When the Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. David Umahi, was echoing out his mandate to the people of the state last year during his campaigns and thereafter, swearing-in as the third democratic elected governor of the state, he probably did not have the premonition of how gloomy the economy situation of the country would be in the days ahead
But shortly after ascending the seat of power, the economic reality dawned on him. This came as a result of the sharp fall in crude oil price, Nigeria’s major revenue source,
Governor Umahi, who was elected under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party in the state, amidst stiff contest in the 2015 general elections from the oppositions Labour party and the All Progressives Congress (APC) respectively, knew he did not clinch his victory on the platter of gold even though he had held several sensitive positions in the PDP, a party he belonged to since his infant political days
Engr. Dave, as he is fondly called by his admirers, political life began when he was first appointed as the Acting Chairman of Ebonyi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party from 2007 to 2009, apparently following his performance as Acting Chairman, he was elected the substantive State Chairman of PDP during the 2009 State Congress of the People’s Democratic Party, a position he held till 2011.
Also, in 2011, Umahi emerged as the running mate to former Governor of the state, Mr. Martin Elechi in the gubernatorial election of Ebonyi State. Subsequently, he was elected the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State on 26 April 2011 and was sworn in on 29 May 2011, and sworn in as excutive governor of the state in 2015
Governor Umahi, since assumption of office on May 29, 2015, has brought his technical skill as a trained civil engineer, and also his exponential knowledge which he had garnered over the years in the academic and political life to the table, delivering on his campaign promises, in spite of all odds
During the build up to the 2015 general elections, Enrg Umahi, while campaigning, said his vision was to consolidate on the foundations laid by past leaders of Ebonyi State, and to ensure total commitment to the ideals of the founding fathers of the state
He added that his vision was also to pursue an integrated policy of economic development and transformation anchored on agro-industrialization, aggressive prospection/ exploitation of the rich mineral deposits of Ebonyi State, to take the state a tourist destination and a haven for investors through a balanced and vibrant economy. And provide effective leadership and benign political governance that will ultimately lead to significant improvements in the standard of living for all Ebonyians
According to Umahi “my vision is to consolidation on the foundations laid by past leaders of Ebonyi State, and I will ensure total commitment to the ideals of the founding fathers of the state; and to pursue an integrated policy of economic development and transformation anchored on agro-industrialization, aggressive prospection/ exploitation of the rich mineral deposits of Ebonyi State, to take the state a tourist destination and a haven for investors through a balanced and vibrant economy. And provide effective leadership and benign political governance that will ultimately lead to significant improvements in the standard of living for all Ebonyians,” Engr Umahi continued
“When we come to power by God’s grace, we will deepen this love among our people. Honestly we were in bondage. That is very unfortunate, people should remember that it is God that has the final say. You humiliate people, you oppress people, you impoverish people and you think that you will always have your way. All we needed to do was to put good roads, electricity in a good location, not in a swamp. And if you do that in a good location, still within the Abakaliki territory, which has enough land space, the cost of construction would be reduced drastically. I think education of the Ebonyi people is well above the building of market
“Look at the case of Ebonyi Cement Company where an individual got 100 million shares while the state was given 50 million shares. About the same thing happened in the Ebonyi Oil and Gas. That amounts to mortgaging the state. To me, it is wrong to divert the wealth of the state to an individual, while others are impoverished. The worst thing you can do to a people is to use what God has given them to impoverish them.
“ For me, we shall have to consider the opinion of the people. Before we take bold steps, gigantic projects, we shall seek the input of the stakeholders, the local government councils. We engage the people to determine what they need and how best to go about it. But, when you hold something in trust for the people like you have become their god, they won’t trust you. If I clinch my fingers, you will be more concerned about what is there. But, when our cards are on the table we can generate the confidence of the people
“The task of building the Ebonyi State projects of our dream, which we can proudly bequeath to the future generation, is greater than any one of us, and will not be easy. I am, however, very confident that if we sink our differences and work as a team with a common destiny, which is the raison d’etre of the Divine Mandate project, our model state can be realised. The dreams, which are consistent with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as encapsulated in my manifesto involve the creation of a dynamic economy designed to serve the people’s interest, and in which market forces are combined with the forces of partnership, solidarity and cooperation to create and produce goods and services for all.
I’m prepared to establish free and democratic society, in which the powers and actions are lawful, and where those in authority are held accountable to the people; build a just society, which provides basic needs, ensures equal opportunities for self-development through education and gainful employment, defend the dignity of the human person; judges its strengnt by the condition of the weak, provides security against fear; and delivers the masses from the tyranny of poverty, oppression and abuse of power.
“I will ensure qualitative implementation of people-oriented programmes with particular emphasis on war against poverty, through integrated rural development, rapid industrial growth, science and technology; as well as rebuilding and expanding basic infrastructure that will make us competitive,” Engr. Umahi said
Also, while taking oath of office at the Abakaliki Township stadium on May 29, 2015, where the Oaths of Office were administered on him and his deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe by then state Chief Judge, Justice Alloy Nwankwo before a large crowd of cheering supporters, Engr Umahi rekindled hope on the people of the state to deliver to them dividends of democracy and probably do more than his former boss, Mr Elechi
He, however, called on all and sundry to support his administration
At the event, Umahi maintained that his government would create special Security Trust Fund to assist the state government provide adequate security for very high profile public and private properties in across the state.
“Our administration, through an Act of the State House of Assembly, shall come up with a law to create security a Trust Fund which shall be maintained in the office of the Special Adviser on Security Matters.
“This fund will assist state government to provide adequate security to very high profile properties in the state, both public and private, through the use of electronic system, physical policing and other sophisticated measures. This will in turn reduce the cost of safe-guarding such properties and afford the owners 100% safety over them.
“Our administration shall have one control, evaluation and monitoring system under the office of a new Ministry of Planning, Design, Evaluation and Strategy. Under this system, all projects’ designs will be checked, costs rechecked and certificate of payments rechecked in line with work progress/quality and right pricing adopted.
“In the face of dwindling revenue and unprecedented high debt profile, we are challenged to bring forward creative and intelligent ways of running a very smart administration. If we fail to do so, we might fall short of our manifesto commitments.
“Uncompleted projects in the state are vast and spread across the entire landscape, each carrying liabilities in hundreds of millions if not in billions of Naira.
“The state is swimming in a large sea of debts especially unpaid certificates and accumulated unpaid salaries to our civil servants both at state and local government levels. We are stepping into governance with serious financial challenges and negative balance sheet
“Our administration will continue to maintain the office of the Special Adviser on Internal Security. So far, we are lucky with the security agencies in our state. We will, however, through the Special Adviser on Internal Security, assist all the security agencies in the state.’’ He said in an interview with a national newspaper
But Eboniy state, which comprises 13 local government areas, according to reports, received N49 billion as grand total of the federal account allocation accrued to states and local government councils between May 2015 and June 2016, being one of the states with the lowest allocation including Gombe, Ekiti and Nasarawa States which received N50 billion each and Kwara N52 billion
Checks reveal that within just one year in office, Mr. Umahi’s administration has already commissioned several new projects, giving Abakaliki, the state capital a facelift
The state capital is already wearing a new look with its good roads network and peaceful ambience
further checks revealed that the capital city has become a mecca of sort as tourists and other visitors now pour in in large numbers apparently to catch fun and explore the new town for new business opportunities
Some of the accomplishments by the current administration of governor Umahi include the peace restored at Ezillo and Eza Ezillo warring communities, commissioning of a state-of-the-art virology lasa fever centre worth over three hundred and fifty million naira
Others are Akanu Ibiam Round about flyover, presco junction flyover which construction are ongoing. Also include the rehabilitation of water works, meat market, Gunning, New market roads among others
In an interview, Mr Ugochukwu Emma, 46, a resident of Afikpo Local Government council explained that during his recent visit to Abakaliki, he became so surprised seeing the quick transformation of the area
Mr Ugochukwu added that though with the current economic realities, Mr Umahi seems undaunted as he had delivered on some of his mandates within just one year in office
He maintained further that there has been quick transformation of Abakaliki, the state capital since Mr Umahi became governor of the state, but Mr. Ugochukwu, nevertheless appealed to the governor to extend development to other parts of the state
He however added that Mr. Umahi, while serving as deputy governor under Mr Elechi, former governor, had learned the terrain of the business of governance hence Umahi has brought his vast knowledge to bear in the day-to-day governance of the state
“I am very impressed with the aggressive development of Abakaliki, Mr Umahi has really made the place look like a state capital, I urge him to extend the same development to other parts of the state,” Mr. Ugochukwu said
Most feelers in Abakaliki, also noted that with barely one year in office, Engr Umahi’s administration has recorded tremendous achievements, but they still expects him to do more in improving the standard of living of the people
Also speaking, Mr. Henry Chinedu, 30, a resident of Abakaliki advised the government to improve in the area of waste disposal so as to avoid endangering the lives of the people
Mr. Chinedu, however applauded Mr. Umahi’s timely payment of salaries in spite of the huge economic challenges faced by the country
“I know of many states that have been owing workers for several months but not so in Ebonyi state, when the former governor, Mr. Elechi increased worker’s pay by about fifty percent, he did not know how bad the economy would be in the future, so I think Mr. Umahi has adjusted it to fit into the current reality
“Mr. Umahi is paying salaries regularly and at least, civil servants can put food on their table, the entire economy is really bad but with support from the people of the state, Ebonyi will not experience hardship in future because I know Mr. Umahi is just laying a formidable foundation for his people,” Mr. Chinedu said
On her part, Mrs. Angela Uko lauded Mr. Umahi’s administration in the area of infrastructure development, but she nevertheless advised Mr. Umahi to focus on stomach infrastructure and interact with the people regularly on the streets just like other governor
Godshield Kanjal Is A Journalist And Corps Member Serving In Ebonyi State