Emmanuel Onwubiko: Emerging issues in Enugu, South East polls

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No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow”.

Politically speaking, elections are necessary to allow the discerning voters or electorate make decisions and choices of individuals and the political formations with the most workable economic blueprint to lift them to their better selves.

That is exactly what the proverb at the beginning implies when it states that “no matter how full the river, it still wants to grow.” So no matter how economically viable a state may be, there is definitely the need and desire for sustainable growth and development. And the best way of maintaining the momentum of economic advancement in any part of the federation or the whole of the federating units, is to build the most seamless political power transition mechanisms.

I have taken the poetic licence to borrow the above proverb from the newest book titled “The story of Dora Akunyili: I am because We are”, written by her daughter Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr. I have also decided to philosophically apply it to the discussion of the day which basically is on determination of the bigger pictures for Enugu State in the coming election of a governor and all of South East in the election circle that is imminent.

There is no gainsaying that campaigns that would usher us into the early year 2023 general election have started in full swing.

The South East of Nigeria is one place that the voters are energized and up beat on how they intend to elect a set of quality political leaders who are expected to bring about stability, economic growth and social harmony and peace in all of Igbo land of South East of Nigeria. In Enugu State, the desire for the emergence of a young and vibrant successor to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi can’t be over emphasised given that the administration of the young and vibrant governor has built formidable edifice of economic advancement and political stability which his successor is of necessity required to possess the will power and political will to sustain.

In Enugu State which used to be the regional political capital of Igbo land, the committed candidates are already campaigning and canvassing for votes whereas others are still expressing grudges and beating about the bush threatening fire and brimstone against the political party controlling Enugu State known as the Peoples Democratic Party.

Incidentally, the three other candidates that will run for the office of governor of Enugu State in the mainstream parties alongside the candidate of the PDP Barrister Peter Mbah are all products of the Peoples Democratic Party.

The candidate of Labour Party Chijioke Edeoga left the PDP after belonging to that party all his political life only because he lost at the well contested party’s gubernatorial primary election. The candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance Frank Nweke jnr has always been in PDP and was made a minister of information by the PDP. So it is safe to say that ideologically, all the candidates drank from the political fountains of the Peoples Democratic Party. There is no gainsaying that the people of Enugu are passionately in love with the Peoples Democratic Party.

On his part, the immediate past Commissioner for Environment in the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led administration Mr. Chijioke Edeoga is now of the Labour Party, LP, and has finally been listed among the 34 Governorship candidates that will contest the 2023 general elections.

The list has rested the confusion on who is the authentic Governorship candidate of the LP in Enugu state, since Capt Evarest Nnaji had also insisted that he was the candidate of the party

Edeoga, however, has some hurdles to cross, as the federal high court in Abuja will on Wednesday, October 5, continue hearing on the matter instituted by Nnaji challenging his exclusion from the repeat primary election that produced Edeoga as candidate.

In the list pasted at the INEC state headquarters in Enugu, a few days back, Edeoga’s name appeared as candidate for the LP with his running mate, Dr. John Nwokeabia.

Other candidates in the list included the candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Peter Mbah and running mate, Ifeanyi Ossai; the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Uche Nnaji and his running mate Tagbo Ogara.

It is interesting to note that of all the candidates for the position of governor of Enugu State that of the ruling party of the People Democratic Party (PDP) has maintained unprecedented momentum in the area of pragmatic Campaigns all around Enugu State.

As earlier noted, the other candidates such as Chijioke Edeoge of the labour Party and the few that have emerged as notable contestants are yet to settle into real campaigns.

As elder in Africa used to say that “What an elder sees sitting at the base of a tree, a child must climb the tree to see,” the candidate of the PDP seems to be vastly conscious of the expectations of the electorate and is really not relaxing and hoping that he will have it easy because he fully understands that although the governor of Enugu State Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwanyi his party man has done very well as the incumbent, he as a candidate still has to do a lot of spade work to market his candidacy.

This is why he needs to do a lot of convincing by way of grassroots campaigning.

He the PDP’s governorship candidate needs to convince the voters that he can fit in appropriately to the shoes that the incumbent governor is bequeathing to whomsoever the voters will elect in the coming election. And it is not a fluke to state categorically that the governance shoes of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi are indeed huge.

As stated, Mr. Frank Nweke Jr., the Enugu State gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has rather than begin proper campaign, has chosen to demonstrate grudges against his former party the Peoples Democratic Party by saying he is read­y together with his new party to defeat the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2023. Enugu voters won’t be deceived this time around.

He Frank Nweke stated this while unveiling his manifesto in Enugu, assuring to offer vision­ary leadership if elected as the governor of the state in 2023.

He attributed lack of visionary leadership to underdevelopment in the state, lamenting the dilapi­dated situation in the state.

Nweke, a former Minister of Information who decamped to APGA to contest the gubernato­rial election described the PDP ad­ministration as most disastrous, saying, “We have never had it bad like this in the history of Nigeria.

“We are ready to rebuild Enugu and build Enugu of our dreams. We are here to chase PDP out of the state because the state belongs to us.

“We will not allow one person decide our future because our state is not a commodity so we must chase PDP away and take back our state.

“I am running this race today to confront PDP, speak for people who do not have voices and I am ready to fight injustice and cor­ruption in Enugu State.

“For Over 20 years, this is the first time in our political circle where gubernatorial candidate steps out to present detailed mani­festo and agenda for electorates to hold them accountable.

“I am ready to bring my best ef­fort to rebuild Enugu and provide basic amenities.

“Our seven key thrusts for Enugu includes leadership, gov­ernance, security, human capital development, economic transfor­mations, environment sustain­ability and infrastructural and technological and innovations.

“We assured that Enugu State will take precedents as gover­nance will be about the people of the state.

However, it is evidently clear that this isn’t the campaign the people of Enugu state are demanding.

Enugu voters are not looking for fighters because Enugu has maintained the position as the most peaceful state in Nigeria since the coming of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in 2015.

Enugu’s electorate like other Igbo voters in other Igbo States are looking for statesmen and technocrats to deliver economic growth and social harmony and stability to their states so they can have the enabling environment to create wealth for themselves and their families.

Someone had better called Frank Nweke to order so he restrategises and market his programme to Enugu voters and not demonstrate any readiness to fight to defeat the ruling party of PDP in Enugu.

What he needs to demonstrate is superior logic and superior economic blueprint much more than what Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has worked on that has come up with some tangible results.

Already, the governor of Enugu State has in the last seven years achieved so much which demand sustainability.

Fulfilled by the remarkable feats his administration has recorded in business investment development, ICT innovation and creativity, start-ups, product acceleration and wealth creation for Enugu State youth, among others, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, few months back, said the state government has continued to play its leading role as a business and investment enabler.

Gov. Ugwuanyi disclosed his administration has been able to continue to play the role through provision of robust infrastructure; peaceful and secure operating environment for business and investment; consistent and favourable policies; and facilitation of all bureaucratic processes required for starting and doing business “through our One-Stop Investment-Centre (OSIC) under the Enugu State Investment Development Authority (ESIDA)”.

The governor added that the role his administration has continued to play as a business and investment enabler was also achievable through “friendly tax regime and professional regulatory oversight as significant co-factors for investment inflow”.

Speaking during the ground-breaking of the Godfrey Okoye (GO) University-European Business Park, Centre for Practical Skills and Start-Ups, Gov. Ugwuanyi described the outfit as “a public-private initiative with unique value proposition for economic expansion, skill infusion, job creation and wealth creation for our people”.

He stressed that considering challenges of the younger generation which traverse underemployment, unemployment and unemployability due to inadequacy of opportunities as well as poverty of skills because of non-functional education, the emerging digital economy governed by disruptive technologies including the Blockchain, makes the Godfrey Okoye University Business Park initiative both visionary and compelling.

On his administration’s progress in investment development and innovation, Gov. Ugwuanyi revealed: “Our administration, mindful of the rapidly changing world order, organized the first-ever Enugu State Investment Summit in 2016 (Oganiru Enugu) wherein we opened up Enugu State to investors and showcased the investment opportunities in the state”.

He maintained that the progress is “self-evident in the leapfrogging of our state from its 2014 World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking as 27th out of 37 states (including FCT, Abuja), to the 2nd most improved state in the 2018 World Bank Ease of Doing Business subnational ranking”.

According to the governor, “we have birthed the Lion Business Park, a pioneering instance of an audacious public-private partnership project in the South East Zone that promises to transform the economy of the region.

“We have also established two Enugu State Tech Hubs and Youth Innovation Centres (Enugu and Obollo Afor) to infuse technology knowledge and skills in our youths thereby supporting creativity, innovation, start-ups, product acceleration and wealth creation for them. These are intended to create jobs and wealth for young people and transit them out of deviant behaviours.

“These modest efforts are beginning to get due recognition as Enugu has been reckoned as the top five Start-up cities in Nigeria and top 978 Start-up cities globally by the Global Start-Up Eco-System Index 2021 report”.

Speaking on his nomination and shortlisting of institutions of the state government for the conferment of the coveted awards of ICT Governor of the Year, Tech Innovation Hub of the Year (Mentoring and Capacity Building) and Emerging Leader in Science, Tech and Innovation (STI) Advisory (Public Sector) for the prestigious 2021 Nigeria Tech Innovation and Telecom Awards (NTITA) holding in Lagos on Friday, Gov. Ugwuanyi said: “For these and many more, we continue to thank the Almighty God for his love and faithfulness”.

The governor congratulated the Vice-Chancellor of GO University, Prof. Christian Anieke, as well as the management, staff and students of the University, and acknowledged the funding partners for the project, Austrian Development Bank, European Investment Bank and German Government as well as the investing private sector player, Umuchinemere Procredit Micro Finance Bank, for having faith in the laudable project.

He assured them of the favourable Tech Eco-system of Enugu and a friendly business environment.

It is therefore heartwarming that the PDP’S governorship candidate in Enugu State is not resting in his oars but is busy marketing his workable blueprints on best strategies to sustain the economic achievements made by the incumbent governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

In a comprehensive document detailing his agenda for the people of Enugu state, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, Dr Peter Mbah, has pledged to run a quality and people-focused government when elected.

In a 64-page manifesto/statement of purpose, tagged: “Ndi Enugu, Tomorrow Is Here,” the Owo, Nkanu East-born, British-trained lawyer, vowed to make Enugu one of the top three states in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and achieve a zero per cent rate in the poverty headcount index in eight years.Mbah, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Maritime and Commercial Law, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Political Science specifically noted that he will raise the GDP of the state from $4.4 billion to $30 billion within the period.

A former Chief of Staff to Senator Chimaroke Nnamani and Commissioner for Finance in the state, Mbah stated that his mission is to make Enugu the preferred destination for investment, business, tourism and habitation.As part of his objectives of achieving, peace and security as well as inclusive economic development, he promised to accelerate youth employment, introduce integrated rural development programmes as well as community policing and inclusion of all citizens in the governance of the state.“We will achieve these through targeted policies and programmes to: Grow the GDP of Enugu state sevenfold in the next eight years, from the current level of $4.4 billion in 2022 to $30 billion by 2031,” he explained.

In addition, Mbah stressed that he would achieve a zero per cent rate in the poverty headcount index through government-enabled private sector development and reduce the percentage population in abject poverty to zero per cent, from the current levels by 2031.To build confidence and de-risk investment flows, the businessman pointed out that his government shall foster a sense of belonging among Enugu people through proactive and transparent engagement with all stakeholders.

Through proactive community engagement and use of digital technologies, he posited that he will execute a performance-based social contract with the citizens of Enugu and be fully transparent and accountable to them on a continuous basis.“My government will embrace modern technologies to entrench e-governance – publish digital state accounts annually, and implement quarterly delivery accountability reporting at all tiers of government- from the local government, civil service commissions and state cabinet.“We will personally report to citizens on progress each quarter through an open State of Enugu Reports made available to all citizens of Enugu State through the social media.

“We will encourage all members of my government to do the same from councillors to commissioners and my cabinet. We will enact executive performance contracts with each of my direct reports and liaise with citizens to hold government accountable on quarterly basis,” he affirmed.He promised to take ownership of all projects and programmes initiated and currently being executed by the government while projects still under construction at handover will be completed for the benefit of Enugu people.

In driving development across the industrial sectors, Mbah said the he and his team will adopt poverty eradication, promote ease of doing business and enhance access to funding as key measurable indicators.On agriculture, he maintained that his objective in the sector shall be to: “Feed Enugu State and turn the state into a food-basket for Nigeria and a hub for export of cash crops”.

“The target is to eliminate food insecurity in the state by 2031 through massive investments in technologies for agricultural productivity in the state, technology-enabled agricultural extension services, implementation of specialised agro-allied industrial zones in all senatorial zones of the state, and accelerated technologies for agricultural systems transformation in Enugu State,” he said.

Among others, he explained that he would focus on harnessing the available resources in Enugu State to light up and power the state, create jobs for youth and women while growing the GDP by mobilising investments to develop energy, natural and mineral resources across the state.

“ We shall strive to ensure that Enugu gains the status of an oil bearing and producing state within a year of our administration. To achieve this, we shall prevail upon the oil companies operating OPL 916 to bring into production, their wells within Enugu State, while we will engage with the investors in OPLs 914, 905 and 907 and work with them to achieve commercial production in their fields.

“The resulting natural gas from these production activities will be gathered for use in powering industries in the State. Additionally, we shall seek collaborations with reputable investors to commence the economic exploitation and exploration of the other key minerals in the state,” he noted.Mbah stressed that his government shall establish industrial parks and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in each senatorial zone of the state focusing on key areas of competitive advantages.

To facilitate venture capital investment in existing Medium and Small Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in selected areas, he promised to float in partnership with venture capital firms an over N100 billion venture capital for the businesses in the state per annum.“Within the First 100 days in office, the Enugu State Investment Forum (ESIF) shall be convened to bring together all the key players needed to drive and sustain investments in key areas of commerce and industry in the state,” he added.

Because he understands that shelter is a basic human need, Mbah said his focus will be geared towards the provision of mass housing programme.He noted that this will be affordable to cross sections of the populace as well as establishment of housing finance schemes, including mortgage schemes to assist those willing to buy and own their own homes as well as generation of revenue through appropriate administration of property tax.In view of its development plan, he posited that Enugu will seek to evolve a multimodal transport system incorporating light rail, tram services and inland waterway services to complement the existing road transportation.

He stressed that the ongoing efforts at digitalisation of the High Courts will be completed and expanded to cover court administration.In addition to this, Mbah said that he will address the current internal security issues resulting in the agitation for separation.“Our preferred approach is to engage all our people in maintaining peace which is necessary for growth and development. Measures taken would be geared towards community participation in the provision of security so that our farmers can return to their farms without fear of molestation. We will expand collaborations with the security agencies in communities,” he said.

He said that because education in Enugu state has benefitted from a significant investment in infrastructure in the last seven years, this has resulted in the state’s ranking as number one in the utilisation of the Universal Basic Education funds based on the recent evaluation by the national Universal Basic Education Board as well as the excellent performance in the 2021 West Africa examinations, where the state came first among the 36 states.“We will build on this achievement in our quest to revolutionise education in Enugu state. Education empowers the individual; and provides key manpower needs for the state to develop.

“Therefore, we will carefully ensure that we provide qualitative formal and informal education across the state from primary to tertiary levels,” he added.Mbah also pledged the provision of a daily healthy balanced meal for each child from primary to secondary school, free malarial prophylaxis and vitamin supplementation.

Furthermore, he pledged to provide free immunisation for the key preventable diseases as well as provision of free health checks including visual and ocular checks, hearing checks, and checks for attention disorders.On sports, he said that sports is not only for recreation, but also a huge profitable business.According to him, with a proper policy and implementation, the state ought to generate revenue through sports and sporting events which he said are tourist items.

We in the organised civil rights advocacy bodies especially those of us who are Igbos are indeed pleased with the tempo of campaign by the candidate of the PDP and we are urging others to come out in details just like the PDP candidate on their blueprints.

The election is not a war against the PDP in Enugu State but a contest of superiority in which the discerning voters will pick and choose the egg head that will succeed the ever achieving governor of Enugu State Honorable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who will get elected by a popular votes to proceed to the Senate as the Senator for Nsukka zone.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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