The Projects Ebonyi People Direly Need From Umahi
The campaign period which preceded the 2019 gubernatorial polls in Ebonyi State offered one glimpses of the minds of those who wanted to overtake Governor David Nweze Umahi in the race for Sen. Sam Egwu Lodge's top job. Even at the peak of the heat of passion, the most rabid antagonist of Umahi confessed in one of his diatribes published in a national daily that every visitor that came into Abakaliki would agree that Umahi has developed Ebonyi State. That, in my opinion, was a reinforcement of the universal consensus between Umahi's supporters and his adversaries to the effect that Umahi has really transformed the landscape of Ebonyi State.
Umahi's first term was not just about concrete or rigid pavement roads, overhead bridges, construction of public buildings, classroom blocks, markets, hospitals, street lights et cetera. The Divine Mandate Administration of Engr. David Umahi ran an unparalleled empowerment programme which financial implication adds up to more than Three Billion Naira (N3billion) only and captured more than twenty thousand beneficiaries. This amount of money and the number of beneficiaries far exceeded both the financial appropriations and target beneficiaries of the rest of the states in the Southeast geopolitical zone in the economic empowerment sector since 2015. Ebonyians who are people of honour and integrity, have continued to appreciate the efforts of Governor Umahi in this regard. As a result, we have different armies of grateful beneficiaries of these empowerment programmes who have continued to support their benefactor's administration without flinches. These groups have organised themselves under the auspices of Governor Umahi Empowerment Beneficiaries' Association, GUMEBA. However, facts exist to the effect that Umahi's humongous investments in economic empowerment which so far is undoubtedly the best in history is not and can never be good enough in our present Ebonyi State! The first fact is that it is not sustainable because government cannot afford to be sharing money to people periodically especially in the face of the impending economic recession which the Central Bank Governor, Dr. Godwin Emefiele, few days ago drew the attention of the Nigerian nation to.
Umahi who distinguished himself in private enterprises before coming to public office has continued to encourage beneficiaries to multiply the funds through wise investments and often attached meaningful prizes to be won by those with proof of meaningful progress; but the fact remains that with the exception of limited farming, there are certain inherent factors that inhibit other private enterprises in young Ebonyi State. This is why the Government House and political appointments have continued to be, not just the centre of attractions, but also the only viable industry in Ebonyi State. For instance when in March 2019 salaries were not paid by 20th, every other business in the entire Ebonyi State almost ground to a standstill. Worried by this trend, Governor Umahi whose burden for an economically viable Ebonyi State has continued to organize lectures on "Alternatives to Political and Elective Positions" and to dangle juicy incentives for private enterprises before Ebonyi people. The fact that those preachments and other sincere efforts of our dear Governor are not yielding desired results became a source of concern, hence the study that yielded this piece. The good thing is that proactive Umahi has already started most of the things that needed to be done. All that is required of him is to put more energy in some of these areas.
1. Ebonyi Ring Roads: One of the most courageous projects Governor Umahi broached was the reconstruction of Abakaliki ring road and the design of Ebonyi South ring road. Two of them make up what I term Ebonyi ring roads. The significance of Ebonyi ring roads for Ebonyi people is that it will make every part of Ebonyi State accessible within minutes. The implications of this is that the ring roads will reverse rural-urban migration and make people stay close to their farms to supervise their crops. Studies of the poor showing of Ebonyi Agricultural Loan Scheme in the past years show that most of the farmers had poor harvests due poor surveillance of their crops which arose from difficulties in accessing their farms. In the same vein, the roads will solve the difficulties encountered by farmers in evacuating their harvests to urban markets where they would earn better income from the crops. These will rekindle the interests of many people in farming; and prod subsistent farmers into commercial agriculture. It is cheering news that all the road blocks mounted on the way of Abakaliki ring road project have been cleared. Ebonyi people are looking forward to seeing the commencement and speedy completion of not just Abakaliki ring road, but the entire Ebonyi ring roads. Ebonyi people are in dire need of the ring roads and they clearly demonstrated it when the controversy for the project lasted.
2. Biomass Gasification Power Project: The renewable energy power project through which Ebonyi State is pursuing generation of a cumulative target of 7.5 megawatts of power from biomass is creative, cheap and friendly to the environment. The all-pervading importance of power in the modern society needs no emphasis. With the progress of Ebonyi mid-level engineers in the fabrication of biomass gasification plants which has been applauded by UNIDO and the equipment which Ebonyi State Government has already bought from Japan, Ebonyi people cannot wait to have this monumental project delivered to them. With stable power supply, foreign direct investments will suffuse Ebonyi State while small and medium scale enterprises will spring up in every nook and cranny of Ebonyi State. These will create gainful employments such that "alternatives to political and elective positions" will be chasing Ebonyi people. Under this setting, Ebonyi youths will not have time for cultism, thuggery, violence and crimes.
3. Industrial Clusters: Governor Umahi's administration has done well in giving Ebonyi State its first industrial policy since it was created in 1996. It suffices that the renewable energy or biomass gasification power project mentioned above and the industrial cluster projects are all components of this maiden Ebonyi Industrial Policy. Umahi is building an industrial cluster for Ebonyi South in Uburu while the rice clusters in Iboko serves as the industrial cluster for Ebonyi North. Land for Ebonyi Central industrial cluster has been acquired at Umuoghara in Ezza North LGA. The the role of functional industrial clusters in catalyzing rapid industrialization cannot be over-emphasized. The story of The Peoples Republic of China, Japan and the rest of the Asian tigers are instructive. Umahi has taken steps to make the sun of Nigeria's industrial revolution rise from Ebonyi State. Ebonyi people who have been adequately sensitized are waiting for Umahi to deliver full-blown functional industrial clusters to them. With the trail already blazed by Ebonyi local engineers in the fabrication of biomass gasification equipment, it is certain that Ebonyi State is ready to become the China of Africa.
4. Ebonyi Waste Recycling Plant: Ebonyi State boasts of the largest waste recycling plant in the Nigerian federation which Governor Umahi built in Umuoghara. The plant which Nigerians remember more for the "dance of development" which it elicited from former President Olusegun Obasanjo is a world of opportunities which if fully put to use will diffuse Ebonyi people's interest in political appointments. The plant has opportunities for three thousand skilled and unskilled workers; and could generate raw materials for cottage industries as well as for the production of compost manure or fertilizers. In addition to this, Ebonyi people will begin to earn income from domestic refuse.
5. Storage Facilities: The large scale wastes that occur during and after harvests of perishable farm produce like vegetables, oranges, mangoes, pears, yams, cassava et cetera are sources of worry because they discourage large scale cultivation of such perishable crops. The fact that these crops are easy to cultivate, relevant to human nutrition or health and therefore veritable sources of income further accentuates this concern. The Government of Ebonyi State can step into this situation by building storage facilities where these perishable farm produce could be preserved at affordable costs until they are needed. This will be a win-win situation as government will charge fees from farmers on one hand while farmers on the other hand will maximize the income from their harvests by totally minimizing wastes.
Once these projects are delivered, all the factors that inhibit private enterprises will disappear. By then, Umahi can beat his chest for building a wholesome and viable Ebonyi State filled with opportunities for the inhabitants and posterity. Ebonyians will begin to take alternative routes to wealth other than political appointments which do not often permit desired freedom and independence. At that point, all t government would be required to do to empower the people is to put in place an accessible revolving loan scheme which will provide take-off capitals for new entrepreneurs; and not to distribute scarce funds free to people.
May God grant our leaders the grace of discernment to understand the concerns and insights that gave rise to this piece.