As Enugu stakes its future on Mbah, Ossai, by Prof Oguejiofo T. Ujam


Peter Mbah and Ifeanyi Ossai

In no other state than Enugu does the year 2023 holds great promise of hope for constructive economic progress in this 21st Century. It is usually said that no success is without a well-groomed successor. That could explain why the anticipated change of governance baton in Enugu State from Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to Dr Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, comes as a high point of the success story of the state.

Although the governorship election in Enugu State is still eight months away, the stage is set for Ndi-Enugu to get two bright heads at the price of one. That idea came to mind recently when the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Mbah introduced his running mate, Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai, who is well primed to add premium value to a well-planned governance strategy in the administration of Enugu State.

There could not have been a better way for Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to round off his second term in office than handing over the reins of power to these two sound young citizens of the state, who have made marks in their individual endeavours through private accomplishments in the oil industry and private legal practice.

Enugu State is holding aloft a tradition, which started in 1999, when the returnee America-based medical surgeon, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, became the governor at the beginning of the Fourth Republic. As a man who saw tomorrow, what the then Governor Nnamani did was to fish out and empower a crop of liberal young minds with access to policy making and implementation.

It was that tradition of hanging the burden of governance on youths that made it possible that ever since, those who mounted the saddle as governors were persons under or within 50s years age bracket. The saying that youths are the leaders of tomorrow is not a mere expression in Enugu State. It is a testament, even a credo. It has warded off the effects of unintended actions or mistaken developmental designs and policy thrusts.

Perhaps, it was due to his recognition of this efficient and wonderful tradition that Dr Peter Mbah, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited, proclaimed shortly after he emerged as PDP’s gubernatorial choice, that ‘Tomorrow is here!

Indeed, tomorrow has become today in Enugu State. In 2007, when he was leaving office as the Fourth Republic governor of the state, Chimaroke Nnamani, who now represents the great people of Enugu East Senatorial Zone in the Senate, made a prediction. The outgoing governor stated that 16 years from then the state would be talking about first, second and third Ebeano governors.

For those who may not be conversant with the socio-political goings-on in Enugu State, Ebeano is the generic term for the political movement engineered and pioneered by Dr Nnamani. Through the Ebeano political grouping, which has become a socio-political family in the state, Senator Nnamani has been able to raise a pool of well-groomed, competent and capable emergent leaders, thus ensuring that the Ebeano developmental paradigm remains alive.

It is against this background that many Enugu State residents and indigenes across the three senatorial zones have started looking up to Mbah and his running mate, Ossai, to rejigging the Ebeano developmental template to reflect current realities and needs in the state.

It is gladdening to note that the huge expectations from the people are not lost on the two governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For instance, Mbah has declared his preparedness to hit the ground running. In his mission statement, the governorship flag bearer underscored his determination to deliver quality people-focused governance by making Enugu the preferred investment destination in business, tourism and healthy living.

Mbah’s promise to raise the state Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from $4.4 billion to $30 billion is ambitious and worthy of note, especially in the light of current economic realities, which has exposed the fact of oil as a depreciating economic resource.

With his eyes set on joining the big three states, Lagos, Rivers and Delta, in the cusp of steadily growing GDP, Mbah’s determination to embark on strategic projects is reassuring. He told reporters in the state that he intends to open up Enugu, which hitherto had been reckoned as a civil service state with its laid-back orientation.

However, while the governorship candidate talks as one aiming to earn the votes of the people, one area he should be taking serious thoughts on are the fact of waste, especially arising from cost of governance and mind-boggling financial mismanagement at the local government level. Something needs to be done in redefining the governance structure in Enugu State.

I have keenly traced the backgrounds of these gentlemen, Dr Peter Mbah and Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai. Their backgrounds inspire hope that politics and governance would be pursued side by side based on cost-benefit analysis. This calls to question the need for a civil service structure with commensurate value addition.

Interestingly, Mbah spoke about Agro-allied business, industrialization, and ease of doing business. The recent fire outbreak at a construction site on the premises of Caritas University, Enugu, which was traced to an untapped gas deposit in that belt is the tip of the iceberg. Apart from coal, Enugu State is blessed with a plethora of solid minerals, which exploitation could help to shore up the revenue base of the state.

Not much has been heard about the burnt brick factory in Akegbe-Ugwu, Awkunanaw, but that development was a pointer that factories for ceramics and tiles could be established in various parts of the state. I am sure there is so much to talk about in this area, but such is better conveyed in a well-crafted government policy document for the next administration.

The point one is trying to make is that the incoming Mbah/Ossai administration should experiment with the idea of locating cottage industries in the three senatorial zones, while localizing the firms based on nearness to raw materials.

But, one other area the incoming administration would invest the blossoming goodwill is mobilizing Ndi-Enugu for the global economy and connectivity, which thrives on Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Through his mega jetty in Lekki Free Trade Zone, Mbah had, through the Pinnacle Oil & Gas Limited, demonstrated that great heights could be attained through vision and determination.

Youths of the state should be mobilized to pursue careers in all aspects of ICT, not only in website design and hosting, but also coding and computer engineering. We should be preparing for the new global e-commerce, which emphasizes the crucial position of ICT in international trade and commerce. This is another wealth creation docket that could also increase government’s revenue from the opportunities that exist therein.

One expects that by the time electioneering starts, the incoming Mbah/Ossai administration should be taking Enugu people into confidence about its work plan and timelines to build on the already existing public goodwill. The people should be made to understand that they own a greater stake in the government, because this will help in sustaining the culture of peace-building and conscientization, which the Ugwuanyi administration has instituted.

While that is being done, the strategy of identifying the priority needs of communities should be explored, because the bottom-up approach to project conception and execution was what put the Chimaroke Nnamani in good stead to deliver on impactful projects and programmes.

Conscious efforts should be made to marry the Ebeano development master plan with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations to ensure measurable and visible outcomes.

More importantly, Mbah and Ossai should remember that they won the hearts of Enugu people by standing on the shoulders of giants, as such the template developed by Chimaroke Nnamani in 1999 should be their necessary guide or a revised productive made for improvement with that framework.

One dare says that it was the fact that Mbah has a solid background in private and public service that made him the consensus choice of elder statesmen and stakeholders, which in turn cowed some misguided opponents from challenging the leadership selection organogram and power rotation in the state.

Apart from being a sign that the state has sustained its power rotation arrangement, Dr Peter Mbah’s emergence, and his subsequent selection of Bar. Ifeanyi Ossai as his running mate shows that come 2023, Enugu State would have two quality products for the price of one.

It is a win-win for Ndi-Enugu and an impetus for the incoming administration to ensure that it does not drop the ball, particularly now that the people expect the state to belong to the leadership circle in the comity of economic buoyant states in the country.

_Prof. Ujam is of the Department of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka_

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