Umahi’s Ebonyi at a glance by Robert Obioha

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map-of-ebonyiLast year’s general election has come and gone but one of its fascinating and redeeming features is the emergence of Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi as the governor of Ebonyi State from his former position of deputy governor. Umahi’s electoral victory broke the age-long jinx of a deputy not succeeding his boss in this agrarian and salt-producing state created in 1996.

It is very rare in Nigerian politics for a deputy to succeed his boss either at federal or state level. The emergence of Governor Umahi in Ebonyi politics has attracted good and bad criticisms. As it is common in Nigerian politics, his political opponents will read meanings into every action he takes. They will not see anything good in his policies even when they are geared towards the welfare of Ebonyi people.

Nevertheless, the critics of the administration should be listened to because the governor can learn one or two things from their interventions. In fact politicians should be receptive to criticisms because it is through such critical interventions that they gauge their performance and the mood of the governed and do the needful. But such criticisms must be constructive to enhance good governance.

Another good thing about the emergence of Umahi as governor of the state is that he is not a novice to governance at this level, even though the position of a deputy governor in the country has been reduced to the unenviable position of a spare tyre.

I had argued in one of my previous articles that a system where deputies succeed their immediate bosses at federal and state levels would have meant much continuity in governance and more democracy dividends to the Nigerian people instead of the acrimony that characterizes our politics. Not many people actually gave Umahi a chance in his struggle to get the party’s ticket and finally win the election. It took political gut, vision, faith and hard work to achieve such a feat in our clime where politics is highly monetized.

As the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Umahi is quite abreast of the problems of the state and knows exactly what to do to address them holistically. From his vintage insider position, Umahi is ready made for the job at hand. And if the morning shows the day, Umahi is the prayer answered for most Ebonyi people in terms of massive infrastructural renewal and development going on in the entire state right now. Those who have passed through Abakaliki and other urban areas in the state in recent times can readily testify to this unassailable assertion.

Even his ardent critics and sworn political foes have also come to the conclusion that something good is actually happening in Ebonyi. He has given Abakaliki a facelift by reconstructing some of its major roads and streets and provided street lights. He has also fixed some bad roads in Hausa Quarters. He has commenced the 15-kilometre road project per each local government beginning with nine of them. The governor is working on three flyovers simultaneously in the state capital.

The CBN, Ogoja, Water Works and Nkaliki roads have been completed while work is ongoing on Quarry, Kpilikpili-Mile 50, Enyibichiri-Presco and Akam roads. Work will soon start on Uburu-Izu, Nkalagu-Eha-Amufu, Hiltop-Agbaja/Nwofe and Enyim Umuohara roads.

Although elected governor under the platform of the PDP, Umahi has not hidden his interest to have a good working relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari to avoid what he regarded as needless opposition. But will this translate to his defection to the ruling APC? He has every right to take certain political decision provided Ebonyi people will benefit from it. But I do not think that Umahi is in a hurry to dump the PDP now. He has said so himself.

But the recent official visit of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Pastor Babachir David Lawal to inspect the ongoing construction of flyovers and commission the Sam Egwu Governor’s Lodge and the CBN Road has fueled the speculation that Umahi will soon join the APC. Before the SGF visit, the Minister of Science and Technology and an indigene of the state, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu has visited the governor.

Though the visit was solely for condolence purpose, but Onu’s position that Ebonyi cannot afford to be in opposition in the current political dispensation may have added to the defection speculation. Does this amount to Umahi’s cross-carpeting? It looks like but one cannot say for certain. Regardless of where he stands, Umahi has a good vision for his state.

Will he fulfill his vision or derail it? His actions in the next three years will provide the answer. Since he has started well, he should be encouraged to stay on course and do more.

It is not in contention that Umahi’s engineering and political backgrounds have prepared him well for the task he set for himself: the holistic development of all the sectors in Ebonyi State beginning with quality road infrastructure across the length and breadth of the state.

He shares the vision of developing other cities out of Ebonyi, a state with 13 local government areas. He does not believe that development will start and end in Abakaliki, the state capital. One other good feature of the current Ebonyi politics is its inclusiveness.

Apart from the indigenes, Umahi ensured that non-indigenes are part of his administration by giving them appointments and by extension a sense of belonging. People from the North and West are not discriminated against in the state. Before Umahi, Dr. Sam Egwu did so much to bring Ebonyi to national discourse and consciousness through his eight-year people-oriented and developmental administration. His promotion of agriculture, health and education was monumental.

His successor, Chief Martin Elechi, under whom Umahi served as deputy, also did his possible best. But his eight-year reign seemed to have suffered from self-imposed media eclipse and exclusion from mainstream politics of the South-East region. There is no doubt that Umahi is right on track to correct such lapses and achieve his set vision for Ebonyi people. He should improve on what his predecessors had achieved.

Although it is too early to judge an administration that is not up to one year in office, this intervention is a way of acknowledging what one has done well and urge him to do more. It is morally and culturally correct to do so. Umahi has a good dream for the state, he should live it. Now that his election has been validated by the Supreme Court, the governor will no longer be distracted. He will now concentrate to deliver his promises to all Ebonyians.

There is no doubt that the South-East is in dire need of exemplary and redemptive leadership that will take the zone to the expected next level of regional integration and Umahi should be in the vanguard of that shared vision together with his brother governors in the region. (Source: The Sun)

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