By Dr. Linus Udeh
Trending recently on social media is an article written by one Catholic Priest of Enugu Diocese currently in United kingdom, Fr. Ike Odigbo titled “Where are Governor Ugwuanyi’s landmark projects in Enugu State?
If my memory is not failing me, I could vivdly remember that this same Fr. Ike Odigbo, who hails from Udi had at the peak of orchestrated and induced kidnapping targetted at Catholic Priests in Enugu written a biased, compromised and insinuative article against Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in attempt to smear his image, pitch him and his government against the Catholic community and by extension Christians in the state.
But to Odigbo and his sponsors’ dismay and disappointment, Ugwuanyi’s administration lived up to the expectations, by tackling the sudden and sponsored insecurity in the state headlong. Ugwuanyi’s administration, apart from establishing the Forest Guard, recruited 1700 personnel into it, 100 per a council area and equipped them with neccessary logistics which include vehicles and motorcycles to operate and complement the efforts of other security agents in the state.
It is interesting and a welcome development that Fr. Odigbo, maybe out of his canonical conscience has acknowledged in his latest article that Enugu is very peaceful, but failed to state or disclose why Enugu has remained peaceful in his thinking. Well, Fr. Odigbo cannot feign that he is not aware that it requires a lot of fund, good policies and programmes, human empowerment and others by the any government to achieve and sustain peaceful environment, even in the developed countries where Odigbo resides now. It is often not by force.
Besides, it is a common knowledge that security issues or matters are often not for public consumption. But my happiness is that Odigbo has for once accepted that Enugu is peaceful. This is a good omen. There is nothing bad about constructive criticism. It spurs government and even individual into better actions.
Even though I am not Ugwuanyi’s spokesman or government official, but as an economist of immeasurable experiences within and outside government’s circle, I know the simple economics of governance and government in terms of income and expenditure. I strongly believed that had it been Fr. Odigbo knew or considered this, he wouldn’t have been too emotional and biased in his article against Governor Ugwuanyi.
With due respect to Fr. Odigbo, what was the price of crude oil which is the major source of income for government in Nigeria when Ugwuanyi assumed office as governor in 2015? What was the debt ratio of the state in 2015 and now? Who borrowed what even in the midst of plenty, when crude was sold at N100 and N100 plus per a dollar? What was the state’s wage bill then and today? How much was the state and local government owing workers then? What were the state of rural roads, hospitals, schools and other basic amenities now and then especially in rural areas? These are pertinent questions Fr. Odigbo ought to have addressed or answered in his article to avoid being biased in the assessment of Ugwuanyi’s administration so far.
It is no longer news that it was upon Ugwuanyi’s assumption of office in 2015 that Nigerians witnessed economic recession that crippled the economy, due to the sudden crash in the price of crude oil in the international market. States in Nigeria were financially rescued by the Federal Government’s bailout funds, which many states mismanaged with the exception of Enugu and few others.
It is known that despite the financial liquidity in the state government’s coffers between 2007-2014, workers in 14 out of 17 council areas in Enugu State were owed salaries ranging from 10 to 5 months as of 2015 the immediate past government left office. Also being owed backlog of pension arrears then were the pensioners in the state. But in his true nature and knowing that government is a continuum, Ugwuanyi on assumption of office started clearing the backlog of salaries and areas of pension without buck-passing or engaging his predecessor in any blame game.
Today, in spite of the obvious and biting financial challenges facing the governments across the country, Ugwuanyi’s administration has finished paying backlog of workers salary. This amounted to billions of naira which would have been channeled into infrastructural development. His government has employed more than 4000 workers and has continued to pay them salary every 23rd of the month, 13-month in December and N30, 000 minimum wage which commenced in February this year. This was after the consequential adjustment agreed on by the workers and the state government, which was the first of its kind in the state since the beginning of minimum wage increment.
So as a matter of urgency and necessity, Enugu State government’s wage bill has since increased astronomically without corresponding revenues or income from the monthly Federation allocation or Internally Generated Revenues (IGR). This has in no way reduced the cost of capital projects, human needs and others. It has taken the fiscal discipline, financial prudence and ingenuity of Governor Ugwuanyi to keep the state running and meeting up with its various obligations.
In the area of basic amenities and infrastructure, while it is an axiomatic fact that Ugwuanyi’s predecessor did much in the urban renewal, Ugwuanyi’s administration has not only continued to maintain the infrastructure his government inherited, it has built and improved on them, by building many kilometres roads, schools, hospitals and others mostly in rural areas.
These roads include Amankwo-Ameke-Amah junction byepass road, the ogonogoeji- Ndiagu-Akpugo-road from Atavu Bailey Bridge to Afor Onovo. It is the first state government’s road project in the entire Akpugo land since the creation of the state. This Akpugo is in Nkanu West Council Area, where armchair critics and social media rats like Odigbo have alwalys claimed and wrote on social media, that Senator Chimaroke Nnamani have transformed it to Eldorado, while serving as governor of Enugu State.
But it is not strange that urban guerrillas like Fr. Odigbo and cohorts who hardly find time to visit their villages to see things for themselves. If Odigbo could not see the Ninth Bye pass that linked Enugu/ Onitsha Expressway constructed by Ugwuanyi’s administration near his council area to assuage the perennial gridlock associated with the Ninth Mile Corner during festive period, how can he be aware or see the Agbani-Amurri road, which is the first asphalt road in the community in more than 100 years of its existence courtesy of Ugwuanyi government.
On the opening of roads along Nike road to remove traffic congestion in that axis, which Odigbo complained about, the state government has since commenced work on the road which almost opposite Nike Lake Hotel. The road which will serve as a bypass to Emene and its environs will reduce traffic snarl in that area. It will also complement the proposed flyover at the T-junction along the Nike road, when completed.
Meanwhile, one can now understand and see why Enugu urban remains Fr. Odigbo’s greatest preoccupation and why he had forgotten that majority of Enugu people are residing in the rural communities, where they have been abandoned and neglected for years, except during campaigns and elections.
It was in appreciation of Ugwuanyi’s performance, especially in rural areas that made Ndi Enugu to give him 95.5 plus votes during his reelection in 2019. That result remains PDP’s best in governorship election in the state since 1999. The records are there and could be verified. Not even Odigbo’s kinsman and Ugwuanyi’s predecessor with all his bogus and substandard legacy projects that have cost more in maintenance than building new ones was given such massive votes in his first and second term elections.
It is an axiomatic fact that Ugwuanyi’s administration has not taken the state on borrowing-and-squander spree. It is not that it cannot borrow because there is nothing illegal, wrong or new about borrowing. What is important is to borrow and spend judiciously and prudently.
Having judiciously managed the meagre state resources since 2015 till date to the commendations and support of Ndi Enugu, there is no doubt that Enugu people will support whatever borrowing plans Ugwuanyi’s government will like to embark on to enable it provide more infrastructure for the people before the end of his tenure in 2023. After all, his government has earned and enjoyed the confidence and trust of Enugu people like no other government in the state since 1999.
Also, across the state especially in rural areas, Ugwuanyi’s administration has through Enugu State Universal Basic Education scheme after payment of the state counterpart fund, constructed and reconstructed more than 500 classrooms and equipped them. The state-owned Polytechnic Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu which had majority of its courses not accredited and convocation not organised for over ten years before Ugwuanyi’s administration has gotten all its courses accredited, major buliding projects executed and convocation organised.
The list of Ugwuanyi’s landmark achievements especially in the area of people’s wellbeing is numerous and inexhaustible. His inclusive and participatory style of leadership and politics has given Ndi Enugu unprecedented sense of belonging in the affairs of the state. His equitable distribution of infrastructural projects across the state has taken development, co-existence and unity to the grassroots.
If the likes of Fr. Odigbo and his sponsors are expecting Ugwuanyi’s to engage in vindictive and petty -politics of winner takes all, they have missed target. This is because Ndi Enugu will no longer tolerate or accept crude or tribal politics or leadership in the state. Ugwuanyi’s government has set the standard.
From the way, Ugwuanyi’s administration is leading, it is obvious that after his second tenure in 2023, his numerous achievements and style of leadership and governance will remain a reference point and benchmark in the leadership of the state henceforth.
Fr. Odigbo should know that it was not Ugwuanyi’s making that as at the time he assumed office in 2015, the state of the country’s economy was already gloomy. This was enough to daunt any leader that was not prepared for good governance and selfless service. Ugwuanyi stoically braved odds and has put the state in a good stead economically and others till date. Not many envisaged the crash in the price of the crude in 2014 and even those in power who envisaged it did not save for the rainy day, leaving more liabilities than assets for their successors.
Again, with the backlog of infrastructural deficits across the state since the long years of military rule, no government or governor can tackle them within eight years with the prevailing paucity of fund, lingering economic challenges and the ravaging global pandemic called covid-19.
That is why after eight years of Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime as governors of the state respectively, many communities in Udi and Nkanu land are still in ruins and eagerly yearning for government interventions. As 2023 election approaches, every Dick and Harry will soon jump out to grandstand as public affairs analysts and commentators on social media platforms with little or no knowledge of what they are pontificating on about governance in Enugu State.
There is need for someone of Fr. Odigbo’s personality, with all his exposure and education to get his facts right and not to rely on hearsay and social media tantrums to write article about governance in Enugu State. Engaging in such writing goes beyond being a Catholic Priest, who may want to capitalise on his position and calling to do dirty job and lend credence to this kind of puerile and pedestrian article against the government of Ugwuanyi in Enugu State.
Dr. Linus Udeh, an economist and university don writes from Emene, Enugu. I could be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org