation of this state is both historical and unquestionable.

I will be the first to admit that there is no perfection in this world – infallibility is the exclusive preserve of God Almighty. However, to those who seek to only dwell on the imperfections, who prefer a different set of policy priorities, I happily invite them to debate their perspectives and alternative philosophy of governance; to place their preferred policies side by side the status quo and let the good people of Ebonyi State be the ultimate judge, as they are legitimately entitled to be through the constitution of the land. What cannot and will never be tolerated is the electoral heist being allegedly designed by some opposition elements in the state. If they try to fraudulently highjack the mandate of the people, they will simply create rivers of blood in the land because Ebonyians are democrats and their wish is to be afforded a peaceful and conducive environment in which to exercise their legitimate franchise.

The political space in the state is open, free and accessible to all shades of political affiliations and opinions. And so it should be in a constitutional democracy. All contestants are free to exploit the freedom and liberty that abound in the political environment to mount their arguments and vision for the advancement of Ebonyi State, and to persuade the reasonable population of the state as to the superiority of their arguments and then let the people decide.

Having said all of this, I am fundamentally persuaded that we are going to have a free, fair, transparent and credible general elections in Ebonyi State. We are prepared to give INEC and the security agencies the full benefit of the doubt. We will cooperate with them every step of the way and we expect civility, full respect for fundamental human rights and professionalism of the highest standards from them. And we are fully confident that they will rise to the occasion and make Nigerians proud, and put the prophets of doom to shame. And of course it must be stated that those whose ineptitude is of such a degree that they cannot even successfully organise a simple campaign rally without exploding in intra-factional violence cannot be credited with the capacity to organise, coordinate and execute a process of electoral fraud that would effectively override and nullify the electoral will of 1.4 million registered Ebonyi voters.

In the event that an alternative universe would suddenly emerge where such a thing becomes possible in Ebonyi State, then late me categorically put it on record that I and those who join me in supporting Governor Umahi are prepared to not only vote for him but to ready and willing to die in defence of that democratic choice. GOVERNOR UMAHI’S ACHIEVEMENTS ARE HIS SHIELD AND HIS SWORD According to Disraeli, “It is much easier to be critical than to be correct”.

However, there is no doubt that fulfilment and progress can only be found in being correct. Hence, only courageous men with appetite for positive history strive to be correct while their foils pretend to be critics. The parable of the talents in the Bible is instructive: When the master assessed his servants, the critical servant lost everything while the ingenious achievements of the faithful servant served as his armour and earned him more opportunities.

During the 2015 gubernatorial campaign that culminated in the ascendancy of Governor Umahi to power as the third civilian Governor of Ebonyi State, he made campaign promises to Ebonyi people. However, to prove that he is not just an ordinary power-hungry man but a leader who wanted to make positive history, he projected his campaign promises beyond material level into the realm of divinity by encapsulating them into a Five-point Covenant with God: 1. To serve Ebonyi State with the fear of God2. To prosper Ebonyi State with the word of God3. To make Ebonyi State the number one economy in the whole country4. To passionately help the widows and the oppressed5. To build a befitting place of worship like Solomon did so that any Ebonyian that is faced with any difficulty anywhere in the world and turns to the direction of the temple and calls upon the name of the Lord, God will answer such prayers. With the 2019 gubernatorial elections around the corner, a critique of the performance of every candidate viz-a-viz the candidate’s promises in 2015 and the office the candidate occupies have become imperative because our people say that “It is the output of a servant that determines the reward he gets”.

This period of accountability is creating discomfiture for the public office holder who has been selfish, lazy, insular and disdainful of the masses. While those who have nothing to show for the offices they have been occupying reel out platitudes, insults and infantile criticisms to divert attention from their ineptitude, diligent leaders who have done meaningful projects and programmes for their people are busy, focused and calm, allowing their accomplishments to speak for them and defend them from the malicious and false attacks of their political adversaries. Thus, projects and programmes have become the veritable armour of good leaders.
To Governor Umahi’s credit stand the following array of impressive achievements, which constitute his formidable armour before which the impotent criticisms of his political adversaries evaporate.

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

Each of six youths [two from each zone] sponsored for an all-expenses paid training in horticulture in Abuja received N1million and a land space with a borehole and overhead tank in Abakaliki to enable ply their trade; # Each of 6520 beneficiaries comprising men, youths, women and widows got N250,000.00 only to enable him/her trade or farm;# Each of 4000 widows received N100,000.00 only;# Four hundred TVS tricycles were distributed free to deserving youths at home and in diaspora;# Jeeps were distributed to about 140 traditional rulers in Ebonyi State to enhance their status;# Through the stomach infrastructure programme, Umahi involved over 800 young men and women in governance as Senior Technical Assistants, Senior Technical Assistants and Liaison Officers. This has doused economic tension and created a pool of budding administrators in Ebonyi State;# About 5000 members of the clergy in Ebonyi state were empowered with a total sum of N508 million to enable them engage in farming;# Through the clergies, Umahi also empowers the pew of all denominations;# Umahi runs a hospital amnesty programme through which medical bills of indigent patients are either defrayed or subsidised.

PEACE AND SECURITY#
Governor David Nweze Umahi launched a peace programme which halted the war between Ezillo and Ezza-Ezillo people which he inherited from his predecessor;#Umahi reconciled the two communities on permanent terms which included the creation of autonomous communities and resettlement plans for displaced people on both sides of the conflict;# Like all practical examples, Umahi’s peace initiative in Ezillo has spread to other communities with similar problems. The culture of peace introduced by Governor Umahi has so permeated Ebonyi State that for the first time in our history, the citizenry see peace as both the first fruit of democracy and the first civic duty;# Governor Umahi established Ebonyi Neighbourhood Security Watch which has created deep security consciousness in Ebonyi people, and provided necessary ancillary support services to the regular security agencies in the state;# Umahi’s administration purchased Armoured Personnel Carriers for Ebonyi State Police Command and the provision of sundry logistical support for all security agencies in Ebonyi State;# Installation of CCTV cameras in the state capital with focuses on the Government House and other strategic locations has created yet another obstacle for the criminal elements.All these have curbed armed robberies, kidnapping, burglaries, muggings and sundry criminal activities and made Ebonyi the state with the lowest crime rate in Nigeria.

WORKS AND TRANSPORT#
Governor Umahi has changed the face of Ebonyi State through a radical road revolution through which all the internal road network in Abakaliki Capital City have either been reconstructed, recoated with asphalt or outrightly constructed with rigid concrete pavement with the capacity to last for half a century;# Construction of internal roads in Onueke urban with rigid concrete pavement;# Construction of the internal roads in Afikpo town with rigid concrete pavement;# Construction of the internal road network in Uburu community with rigid concrete pavement;# Construction of 23.7 km Hilltop – Nwofe Road with rigid concrete pavement; # Construction of 18.5 km Nkwegu – Ndufu Echara Road with a combination of rigid concrete pavement and asphalt;# Construction of Nkalagu – Ehamufu Road with rigid concrete pavement;# Construction of 25.4km Abaomege – Ishinkwo Ukawu – Okposi Road with rigid concrete pavement;# Construction of Ezzama – Oshiri – Uburu Road;# Construction of a minimum of 15km road in each of the 13 council areas in Ebonyi State;# Reconstruction of the 14.5 km abandoned section of Abakaliki – Afikpo Road;# Construction of 7-span Akanu Ibiam twin overhead bridge;# Construction of 23-span Sen. Offiah Nwali (Presco Junction) twin overhead bridge;# Construction of 25-span International Market twin overhead bridge;# Construction of 16-span President Muhammadu Buhari overhead bridge;# Construction of pedestrian overhead bridge at EBSU gate; # Construction of a total of 16 bridges with spans ranging from 2 6 across various roads in the state;# Construction of a total of 14 box culverts which channels ranged from one to three across various roads in the state.

ENVIRONMENT#

Construction of the largest waste recycling plant in Nigeria at Umuoghara which has the potential to create over 3,000 skilled and unskilled jobs for Ebonyi youths, and to make Ebonyi people earn money from domestic refuse has been built by Governor David Umahi. This project has elicited sincere positive encomia and reactions from independent-minded project-inspectors;# Until Umahi came to power in 2015, previous administrations created the impressions that a clean environment was impossible and unaffordable in Ebonyi State. Using his Senior Technical Assistants and Technical Assistants, Umahi enthroned a twenty-four-hour refuse surveillance and evacuation, which ensured a sustainable and clean environment at affordable cost in Ebonyi State;# Construction of modern water fountains at Offia Nwali, Akanu Ibiam, Udensi, Government House and Abacha roundabouts;# Construction of road medians with concrete from Ishieke Junction to Presco Junction; along the whole of Ezza Road; from Udensi Roundabout through Ebonyi Hotels to Ogoja Road; from Vanco Junction through Afikpo Road to Offia Nwali Roundabout, etc.;# The Urban Renewal Programme of Governor Umahi has promoted strict enforcement of Abakaliki Capital Territory masterplan;# Government has renewed the town through reconstruction and maintenance of open spaces and dilapidated walls of public establishments like the Police Command Headquarters, the old Government House etc., which abut on thoroughfares and open spaces;# Streetlights on all the major streets that make up the entire road network of Abakaliki municipality;# Street lights along Onueke urban internal road network;# Streetlights along Afikpo urban internal road network;# Streetlights in the 13 council secretariats as well as in other satellite communities like Effium.

WATER#
Rehabilitation of Ezillo water scheme;# Replacement of galvanized pipes with polyethylene water pipes throughout the water network in Ebonyi State;# Construction of water treatment plants in Amasiri and Ukawu;# Boreholes with overhead tanks have been provided at the 13 General hospitals in the state;#Some special intervention water borehole projects have been executed in some communities such as Effium and the ricemill clusters at Iboko, Onu Igboji and Oso Edda.

EDUCATION#
The Umahi administration has reconstructed over 200 classroom blocks in schools across Ebonyi State;# Remodelling and reconstruction of 10 model primary/junior secondary schools with multiple-storey buildings;# Reconstruction of the 3 Government Technical Colleges;# Establishment of fully-stocked and functional ICT departments in pilot schools;# Through School Evangelism programme, Ebonyi pupils are guided to embrace virtuous character. The impact of this programme on the lives of Ebonyi young youngsters who now shun contemporary vices is remarkable;# Successful phasing out of black boards in our school system by purchasing over ten thousand white boards;# Establishment of 41 neighbourhood supervision centres for secondary schools and 130 supervision centres for primary schools;# Successful ejection of the recalcitrant illegal occupants of EBSU permanent site who had defied all previous administrations in Ebonyi State;# Construction of a modern clinic at EBSU;# Reduction of EBSU tuition fee by N10,000 at a time when all state universities were increasing their fees;# Payment of overseas scholarship allowances to overseas scholarship students;# Upgrading and full accreditation of Ebonyi State College of Education Ikwo as a degree-awarding institution affiliated to Ebonyi State University.

COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY#
Formulation of the first industrial policy for Ebonyi State since its creation in 1996;# Establishment of an industrial cluster at Iboko;# Ebonyi South industrial cluster under construction in Uburu;# Land acquired for the third industrial cluster proposed for Ebonyi Central at Umuoghara in Ezza North LGA; These industrial clusters are designed to catalyse industrial revolution in Ebonyi state, create innumerable jobs for Ebonyians and diversify the monotonous economic base of the state.# St. Margaret International Market in Abakaliki has been upgraded while a wing of 48 blocks of ultramodern storey-shops have been erected;# A regional market project is presently being constructed in Afikpo;# Renovation of other markets in Abakaliki municipality;# On-going construction of an International Shopping Mall, which has vistas for new and unlimited business opportunities;# Acquisition and installation of rice parboiling equipment for Ebonyi modern rice mills.

HEALTH #
The only virology centre in the Southeast which is also the second in the whole of southern Nigeria was built and equipped by Governor Umahi in Ebonyi State. This has reduced the number of deaths arising from periodic breakouts of Lassa Fever;# The 13 General Hospitals are being upgraded with modern equipment and perimeter fencing;# A standard School of Nursing has been built and equipped in Uburu to train qualified manpower for the health sector;# Ongoing construction of standard Accident and Emergency Department at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki;# Establishment of Ebonyi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency;# A creative and effective tricycle ambulance service system which connects all the Primary Healthcare Centres in Ebonyi State has been put in place to handle medical emergencies right from the village level.

POWER#
Sustenance of the first functional biomass gasification power plant in West Africa at Ngbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area;# Governor Umahi is pursuing a radical renewable energy power project through which Ebonyi mid-level engineers have been trained to locally fabricate UNIDO-approved biomass gasification power plants;# Acquisition of equipment for the targeted generation of cumulatively 7.5 megawatts of energy from biomass technology. This will provide power to drive the industrial revolution and for sale to power distribution companies;# Extension of electricity over 3 km in Umuogudu Akpu Ngbo, Ohaukwu LGA;# Extension of electricity over 5 km in Nkaliki, Abakaliki LGA;# Extension electricity 7.5 km in Amekka, Ezza South LGA.# Extension of electricity over 14km at Ettam in Okpuitumo, Ikwo LGA.# Installation of 500 KVA generator at DSS Headquarters, Abakaliki;# Acquisition of one set of 1000 KVA and one set of 500 KW biomass gasification power-generation systems;# Rural electrification of a distance of 9.5 km at Oferekpe Agbaja in Izzi Local Govt Area;# Collation of data from 140 communities for rural electrification.

HOUSING#
Remodelling of the Governor’s Lodge;# Reconstruction of the Perimeter fence and gatehouse at Ebonyi State Command Headquarters of Nigeria Police Force, Abakaliki;# Reconstruction of the perimeter fence and gatehouse of Government House, Abakaliki;# Construction of a new Government House complex comprising Governor’s Lodge, Governor’s Office and Presidential Lodge at the Centenary city;# Construction of six blocks of all-concrete prison cells at Abakaliki Federal prisons to check jail breaks and improve the living condition of inmates;# Attraction of a housing project of 5000 units of single-bedroom flats to Ohaozara LGA;# Pursuant to his covenant to build a befitting worship centre for God, Governor Umahi is constructing a magnificent cathedral to serve as an Ecumenical Centre in Abakaliki for the spiritual well-being of Ebonyi people. The centre, which has all the trappings of splendour and modernity is located near Akanu Ibiam Roundabout.

SPORTS #
Governor Umahi reconstructed and refurbished the Abakaliki township stadium into a modern stadium. The Secretary of Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) has inspected and approved Abakaliki Township Stadium for use during NFF-organized competitions.# Revival of sporting activities with the hosting of Dave Umahi Tertiary Institutions Games (DUMTIGA 2018); Dave Umahi Para-military Games and Primary and Secondary Schools’ Games;# Ebonyi State Executive Council has approved the establishment of two clubs for the state.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS #
Ebonyi State under Governor Umahi is one of the few states in Nigeria where workers are not owed salaries;# Governor Umahi is the only Governor in Nigeria who pays annual bonuses, known as “13th month salaries” at the end of each year;# The payment of backlog of arrears of pensions and gratuities of retired civil servants from the creation of Ebonyi State in 1996 has commenced and over 40% of gratuities have already been paid;# Governor Umahi approved N4 billion single-digit Agricultural credit scheme for Ebonyi civil servants to enable them diversify their income base by engaging in agro-enterprises. The funds are still being disbursed to the workers through their farmers’ cooperative societies in the state.

AGRICULTURE#
Introduction of an agricultural revolution policy known as “one man one hectare” farming programme which has made farming profitable and ensured food security in the state;***# Establishment of a modern fertilizer plant which has adequately met the demands of farmers in the drive to boost agriculture and food security as well as diversify the economic base of the state;# Establishment of the largest functional mushroom factory in Nigeria;# Mechanisation of agriculture in Ebonyi through purchase of Agricultural equipment which is hired out to Ebonyi farmers at subsidised rates;# Distribution of high-yield grains and farm inputs to Ebonyi farmers at subsidised rates;# Introduction of dry season farming in Ebonyi State;# Ban of sale and consumption of plastic and foreign rice in Ebonyi State to safeguard the health of Ebonyi consumers and create demand for local rice farmers;# Creation of buy-back component in the agricultural revolution programme to help boost the profit margins of our toiling famers;# Involvement of all government officials including the Governor in practical farming;# Introduction of School Agricultural programme in secondary schools to make farming attractive to our youngsters who are encouraged to become agro-wealth creators upon leaving school.

TRANSPARENCY #
Above all these, the administration of Governor Umahi is the first administration in the history of Ebonyi State to pass the test of transparency at all levels. Governor Umahi has held anti-corruption workshops for public officers in Ebonyi State;# As a reward for this worthy effort, Governor Umahi was honoured as “Anti-corruption Commander” by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC;# In a clime where government expenditures have always been shrouded in secrecy, Umahi has continued to distinguish himself as a transparent leader by being the first Governor in the history of Ebonyi State to publish all his projects and their respective costs for public scrutiny.

CONCLUSION
As impressive as the foregoing list is, it is not exhaustive. Not by any means. Ebonyi people are convinced that Governor Umahi is a diligent, committed and industrious leader who was fully prepared for governance through acquisition of cognate experience as a private sector entrepreneur, State Party Chairman and Deputy Governor. He stands out in contrast with some accidental leaders which Ebonyi State had been burdened with in the recent past and the present crop of clueless opportunists who are fantasising about assuming the leadership of Ebonyi State Government even when they have nothing to show for the offices they have had the privilege to occupy for over a decade and half, nor are they possessed of any credible idea of what to do with the reins of power.
Senator Emmanuel Onwe Director of Media & Publicity Divine Mandate Campaign Organisation

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