The Gburugburu narration is one that brings smiles to the faces of the broad spectrum of people of Enugu State. His name is Ifeanyichukwu, which translates to “Nothing is Insurmountable to God”. Gburugburu is his alias. Close associates, however, reveal that Gburugburu is actually his chieftaincy title, but has now almost subsumed his name. Gburugburu means “Everywhere”.
Indeed, since the quest to serve the people of Enugu State at a broader level made him leave the House of Representatives where he gave his federal constituency quality representation for 12 years, to seek election as the state Governor, he has been living out his name and title. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s victory in the 2015 Enugu State gubernatorial contest brought a new lease of life for the people of the state.
Essentially, as his first name, Ifeanyichukwu implies, Governor Ugwuanyi, putting God first, has been able to surmount the vagaries of office to wrought uncommon transformation on Enugu State. And as a Gburugburu, the enchanting Ugwuanyi story is a common refrain on the lips of Enugu people. The story of how he turned Enugu around just within two and a half years of assumption of office has become a melodious song on the lips of the people.
Governor Ugwuanyi has solidly stamped his presence everywhere in the state in the mold of signature projects of his three years administration.
The Ugwuanyi Phenomenon is emotionally and vividly captured here: There is a touching correlation between 1919, the governor and Amuri, a sleepy community in Nkanu West local government area of the state. The British colonial administration had intervened on the community’s road in 1919 with a signpost to show for it. The signpost still stands till today as a nostalgic reminder of the ‘benevolence’ of the British colonial overlords to Amuri . As narrated by the people, since 1919, successive governments in the state have turned their backs on Amuri and treated them as second citizens as no form of infrastructural development has taken place in their community.
Hundred years later, Amuri has got a new ‘signpost’ courtesy Governor Ugwuayi- a road his administration constructed in the community- and the people are ecstatic. When the governor visited Amuri recently to inspect the road, his presence elicited wild excitement as the people enthusiastically trooped out to welcome him.
Ugwuanyi’s intervention in Amurri is also true of other parts of the state. His state-wide people- oriented socio- economic and infrastructural re-invention of Enugu resonates in all nooks and crannies of the state. Indeed, Ugwuanyi’s wondrous achievements within the two and a half years he has been on the saddle speak for him. Avalanche of unsolicited 2019 second term endorsements he has received so far have their locale in his achievements. The people of Enugu are appreciative and want him back in 2019. All they want is Gburugburu and no one else.
Ugwuanyi is unassuming and has no airs around him. And unlike some of his brother-governors, the Enugu State helmsman does not dance to the gallery. And is not a slave to media propaganda in terms of showing off his achievements. As a Public Relations guru, the governor knows that publics deserve undiluted truth rather than pernicious propaganda; instead of trumpeting, hyping his government’s projects that dot the state’s landscape in the media or listing non existing projects as his, he delivers visible, verifiable projects and allows the people to do the trumpeting, cheering and clapping themselves. This has earned him unprecedented goodwill no governor of the state has ever enjoyed in the history of Enugu State.
Primate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr.Kanu Uche , normally not one to heap effusive praises on politicians, says Ugwuanyi is exceptional and deserves a 2019 come back. To the Methodist Church leader, Ugwuanyi is a poster boy of good and purposeful governance. His words: “Any governor or politician who wants to be re-elected in 2019 must perform as that is the best campaign to give to the people the dividend of democracy”.
Then the clincher: “Governor Ugwuanyi has done very well…even those in graves, if they are allowed to vote will vote for you, the performing governor of Enugu State. This man is using the resources given to him very well to develop the state”.
Like former President Goodluck Jonathan who in one of his famous speeches had declared ‘I have no enemies to fight’, Ugwuanyi, evidently, has no enemies to fight in Enugu politics. The state has in the past been the hotbed of octane political wrangling.
In terms of peaceful political atmosphere and tolerance, Ugwuanyi’s Enugu is a clean break from the Enugu of his two immediate predecessors during whose tenures the state witnessed debilitating political fisticuffs and endless feuds among its political actors. However, the bi-partisan approach to politics which Ugwuanyi brought to bear on his relationship with politicians across parties in the state is largely responsibility for the prevailing tranquility in Enugu’s political turf.
Senator Gilbert Nnaji, representing Enugu East, described dovish Ugwuanyi in the following flowery terms: ‘The prevailing peace, political tolerance and bi-partisan disposition that defines his government rekindle hope that of a truth there can be dividends of democracy without necessarily deploying state resources to suppress dissenting voices. He has unified the leaders and elders of the state such that political parties in the state today merely exist in the books even as access to better life is no longer determined by political consideration or other illogical sentiments. His commitment to things that benefit the masses as against personal interests of the privileged few as it is unprecedented”.
Evidence of his harmonious relationship with the main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state can be gleaned from praises often heaped on him by leaders of the party. APC National Vice Chairman, South East, Emma Eneukwu, eulogied Ugwuanyi thus: “Governor Ugwuanyi has created a peaceful atmosphere that has made it possible for everybody to be one when it comes to issues concerning the state”.
Other APC leader such as Second Republic governor of the old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Director-General of Voice of Nigeria ,Osita Okechukwu and Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyema all have kind words for Ugwuanyi.
Ugwuanyi’s shrewd management of financial resources of Enugu State in the face of debilitating economic challenges is one of the hallmarks of his administration. His judicious use of the Paris Club Refund recently earned him commendation from Senator Abdullahi Gumel, Chairman of the Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration who acknowledged the governor’s transparency and accountability in the application of the fund. Senator Gumel: “We have gone through the books and as far as the bailout funds are concerned, everything is in order .In fact, Enugu State has even gone further because we haven’t seen this in any other state”.
It confounds many that Ugwuanyi executed the transformational projects without borrowing a dime unlike many of his counterparts. However, being an accountant and manager of money, Ugwuanyi knows the benefits of financial discipline and prudence.
Appreciative of the their governor’s solid stamps on sands of time, outpouring of supports and endorsements for Ugwuanyi’s yet- to- be declared second term has been overwhelming. For example, traders in the state recently shut markets and poured into the famous Michael Okpara Square for a rally in support of his re-election in 2019. The traders are enamored by Ugwuanyi’s innovative human development and empowerment programme which ensure that 100 of them (traders) win #50,000 every month to help expand their businesses.
Commercial tricycle riders, motorcyclists among many other groups and associations in the state have also organized huge rallies thanking Ugwuanyi for his magical strides and endorsing his return in 2019.
Apart from his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has since expressly given its nod for Ugwuanyi’s second term, various political parties in the state under the aegis of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, have also endorsed him for second term. Many prominent chieftains of the main opposition party in the state, APC, agree that Ugwuanyi is a good product that must be kept hence they are massively working for his re-election, albeit secretly for fear of being accused of anti-party activities.
Senator Nnaji wants fellow PDP members in the state nursing the ambition of jostling for the party’s 2019 guber ticket with Ugwuanyi to bury it because “in keeping faith with his electoral promises, he has radically changed the narratives and conspicuously raised the bar of good governance and service delivery . His people –oriented, all- inclusive and responsive leadership have indeed entrenched a new order where everyone and every part truly belongs”.
Workers in the state’s civil service say they have never had it so good as they applaud Governor Ugwuanyi for paying them 13th month salary last December. Enugu retirees are also singing the governor’s adulation for not owing them pensions. The Nigerian Labour Unions say Enugu under Ugwuanyi comes tops in the area of minimum wage implementation.
Apart from Primate Kanu, prominent clergymen in Enugu are equally bearing witnesses to the governor’s sterling performance. These include two fiery priests, the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Emmanuel Chukwuma and Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka of the Adoration Ministries (AMEN) fame.
While Enugu indigenes and other Nigerians who are awed by Ugwuanyi’s massive re-engineering of Enugu stridently endorse him for second term, others are already carving a role for him beyond 2019 and seeing him through the prism of 2023. One of such persons is Ebere Wabara, a columnist and social commentator. Said Wabara in a piece recently: “I have the conviction that, at the opportune time, Governor Ugwuanyi would be thinking of Igbo presidency and his robust prospects. He should begin to luxuriate on that presently since his re-election is a foregone matter on the ground of his leadership quintessence and currency exponential endorsements”.
With the massive state-wide goodwill he enjoys on account of his trail blazing performance, 2019 guber contest in Enugu looks good to be one duel between Gburugburu and Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi! For as it is said in Nigeria’s local political parlance, there is no vacancy in Enugu State Government House!
Uchenna Nwobodo writes from Nike, Enugu.