In an age where the performance of statutory responsibilities is becoming a huge challenge for governors, even with the release of bailout funds and Paris Club refunds to states by the federal government, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is increasingly standing out as a true exemplar in the deployment of public resources.
Even more gratifying is the fact he is doing so without the typical pomp that would normally be stirred in some states for the mere execution of insignificant projects. This inclination to stay off the limelight is the reason not many Nigerians outside Enugu State are aware of the brilliant governance scorecard being notched regularly by the governor. This governor needs to market his strides so that our numerous failed governors can learn from him.
One of the potent indicators of how governors have performed could be gleaned from their relationship with trade unions. As is often the case, the commemoration of Workers’ Day offers a perfect example to gauge this. The story across many state capitals few months ago as workers held rallies to mark the day was not a pleasant one. The situation was mostly similar as civil servants denounced their governors over unpaid arrears of salaries and pensions, announcing a strike action or threatening to embark on one. But it was a markedly different experience in Enugu State as the workers lavished encomiums on Governor Ugwuanyi and conferred him with the “Most Labour-Friendly Governor in Enugu’s History” award.
Proof of the governor’s remarkable accomplishments further emerged few days later at a symposium on good governance organized by the Enugu State arm of the Trade Union Congress. The validation was made by the respected president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who commended him for constructing a bridge across the Inyaba River.
For decades, the lack of this bridge left many communities in Nkanu East Local Government Area literally cut off from their kith and kin. Locals had to traverse a number of local government areas to access their council headquarters roughly 800 meters away. There are, as a matter of fact, a few communities in those areas where a vehicle had never driven through. Such sordid memories have been erased by a bridge built by the Ugwuanyi administration.
It is quite instructive these feats, as well as many other milestones, were accomplished despite Enugu’s status as one of the least recipients of the monthly federal allocation to states. Equally significant is the fact that the state has never had any difficulty fulfilling its obligations to civil servants and pensioners even in the pre-bailout era when the situation was particularly bleak across nearly all states, a point evident in a BudgIT report last year which listed Enugu alongside Lagos and Rivers as the three states in Nigeria with a capacity to meet statutory recurrent obligations.
Such comforting tales should serve as a model for other governors whose states are better endowed and enjoy a substantial share from the federal purse, yet fail to impact on the lives of their people. I sincerely hope that some of our numerous rogue governors will learn to treat civil servants with dignity as being done in Enugu State.