By Monica Ada Chidinma Eze
October 1st, 1996 will ever remains a milestone in the annals of Ebonyi State and her people as it was on this great day that God used the late General Sani Abacha to create the State out of Enugu and Abia States. The State known as the Salt of the Nation marked her 21st anniversary celebration as a State on 1st October, 2017.
Ebonyi State with 13 local government areas and 77 development centres since creation has been governed by one military officer (Navy Captain Walter Feghabo) between October 1996 and August 1998 and one police officer (Retired AIG Simeon Oduoye) from 1998-1999 and from 1999 till date, by three democratically-elected civilian Governors; Dr Sam Egwu – now a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – governed the state from May 29, 1999 to May 28, 2007; while Governor Martin Elechi ruled between 2007 and 2015 and currently by Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi who was sworn in on May 29, 2015 hopefully to conclude his tenure in 2023.
After going through series of the history, actions and activities of some of the political key actors of Ebonyi State, it behoves on me on this auspicious period of the 21st anniversary of the creation of Ebonyi State to unveil and present to the world the emergence of a new political leader, Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi the incumbent Governor of Ebonyi State described in some quarters as the wisest Governor in Nigeria and the new Zik of the politics of Nigeria. In doing this, I will be presenting some of the key factors and projects that put him poles ahead of other leaders in his class and possibly postulate the key role he is to play in the future politics and greatness of Nigeria.
To Ralph Waldo Emerson an American Essayist, Lecturer and Poet probably foreseeing the type of politics that this new enigma and unassuming leader from Ebonyi State will be playing in this generation stated, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. With testimonies from world, national leaders and leaders from Ebonyi State all have agreed and testified that Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi has become a trailblazer so far governance is concern in Nigeria. This visionary, egalitarian, humanist and philanthropist par excellence, an enigma have redefined governance since he assumed office that today both his opponents and associates all have accepted the fact that he has become a tool for not only the emancipation, development of Ebonyi State but has become the light of democracy in the politics of the nation.Today, under his governance, Ebonyi State that used to be known as one of the most awkward and undeveloped States in the nation has become the proverbial stone rejected by the builders, which turned out to be the cornerstone for the emancipation of the Igbo race and revolution of agriculture in Nigeria.
THE REVOLUTIONARY REGIME OF ENGR. DAVE NWEZE UMAHI AND THE TEN FACTORS AND PROJECTS THAT PUT HIM AHEAD OF OTHER LEADERS:
Before presenting to you the twenty one projects that put him poles ahead of other leaders in his class, let me formally state that this enigma of a man who goes by the title – Akubaraoha – because of his philanthropy and concern for the less privileged is truly a study in humanity and revolutionary leadership in Nigeria.
1. Redefining governance in Ebonyi State
Umahi has not only redefined governance, but has achieved within two years in office what past administrators couldn’t achieve in the 21 years of the creation of the state. This is why it looks as if John Maxwell had Umahi in mind, when he stated: “Knowing how to do a job is the accomplishment of labour – showing others is the accomplishment of the teacher – making sure the work is done by others is the accomplishment of the manager – inspiring others to do better work is the accomplishment of the leader.”.Umahi truly is an accomplished leader of our time no matter the stand of few of our leaders who out of jealousy want to paint a contrary picture of this committed leader whose goal and aim of turning Ebonyi State into Eldorado is not in doubt.
Umahi, considered by many as the pride of Ebonyi State, have truly redefined governance in the state. He came into the governance of the state when the country was in a recession with determinate consequences of dwindling economic fortune, both at the state and federal levels. As result, it was a big challenge for state governments to pay salaries of civil servants, talk-less of embarking on any meaningful projects that will impact on the lives of their citizens. Umahi came to power when Ebonyi State was considered the most underdeveloped state not only in the Southern part of Nigeria but as one of the most underdeveloped in Nigeria. He came to power when our people have lost hope in governance, as they were not only denied dividends of democracy but no longer knew what governance is all about.
Apart from the above challenges and in order to compound the situation in Ebonyi State; it is sad to note that most members of the opposition political parties in Ebonyi instead of complimenting or supporting the efforts of the Umahi’s administration prefer not see anything good in his efforts to improve on the wellbeing and progress of the State and in their attempts to castigate and ridicule the Umahi’s administration, their embark upon campaign of calumny by presenting an erroneous picture of the government as not performing or executing any meaningful project. Some of them have mischievously ascribed the three flyovers being built by the administration to the Federal Government, questioning the financial muscle of the state government to embark upon such gigantic projects, in view of the lean purse of the state. It is sad that some people, because of politics, have resolved to be blind to the great works that the governor is doing in Ebonyi. Their unfortunate stand notwithstanding, majority of Ebonyians, including outsiders, are fully aware and appreciative of the great work happening in the state.
I am glad to note that all these challenges and uncomfortable scenarios were just incentives for Umahi to do the impossible in Ebonyi State as he demonstrates his ingenuity in the arts of governance that forced the amiable Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, to describe him as the “wisest governor” in Nigeria. It is also a fact not minding the position of the opposition political parties and people that are awed by the great feats of the Umahi’s administration in such a short period of time that under the administration of this enigma, Ebonyi State can boast of the best Laboratory Diagnostic Centre and equipped Virology Centre. Recently, the Inspector-General of Police stated that Umahi is the most-friendly governor in Nigeria, while the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington described the Ebonyi Rice as the best in the entire world; while the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright stated that, “Ebonyi roads are the best in the South-East”. With all these postulations, one cannot make any mistake to declare that Umahi has delivered.
Let me state further that at a time when many other states are finding it difficult to pay workers’ salaries or meet other basic needs as a result of the economic recession in the country, the Umahi Administration, despite Ebonyi’s modest resources, embarks on numerous road projects, flyovers, roundabouts, street lights and hospitals, while also executing a revolution in agriculture, as well as the educational and health sectors. This is in addition to regular payment of civil servants, who also get paid at 13th month by the State Government. Therefore, Governor Ikpeazu was 100% correct in describing Governor Umahi as the wisest State Governor in Nigeria.
2. Turning Ebonyi State into one Huge Construction site
Today, Ebonyi State is referred to as one huge construction site. The following projects explain this better –
The dualisation of Abakaliki to Enugu and Abakaliki to Afikpo express roads which are all federal roads are being worked upon.
Construction of Roads, Bridges, flyovers, streets light
As part of activities marking the 2017 Democracy Day celebration, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi, has inaugurated two bridges completed by his administration at Amangwu Edda in Afikpo South Local Government Area. The governor also inaugurated street light at the Presbyterian Joint Hospital Road, Uburu in Ohaozara LGA and inspected some ongoing road projects in the town.
Other projects inspected during this auspicious event were the Abakaliki-Afikpo Road, 11.2km Okue-Nzerem-Akaeze Road and water treatment plant in Ivo Local Government Area; 25.3km Amasiri-Okposi- Uburu Road; a six- span bridge across Ebonyi River in Ishinkwo, Onicha LGA and St. Mary Road in Afikpo North LGA.
Ongoing projects in Ebonyi North
Ezzamgbo–Effium Road, Hill Top–Nwofe road, Ishieke–Odomoke road (Nwiboko Obodo Road), Amike–Abegu-Ozibo bridge, Amachara–Oferekpe–Ovuduechi Road.
Ongoing projects in Ebonyi Central
Enyibichiri Ikwo Road, Ndufu–Alike–FUNAI Road, Nkalagu–Ehamufu Road.
Ongoing projects in Ebonyi South
Amasiri–Okposi–Uburu road, Ezzama–Oshiri-Onicha-Isu-Uburu Road, Amasiri–Nguzu–Owutu Edda Road, Amangwu–Owutu Edda Bridge, Ihenu channelisation/culverts, Ntezi–Agba–Isu Road.
Engr. Dave Umahi further stated that his aim of using indigenous contractors in the execution of projects was to empower them. “It is a debt I owe Ebonyi people to also empower indigenous contractors to come of age.”
On his part, a former governor of the state, Dr. Egwu, commended Umahi for his performance, saying his achievements within so short a time had repositioned the state. At the border between Amasiri and Okposi, Egwu who was highly impressed with the thickness of the concreted part of the road, said, “I must confess that you have surpassed all of us.” He thereafter after asked Umahi to walk along with him on the road and jocularly told him:”I think with the long stretch and smoothness of this road that I am seeing it can be a tarmac. Aircraft can land it.” Governor Umahi had told the team that the road, when completed would last 75 years.
3. Changing the status of Abakaliki City from glorified Local Headquarter to a decent and outstanding State Capital
Before the inception of the administration of Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi, there is nothing to truly place Abakaliki as a State capital but more of a glorified Local Government headquarter. With three solid flyovers almost completed and to be commissioned as soon as possible places the State capital as one of the most developed State Capitals in Nigeria.
The State capital is lighted by solar powered street light. The seat of government situated in the State Capital that was more like outdated Government House is now modernised to look like a true Government House of a State. The State capital now boasts of an equipped Olympic seized Stadium with all the relevant structures that can enable it host any international sports fiesta.
REHABILITATED/ASPHALTED ROADS IN ABAKALIKI
Hitherto unmotorable roads in the State capital are now rehabilitated and asphalted to qualify as roads suitable for a State capital. The following roads so far attended comes to mind – Water Works Road, Ogoja–Onuebonyi–Rice Mill Road, Gunning Road, New Market Road, Nkaliki–EBBC–EBHA–Abakaliki LGA Road, Hosanna Park, Hosanna Street, Ezika Street (Yam market), Old Park, Jos Street, Obiri Street, Nwodo Street, Mberi Street, Awolowo Street, Nsugbe Street, Uga Street, Ezza Road, Udensi Round-about–Mile 50, Adiq Suite Road, Gulf Round-about–Quarry–Fide Mbam Road, Hausa Quarters, Onwe Road, Vanco Junction to Government House, Convent Road, Meat Market, New Market Road, Udemezue Street, Arondizuogu Street, Nkwogu Street and Zik Avenue.
OTHER ROADS, FLY-OVER BRIDGES IN ABAKALIKI
Akanu Ibiam fly-over, Presco Junction flyover, International Market flyover, EBSU Campus-gate Pedestrian crossing, Udensi Bridge, Haraca–Oshim Igbele Street, Obi Street, Watchman Street, Ibe/Obodoukwu Street, Osborn La-Palm–Ogbaga Road, Eze & Bros–Oroke Onuoha Road, Erkanka Street, Agbado-Ozo Street from FRSC, Aguogboriga layout, Police Quarters internal road, Mbam-Agbo Extension (a virgin road), Mbam-Agbo Street, from G Hostel, Off Hatchery Road, Ezeadikwa Street, Ugo Dan Street, Emefor Street, Agbaja Road (from Chosen church, IDU Hall), Omougo Street, Itapa Azobu, opposite Grace Court, Amike Aba Road, Edema Close, Ezekeikwo Street, Mgbabor Street, Oroke Onuoha Road, St Patrick’s Church–Ogbaga Road (swamp), Diamond Point Road, road behind Staff Development Centre, Anulo Junction–Nwogodo Road.Ndiagu Layout, Abakaliki, Onoogolu Street, Isuofia Street, Okeke Street, Ugwuoba Street, Nsukka Street, Nawfia Street, Akaeze Street, Mbadugha Street, Neni Street, Ukpo Street, Uke Street, Anekwe Street, Igbokwe Street, Iwolo Street, Adazi Street, Atuenyi Street, Mbanefo Street, Ezejiofor Street, Nnewi Street, Abagana Street all at completion stages.
What Umahi has achieved in making Abakaliki a model State Capital demonstrates that this is a leader in a hurry to make his mark and put his name in the sand of time so far governance is concern in Ebonyi State.
4. Remarkable Feats In the Health Sector
A. The menace of Lassa Fever epidemic in Ebonyi state and Construction/Equipping of Virology Centre
In 2005, Lassa fever killed five health workers. In 2008, it killed three health workers and affected many others and sadly two of these three health workers were Medical Doctors while in 2012, it affected about 12 health workers with one person dead. In 2013, there was also isolated case where one person died. These affected numbers exclude other citizens we don’t have their records.
This menace was a real terror and caused a lot of havoc in the state and the major challenges the State had in curtailing it was the fact that the treatment of this disease is very costly, two; is that the Virology Laboratory in the State a Federal health Institution qualified to treat this ailment doesn’t have isolation ward with only three rooms. In this case, if we have more than three victims at a time, others are kept in the general ward thereby endangering both patients and health workers. The State can’t also confirm the diagnosis of victims until samples are sent to Irrua Special Hospital in Edo State for confirmation of the diagnosis.
It takes about five days to get the confirmation report from Edo which means treatment of the victim will be delayed and if proven positive the symptoms becomes very bad. If you commence early treatment the patient has chances of survival as the disease is curable and preventable provided the needful are done at the appropriate time
When the above ugly scenario and challenges was presented to Governor Umahi, he immediately charged the Ministry of Health to commence the building of a Virology Centre in Ebonyi State within a month and to equip it accordingly. Based on the Governor’s charge, the ministry has completed the construction and equipping of a multi-million naira modern virology centre in FETHA II, Abakaliki, where suspected cases of Lassa fever and other acute hemorrhagic fevers will be diagnosed and managed. This is the first of its kind in the South-east. This project started because of the governor’s love for his people, who before this period has lost so many lives due delays in sending and receiving sample results from Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole who commissioned the centre stated that with the establishment of this centre that it will enhance a great partnership between FG and the state government and will among other benefits, lead to the provision of more equipment and grants to the Centre. Adewole expressed hope that the centre would help curb the menace of lassa fever ravaging the zone, assuring that the purpose of the centre would never be defeated. To me, this a feat unprecedented and marks him an astounding leader.
B. Checking Epidemic Outbreaks
The ministry, since May 29, 2015, has put in professional competence in management of outbreak of epidemics in the state. It has strengthened the epidemiology unit and its emergency response unit to ensure that all cases of outbreaks are brought under control. This is evident in the way the ministry managed and controlled the cholera outbreak that was ongoing in different parts of the state, starting from February 2015, and prior to the inception of this administration in May 2015. This deadly disease was successfully controlled within two weeks of Umahi’s intervention. The ministry also, during the recent outbreaks of the dreaded Lassa fever, controlled it to barest minimum, and ensured free treatment of 83 patients who had fully recovered and discharged from the hospital. The state government, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, has also approved that the treatment and diagnosis of malaria, in all government-owned hospitals free of charge. This has drastically reduced the morbidity and mortality associated with malaria.
C. Medical Outreach
One of the most recent achievements of this administration is the medical outreach, called Akubara-oha Free Medical Outreach, conducted at Ezzeama in Ezza South LGA and Agugwu-Uburu in Ohaozara LGA. The results of the exercises are quite successful. Over 2000 medical cases were seen: 98 surgeries, 26 tooth extractions, and 262 eye glasses issued to eye patients. Most of our people who because of economic situation could not access medical care were treated free of charge. The joy of these people knew no bounds as they prayed for God’s guidance and long live for the governor. His Excellency, having seen the success of these exercises and its attendant benefits, gave the ministry the mandate to conduct such free medical outreach in all the 24 constituencies of Ebonyi. The ministry is already concluding arrangements to kick-start the exercise. The whole essence is to ensure that the poorest of the poor get medical care of all ailments, and to reduce their disease burden and, ultimately, prevent untimely deaths to the rural people.
The ministry, under this administration, attracted 2No modern giant incinerators from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, which is used for the management of medical waste. Such medical wastes had posed treats and constituted public health hazards in the past in Ebonyi State, as what we have been using is local crude methods of medical waste disposal. The ministry has completed the construction of the concrete base platform for the installation of these incinerators. One of the incinerators is located in Onicha General Hospital, and the other one at Ezzamgbo General Hospital, and they will service the whole of the state and beyond.
Construction of Chest Clinic at Mile 4 Hospital, Upgrading of General Hospitals, Purchase of Medical Equipment to FETHA, proper Immunization of our kids, Integrated measles campaign in Ebonyi State: 28thJanuary to 1stFeb 2016, saving three Million Lives, Arresting the scourge of cholera etc,
Engr, Dave Nweze Umahi is a leader indeed.
5. Security and Peace in Ebonyi
The governor, in his principle that if there is no peace meaningful development will not only be elusive but developments earlier achieved will be destroyed, have reiterated that trouble-makers should look for other states to relocate. In this regard based on the Governor’s vision to fight the menace of kidnapping, robbery and other vices prevalent in the State, the Governor collaborates with the State commissioners of police and other security agencies to achieve security of the State. Today, Ebonyi State is one of the most secured States in Nigeria with zero tolerance and operation of criminals. To achieve this and according to the Governor, “We’re trying to man all our exit points with provision at every exit junctions with the use of CCTV to see what happens 300 metres along the road. Every base will be powered by solar light. So, we’re starting the pilot scheme with hope that the Police will assist the State with the relevant manpower.”
Setting the pace in sustaining peace in Ebonyi, thereby making the state conducive for a peaceful co-existence, Chief Umahi said he would deal decisive with any individual or group of persons that attempt to re-ignite the Ezza-Ezillo crisis that has claimed more than 200 lives, and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
The governor said that he is still committed to ensure that the peace accord signed by Ezilo and Ezza-Ezilo people, which brought to an end the protracted communal clash, is not violated by any individual no matter how highly placed.
The Governor maintained that, in the area of security, my government is awake to the challenges of securing lives and property in the state and will remain so ever. Ebonyi is no longer a safe haven for kidnappers and armed robbers. I am glad to tell Ebonyians that throughout the Yuletide, there was no news of kidnapping or armed robbery in any part of the state.
His words: “I stand on the altar of God to say that anybody that wants to ignite crisis in Ezza-Ezillo, I will crush the person. I have directed that the people that organised or wanted to organise a rally in honour of their brothers and sisters in the unfortunate incident should be made available to me. They will spend the Christmas in cell. I must be emphatic, there is nothing to remember.”
6. Governor Umahi and his efforts to secure the Igbos in Nigeria
Let me at this juncture reproduce his historical stand on issues pertaining to the future of Igbos in Nigeria. According to him, “I had private discussion with Mr. President in New York and I want to assure the South-Easterners that the President will address all our problems. Nigeria is going to see peace. We are stronger when we are bigger. Let me also tell our people that we are playing too much politics. It is only in the South-East that you see petitions that they are piling in the EFCC. Everything is now about politics and we left our hard work for politics.
I want to thank the Governors of South-East and the North for their efforts in ending the ugly incident that occurred recently. Let me assure Nigerians that Mr. President has heard you and he is going to address all the issues raised.
There is no need to continue insulting our leaders and abusing other tribes. No need trying to pose danger to the existence of our people. We are not untrustworthy people. We are very, very trustworthy. We are hardworking and well cultured people and so, we have made our points.”
Let me conclude this segment of this treatise that will cover 21 special projects embarked upon by this great leader of our time to drive home his efforts to make Ebonyi State the number one State in Nigeria,
In segment two, I will pick up other projects that differentiate this new leader from others in his class.
Monica Ada Chidinma Eze is Technical Assistant (TA) on Media to Governor Dave Nweze Umahi and can be reached through;firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com