By Steve Oruruo
In what has been dubbed the “Springtime of the Peoples”, French citizens started a wildfire revolution in 1848 to dismantle their old monarchial structures. This spread across Europe, engulfing over 50 countries, even without any form of systematic international coordination. The goal was simple – the people wanted to take back their nations from unapologetic hegemonists basking in arrogant, self-serving absolutism. That may appear to be in the distant past. But more recently and just a little over a decade ago, the Arab Spring took the world by storm. Leprous corruption, economic stagnation and political highhandedness triggered a series of protests across the Arab world, beginning in Tunisia. Tainted rulers delirious with power who ran oppressive regimes were deposed, freeing their countries from decades of exuberant maladies.
Of course, this was not without the psychological nudging and material support of the West, chiefly the US and Britain. Both of these historical events demonstrate the power of the people and the inevitable nemesis that awaits inept inhumane rulers. Of all the good that came with the Arab Spring, the fall of Muammar Gadhafi has in retrospect evoked mixed feelings and appraisals. Despite being a dictator, Gadhafi was nothing like his counterparts, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali or Hosni Mubarak who were deserving victims of the sociopolitical tsunami of the time. Instrumental to Libya’s postcolonial development and massive economic growth, Gadhafi was arguably, more of a victim of circumstance than a justifiably crushed ‘wall of Jericho’.
The time bomb ticked for ages. Decades after independence, Nigeria’s nascent democracy refused to come of age. For far too long, it tottered in drunken infancy while the democracies of counterpart nations towered in leaps and bounds, into giants of global reckoning. The political elites, enjoying the soiled legacies of their ancestors who were stooges of British colonial masters, rewarded with undeserved leverages, held the country to ransom and operated behind its mirage of democracy, a fascist-like autocracy. Even after multiple military interregnums – some of the bleakest blobs on the annals of our political history – civil leaders in the emerging republics failed to learn and as a matter of fact became regrettably even worse. The people yearned for reprieve and change, crying tears and blood. Children starved to death while the overlords squandered our common patrimony on one extravagant luxury or the other. Eventually, and as had been predicted by antecedents, the emotion of the masses boil over and erupt into an existential volcano. Not too long ago, we witnessed the End Sars protests, a clarion call for reforms that fell not too far short of a revolution. That was just the appetizer.
Then came the 2023 elections, one for the history books. It threw up an unconventional challenger for the presidency, in the person of Peter Obi, the former Anambra governor whose rhetoric without structure birthed the Obidient near-populist movement. Peter Obi’s candidacy capitalized on everything wrong with the nation – wobbly institutions, religious bigotry, ethnic chauvinism, unbridled corruption, elitist conspiracy, an abysmally epidemic standard of living and deep-seated systemic inequities – to stir up the polity, groom resistance and rally the masses. In the southeast
especially, secessionist sentiments coalesced with resentments against a post-Biafran southeast perhaps defiantly designed to marginalize and subjugate a certain demography, to fuel a political Chernobyl. People raged to destroy the status quo using the instrument of the ballot. Several horrible leaders across the country were rightly voted out, their arrogance and evil crushed under the might of accountability and the slow-but-steady nemesis. However, the tornado of political change turned euphoric, and a few quintessential leaders like Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi were circumstantially caught in the fray.
The fate of the senate elections was soldered to the presidential, which in the southeast, was the main target of the people’s revolt against a failed nation state. On that day, riled up disciples of the Obidient movement were blind to distinctions and treated every ballot paper as Obi’s ticket to Aso Rock. A section of the political class and their vociferous supporters wished and canvassed for another Governor with an Nsukka blood at all cost. The desperation snowballed into diverse degrees of electoral malpractices. The church vehemently refused to stay aloof, trumped over her usual conspiracy of silence and baffling acquiescence, and apparently rooted for the party with the logo that had father, mother and child. As such, meritocracy was somewhat victimized for the national assembly elections and sacrificed on the altar of a highly entropic sensation. Governor Ugwuanyi’s scorecard in Enugu North Senatorial District starkly contradicts the senatorial election outcome. It negated the expectations from a blistering and sterling performances that include the construction of over 350 kilometers of roads, a new state secretariat annex, an Nsukka conference center, a brand new medical college (SUMAS), a new modern stadium, Federal Polytechnic Ohodo, and a host of other infrastructural and human capital interventions.
His two-term tenure has already gone down in history as an era of unprecedented people-oriented governance and one of many progressive firsts in the Nsukka Zone. Elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 by an overwhelming majority, Governor Ugwuanyi fully honored his sacred social contract with Ndi Enugu, launching and sustaining with uncommon pace several remarkable initiatives cutting across job creation, direct economic reprieve to the poorer majority, grassroots development and urban renewal. He diversified Enugu’s economic portfolio, significantly improving the quality of life from the rural fringes to the metropolis and making Enugu a magnet for foreign investments; deliberately ameliorating the yawning infrastructural chasm in the protracted rural-urban dichotomy . He strengthened our political institutions by anchoring governance on godliness, accountability and transparency, shrewdness and engendering an atmosphere of peace and goodwill. Thanks to Governor Ugwuanyi, Enugu’s socio-economic and rural-infrastructural landscapes have never been better and the promised land beckons visibly on the horizon, given the providential victory of Dr Peter Ndubuisi Mbah.
The elections have come and gone. It is not about the victor and the vanquished. Governor Ugwuanyi is a strong proponent of these timeless words from Indira Ghandi: “winning or losing of the election is less important than strengthening the country.” As one of Africa’s most peaceful leaders and icons of democracy, Governor Ugwuanyi remains undeterred in his divine destiny and sworn commitment to rooting for the ordinary man. He was born to ameliorate the despondency of the less privileged and never for one day has he detoured from this lane of focus. His entire life has been dedicated to building stronger political institutions and economic systems for Ndi Enugu and Nigerians at large. Whatever its outcomes may be, a credible, free and fair election is what Governor Ugwuanyi has always toiled to ingrain into Nigeria’s political firmament.
If you have been paying attention, you would have noticed that the Governor’s sleeves are still rolled up. Construction works especially roads are still in progress especially in Enugu North Senatorial District. In the final weeks of his tenure as Enugu’s servant leader, he continues to consolidate on his legacies and build stronger foundations for a glorious future. He remains the kind amiable gentleman he has always been, pragmatic yet cheerful, prudent yet generous, meek yet relentless. Enugu will miss his vision, savviness, experience, philanthropy, leadership acumen and even intuitive sense of humour. Enugu North Senatorial zone will particularly miss the generosity, godliness, vigor, intelligence and political capital which Governor Ugwuanyi has always deployed to navigate the murky waters of Nigeria’s politics for their greater good.
Governor Ugwuanyi’s clairvoyance stands tall amongst his overwhelming list of remarkable positive attributes. He foresaw Dr Peter Mbah’s qualities and solidly supported his ambition and eventual emergence as Enugu’s Governor-Elect, striking gold on both criteria of quality candidature and fidelity with the sacred zoning arrangement. Barr. Peter Mbah will no doubt take Enugu to greater heights, standing on the Ugwuanyi pedestal as he alluded on Arise TV. A tested and trusted public administrator, industrialist and legal luminary, Mbah is the epitome of competence, capacity, creativity and the head whom the cap fits.
From an inordinately super-talented pool, which included the former Minister of Information Frank Nweke Jnr and Barr Chijioke Edeoga , Ndi Enugu chose the best. Now is the time for all of us – the people, the academia, the political class, the business class and the bourgeoise alike – to stand on this “rock” baptized PETER and work in synergy for the continued upliftment of our state, the land of our forebears. Enugu, as the historical capital and pride of the southeast must be a shining example of unity, political stability and economic progress. Peter Mbah is poised to keep spinning, this wheel of peace, unity and development Governor Ugwuanyi painstakingly set in motion. He symbolizes the future we yearned for and that future incidentally is here.
As the nation launches into a new dispensation, riding on this radical whirlwind of political consciousness and rebirth, we must all reflect. As the dust settles and impulsiveness subsides, Ndi Enugu must think with clearer heads. The bad rot in our polity must forever be banished. However, we must re-examine the choices made in this past electoral season. Mediocre candidates who unjustly built a surfboard of pretense and surreptitiously hid on the political capital of Peter Obi and hitched a ride on these waves into political office must be served a quit notice, but except they surprisingly reinvent themselves and rewrite their credentials within their time in office . The good eggs who were against unimaginable odds sanitizing the polity from the inside but were unfortunately martyred by this euphoric rave of renaissance, deserve to be reenlisted into political service. Our nation, Enugu State and Nsukka people cannot afford to lose a leader and silent achiever of Governor Ugwuanyi’s caliber. Governor Ugwuanyi is one of the rare gems this country still needs his subtlety in piloting her affairs, even as he hands over the reins in Enugu State to a charismatic gentleman and trailblazer, Dr Peter Mbah who is poised and primed to write his name in gold.
Steve Oruruo is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Enugu State on Information