By Johnpaul Anih, 12-9-2020
Living under opposition government is something many South East residents and people are yet to come to terms with, their beloved party the PDP having been in control of the centre for sixteen years. With the exception of Anambra state and later Imo state in 2011 when Rochas Okorocha freely handed an APGA mandate over to the APC, the South East has largely been regarded as the birth place of the People’s Democratic Party. This obviously is due to the pioneering role of late Chief Alex Ekwueme in the party’s formation.
Even during Obasanjo’s presidency, when the Yorubas ought to have dominated key appointments of the federal government, the Igbo influence in the scheme of things was overbearingly infectious. For example, for a very long time, the Senate presidency, the office of the deputy president of the Senate, the deputy speakership of the House of Representatives, the office of the Secretary to the government of the federation along with other sensitive ministerial appointments appeared to have been reserved for South East sons and daughters and to which they almost enjoyed the right of first refusal.
Although no Igbo person was elected head of government within the period under review, the Igbo nation was so courted by the PDP government at the centre that one president went as far as adopting the name Azikiwe just to curry Igbo’s favour in an upcoming general elections being the undisputed owners of the party that kept him in power.
Calling the shots at the nation’s highest seat of power, South East governors were so influential that they determined all federal appointments in their states as all the Presidents then did everything to avoid any issue with their party’s support base( Igbo land) even in glaring cases of confrontation and insubordination.
In one of such instances of confrontation, an Abia state Governor not only openly challenged and called the bluff of a president but also boycotted the party’s elective convention without any consequence whatsoever. No state of emergency was declared as was was done in Plateau, Ekiti and one other under questionable circumstances. No! The stakes were too high for such gambling in the South East the acclaimed home of the PDP
All that seemingly rosy spell changed in 2015 when the Igbo nation’s relevance in the scheme of things began to dwindle to an infinitesimal level following the coming into power of the All Progressive Congress which had no root in the South East.
A new reality thus dawned on the government and people of the area as virtually everything began to take a turn for the worse up to a point when even the office of the deputy president of the Senate which became the highest to be occupied by a south East politician under the APC government was also later lost to the party in power.
Enugu state was particularly hit in so many ways being a typical civil service state with the highest wage bill in the entire geopolitical zone. To make matters worse, so many political appointees who ordinarily would have been drawing their salaries from Abuja had PDP remained in power, added to the state’s suffocating wage bill thereby jacking up its recurrent expenditure to an intolerable level.
As if all that was not enough, the state has had to grapple with heavy debt overhang occasioned by several debilitating loans and contractual obligations entered into by previous administrations, running into hundreds of billions of naira. Available records show that Enugu despite not being an oil state now spends an average of #300 million on a monthly basis to service these debts and which again is the highest by any state in the south east.
The problem is further compounded by the protracted fall in international oil price since 2015 and which may likely lead to two economic recessions in a space of eight years, the first of its kind in the nation’s history. No wonder some states( including a South East state) have been described as irredeemable having owed as many as 20 months salaries and pensions.
It is in this state of economic hopelessness that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state brought his ingenuity, dexterity, frugality and managerial wizardry to bear and which have paid off by keeping the state afloat despite the turbulent times.
Knowing full well that Enugu now in opposition was likely to lose even more through confrontation with the APC led federal government, the Governor initiated a uniquely inimitable governance template which enabled him to flow with the central government as though it were of his own party.
Even though late Dr Sam Mbakwe the former Governor of the old IMO state was the first to adopt a bipartisan approach to governance and for which he was tagged a crying Governor, Ugwuanyi’s style is different in that federal government officials to everybody’s chagrin, feel more at home in Enugu than in many APC states where the state government officials are at war with their federal counterparts.
Although the outcome of Ugwuanyi’s unique and result oriented governance template based on mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration could never be comparable to his own party being in charge of affairs at the centre, many analysts are of the view that his formula has yielded incalculable benefits, the most recent being the spectacular transformation of the Akanu Ibiam International airport. In the transformation process which is still ongoing, the airport’s runway has been adjudged the best in the country.
Aside from the Governor’s novel bipartisan approach to governance, his excellent interpersonal relationship is award winning and does more magic for him. This rare gift by his creator he has brought to bear for example by, exploiting his friendship with the minister of aviation Hadi Sirika with whom he spent years in the House of Representatives, to drag his attention to the Enugu Airport, a gesture the minister is yet to extend to his home state Katsina.
Many observers are thus unanimous in their conclusion that without Ugwuanyi at the lion building at this critical time, Enugu in opposition would have been in ruins with backlog of unpaid salaries, insecurity of lives and property, horrible infrastructural deficit and leadership vacuum which would have brought the capital of the old Eastern Nigeria to ridicule. I can’t agree more.
– Josephat Omeke