The Enugu Serenity: Anniversary Tribute To Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

By Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia

The fact that democracy has become an ideal and universally recognized system of government in which the citizens of a society are ruled by a majoritarian consent of the people is not debatable. Despite the welter of definitions of democracy, the truth about the majoritarian essence of democracy has come to be approximated with the definition of democracy as the “government of the people; by the people and for the people” by Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).

The simplicity of this Lincolnian definition of democracy notwithstanding, experience has shown that it is not easily achievable in any polity essentially because democracy, despite its alluring values, is by far the most sophisticated type of government. Over the years, political philosophers, in their determination to improve on the concept of democracy and have even postulated various variants of democracy. Thus, today the field of political science has become replete with variants of democracy; such as authoritarian democracy, communist democracy, social democracy, Islamic democracy, theocratic democracy, etc.

The fact remains that just as national currencies vary with countries so is the practice of democracy expressed differently. Vaishnavi Patil, the Indian-American political scientist lends credence to the above assertion when he remarked that every country interprets the meaning of democracy in their own particular way as it best suits their peculiarity.

Political philosophers of the Enlightenment Age have outlined the essential features of democracy to include separation of powers, basic civil rights and human rights, non-secular liberty; separation of church and state, majority rule, periodic elections, citizen involvement, toleration of plural opinion, constitutional checks, compromise, etc.

The foregoing features notwithstanding, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, in their 2018 publication titled “How Democracies Die” noted that “democracy is grinding work”. Given the many controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency thus far, Levitsky and Ziblatt set out to answer the question as to whether our democracy is in danger.

By studying the trajectory of the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, they argued that, indeed, contemporary democracy could be in danger. This danger is symbolized by the gradual and steady weakening of critical institutions such as the judiciary, the press; and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms and values enunciated during the Enlightenment Age. Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die; and how they can be saved. Whereas family business and army squadrons may be ruled by fiat, democracy norms involve negotiation, mutual toleration, institutional forbearance and concessions.

Just as the practice of democracy varies from one country to another, so it varies in content, form and logic from one section or region to the other even within the same country; especially a country with diverse and near irreconcilable differences in culture, history and religion. Having said that, it is also worthy to note that every democratic dispensation or administration has its defining characteristics within the broader paradigm of democracy.

It must be emphasized that the mental, intellectual and philosophical reflexes of the chief executive of a country or a state, in the Nigerian context, prefigure the character of the government. This accounts for the discernible differences in the administrations of those that have ruled Enugu State in the past. On the other hand, the differences in human traits, psychologies and depths are reflected in their leadership styles. It therefore follows that while it is inconceivable to expect similar behavioural pattern among the political actors, the fact remains that the Ugwuanyi administration comes to mind as a remarkable departure from the Enugu proclivity for political crises and turbulence.

Since the onset of the present cycle of the Nigerian representative democracy, Ugwuanyi has watched with cautious concerns the mutual suspicion, hate, brigandage and acrimony that had defined the Enugu politics. All the axioms of human behaviour that Thomas Hobbes (1578-1689) laboured to regulate had featured in Enugu State. According to Hobbes, men are led by a perpetual and restless desire for power after power; and left for human nature; life would be solitary, nasty, brutish, short and poor.

The Enugu turbulence and acrobatics were often instigated and spawned by spivs, charlatans, praise-singers, gossips and other mean-spirited, thumb-sucking characters whose stock-in-trade is to sow the seeds of discord with the ultimate aim of reaping from the crises. Needless to add that Enugu State had incurred huge losses on account of needless battles for political supremacy.

It is to change the Enugu narrative and to restore the vision and aspiration of the Founding Fathers of the State, that on May 29, 2015, the Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his inaugural speech as a governor, at Okpara Square, Enugu, declared that “Power belongs to God” and that God has anointed him for “a mission- to bring good news, message of continued hope, peace and development to our people; to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to every Wawa man caught in the prison of poverty and under-development. And these, I owe you and my God to fulfill”.

Ugwuanyi has pursued the above goal with an incandescent passion, dogged determination, diligence and forthrightness. He has shown extra-ordinary commitment to community values of brotherhood, tolerance, moderation and sacrificial leadership. Ugwuanyi would forgo his personal pleasure and comfort in pursuit of peace for the greatest good of the greatest members of Enugu state.

Regardless of base ejaculations of sarcasm and malice by a few who are unaware of immanent benefits of the current dispensation, Ugwuanyi has demonstrated the highest degree of equanimity, large-heart, high standards of honour and profound moral rectitude. With an affable and infectious disposition, Ugwuanyi brings peace where before war reigned supreme. He is likened to a dove of peace with an amazing sense of creative adaptation that has endeared himself to most people. In the Ugwuanyi phenomenon lays a good-hearted peace persona, moral edifice, full of grace and charisma.

While writing on American politics, a French aristocrat, scholar, historian and politician, Alex Tocqueville stated that the American democracy flourishes because their society is endowed with noble hearts. According to Tocqueville, it is that vital core of the human self, the heart that holds the power to destroy democracy or to make it whole.

He identified five habits of the heart necessary for democracy: understand that we are in this together; appreciate the value of others; ability to harmonize tensions, contradictions, imperfections, etc for insightful energy and new life; capacity to create community and creative possibilities inherent in our differences. He admonished that despotism may thrive without religion but surely, democracy cannot. Perhaps, this accounts for why Governor Ugwuanyi has entrusted Enugu State in the hands of God.

There is no gainsaying the enormous benefits the paradigm shift to unity, peace, security and mutual understanding, inclusivity and conviviality that has become the Enugu identity under Governor Ugwuanyi. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Enugu state is elated about the new Enugu narrative. For the first time, all the political gladiators in Enugu state are persuaded under one umbrella. In addition, all members of the National Assembly, state House of Assembly, political appointees, heads of government agencies, the religious groups of diverse persuasions, etc from Enugu State share in the Ugwinuanyi open-door nonpartisan politicality. Those that are supposed to be in the opposition are hedged in by the disarming humility and exemplary friendliness the Gburugburu phenomenon evinces. It is also remarkable that, unlike in the past, all the constituency projects attracted into Enugu State by members of the National Assembly from the State receive the Ugwuanyi warm embrace. The Ugwuanyi quintessence is paying off: in the 2019 general election, in an unprecedendent scale of history, he emerged as the only incumbent governor in Nigeria that scored over 95.5% of the votes cast in a re-election.

The 35th President of the USA, J F Kennedy in his book, The Profile in Grace, stated that the distinction among great leaders lay in the power, depth, breath and clarity of their visions; the ability to see possibilities that others do not is one of the hallmarks of great leaders. The Ugwuanyi visionary transformative leadership has created a serene peaceful ambience that has restored the coal city to its original enviable status. The Enugu serenity has attracted several Igbo in the Diaspora to own residential buildings in Enugu. Above all, Ugwuanyi has created an enabling environment for highly prized liberty, sound initiatives, creativity, healthy competition, free entrepreneurial spirit and prosperity in Enugu state.

Beyond the Gburugburu fascination with the tenets and norms of democracy, he has made indelible marks in massive rural infrastructure- access roads to several communities that were hitherto abandoned and one project in each of the communities in Enugu state; scholarship and bursary awards to indigent students; youth and women inclusion in governance structure; recruitment of thousands of trained teachers, transformation of basic education infrastructure throughout the state; best security architecture in Igboland; 13th month largesse and minimum wage archetype, etc.

As Nigeria celebrates an unbroken 21 years of presidential democracy, we call on all the public office holders to see themselves as servants of the electorate, to remember the down-trodden and more importantly, those who sacrificed and suffered for them during the elections, to be conscious of the ephemeralness of power and to emulate the Ugwuanyi example.

Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia.
President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State

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