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Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi may not be the best role model for people who are conscious of moral standards, he might rightly be referred to as a dictator based on his antecedents, he might just be another selfish and self-centered politician in the Nigerian political space but one thing no one can take away from him is that he has managed to perform wonders in Ebonyi State over the last seven years that he has held sway as Governor of the State.
Ebonyi State was the last State that was created in the Eastern region which is is traditionally referred to as South Eastern Nigeria. In a family setting, the State can rightly be referred to as the ‘last born’ of the South East family. The State was created in 1996 by late Nigerian dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha alongside other states such as Bayelsa, Ekiti, Nasarawa and Sokoto. Running a comparison amongst these states today would show one thing, Ebonyi has not actually underperformed.
Ever since the return of democracy to the Nigerian polity in 1999, Umahi has always found himself in the corridors of power as a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Fate and nature threw him up in 2015 and he emerged as the Governor of the State. Prior to his emergence, the State was home to docile Governors who were mostly emboldened by very pliant citizens who expected nothing from them. From Sam Egwu to Martin Elechi, there was no spark and vigour but rather various saddening levels of mediocrity.
Umahi’s emergence in 2015 proved to be a timely one. His long years of stay in the corridors of power added experience to his engineering background and off he took! On assumption of office, he was able to conceptualise a policy trust on the industrialisation and with that, he began with the construction of three industrial clusters across the three senatorial zones which were aimed at developing them simultaneously. As an engineer, he managed to engage new technology in constructions with particular reference to roads where he began constructing 8 inches concrete roads that were never the case before him in the State and the South East. His continued efforts saw that parks, markets and streets in the State began wearing new looks. Pedestrian crossing, flyovers, street lights, water fountains were also built to change the face of Ebonyi. Some may posit that those projects were mostly situated in the State capital, but then, it changes little.
It is true that Governors are not to be praised when they perform their constitutional duties of providing amenities and making life livable for taxpayers, however, when you have the likes of the inept Uzodinma in Imo State, the alcohol-loving Obiano in Anambra, the deranged Ikpeazu in Abia and the unserious Ugwuanyi in Enugu all celebrating mediocrity and chasing vain glory, any objective mind would easily single-out Umahi for praise.
Ebonyi State is not an oil producing State like Imo and Abia who earn 13% oil derivations from crude oil sales, neither is it home to heavy IGR generating States like Anambra and Enugu. It is just an an average Nigerian State. Therefore, when a State Governor in Ebonyi manages to build over 17 flyovers in a short period in the same region as those States, it surely deserves some commendations.
For emphasis, some of the projects Umahi started and completed within the last seven years in office include three 700-metre twin ﬂyover bridges at Akanu Ibiam Roundabout, Ofﬁa Nwali Junction, the International Market bypass, and a pedestrian bridge at Ebonyi State University permanent site gate. Others are roads and bridges constructed within Onueke-Ezzama-Oshiri-Onicha road, 35km; Obiozara-Onicha road, 8.3km; Uburu-Presbyterian Church road,12km; Umuchima road, 7.5km; Okposi road, 23km, Akaeze–Ivo road,15km; a section of Abakaliki–Aﬁkpo federal highway, 14.5km; Abakaliki internal roads, 150km, with one major bridge; 7 bridges along Nkalagu–Ehamufu road,15km; Abaomege-Ukawu-Ugwulangwu-Okposi federal road, 25km; and Abaomege Ukawu bridge. To add to this, the State is on the verge of completing one of the best airports in Nigeria.
Presently, there is an ongoing ring road project with ancillary works which are meant to connect 8-Local Government Areas that is in its completion stages, to add to that, the State now has a brand new University of Medical Sciences which has been proposed to be a centre of excellence for the treatment of terminal diseases amongst many projects.
For those who knew Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, before now, it used to be a little above a glorified local government with little amenities and road infrastructure, but today, the story has changed. Abakaliki and some parts of the State have not only expanded but have been transformed from that little agrarian State which everyone used to know to a State with solid infrastructure that would outlive generations. Whether we agreed or not, these changes have pushed and transformed the psyche and social stratum of the people of that State and most of them no longer perceive themselves as they used to a few decades aggo. Umahi surely deserves some accolades and this is the truth.
If every Governor in the South East has given as much support to infrastructure development as much as Umahi, Ala Igbo would have been far more developed today and perhaps the unimaginable level of disenchantment which has given rise to hydra-headed insecurity might not be the case today.
Yes, it is true that there are still a lot of deficits in human capital development in Ebonyi under Umahi. The State is currently on the negative side of various human development indexes, however, the task to reverse the negatives going forward is now easier for the whom ever gets to succeed Umahi from May 29th, 2023. He or she would only need to invest massively in agriculture, technology, education and industrailisation by leverage on the existing infrastructure in the State. Umahi should get the credits. He deserves them.