By Prince Ejeh Josh
In recent times, I’ve taken my time and traversed different parts of Nigeria, with more focus on southern part of the country, making some statistical analyses from the data collected by me. The collation did not come without some pain, discomfort and expenses howbeit, it paid off. Most governors, it will be noted, in less than two and a half years will be rounding off their second tenure having had their first tenure between 29 May 2015 and 29 May 2019. By May 29, 2023, they would have completed their second tenure both terms aggregating 8 years.
Having some youths of like minds journeying with me weekends for sight seeing, appreciating what our leaders have done and how to assess their scorecards from a dispassionate point of view was a source of encouragement. To be sure, nobody; whether individual or organisation is “bankrolling” us. But from the little life could give us, we’ve decided to give back. We owe it a responsibility to be responsive. It’s a duty nature imposed on us to learn the art of leadership by visiting states, understudying leadership models and drawing useful inference from these different models of leadership. In some states, we were awestruck by the unimaginable and fascinating transformations we saw. In some other states, it was just business as usual. It was all about media hype and audio achievements. Nothing on ground to show for the media display we had been inundated with. It’s a clear exactitude of charlatanism exuding from the pit of lies.
One of those states that had got us fascinated and left us guessing whether we were still on the shore of south east was Ebonyi state. To be sure we were not under the spell of hypnosis, we passed two short nights in the state; Saturday and Sunday. We got a tour guide that night and traversed the nook and cranny of Abakaliki, the state capital. It was dawned on us that a new Lee Kuan Yew has risen from the shore of the east. “That couldn’t have been the Abakaliki we all knew!” That was the exclamation coming out of many people.
On Sunday, we decided to take a tour to some of the local government areas. “Did God visit the people of Ebonyi overnight?” was the chant renting the air. Our assessments so far have given me the courage and audacity of hope to beam my searchlight to Ebonyi state; a state emerging from the throes of backwardness and ridicule to a state flaunting itself with pride in all aspects. Its imposing prospect to take the lead as an investment and tourist destination, and Its sudden transformations from crude settlement-like; from what the Martinique psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon, referred to as “The Wretched of the Earth”, and from the rubble of abandonment to what the former US president, Ronald Reagan called “the shinning city upon a hill”, to one of the foremost states in Nigeria, constitute a novel topic to present to the world. Ebonyi of today is becoming a new history in the making, and I must write a page of my account and allow others.
The foundation of a modern state of Ebonyi was laid in 2015 with the election of Engr. Dave Umahi as governor. It was a new dawn in the historical narration of the state. Umahi’s administration birthed the modern architectural design and pursues its attainment with vigour and dedication. A visit to, and candid evaluation of Ebonyi state of today would reveal a new historical pattern rarely imagined in the annals of the state, not even in a century time. His administration’s landmarks, from a broad spectrum, have removed the clog of administrative failure and redefined the pace of governance in the state. Detached from sentiment and emotional persuasion, one would allow facts to speak for themselves. The leadership model I have seen in Ebonyi state is the one that has heralded leadership renaissance in Nigeria. It is a classical model that should serve as a wake up call to other governors and political leaders in the country. One would imagine the paradigm shift in leadership structure just within a span of 8 years. I will be fair to add that Gov. Umahi’s leadership garb and good governance’s dexterity have radically and swiftly altered the hitherto status and negative public perception about the state.
I’ve entertained no doubt about the leading role the state is currently playing in leadership. Umahi understands the intricacies of governance and unplugs it from the often recondite and obtuse high tension many have always attributed to it. He makes leadership simpler even to the understanding of kindergarten pupil through his profound range of transformation. I have learned, from his model, that leadership isn’t a rocket science as many would present it. It only requires clarity and unity of purpose to drive one’s goals and achieve optimally.
When Lee Kuan Yew took over power in 1959 as Singaporean Prime Minister, he had some set of ideas in mind on how to alter the status of Singapore from a third world country to a first world country. He put his tools to work. He organised his team; a team bereft of sycophantic hysteria and overzealous madness rendering eye service, and basking in the euphoria of ego and incompetence. Just within a shortest phase one could imagine, Singapore witnessed a rapid transition from a developing third world country into a developed first world country. It transformed from a crude society to an industrialised state. It was all credited to Lee and his team of technocrats selected and appointed based on the principle of meritocracy. Coincidentally, the same rapid transitioning is taking place in Ebonyi state under Gov. Umahi. We are all watching as he started building from the scratch, thinking constructively and productively, and the results manifesting with aggressive coverage. This is what leadership in all the states as well as the country should be.
For record purpose, for Nairametrics, a business news and financial analysis website, Ebonyi state receives the least federal allocation in the south east and south south, and accounts for one of the least in the country. However, the state has performed better by far than those states with bogus federal allocations and internally generated revenues. According to economists and financial experts, equities play some role in driving development upward, but more important is the role played by social capital and human capital. Mr. Umahi understands, in unambiguous terms, how to harmonise these factors to push up development. He believes in standard and integrity of his projects and would not stand any act of sabotage from contractors and service providers. He makes himself available and reach out for the best. This could have been his success story.
On those occasions I’ve travelled to Ebonyi state, I took my time for a painstaking assessment. The governor’s choice of roads, and their navigational linkages reduced the state to almost a single city of network. I trailed how the governor was able to integrate these roads from the capital to the hinterland. In all the local governments areas I visited, I could establish, as a matter of fact, that there was none without a standard road linking it to the other local government areas. Some were 35kms, 20kms, 47kms and so on. At no place did I experience hold up all the while I plied the roads, and even in the capital where traffic gridlocks were hitherto notorious. I saw flyovers easing off the journey. At least, I counted almost 7 flyovers aside the multiple ones in the capital. All these within a space of 6 and a half years. That’s magical!
Though, I’m not from Ebonyi state, let me, however, note the sense of pride radiating in me with the plethora of infrastructure littered across the state. Multiple projects were going on simultaneously both at the state capital and other areas within the municipals. The just constructed international market by the governor, to be blunt, was second to none. It was exactly as described by the government. I was impressed by these uncommon feats.
In the area of agriculture, one would describe what the governor has done for his people as a sort of “agricultural revolution”. I visited some markets in rural areas, since the roads were at their best, to understudy the veracity of the state’s claim in rice production. I was also at Iboko Market at Izzi local government area. It was a large specialised market. It took me time to scout around the rice market. It was a relishing experience. I also drove down to the state’s constructed 3 world rice mills in the 3 senatorial zones. I had the opportunity to parley with the site managers, looked at the gigantic edifice and the milling machines were working perfectly. It was an outstanding source of encouragement.
At their health facilities, new structures for some ministries and educational institutions including the ones at Ubulu, the airport underconstruction, etc, all held me spellbound. Definitely, Mr. Umahi is a rare breed with mastery of leadership. His has always been nothing but good governance and efficient service delivery. From my sources at the state, Mr. Umahi pays teachers and workers on or before 20th of every month, and has added 13th month salaries for a couple of time despite the capital intensive projects being executed by him. Such tremendous feat must be commended as excellent.
Having regards to all these, will Gov Umahi make a good president if elected in 2023 by Nigerians as their president? Definitely not. He will make a better president! He is tested and trusted. I’m convinced that with Mr. Umahi as president, a new Nigeria will be birthed. A new Nigeria will be borne out of the ashes of our collective failure and throes of leadership insomnia and darkness. A Nigeria of our dream is much possible with ourselves and with people like Umahi. We may as well have a Lee Kuan Yew of Nigeria that will rapidly transition Nigeria from a stagnant, non-developing third world country to a developed first world country. At present, development is under the agony of arrest. We need a liberator, and we have seen Umahi exuding the signs. Nigerians should jettison and wean themselves of vestigial ethnic shell. It is time to look beyond primordial interest and embrace “transition”. If Umahi could do it in Ebonyi state, he can still do greater and better ones as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Umahi has got what it takes; the technical-know-how, the leadership skills, the technology, the team, the managerial and administrative prowess, and the willpower to change the obtuse narration of Nigeria.
Nigeria can rise again from the fallen rafters, and take its pride of place as a first world country. Mr. Umahi, notwithstanding any political party he may find himself, has my vote! The making of a new Nigeria is possible!
Prince Ejeh Josh, B.Sc, Political Science, M.Sc, Int’l Relations & Strategic Studies, LLB, Law, nim, writes from Independence Layout, Enugu.
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