By Francis Nwaze
If we still agree that the Greek idea of government, democracy, which was later espoused by the American politician, Abraham Lincoln as “government of the people by the people and for the people”, with its dividends of basic and social amenities, when benchmarked with what is obtained in climes practising monarchy and communism, then one can argue in the affirmative that democracy should be adopted universally, as the best form of government.
For the mere fact that it has the trappings of rotational leadership and civil-centred -where people air their views and become, in most cases, standoffish during electioneering – not coerced to do otherwise unlike military era where people are compelled to do what’s against their conscience, it should become a much sought after the system of government. That it succeeds in getting to some parts of Africa explains why we all should ensure it gets to other “undemocratic African states”. Between the first republic in 1963, which was partly punctuated by the civil, all the features of a democratic state, were already in place. Details for this are not for today.
Throughout Nigeria’s chequered history, our quest for the installation of democratic governance has been partly truncated. Our first democracy experiment was between 1979 to 1983 which briefly interrupted decades of military rules before returning to the status quo a year later. Throughout this period under review, the ill-human treatment of the civil populace, unhindered access to the treasury and brazen administrative recklessness contributed hugely to the nation’s snail speed development.
Those in authorities behaved the way they did because there was an absence of a mechanism for checks and balances – a case of a one-man show. There was a time in the nation’s history Nigerians were “kobold” at any slightest provocation or was termed ‘indiscipline’ rather than using the court to seek justice. Does it mean there was no court found anywhere? Not really, its comatose state is as good as dead. The nation was a shadow of itself. The present geopolitical location now known as Ebonyi was separated, some of our siblings found themselves in Enugu, some in Imo while some communities in Ikwo like Oferekkpe and Amata found themselves yoked with the Cross Riverians. One of the greatest epochs of the state was in 1990, even when our people were torn apart, the needed democratic dividends still eluded them.
During the last leg of the democratic experiment in 1999 nothing came out – the decrepit state of things was still there – no roads, basic and social amenities, formidable opposition, functional press, and the rest which characterise the new system of government. It’s at this point that I must not fail to acknowledge the effort and guts of the quondam head of state, General Sanni Abacha.
General Abacha, during the commemoration of the nation’s 36th anniversary, added 6 more states to already existing 30, bringing it to 36 states.
While he is one of the few heads of states that are viewed from different prisms, misunderstood and say hated, I celebrate him for bringing us together – gathering us from our various exiles to our today’s location, Ebonyi State. It’s doubtful that when the young Ebonyi State was created, all returned. No, not all returned. Some of our siblings because of marriage and other engagements, in fact, fear and lack of confidence in the system led to their foot-dragging.
Such mental posturing is not unconnected with their recent memories of harsh governance, which agrees with the ancient maxim of “he that is bitten by a snake fears earthworm”, to them it was still an old win, apparently in a new win skin. Only, in 1999, microscopic few Ebonyians returned following the introduction of free education for all by the first civil governor of the state, Sen. Samuel Ominyi Egwu, PhD, who saw illiteracy visible written on the faces of the returnees.
Such was greatly utilised, this explains why we had a crop of lettered minds. The same scenario was the case when in 2007 Chief Martin Elechi was elected as the governor of Ebonyi State. His capacity for delivering the much-touted dividends of democracy was doubted by few which was chiefly the reason there was no influx of people into the state even when the magnificent state secretariat and unity bridges. It is true according to one writer that the people had always been, like the Jews, in wakeful expectation of when a ‘messiah’ will emerge as a leader, this, in their thinking will lead to alteration of status quo.
Those in faraway places had been on guard. No sooner than later did, in 2015, Engr. David Nweze Umahi emerged as the leader with a strange ideology which runs counter from where they returned – the ideology of massive infrastructural transformation of the state that doesn’t have respect for ethnicities! From areas that have less need for the road, Governor Umahi imposed on the people. One rural dweller Nwefuru Iteshi fielding questions from newsmen said Umahi’s transformation of the hinterland is “unprecedented and embarrassing” – a contrast to what he had witnessed in where came from.
“In my entire life, I have not seen this type of embarrassment in my life even when I was in Imo State, I can’t explain this type. Governor Umahi is embarrassing us with development, go to Onueke, roads are tarred to someone’s doorstep”, chief Iteshi said. Again, a visit by Bright Chimezie to Ebonyi a few days ago, he said, “I had cause to visit Ebonyi State after a long time, unfortunately, I arrived late at night. On arriving, I was enthralled by the structural transformation of this state.”; in a grand finale of PDP campaign for the just concluded council elections in Ebonyi State, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus said, ” Umahi has performed miracle in Ebonyi State. I will tell other governors to visit Ebonyi to learn good governance.”
It’s an avalanche of testimonies over what many many refers to as the strange ideology of governance ongoing in the state. One attributed the success of the administration to the late dictator, Sani Abacha who created the state making it possible for people to manage their resources and select their leader.
He argued that the political leadership crises in most democracies have been solved by Gov. Umahi, enumerating, airport, waste to wealth plant, largest shopping mall in Africa, largest ecumenical centre, new Governors lodge, world-class virology centre, world class Teaching Hospital, reconstruction of the 13 general hospitals in Ebonyi State, School of Nursing, the mushroom plant, concentric circles of 13 flyovers, the glass tunnel, massive roll out of 8 inches concrete roads, first in Africa, Several water schemes, massive empowerment programs, compulsory ownership and motivation of farmlands, etc.
The democratic deliverables in Ebonyi State under Governor David Umahi are transgenerational. The state, rather than embroiled in political leadership crises, collision with the legislature and trade unions as it is in other states, is enjoying purposeful and good governance.
With the introduction of payment of salary before the 15th of the month, the least in the mind of its workforce is to down tools -no industrial action, no executive -legislature impasse, the leadership of the latter had to close ranks and join in the war against the ravaging Corona Virus -chairing various subcommittees and aided in manning border areas to forestall unchecked entering of people into the state. The synergy between the organs of government necessitated the decimation of the virus. Not only that but it has also increased the spate of development and the few sons and daughters of the state living outside have returned, Ebonyi State now a burgeoning with socio-economic and academic activities.
Nwaze is the Special Assistant to the Governor of Ebonyi State on Media and Publicity