Breaking with decades of unjust political norms and traditions, urban-centric exhibitionism and empty rhetoric, Governor Ugwuanyi without any equivocation, has made a quantum leap at reshaping the rural-urban narrative in Enugu State. Communities at the grassroots are now being integrated into the political and economic spine of the State, on an unprecedented scale, ending years of systematic exclusion. The rural merchant, subsistence farmer or civil servant now has at his disposal an array of infrastructural and socio-economic imperatives with incentives to provide for his household and expand his portfolio. Rural kids are receiving quality education which stands them in equal stead with their counterparts in the urban metropolis.
Rural-urban chasm, a seemingly intractable global challenge, is being bridged in Enugu State at an uncommon pace. All thanks to the ingenuity of His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, who is raising the bar for governments and political leaders in Nigeria and beyond. For decades, the political elites have operated on two retrogressive canons of democratic feudalism – wanton looting of our common treasury and mimicking phantoms of development in the metropolis in which they and their cronies cavort and frolic. The rural dwellers are thus invariably left in an isolated world where trickles of their rightful share of our common patrimony agonizingly dry up en-route . But is economic growth a function of the wealth of our few rulers or the general wellbeing of the poorer majority? The answer inexorably places an irreversible guilt on the ruling hegemony.
Therefore, rural neglect is a perennial sore in Nigeria, festered by years of misrule, crass absolutism, sharp practices, nonfeasance, intellectual dishonesty and elitist deceit. Despite constituting almost half of the national population (48%), according to data sourced from the World Bank, the rural populace remains largely ostracized from the socio-political mainstream and condemned to scraps from the national cake, which is even far-fetched. Governor Ugwuanyi is challenging this repugnant status quo with a motivation driven from his antecedents as a kid from the grassroots who had the audacity to dream big in defiance of the odds stacked against him and his ilk, his devotedness to the Almighty God, natural sense of social justice and somewhat iconoclastic courage. For his entire eminent political career, he has remained a staunch advocate of egalitarianism and a vehement voice for the voiceless. His enduring goodwill and engraved empathy towards the poorer majority, which inspired the Nrashi coinage, endears him to his people and stands him out as a leader with an interventionist conscience of hope. Truly, the Ugwuanyi regime arrived on the heels of an astronomical and unrivalled history of permeating sense of benevolence; accentuating an engraved and pervasive assurance of succour to the underprivileged. A feat already reasonably fulfilled.
It came as no surprise then, that upon claiming the reins at the Lion Building in 2015, the Ugwuanyi administration wasted no minute in launching a comprehensive grassroots development campaign, targeting most of the rural terrains in every local government area of the state. He aggressively sought to re-balance the skewed rural-urban scale, thereby righting generational wrongs, and establishing new conventions of political inclusivity.
This rural development agenda seeks to re-balance the scale and spate of egregious rural-urban migration. Buoyed by the Governor’s philosophy of leadership rectitude, probity, equity and inclusivity, the drive for the elevation of rural life has been multi-sectoral, opening up new vistas of economic growth and human empowerment in even the remotest of terrains. The fruits of his administration’s massive grassroots development efforts are evident in all sectors of human endeavour, encompassing every facet of the economy. Targeted investments, tailored to community-specific needs, have cut across asphalted road networks, pipe-borne water provision, electrical power, healthcare facilities, education, agriculture, and industry. As a result, the micro-economies of small towns and villages all over the state, which were isolated and asphyxiated , have been revitalized and connected to the urban nerve centre. To aver that the barest thrust of a good government is easily the welfare of the majority is not only axiomatic but a recycled truism.
Some of the roads built by the Ugwuanyi administration to alleviate the various prongs of economic maladies afflicting rural climes, include: the newly constructed/rehabilitated Amufie Road-Local Government Roundabout-Japan Road-Umuida road; the 12km Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway; Ebonyi River Bridge, Ikem; 31km Udenu Ring road with two high-tech bridges; the 8.8km Nkalagu-Eha-Amufu road which was neglected for over 35 years; the 26.66km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani LGA (RAMP-2); the 22.443km Neke-Mbu-Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti inter-community road linking Isi-Uzo and Udenu LGAs (RAMP-2); the Amaeke-Ngwo-Nsude-9th Mile and Amankwo-Amaeke-Amah Brewery Junction-9th Mile bypasses in Udi LGA; the 8.2km Inyi-Akpugoeze road in Oji River LGA; the ‘miraculous’ Amechi bridge linking Awkunanaw communities in Enugu South LGA; Enugu Road (Nsukka) Junction-Umuezebi-Nru Junction-University Gate road; Ituku Road in Awgu LGA; Orie Market-Nkwo Ida-Afor Inyire road; Ndiagu Akpugo and Amurri roads in Nkanu West LGA. But it’s the 2.85km last Bus-stop( Abakpa Nike)- Nkwo Nike Junction Road in Enugu East Local Government Area newly reconstructed by the Ugwuanyi administration to strategically divert traffic from the ongoing construction of the first Enugu State Government’s flyover bridge that bears repetitions of the Governor’s unwavering intent to ameliorate the sufferings of the masses.
Others constructed in joint sponsorship with Rural Access and Mobility Project -2 (RAMP-2) include: Premier Junction – Umabor – Mbu Road in Eha-Alumona; Umaji-Umuida Road, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area; Ihe-Ogbaku rural access road in Awgu LGA; Neke – Eha Amufu bypass across the thick forest of Umualor Community; the 16km Eha-Ulo/Eha-Etiti/Eha-Ndiagu-Mbu road; and Premier Junction – Umabor – Mbu road.
The quality of education at the grassroots in Enugu State has also been upgraded by the Ugwuanyi regime to the taste of urban standards through infrastructural renaissance and a string of other reforms. Several buildings have been constructed and rehabilitated for use as classrooms, offices, and science laboratories. Thousands of accessories critical for effective teaching and learning, including chairs, lockers, marker boards, ceiling fans, computers, and science equipment, were procured and distributed to all the rural education zones in the state. On even loftier frontiers, the first degree-awarding institution in Education in the South East, the Enugu State University of Education, is under construction on the rural landscape of Ihe, Awgu LGA. Also, the Ugwuanyi administration through relentless advocacy attracted the siting of a new federal polytechnic at Ohodo Igbo-etiti LGA.
Indeed, Governor Ugwuanyi has tremendously revamped the education sector. These days when the glitz, trappings and the alluring glamour of the entertainment industry and politics appear to have visibly eclipsed intellect, it is so refreshing to see an emerging generation from the hitherto marginalized spectrum of the geographical divide, embrace the offer of a golden opportunity to restore some kind of mental parity and hoist a deeply ingrained and firmly entrenched academic foundation.
Part of several interventions in the judicial sector by the Ugwuanyi regime include; the construction of the first Enugu State Customary Court of Appeal Headquarters Complex; establishment of Multi-Door Court House in Enugu, renovation of the State Judiciary Headquarters Complex and construction of several other court buildings across the rural, suburban and urban landscapes in the State. All these laudable projects were not only delivered to buttress the government’s commitment to the Rule of Law and to uninhibitedly accentuate a Judicial system trademarked with inalienable freedom; they go further to signpost the Governor’s awareness that social justice flows more from the estuary of judicial activities than from the firth of religious crusades.
New realities are also undeniably emerging in the health sector of rural communities. Governor Ugwuanyi has constructed and renovated several district hospitals and health centres. Life-saving policies such as immunization and the Free Maternal and Child Health Programme have been sustained and expanded to accommodate every concerned rural dweller. Some of the infrastructural projects currently ongoing in the rural health sector include: 200-bed Specialist Hospital, Igbo Ano, affiliated to the ESUT College of Medicine being instituted in Nsukka, and the construction of 7 units of Type 3 Primary Health Care Centre in 7 rural LGAs. Upgrade and rehabilitation of general hospitals, including the General Hospital Ogrute, Enugu Ezike and Nsukka District Hospital, now near completion. Early in 2021, a free health care initiative for the elderly in rural communities – a highly vulnerable demographic – was launched in Enugu State.
Challenges facing security of lives and properties in the rural areas have been tackled by the Ugwuanyi administration through the institution of a 1,700-personnel Forest Guards empowered with hundreds of motorcycles and bicycles, repositioning of the Vigilante/Neighbourhood Watch Groups, and construction of new facilities for security operatives in the state including the 76 Mobile Force Squadron at Ekwebge, Igbo-Etiti LGA. Likewise, agriculture – the mainstay of the rural economy – has been boosted through strategic policies and projects. Approval was given and counterpart funds paid for the establishment of two World Bank projects, namely IFAD and APPEALS programme for women and youth agricultural empowerment. Also, over 20 tractors have been purchased to promote mechanized agriculture to automate processes and enhance productivity. The 5,000-seater ultramodern Nsukka Township Stadium, which is almost completed, as well as one motorized and seven solar-powered water boreholes constructed in some rural courts and markets, further exemplify Governor Ugwuanyi’s unflagging resolve to multi-faceted grassroots development.
The hallmarks of Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s era – pacesetting, inventiveness, and inclusivity have crystallized a glut of achievements across all sectors of the economy, which are instigating ripples of change rifling through all socioeconomic echelons of the South East region and the nation at large. By successfully tackling the rural-urban bias in Enugu State, which had outlasted previous political dispensations and regimes, Rt. Hon. Ugwuanyi has demonstrated the might of political will and set uncommon precedents that will shape electoral decisions and leadership agenda in the state and Nigeria for many decades to come.
For the first time in the history of Enugu State, rural dwellers are no longer considered as mere disposable appendages, but rather and rightfully so, indispensable part and parcel of society, and treated as such. Hopefully, this legacy of the inimitable Ugwuanyi regime will serve as working template for succeeding regimes, to ensure that deliverables of governance continue to reach every nook and cranny of the Wawa clime without bias or inhibition.
Bibian Anekwe News added; “The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present”.
STEVE ORURUO -is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Enugu State on Information.