|Friday, February 1, 2019|
FORWADED BY: DR MOSHOOD ADEMOLA FAYEMIWO
hen Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi took over the reins from his predecessor as the fourth democratically-elected governor of Enugu State in 2015, he chose to toe a different path in his governing style. Referred to as Mr. Gburugburu for his grassroots approach to the socio-economic and industrial concerns of the most cosmopolitan state in Eastern Nigeria, the jury is out that his background in the private sector prior to becoming governor has made a difference in the lives of the people of the Coal City State. In this interview with Dr Gerald Onukwugha of New Jersey, USA, Uchenna Akilo, a chieftain of the People's Democratic Party-PDP-in Enugu State catalogued the monumental strides Gov. Ugwuanyi has recorded in his first term and why he deserves a second term in office. Excerpts.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am a geologist with over 20 years cross discipline experience in Oil and Gas, education, mining and the financial services sector. I am team builder with an outgoing personality. It will be appropriate to say that I am a strong people manager with experience of managing teams and individuals as well as motivating them to perform consistently at their highest levels while realizing their full potentials. I am a hardworking and self-motivated team player who is committed to lifelong learning and continuous professional development, competence, enhancement and desirous to join a team where I will contribute effectively to achieve desired goals and objectives.
What is your academic qualification?
I hold a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Geological Sciences from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (NAU) in Anambra State in July of 1991. Additionally, I acquired a Master of Science degree in Management (M.Sc.), from Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen, Scotland UK which I obtained in February of 2012. This management program has not only further broadened my management and financial services experience across various disciplines. It has also provided me with the ability to apply strategic thinking and leadership practices in variety of different areas of my life. It has also helped me to gain on understanding in key functional areas in life including economics, finance, marketing, human resources, E-business management and entrepreneurial skills, organizational knowledge and an understanding of the policy environment in which we live in today.
Following your advanced studies, where have you resided in Nigeria?: Port Harcourt
Based on your exposure to governance and managing people, what can you say about the governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi?
I will begin by stating the fact that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi assumed office in 2015 at a point in time that Nigeria as a Nation was facing one of its worst economic recessions in its history which had almost grounded the whole country in terms of its economic activities, when our economic indices were at an all time low, due to the drastic drop in our oil revenues. When the governor took over the helm of affairs in Enugu State, there was no money in the country and most of the states could not even pay its workers not to talk of embarking on new projects. It was at this challenging time that Governor Ugwuanyi then showed us clearly without any doubt that he was well prepared for that office. He then demonstrated this to us that his background and wealth of experience over the years was what stood him out among his peers as a Governor. This is a man with multiple degrees in finance, accountancy, marketing and an MBA. He also had many years of work experience as a broker, a Rotarian and as a parliamentarian. When you look at such a profile, you will not be surprised at what he has achieved so far as a Governor.
In all that he has achieved so far, what comes to mind is that he is a compendium of potentials and wealth of experience that is enviable. This is a man who still has a lot more to give both to Enugu State and Nigeria at large. It may interest you to know that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is the first Governor in Enugu state with a business background. His predecessors had either been lawyers, medical doctors and military men. So here you see a man who has so much to give not only to Enugu State and Nigeria, but to the rest of the world. So this is the man who has taken Enugu State to the next level not only in terms of governance alone but also in terms of "bringing good news, messages of confirmed hope, peace and rapid development to every "wawa" man just like he told us in his inaugural speech as the governor of Enugu State".
According to an American Politician, Pete Hoekstra, the primary role of government is to provide for the safety and security of their populations, what has Governor Ugwuanyi done in a bid to live up to this expectation in Enugu State?
The governor has more than lived up to the expectations of the citizens of the state in terms of security. I must say in this regard that he has done a lot. You cannot talk about security without mentioning the state of the governor's relationship with the citizens of the state especially the past governors, prominent senior government officials both present and retired, stakeholders, irrespective of the party they belong to or their other affiliations. The governor maintains a very cordial relationship with almost all these people I just mentioned. A couple of weeks back, His Excellency Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, a past Governor of the state paid him a thank you visit at government house for giving him a second chance. This is just one of the examples of the kind of premium the Governor places on security in the state via reaching out to everyone irrespective of who they are. The governor, who has emphasized the importance of maintaining good security for the stability, growth and development of the state also stressed that without it, engagement in a meaningful social, political and economic activities will virtually be impossible". So, when the governor held an economic summit at the inception of his administration showcasing the potentials of the state, the message he sent out to the whole world was that, Enugu state is not only good for business, but that it was also open for business.
He could not have done without the knowledge that he could guarantee the lives and properties of not only its citizens, but also that of the potential investors to the state. When the issues of the Fulani herdsmen and the Nimbo massacre happened, not only did the governor approached with a high level of maturity but also a display of an in-depth knowledge of conflict resolution. This exceptional approach of the governor in handling such a challenging situation, has led to an increase of not only the number of visitors to the state, but also the number of people with divergent agenda that include but not limited to the following: potential homeowners, those who want to relocate to Enugu as well as those that desire to move to Enugu following their retirement. There is also an upsurge in the new businesses being opened in Enugu since the inception of this administration. The security in the state has also been boosted by the Governor in the equipment, and logistics vehicles he has donated not only to the police but to other security agencies in the state. He has also initiated the neighbourhood watch associations in all the 450 autonomous communities in the state with an initial seed money of N100,000 million naira for the takeoff of the project.
Furthermore, he has also donated 85 motorcycles to the 17 Local Government Areas for the purpose of community policing as well as a way of encouraging the rural dwellers in the fight against crimes and other security challenges. These commendable steps and programs that Governor Ugwuanyi's administration has put in place has earned Enugu State the name and status of being the safest state in Nigeria. It is in affirmation of the governor's huge contribution in the area of security and safety in the state that moved the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Danmallam Mohamed to commend him for his tremendous support to the command towards the provision of adequate security of lives and property in the state. The police commissioner who spoke while taking delivery of the 22 patrol vans donated to the state police command by the Governor Ugwuanyi led Enugu State government to enhance their security operations. Below is the picture of the 22 security vehicles that Governor Ugwuanyi presented to the state police command.
What would you say are the governor's contribution in Enugu?
When the governor set up a committee to reform education in Enugu State at the inception of his administration, I knew he was taking a long term view in his bid to reform education and to reposition the state for the future. For a man with the academic qualifications that he has, he knows that his dreams to take the state to the next level was dependent on the quality of education and services the state had to offer. With the recommendations of the committee he had set up, he embarked on a reform program that has left no one in doubt of his determination to optimize learning in Enugu State. This program has seen the renovation, rehabilitation and reequipping of over 595 primary and post primary schools and many institutions of higher learning across the state. And this was achieved through the (ENSUBEB) Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board and (PPSMB) Post Primary School Management Board.
The recruitment of over 4,000 primary and secondary school teachers, the highest number of teachers ever recruited in the history of the state, was handled by these bodies. Most of the teachers recruited were science teachers. He also gave N810 million to Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) to revamp and to upgrade their infrastructure, to meet the standards of a degree awarding institution. He has also awarded series of scholarships to indigent students from the rural areas across the 17 LGAs who could not pay their school fees. Through this and similar acts, Governor Ugwuanyi's administration has endeared itself to the populace. Additionally, by employing more science teachers, the governor is proving to us once again that he fully understands the critical importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in the present age and has set up a solid foundation for the future. He is also focusing on how to implement the best practices for teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across the various schools in the state.
More and more, the present administration has made STEM a teaching priority considering that presently, a minute number of university students are pursuing degrees in those fields. Nevertheless, by exposing these students to STEM at an early stage, they are giving them the opportunity to explore STEM related concepts. This will enable some of them to be hooked. Based on the constant evolution of science and technology, the students that have made their careers in area of STEM could make enormous impact on the world stage. STEM has become a priority not only to Enugu, but to Nigeria as well taking cognizance of the rising population where 60% is below the age of 40. Governor Ugwuanyi's provision of high level exposure to STEM concept for our students in Enugu will go a long way in preparing them for the future needs of our society. It was in recognition this great contribution that the science teachers association of Enugu State paid the governor a visit, to thank him for his dynamic role in promoting science education in the state. They went further to thank him for his procurement and distribution of science equipments across the various schools in the state. Through his contributions and provisions to Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) and the numerous schools across the state in the area of science and technology education, the governor has shown that he has laid the foundation for an economic miracle in the Enugu State. The increase in the passion for the sciences in Enugu State will lead to Enugu becoming a technology and science incubator. In turn, Enugu will become a critical research and development centre that will encourage science and technology-based companies to come and open businesses in Enugu. This will equally enable Enugu to become a haven of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship which is a prerequisite for making Enugu a home of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship for years to come. Governor Ugwuanyi's vision in education is what triggered his statement that his "best investments have been in education."
The governor has equipped schools in Enugu with the state of the art digital learning devices such as computers, printers and generators among others. Below are pictures to attest to this.
In line with promoting education, Governor visits schools at random to ascertain that learning is taking as a priority in Enugu state. Below is a picture of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (in the middle) with the state's Junior Secondary School (JSS) students who took part in a two a two-week Mental Arithmetic training by National Mathematics Centre, Abuja, during his visit to Queens School, Enugu.
Can you elucidate on the governor's 10 million naira one community, one project scheme?
I was elated when I heard that the governor had initiated the 10 million naira, one community, one project scheme. This initiative was designed to encourage a rapid development in the rural areas of the state. Through this program, communities will not only participate in the democracy of Enugu State but also have the opportunity to carry out their own self chosen projects. According to him, "This was in fulfillment of his promise to promote participatory democracy and extensive rural development in the state as well as the involvement of all the local communities in the implementation of government policies, projects and programmes". I was particularly excited about this initiative because of what is contained in it. This project was a way that the governor is gingering the communities, go and execute any project you want and to do anything worthwhile to make your communities economically viable. Besides showcasing Enugu State's readiness for business, he also matched the gesture with this move to encourage not only our people to invest in their communities but also try to bring in investors that will help to fast track the rapid development of our rural areas in the state. Through this initiative, the governor is fostering peace, development and creativity. This program will enable the traditional ruler of a community, his president general, his cabinet, the stakeholders, the youths, as well as the women to come together to brainstorm on the projects that will benefit their community the most. This is an initiative that will make different segments of a community come together to rub minds and brainstorm together. A diverse assemblage of people with formidable intellects, like minds from varying backgrounds, perspectives, ages, disciplines, differing opinions will not only strike a unique blend but also ensure a balance of developmental ideas. It will greatly increase their chances of coming up with unique and revolutionary ideas, innovations that will change the face of that community forever, thereby, making great things happen. This was the same strategy that the governor used in setting up the 15 man Economic Advisory Committee that looked into how to move the state forward and the recommendations that they came up with coupled with the governor's wisdom, experience and vision resulted in the landmark achievements of the governor scattered across the length and breadth of the state. So you don't change a winning strategy. This has resulted in many communities carrying out projects that have benefited their people.
In the area of healthcare, what are some of the governor's contribution?
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has tremendously improved healthcare delivery in the state. He has also initiated some far reaching reforms in the healthcare sector in the state that has seen many primary healthcare centers being revitalized across the state. With the governor's assent to the state's health sector reform bill passed into law by the state assembly, the hospital management board has since replaced the health management board and will now oversee the healthcare programs in the state. The stage has been set for the implementation of the government framework for regulation, development and management of its health system. The Governor who has a soft spot especially for pregnant women and new born children, made a commitment to provide free maternal care for mother and child in the state under the age of five in all the public health centers across the state. This is a program designed to make primary healthcare available to all pregnant women and children at the grassroots, especially in the rural areas. This care is for children under the age of 5 yrs. Though the program has been in existence since the previous administration, the governor has provided additional funds in addition to the funds being contributed by the LGAs in the state, bringing it to 17 million naira monthly. This is a major boost for not only pregnant women but children under the age of 5 to enjoy the governor's free maternal and child health program. The governor has also attracted projects from the federal ministry of health like the regional disease surveillance project (REDIS) which is now to be sited in Enugu to serve the south East geo political zone. He has also secured accreditation to a host of other medical facilities in Enugu to strengthen healthcare in the state. The diagnostic centre at GRA Enugu which will be fully equipped and made functional this year is set to make Enugu State the preferred destination for receiving high quality and affordable healthcare by creating good hospital chains that will strengthen health care delivery in Enugu State and promote medical tourism in the state.
Enugu State Government has distributed hospital equipment worth millions of naira to primary healthcare facilities in the State in line with the new Health Sector Reform Law of the State Government. Below is an example of such equipment.
The Governor's achievements in the delivery of good and quality healthcare to the state are numerous. His government's objectives of delivery of good and affordable healthcare services irrespective of the complexity of the condition to every citizen of the state without discrimination are being met. The governor places a lot of premium on ensuring that the quality in the services delivered has consistently grown better since the inception of his administration. That is why the governor signed the Enugu State health sector reform bill into law. This agency among its other responsibilities will also implement as well as sustain quality and safety in healthcare through practice, innovation, assessment and readjustment, to improve on the quality of services it provides for the citizens of the state.
What are some of the governor's achievements in the area of infrastructure?
The governor has performed very well in the construction and rehabilitation of roads in the state as well as infrastructural development and renovation. To say the least, this sector has witnessed unprecedented development strides. Like I said, I cannot mention the litany of this administration's achievements in the area of infrastructure but will highlight a few. Roads like Milliken hill, Abakpa Nike, Emene, other high density suburbs in the state and many other road projects he has completed are scattered in all the 17 LGAs. Many of the roads are newly built in areas that have not seen or felt any government presence for years. The most remarkable is Nsukka metropolis that is now a new town with the beautifully constructed road network with street lights.
All these roads are now opening up the rural areas and creating more urban centers, thereby bringing up fresh economic opportunities in line with the governors vision for the state. The government has spent over 50 billion naira on roads that has exceeded 450km distance. The scale of these projects are staggering in scope that you need to visit those projects to be able to understand what the governor has done so far in the state and still poised to do more. He is also great in other areas, such as the initiatives that create investments and encourage entrepreneurship like the raffle draw for which traders are empowered under the traders empowerment scheme that has empowered over 2000 market traders. The Enugu clean sweep project which is another initiative of the governor was not only to keep Enugu State clean but also to help the unemployed graduates who when they are done with their work in the morning are free to engage in other meaningful pursuits of their choice. It employs over 1000 sweepers to keep Enugu metropolis clean. The governor has also empowered about 750 youths under the Sustainable Development Goals Programme (SDGs). This has also helped to reduce the number of unemployed youths in the state. I cannot tell all the governor's achievements without looking into a book of records considering that they are numerous.
Another area the governor has also performed tremendously, is in the area of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the paying of workers' salaries and entitlements. He has been prompt and steadfast in paying the salaries of workers in the state. This was despite the fall in the monthly allocation from the federation account which has become a lot less than what it used to be. He achieved this by merging the revenue collecting agencies in the state while plugging all the loopholes that was creating waste and leakages in the government revenue. Through these reforms, he was able to increase significantly the amount of money internally generated. This has made more funds available for him to embark on the massive projects of different shades that are ongoing across the state. Only three states, Lagos, Rivers and Enugu have been able to achieve this.
Even in sports, the governor has achieved some noteworthy achievements since the inception of his administration. Due to the governors desire to see the state maintain its envious position in sports in the country while promoting his belief that sport harbors tremendous opportunities for economic growth, employment generation, empowerment and poverty alleviation, he invested in sports in the state while introducing deliberate policies to achieve his objectives. This has resulted in the Rangers football team winning the 2018 NFF/AITEO which was formerly known as the challenge cup. This was after not winning it since the last 35years.They also lifted the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League trophy for the first time in 32 yrs. One of our female athletes from Enugu State also won a gold medal at the Paralympics held in Rio De Janero, Brazil. All these have shown that the governor has made tremendous achievements in sports as well.
Question: Having enumerated a litany of some of his achievements, what are you expecting to see from the governor in the future?
I am expecting to see the governor build on his astounding achievements so far and take the state to the next level, having received unprecedented endorsements for his reelection in 2019 from all the spheres of the society including the traditional and religious institutions. Even the Sun newspaper has recently named him the "2018 Sun Governor of the year" for his landmark achievements that are scattered across the length and breadth of the state. The governor has invested huge amounts of money on roads, infrastructural and rural development and in renovating and equipping schools with science and ICT equipment to meet world standards. He has been involved in some other special interventions in other sectors to move the state forward. All these are to make Enugu State a place that is not only open and ready for business but to also make it a state for its citizens to live peacefully and thrive. The governor is trying to seed a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in the state with the kind of investments he is making in promoting science in all the schools across the state. According to Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben - Gurion, "All the experts are experts on what was. There is no expert on what will be." To become an expert on the future, vision must replace experience. This is the secret to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi's success. He has replaced experience with vision by risking a departure from the familiar status quo that has been in effect up to the time he became the governor. Thus, he has succeeded in his quest to take Enugu state to the next level in terms of development, good governance and rapid rural development. With the giant strides he has made in education among other great achievements, the next thing is to turn those achievements into a competitive advantage for the state. He can achieve this by gradually introducing an annual science and technology exhibition, festivals and competitions in our schools which will create awareness that could bring in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI's) in science and technology into the state by companies who would want to come and set up businesses here in Enugu. This is where the STEM education will start bearing fruits for the state. The main goal of the STEM education is to turn our students into problem solvers, by learning the tools of innovation. This is also, where various companies will start supporting the government and partnering with the government to promote STEM and support youth engagement with STEM and STEM related fields. The whole idea is to make Enugu a science and technology hub.
Another area the governor has done well is in significant investments he has made in rural development which is in line with his 4point Agenda. The governor has consistently asked for private partners to come and partner with the government in moving the state and rural areas forward and that was why the 10 million naira one community one project like I pointed out earlier is one of the best initiatives the governor has initiated so far in this state. It is the starting point and the catalyst that is needed to galvanize our rural communities into becoming economically viable communities. Agricultural initiatives such as animal farming, bee farming and other forms of agriculture that are not capital intensive projects should be encouraged among our rural communities. They have the potentials to turn our rural dwellers into entrepreneurs, employers, business owners and even exporters.
I would conclude by making some statements on the character of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi's. What has endeared me most to the governor is his heart. The level of understanding the governor displays in his handling of the affairs of government is worth emulating. Whenever there is a challenge, a problem or a disaster within the state, in our business or homes, like fire disaster, he has never failed to visit the scene of such incidents within hours of its occurrence. He has even been known to end a state executive council meeting abruptly to go and visit a disaster scene. Not only does he also console and talk to the victims physically, he also assists the victims to get back on their feet as soon as possible by helping them rebuild their businesses and lives. Governor Ugwuanyi takes the people's plight personal, as a caring leader and understanding father of a state ought to. The fire out-breaks at Kenyatta timber market and the fire incidents involving a filling station at Penoks junction are great examples. He did not only rebuild the 72 affected shops but he also gave them money to restart their business which is a radical departure from his predecessors. These selfless acts of the governor coupled with his landmark and unprecedented achievements in the state since he became the governor in 2015 has led many to agree with the governor that "Enugu state indeed is really in the hands of God" I wish the governor a successful reelection on the 2nd of March and a happy 55 yrs birthday celebration on the 20th of March, a celebration he has always celebrated with the less privileged of the state in a low key manner in the past 3years.
The armchair critics should allow the governor of Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to continue his good works in Enugu State and stop their unnecessary distractions because Enugu State is indeed in the hands of God.