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The Place Of David Umahi In The History Of Ebonyi State

By Monday Eze, The Nigerian Voice Senior Correspondent, Abakaliki

Ebonyi State was carved out from the most undeveloped parts of the present Enugu and Abia States on 1st October, 1996. Since then, the young state have been governed by two military administrators and there democratically elected governors. Commander Walter Feghabor set up the initial logistics for the takeoff of the young state while Police Commissioner Simeon Oduoye midwifed the initial processes of democracy in Ebonyi State. Between 1999 and 2003, the first democratically-elected Governor of ebony state, Dr. Sam Egwu, ran programme of free education which increased school enrollment in geometric proportions and gave scholarship opportunities to Ebonyi people for overseas Masters and Philosophical degrees; and social programmes which enhanced the qualities of the lives of Ebonyi people.

Chief Martin Elechi took over the reins of power from Dr. Sam Egwu on 29th May, 2007. For eight years, Chief Elechi reformed the civil service and built many Unity Bridges to connect parts of Ebonyi State separated by Ebonyi River. In 2015, Engr. David Umahi, a jinx-breaker, won the governorship of Ebonyi State without the support of any godfather. Upon inauguration, Umahi who projected his campaign promises into covenants with God Almighty unleashed acomprehensive long-term development plan on Ebonyi State. The fact that the Nigerian economy was in the worst recession at the inception of Umahi's administration made people to doubt the feasibility of his plan. However, for Umahi, the economic recession became a catalyst for prosperity and development. Umahi introduced rigid pavement road technology otherwise known as concrete road in Ebonyi State and embarked on a radical road revolution which yielded the construction of roads in Abakaliki, Onueke, Afikpo, Uburu, Edda, Nkalagu and other parts of Ebonyi State with a cumulative distance of about 800 km on rigid pavement. Gov. Umahi equally constructed three 800-metre twin overhead bridges and a pedestrian overhead bridge along the African Trans-saharan highway. An overhead bypass with a roundabout leading to Ebonyi Mall and Ebonyi Ecumenical Centre has been constructed at the Afikpo road end of Akanu Ibiam roundabout. Beyond their aesthetic values, these overhead bridges act as life-savers, having drastically reduced the fatal accidents hitherto witnessed at their respective locations.

In the health sector, Umahi built and equiped a Virology Center and a Chest Clinic in Abakaliki ,renovation and upgraded the 13 General Hospitals in the state and runs a free medicare and hospital amnesty programme through the churches. Currently, a modern and spacious accident and emergency ward is being constructed in FETHA while a creative tricycle ambulance scheme was put in place to handle emergencies from the ward levels.

Under the same hostile economic setting, Ebonyi State under Umahi's administration continued to retain its positions as the only administration in Nigeria that pays annual bonuses, known as "13th month salaries" in Ebonyi labour parlance, to workers; and as one of the nine states in Nigeria where workers have never been owed salaries. Backlogs of arrears of pensions and gratuities of retired civil servants which piled up from the creation of Ebonyi State in 1996 till 2015 are being cleared. Added to these are other incentives like single-digit Agricultural and Business loans aimed at creating routes to additional income for workers. Consequently, Ebonyi workers honoured Governor Umahi on 18th December, 2018 as "Enyi Ndi Oru Ebonyi" which translates to "Friend of Ebonyi workers".

Engr. David Nweze Umahi restored peace and harmony to Ezillo and totally reconciled Ezillo and Ezza-Ezillo people who were the parties to the fratricidal war in which countless lives, limbs and property of humongous value were lost. Umahi planted a Tree of Peace in Ezillo and equally created Amaeze andI zzo autonomous communities for the repective peoples of Ezillo and Ezza-Ezillo.

The resettlement plan of Izzo people has been implemented to a very advanced stage and would soon be consumate. Umahi deploys the peace template used in Ezillo to any community where conflicts arise. Added to these is the formation of Ebonyi Neighborhood Security Watch which in synergy with formal security agencies has ensured that security of lives and property to the extent that Ebonyi State is rated as the most peaceful and secure state in the Nigerian federation.

Governor Umahi's empowerment programme was unprecedented in Ebonyi history for the facts that ithas been transparent as disbursements are made through e-transactions; all-encompassing; bereft of political, religious and tribal considerations; and has positively altered the economic status of every beneficiary and those of his/her dependants. Each of the six youths trained in horticulture received One mill ion naira (N1,000,000.00k) only; each of 6520 beneficiaries got the sum of Two hundred and fifty thousand (N250,000.00k) naira only; while each of another set of 4000 widows got One hundred thousand naira (N100,000.00k) only. Furthermore, the sum of Two hundred and sixty-three million and two hundred thousand naira (N263, 200,000.00) only was spent to acquire 400 TVS tricycles which were distributed free to deserving Ebonyians at home and in Anambra State. Apart from 300 widows who receive Ten thousand naira (N10,000.00k) only as monthly stipend and the modern houses for indigent widows going on in all the 171 wards through the office of the wife of the governor.

Members of the physically-challenged community in Ebonyi State have always been provided with the compassionate arm of the government to lean on through stipends and periodic support. Traditional Rulers' allowances have been increased by 100% while Sports Utility Vehicle jeeps were distributed free to them tovenhance their status. In April, 2019, the sum of One hundred and fifty million naira (N150,000,000.00k) only was released for the empowerment of Ebonyi market women.

Through the Agricultural Revolution programme known as "One man, one hectare", Engr. Umahi alongside members of Ebonyi State Executive Council and the rest of Ebonyi State have gone back to farming. The result is that Ebonyi people have attained food security. The ban on the sale and consumption of foreign (or plastic) rice has made farming a profitable venture. Ebonyi Rice has equally become an international brand for which Ebonyi State has received several presidential encomia. The School Agricultural programme is a unique feature of Ebonyi State's Agricultural programme; and it is designed to make farming attractive to teenagers.

Contrary to the belief of his predecessor that "Education is not for the poor", Umahi reduced the fees of Ebonyi State University by Ten thousand naira (N10,000.00) only to make education affordable for the poor. All Universal Basic Education funds due to Ebonyi State which were hitherto abandoned in Abuja due to leadership ineptitude have been accessed by Umahi. Over 200 classroom blocks across Ebonyi State have been reconstructed; while 20000 two-seater desks were distributed to schools in Ebonyi State. ICT infrastructure have been constructed and e-learning programmes have resumed in Ebonyi junior and senior secondary schools. School Evangelism programmes have been introduced to morally re-arm our teenagers. All these and more culminated in Ebonyi coming 10th in WAEC/NECO results in 2016 and her retention of the rank till this moment. Ebonyi State College of Education Ikwo has been upgraded into a degree-awarding institution. Umahi successfully ejected illegal occupants of EBSU permanent site who had defied all previous administrations in Ebonyi State. Disbursement of funds to Oversea scholarship programme students has commenced. A brand new School of Nursing and Midwifery has been built in Uburu.

Umahi's administration developed the first industrial policy for Ebonyi State. Work is progressing on the three industrial clusters at Uburu, Umuogharu and Iboko. These industrial clusters are designed to catalyze industrial revolution in Ebonyi State and create innumerable jobs for Ebonyians. A renewable energy power project through which Ebonyi mid-level engineers have been trained to fabricate biomass gasification power plants will power the industrial clusters. This power project has a cumulative target of 7.5 megawatts. Umahi built the largest waste recycling plant in Nigeria at Umuoghara in Ezza North LGA. When this project is commissioned, Ebonyi people will begin to earn income from domestic refuse. The Abakaliki International market which was not completed by Umahi's predecessor has been completed with additional 18 blocks each of 48 which has shops. A regional market is being constructed by Umahi in Afikpo while the Akanu Ibiam roundabout park has been remodeled with modern shopping complexes.

Abakaliki Township Stadium has been fully reconstructed such that it is the envy of critical stakeholders in the Nigerian sports sector; while Ebonyi State Government has approved the formation of football clubs for the state. The Urban Renewal programme of Umahi has yielded the beautification of Abakaliki municipality and installation of street and garden lights in the streets and open spaces, construction of road medians and walk ways and a 24-hour refuse surveillance and evacuation. Umahi has made Abakaliki capital city so clean that even the blind, under the auspices of Ebonyi State Association of the Blind gave him an award for beautifying and keeping the city clean! Engr. David Umahi has continued to involve God in the development of Ebonyi State through sponsorship of crusades, support for Churches and the construction of Ebonyi Ecumenical Centre which would be commissioned in May, 2019. A comparative analyses of Umahi's administration and those of his predecessors show that the real match of Ebonyi State and her people began the day Umahi took over as Governor of Ebonyi State.

Hence, Ebonyi electorate's overwhelming choice of Umahi over other fringe candidates in the 2019 gubernatorial polls. As Umahi's second tenure begins tomorrow, Ebonyi people expect the commissioning of completed projects like the waste recycling plant; completion of the biomass gasification power project and the industrial clusters; as well as the commencement of the all-important Abakaliki and Ebonyi South ring roads. In all there are evidences that for some long time to come, David Nweze Umahi shall occupy an enviably conspicuous place in the history of Ebonyi State as one man who sought power for the purpose of doing good; and actually excelled in doing good to Ebonyi State!

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Monday Eze, The Nigerian Voice Senior Correspondent, Abakaliki and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."