After 2019 general elections were concluded, and results collated and announced, winners emerged, while aggrieved losers headed to the election petition tribunals to ventilate their concerns. But one phenomenon that political pundits failed to take cognizance of, in their follow-up commentaries, was the landmark victory of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State. The euphoria here is not that the governor won his second term. Ordinarily, anyone who has followed Enugu politics in the last four years would not have expected him to have a challenge getting his second term mandate.
What went unnoticed in the corridors of analysts was that he scored 449,935 votes – 95% of the total votes cast, with the second runner up—the APC gubernatorial candidate, coming a distant second by mere 10,423 votes. This electoral feat is unprecedented in the annals of our political history. No sitting governor in Nigeria has beaten his challengers in an election by that margin of the votes cast. Not even governors of the ruling APC, who had at their disposal what has been baptized “federal might” in the nation’s political lexicon, could win such popular mandate across a state. It evinced the fact that no rigging sophistication cum machinery could have won such vote of confidence from Enugu populace other than excellent performance and good governance.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was sworn in amidst heightened expectations because to whom much is given, much is expected. Aware of the overwhelming faith reposed in his leadership by Enugu residents, the governor hit the ground running. The flight of governance took off for a determined destination of repositioning the Coal city. Incidentally, an unforeseen turbulence of insecurity pummeled the state in particular, and South-East in general. News of kidnapping-for-ransom, isolated killings and vicious attacks ravaged the state like wide fire. Hitherto, peaceful and secured hub of Eastern region became harbinger of unscrupulous and barbaric activities of men of the underworld.
Governor Ugwuanyi, unique in his style of governance, refused to play to the gallery. He resisted the temptation of blame game, rebuffed the bandwagon to stereotype herdsmen with the insecurity challenge in the state. Instead, he went for solutions rather than pointing accusing fingers at anyone or group. Ugwuanyi began his troubleshooting of the escalated insecurity by rallying all relevant stakeholders, especially in the security sector. He engaged security agencies, ethno-religious leaders, and community stakeholders in the state to find lasting solution to the challenge. Amidst criticisms, he never lost focus. Rather, he viewed it as motivation to show leadership at a trying time. He neither wavered nor slumbered—he rose to the occasion.
Not being directly in control of security agencies in the state, albeit bearing the ceremonial title of “Chief Security Officer”, Governor Ugwuanyi lobbied powers that be at Abuja for overhauling of security apparatus in the state. These decisive actions necessitated the change of police commissioner and rejigging of security operations in the state. In his own capacity as number one citizen of the state, the government engaged the services of 1,700 forest guards, whose defined responsibility would be to assist in curbing the menace of kidnapping and other criminal activities, which usually happens along the bush (forests) pathways, highways and rural areas.
The newly employed forest guards were adequately equipped with over 260 security vehicles, motorcycles, etc., for effective community policing. Outside the deployment of new police commissioner to the state, the governor took a further step to appoint former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ogbonnaya Onovo as security consultant to the state government. Even the governor’s hard critics will not fault the wisdom in seeking the profound counsels of security experts who are indigenous to the state. The present administration in the state has the penchant for consulting security experts before taking decision bordering on security would be reached.
Governor Ugwuanyi has reiterated severally that being a governor does not automatically confer on someone “grandmaster of wisdom”, who has monopoly of ideas. This is the ideological tenor serving as catalyst to the open system/diplomatic governance being ran by the governor. He has not failed to carry everyone along in decision-making process since becoming governor. In furtherance of this and seeing that insecurity is not restricted to Enugu alone, the governor has galvanized other governors of South-East states to rob minds, mobilize resources and form a formidable synergy to ensure that the tide of insecurity in the region is not only curtailed but nipped in the bud. Development does not thrive in the face of insecurity.
The first 100 days of Ugwuanyi’s second tenure has not been a tea party. Arguably, it has been one of the toughest periods since he became governor: not even his first three months as first term governor was this hectic and challenging, simply as a result of sudden rise in security crisis in the state. Enugu State is traditionally and culturally known as a peaceful state. Any leader that knows his onions would be as worried and concerned as the governor was, which saw him visiting most of the hideouts of kidnappers in the thick forests. As soon as they were discovered, they ignited his prompt responses that have started yielding positives today.
The good news here is that Governor Ugwuanyi neither allowed himself to be distracted nor allowed governance to lose its thrust. He remained committed to the ultimate goal of exiting the helm of authority with enduring legacy of infrastructural strides. The first 100 days of his second term mandate has seen a reinvigorated effort in opening up of rural areas via laudable good road networks. He has personally supervised ongoing projects to ensure that Enugu residents and taxpayers are getting value for their resources entering the state coffers, through federal allocations and Internally Generated Revenues (IGR). The state-owned higher institutions have also received infrastructural boost within the governor’s 100 days in office alongside internal roads of Enugu metropolis. It is a sign of better things to come.