OBINNA EZUGWU

A trip through Enugu, the capital city of Enugu State, one cannot but notice the calm atmosphere that the city has come to be known for, and as the environment is calm, so is the political climate.

From interactions with people across the state, easy to tell, Enugu is making progress with governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the helm, despite the prevailing economic situation in the country. Infrastructural development is being undertaken in various areas of the state and workers are being paid regularly. His critics, however, say he is too quiet and inactive, especially on the issue of herdsmen who have continued to threaten a number of communities in the state.

Nonetheless, a trip around the state reveals precisely why a good number of residents in the state give him pass mark. The governor has so far, renovated, built or rebuilt over 348 primary schools across the state, with 200 more set to undergo renovations. In addition, he has employed 2000 new primary school teachers since taking office in 2015; 1000 of who had since begun teaching while the rest are set to begin in no distant time.

In terms of infrastructure, the government has done and still doing a number of projects across the state, some of which include Inyaba Bridge in Amech-Idodo, Vital bypass at 9th Mile Corner Ngwo, Ndeme Bridge in Enugu South Local Government Area, Ebonyi Bridge in Ikem, road projects in Ogbaku in Awgu Local Government among others.

The government is also embarking on massive housing projects with new estate set up in various locations in the state and price ranging from N25million to N35million for 2-bedrom houses and 3-bedroom houses in urban centres to N5million to N7million respectively in the outskirts.

This progress is acknowledged by even the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC)  in the state.

Hon Hycenth Ngwu is the spokesperson for the APC in the state, but despite being a key opposition figure, he notes that with the prevailing economic situation in the country, the Ugwuanyi administration is doing well with the resources at its disposal. He pointed out that while many states are unable to pay salaries of workers, the governor does so promptly.

“Generally, it is difficult to blame government at this point in time because of the recession, the scarcity of funds, but he is doing well. At least he is paying worker’s salaries as at when due. To my best of knowledge, I don’t think he is owing any worker any salary. And he is managing to put one or two infrastructure in place,” he said.

Mr Gerald Ugwuoke runs a printing press in the state capital, he equally had words of praise for the governor for being able to pay workers.

“In terms of worker’s salaries, he is paying. It is only that of pensioners that was delayed at some point because of certain issues, but the issues have been rectified.”

This view is shared by Mr John Eze, a key member of the ruling party in the state, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He says the governor is doing very well for the state, but argues that most of his infrastructural development has been in Nsukka zone, his primary constituency.

“He (Ugwuanyi), is trying his best,” Eze says. “But he needs to do more because presently, he is concentrating 60 percent of his effort in Nsukka and 40 percent in other senatorial zones.”

Eze’s observation may have elements truth, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Conceded that so far, some of the most visible infrastructural development going on in the state, is the the transformation of Nsukka, the second largest city in the state after the state capital with the dualization of Opi-Nsukka road and other roads within the city. Indeed, Opi, Ede Oballa to the university town of Nsukka are all wearing new looks and residents say, they have not had it so good.

“There is no doubt, Ugwuanyi is doing wonders here,” said Mr Chika Ugwu, a resident of Ede Oballa community in Nsukka.

“Go to Achalla Road, he has done it, go to town (Nsukka town), he has transformed the whole place.”

However, the governor has not neglected other zones, even as has promised many other projects in different parts of the state. Yet, there another way to look at it. Enugu is made up of three senatorial zones of Enugu North, popularly called Nsukka zone; Enugu East, the Nkanu/Nike zone and Enugu West, Udi/Awgu zone.

Since the return of democracy in 1999, power has been rotated among these three zones, and each governor has tended to pay more attention to his senatorial zone, while not neglecting other zones. As governor between 1999 to 2007, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani transformed his Nkanu land, took the state university, ESUT, to his home town of Agbani and opened up the entire Agbani. The people remember and hold him dear to their hearts as a result.

Sullivan Chime who came on board in 2007 saw to the complete facelift of Enugu metropolis and his Udi country home, and the entire Enugu West, while also putting one or two projects in other areas of the state. By the time he left office in 2015, he was hailed across the state as a true champion.

Ugwuanyi, who took power in 2015, has continued in this trajectory. He is overseeing huge infrastructural development across the state, but perhaps with particular attention to his own constituency, and many don’t seem to have issues with it.

“It is in Nsukka where he comes from that he is doing more,” said Nnaemeka Nnaji, a resident of Amechi in Nkanu. “But it is understandable because he is from there. When Chimaroke (Nnamani) was governor, he also concentrated more on this area. When Sullivan was there, he also did a lot for Udi people, so Ugwuanyi is right to do more for Nsukka.”

Hon Ngwu, who himself is from Nkanu equally toes this line of argument.

“Well, there is this saying that charity begins at home,” he says. “If he starts from Nsukka, which is his immediate constituency, that is fine. With time, it will also get to other constituencies. Not withstanding, when you consider that there is economic recession which means that things are no longer as they used to be, he is trying.”

Mr Nelson Amaechi is a resident of Awgu. He notes that although there are not much he can speak of in his area, he believes the that government is doing relatively well.

“I can’t see much development work going on in this Awgu zone,” he said. “But if you ask me, I will say the governor is fair. He is not owing workers, he is paying regularly and that’s very important.”

The general consensus is that the state is making progress under the current administration despite the economic issues in the country. With N18.08billion Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) as at June last year, Enugu is identified as one of the few viable states in the country that have the capacity to survive without federal allocation, yet with the N105.7billion 2017 budget already signed into law, the state government is looking to raise its IGR to N2billion monthly from around N1billion and is promising more infrastructure.

Of the N105.7billion, the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure got N23.5 billion and Agriculture, N464.5 million while Water Resources got N1.5 billion and education N5.9 billion.

The governor, while passing the budget, lamented that this year has been full of challenges as a result of the fall in oil revenue, pointing out that revenue accruing to the state had been on the decline but said the state has been able to stay afloat and still provide the people with essential needs.

He said the challenges, notwithstanding, his government is committed to linking all the communities in the state with roads as well as ensure that all the communities are provided with electricity.

The state’s Commissioner for finance, Mrs Eucharia Offor, said the budget will provide the template for the realisation of N2 billion IGR monthly.

Giving a breakdown of the budget, he said that provision had been made for the upgrade of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), to harmonise the revenue base of the state.

“The budget will expand the revenue base of the state through the upgrade of ICT infrastructure, to streamline all revenue generating departments and agencies.

“We also intend to review and update relevant laws that will support a robust and transparent revenue administration to realize our target of N2 billion monthly.”

She assured that the budget would ensure adequate resource allocations for the completion of ongoing projects initiated in the 2016 budget and other projects initiated in the 2017 fiscal year.

Recently, a number of political heavyweights in the state, notably former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo and former senator representing Enugu North, Fidelis Okoro among others defected to the ruling party at the federal level, the APC, giving the impression that the party may take over the state in the near future, but the presence of the party is hardly felt at the moment mainly because of Ugwuanyi’s performance and judging by what is on ground, it may take more than the casting of votes to wrestle the state from PDP in 2019.

“The APC is not a threat, they don’t have followers, the youths are more aware than before,” said Mr Eze.

“The fact that Nnamani and others are joining the party (APC) does not have any effect on the PDP.”

“APC is not making any impact in the state, which has more to do with the way the governor is handling the state, continued Mr Eze.

“There is no serious opposition yet. The APC is still trying to organize themselves at the state and local government levels,  but at the ward level, no way.”

Mr Ugwoke equally observes: “It is true that some political personalities like Nnamani are now in the APC and would try to take power from PDP in 2019, but Ugwuanyi has grassroots support.

“The youths of this state are in support of him, so I don’t think the APC can win. Personally, I will be ready to devote my resources to campaign for him when the time comes.

“This governor is just down to earth, you won’t believe, but I can call him on phone and he will ask how I am fairing. Even if you are doing a birthday party, invite him, he will attend.”

Ngwu, however, disagrees in this regard, he insists that although Ugwuanyi is doing well, the APC has what it takes to win in 2019 and do even better.

“What we are talking now is governance, in terms of governance, Ugwuanyi is doing well. When it comes to politics, APC has the capacity to take over in 2019 and perform better. In terms of governance, he is trying but APC will do better.