By Chinweike Anaegbu
I laughed reading one article published in one of the national dailies titled “Is Enugu really in the hands of God” written by one Obute Ifeanyi Titus, who claimed to be national secretary of Eyes on Democracy of Nigeria.
The article which was laced with fabrications, lies, fictions and deceptions, tried to interrogate the suitability, intent and genuineness of the slogan in reality and relation with the achievements of Ugwuanyi’s administration in the state, especially in the area of security and welfare of the people.
For the mere fact that the writer faile to understand the simple import, divine and denotative meaning of the slogan raises a lot of questions on his person, motive, Christian faith, depth of knowledge and understanding of God. How would a sensible, sincere and reasonable person living in Enugu and has been witnessing and experiencing what has been happening in the state since Ugwuanyi assumed office question God’s presence and intervention in the state.
It would be recalled that the Governor, a devout Christian, who appreciates God’s interventions and presence in his life and that of the state, had on assumption of office in 2015, given God preeminence in the affairs of the state, knowing that just like every other mortal, that unless the Lord builds the city, the builder builds in vain. It is on this spiritual plank that he placed God in charge knowing that he and the people of the state cannot do much without God’s presence, guidance and protection.
Since then till date, the slogan which is more spiritual than political has not been practised or observed in breach or pretence by Ugwuanyi’s administration in formulating and implementing of its people-oriented policies and programmes.
Unless for those who are not indigenes of Enugu or not residing in the state or have not been following the government’s policies and programmes since 2015, it is totally misleading and wrong for one to say that God’s name is being dragged into deliberate deception with the slogan.
It is axiomatic that when Ugwuanyi assumed office in 2015, he met recessed economy, backlog of workers’ salaries and pension arrears, especially in the council arrears and other daunting challenges capable of discouraging and derailing the morale and visions of a leader, who was prepared to lead.
Ugwuanyi took up the gauntlet with equanmity and charted a new path for the state in line with his administration’s four points agenda, which include infrastructural development, peace, security, social justice and social services, good governance and employment generation.
Despite the fact that his government came into office and there was need for government to increase its revenue generation due to the recessed economy, Ugwuanyi surprisingly waived payment of Personal Income Tax as well as market tax for all traders in the major markets in the state. Till date, the waiver is still place and traders remained very grateful for it.
At the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor granted another tax relief and incentives to taxpayers in the state to caution the effect of Covid-19 pandemic. The relief ranged from a waiver of penalty and interest charged for remittance of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions to a 50 per cent discount of all the assessed land use charge payment for year 2020. Personally, Gov. Ugwuanyi was at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 pandemic at the peak of its spread in the state. His government provided all the logistics and financial support to the health workers who are the frontliners in the battle. Also provided for the people of the state by Ugwuanyi’s administration to alleviate the hardship occasioned by the pandemic in the state were varied forms of palliatives.
Since 2015, there have been adequate security of lives and properties, peace in Enugu State to the extent that many organisations, individuals and leadership of security agencies had adjudged the state one of the safest and secure state with low crime rate in the country. To ensure adequate policing of the State, Ugwuanyi had after 2019 elections procured and donated 100 unit of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) patrol vans with communication gadgets to the security agencies to aid their operations. Not resting on his oars, he repositioned the vigilante/ Neighbourhood Watch and purchased 260 security vehicles for their use in various communities. In the same wise, the government employed 1700 Forest Guards, which was the first of its kind in the country. Just recently the Governor signed the law that established the Forest Guards, thereby giving them the legal footing to operate optimally by securing and safeguarding activities in the forests across the state.
If truly Ugwuanyi’s administration has abandoned and neglected the security and welfare of the people as claimed by the writer of the artice, how come and why did four prominent national dailies namely The Sun, Vanguard, Daily Independent and Leadership find Ugwuanyi worthy of being conferred with various awards in 2019 for his giant strides in the area of security, peace, development and welfare of the people of his state.
Saying that Ugwuanyi is a leader with heart of gold is like stating the obvious. He is very compassionate, humble and a known welfarist with a difference. His administration in its policies and programmes has always placed premuim on the welfare and wellbeing of the people.
It is line with this, that his administration had before now organised some welfare programmes that benefited the people, employed and still employing workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that has crippled the global economy.
Enugu is more of civil servants state than any other thing. Apart from clearing the backlog of salaries and some arrears of pensions his administration inherited, Ugwuanyi has consistently and promptly paid workers salaries every 23rd of the month and 13 month in December as Christmas bonus since 2015 till date. This is despite the astronomical increase in the state government’s wage bill without corresponding increase in the monthly federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
He was among the first to approve and implement the N30,000 minimum wage for workers which some state governments, including some oil producing states are yet to implement till date.
On the account of his administration’s feats, he was conferred with the award of the Most Workers’ Friendly Governor by the leadership of the labour union for his love and care for the workers in the state.
His administration has equitably distributed political appointments and developmental projects across the zones, local governments, communities and wards to the admiration and accolades of the people. Testimonies and confessions abound of Ugwuanyi’s people-oriented policies and programmes that have alleviated people’s penury and put smiles on their faces.
Ugwuanyi’s inclusive and eclectic style of governance and politics which is unprecedented in the history of political leadership in the state has helped in uniting the state than dividing it.
His resounding reelection victory in 2019 with 95% of votes cast in the election adjudged as the most peaceful in the country is a clear referendum on his performance in office during his term.
Under Ugwuanyi’s watch as governor in opposition for the first time since 1999, the state had witnessed more political cohesion and mutual respect than ever before. Today, there is no more intra and inter political parties’ conflicts in the state that often set the political gladiators apart and the state in chaos.
Today, it is a different atmosphere of camaraderie among the political bigwigs and party faithful in the state, because Ugwuanyi has always carried everybody along irrespective of your status, religion or tribe.
His open-door policy and participatory government had made it even difficult for the so-called opposition to find their bearings in the state politics.
It is interesting that the writer in his concluding part of the worthless article against Ugwuanyi acknowledged that Ugwuanyi’s administration has significantly improved the IGR of the state, but failed to applaud him or explain how such was achieved, even in the face of the dwindling government revenue globally.
Meanwhile, this is one area Ugwuanyi has shown exceptional ingenuity and financial wizardry. He didn’t improve the IGR by overtaxation or multiple taxation as alleged by the writer but by putting a square peg in a square hole with the appointment and reappointment of a renowned financial expert and seasoned banker, Mr. Emeka Odo as Chairman of the State Board of Internal Revenue.
The loopholes which before now were conduit pipes for politicians and their cohorts to siphon government revenue were plugged, prudence, accountability, fiscal discipline and transparency were introduced in government and made constant practice in government revenue generation. Initially, this didn’t go down well with the beneficiaries of the old practice, but Ugwuanyi’s administration maintained its position on this. That is why the state’s IGR has kept improving since Ugwuanyi assumed office.
The improved and well-managed IGR is what has sustained the state and keep the government running, especially at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic that many state governments were slashing salaries of workers, but Enugu being financially viable was paying and still paying, and at the same time executing developmental projects mostly in rural communities across the state.
While some state governments have borrowed and continued to borrow with nothing much on ground to justify such borrowings, nothing has been heard about Ugwuanyi’s government borrowing, but it has achieved a lot in different sectors with little resources at her disposal.
What else does one need to see to accept or believe that Enugu State is indeed in the hands of God with His notable goodness in Ugwuanyi’s administration to the betterment and welfare of the people of the state.
Anaegbu writes from Abakpa-Nike, Enugu State