Nigeria 2023: History Beckons On David Umahi
My people of Ezza Ezekuna have an aphorism which holds that power is like shadow: It runs away from those who chase after it; and chases after those who run away from it. This seems to be true about the presidency of Nigeria come 2023. Given the popular opinion of patriotic Nigerians, the expectation that the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2023 will be a Nigerian of Igbo extraction has elicited overt and covert interests in the 2023 presidency from Igbo sons and daughters as well as people from other parts of Nigerians.
In June, 2019, a trade union in Nigeria tipped the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi, who also serves as the chairman of Southeast Governors' Forum for the top job. In his reaction, Umahi told the world that: "2023 is very far ahead of us. I am the Governor of Ebonyi State and a second term governor for that matter by the grace of God. I put my energy and concentration to serve my people as governor and deliver on my campaign promises. I am not looking for where I will be tomorrow. Allow God to determine my next political fate but don't distract me with presidential ambition of 2023 now in 2019. It is a distraction and ridiculous".
However, notwithstanding Umahi's one-day-at-a-time decision, it is instructive that well-meaning Nigerians in several quarters have continued to tip him for the 2023 presidential job. About two months ago, the Coalition for Equity and Justice in Nigeria, COEJIN, through its spokesperson, Chinonyerem Dick, mentioned Engr. David Umahi as one of the credible Nigerians who could steer the ship of the Nigerian nation in 2023. Few days ago, Igbo Youth Council, IYC, through her National Publicity Secretary, Engr. Osita Kalu Ugorji, submitted that, "Numerous proofs are there that Governor Dave Umahi will make Nigeria better and great again ... when he becomes the president, Nigeria as a country will no longer be a developing country but a developed country".
At this juncture, it is necessary to ask: Will Nigeria really need a David Umahi presidency in 2023? In attempting this question, a study of extant realities in Ebonyi State where Engr. David Umahi has been presiding over as Governor since May 2015 is necessary. In 2015 when David Umahi became the Governor of Ebonyi State, there were only two good roads in Ebonyi State. They included the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Boulevard and Ezza Road; and their cumulative distance was less than ten kilometers! With fratricidal hostilities at the gateway community of Ezillo and several intra and inter-communal clashes, kidnap and robbery incidents in several communities and axis of Ebonyi State, the state was simply a theatre of war bereft of peace and security. Abakaliki capital city was dirty and unclean with numerous refuse heaps which harboured dangerous desease-transmitting rodents. Hence the intermittent outbreaks of lassa fever and other diseases witnessed in pre-Umahi Ebonyi State. Our general hospitals were not well-equipped while Ebonyi State University's College of Medical Sciences had no Teaching Hospital. The roundabouts and other major road intersections in Abakaliki urban and in the rest of Ebonyi State were human abbatoirs where reckless drivers killed citizens and visitors to Ebonyi State on daily basis. The permanent site of Ebonyi State University was taken over by illegal occupants who built their shrine directly opposite the office of the Vice Chancellor. The power programme of the state was not feasible and sustainable; the agricultural sector operated at the rudimentary level; while there was no industrial policy or programme for Ebonyi State. Ebonyi treasury had many holes through which some public officers helped themselves. With the disbandment of the two football clubs owned by Ebonyi State Government, sporting activities died completely while Abakaliki Township Stadium became a sports cemetery where sports lovers gathered to mourn the death of sports in Ebonyi State. It was in the midst of that gloom that Engr. Umahi took oath of office as Governor of low - economic profile Ebonyi State on 29th May, 2019.
In less than five years, Umahi has reconstructed more than fifty percent of Ebonyi roads with a cumulative distance of about 400 kilometers on rigid pavements. He also built five modern overhead bridges at various road intersections to prevent the death of innocent Ebonyians from road mishaps. Added to this was the 198 - kilometer Abakaliki Ring road which Umahi has concluded plans to dualize and reconstruct on rigid pavement this year with a loan from African Development Bank. The special thing about Umahi's roads is that with eight-inch rigid pavement technology, they are guaranteed to last for a minimum of half a century. The Ezillo and Ezza Ezillo war as well as other communal conflicts have been resolved on permanent terms. This was followed by the evolution of standing templates for peace as well as a ministry of border peace and conflict resolution to nip misunderstandings in the bud. Umahi's provision of logistic support to formal security agencies in Ebonyi State as well as establishment of Ebonyi Neighborhood Security Watch has consigned violence and security challenges in Ebonyi State to the dustbin of history. Hence, Ebonyi State has retained the rank of the most peaceful and secure state in the Nigerian federation since 2017 till date. Umahi came in handy in quelling the farmers/herders clashes which threatened Nigeria's unity. Engr. David Umahi has built a fully-accredited School of Nursing in Uburu. Works have reached advanced stage in Ebonyi State College of Medicine located in Uburu. The General Hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres in the state are renovated and better equipped for more effective healthcare delivery. The illegal occupants of the permanent site of Ebonyi State University who defied previous administrations were successfully ejected from the university's premises.
A cost-effective round-the-clock refuse surveillance system is in place to keep Abakaliki capital city and Ebonyi State clean. The largest waste recycling plant in Nigeria with potentials for 3000 skilled and unskilled job opportunities for the youths is in Umuoghara, Ebonyi State. In 2016, Umahi gave Ebonyi State her first industrial policy which highlights include the three industrial clusters which are to be driven by power generated from biomass. Pursuant to Ebonyi Biomass Gasification Power programme which targets a cumulative generation of 7.5 megawatts, Umahi encouraged Ebonyi mid-level engineers who have successfully fabricated biomass gasification plants adjudged to be of dependable quality by UNIDO officials. Ebonyi State Government has gone ahead to acquire necessary complementary equipment from Japan to make the biomass power programme a reality. Umahi established Ebonyi Vocational College to train unemployed youths on fabrications and other skills. This will turn the youths into wealth creators and create a work force needed in the industrial clusters. Abakaliki Sports Stadium has been so reconstructed that it hosts Nigeria Football Association matches; while sporting activities and competitions have resumed in Ebonyi State. The Agricultural revolution programme of Ebonyi State with its unique school agriculture programme component has succeeded beyond the immediate target of providing food security for Ebonyi and neighbouring states; and placed Ebonyi State in the global food map. Not resting on his oars, Umahi is moving into farm produce storage and processing so as to make Agriculture the mainstay of Ebonyi economy in view of the imminent era of zero-oil economy. Given Ebonyi State's low income-profile, all these would have been impossible if not for Umahi's preventive war against corruption which plugged all holes in the treasury and made graft an impossibility.
With this abridged insight into Umahi's enthralling scorecard in Ebonyi State, one is emboldened to respond to the question in focus in the affirmative. In 2023, Nigeria will need an Umahi presidency to improve the tactics of the anti-corruption war by making it preventive. Nigeria will certainly need a president who can fix our roads on rigid pavements, create a reliable alternative economic base for the country through agriculture and courageously break new grounds in the industrial, power and other ailing sectors in Nigeria. From all indications, "positive infringements" on Umahi's humble decision and request to be allowed to concentrate on his present job as Governor of Ebonyi State may not abate soon. This is because in the view of many Nigerians, the perennial leadership challenges of the Nigerian nation have reached the point of emergency and therefore demand a timely radical approach. More importantly, Umahi's practical demonstration of great vision, humongous political will and good governance in his current duty post has given him out as the potent antidote to both the leadership and developmental problems of the Nigerian nation. That being the case, those who feel the pangs of the nation's leadership and developmental challenges seem to be in a hurry to bring Umahi to the centre to enable him bring positive changes to the entire nation. If the voice of the people, as they say, is truly the voice of God, it suffices that history is beckoning on unassuming Engr. David Umahi as regards the far ahead 2023 Nigerian presidency; and the onus lies on well-meaning Nigerians to pray for the will of God for Nigeria in 2023.