Ugwuanyi: What next after May 29?

There is no doubt that the outcome of the general election will affect the political career of the outgoing Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, at least, in the next four years.

Elections have come and gone, with winners jubilating and preparing to assume power to serve their people. While some of the losers have approached the Election Petition Tribunal and are optimistic that they will ‘recover their stolen mandates’, others are not so optimistic and are already strategising on their next political move, even as they pursue their case in court.

For Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who lost his bid to represent his constituency, the Enugu North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, life outside Lion Building, the Enugu State Government House, is going to be a mixed bag of fortunes. Given the grievances of many stakeholders against his style of governance, he has stepped on toes and many of them have vowed to stop him from walking close to the gate of the National Assembly in the near future.

As a result, Ugwuanyi who was a three-term member of the House of Representatives is likely to linger in the political wilderness for some time because the aggrieved stakeholders are prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that he lost another bid to go to the Senate in future elections. These are the category of individuals that ensured that he failed to secure the seat in the just concluded election. Their intention is to retire him compulsorily from politics.

But, the governor equally has some key stakeholders on his side because of his achievements in the last eight years. So, even though many are blaming him for what they regard as his poor political calculation ahead of the just concluded general election, their animosity may not count when it is juxtaposed with the achievements he recorded as governor in the last eight years.

Those who are in full support of the administration have continued to shower encomiums on the governor, saying that if not for Ugwuanyi, Enugu would have been like other Southeast states, such as Imo and Anambra in terms of insecurity.

Apart from the security and the atmosphere of peace in the state, which the governor initiated months after he came on board, the all-inclusive rural road infrastructure, inclusive governance, aggressive agro-industrialisation programme, absolute peace, security, social justice, social services, employment generation and several other people-oriented policies which he initiated during his eight years in office have acted as a boost to the Ugwuanyi-led administration.

It is noteworthy that these were captured under the Ugwuanyi administration’s four-point agenda unveiled during his first term in 2015. Since then, the Ugwuanyi administration’s presence and footprints prefaced virtually all the 450 autonomous communities, 17 local councils and the three senatorial zones.

Across the state, roads like Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway, Obechara Road Junction-Umuakashi Mechanic village-Ikenga Hotels Junction-Enugu Road Nsukka Junction and Umuezebi-Nru Junction have been completed. Others include an extension of Agbani-Afor Amurri Road, the extension of Ituku Road, the construction of Ogonogoeji- Ndi Akpugo Road (Atavu Bailey Bridge-Afor Onovo) the construction of the 42-metre span Bailey Bridge and road works across River Nyama to Amichi, linking Umuogo and Umuagba Amaechi Uno/ Obinagu community, all in Nkanu West Local Government.

Of note is that the Agbani-Amurri Road was constructed for a community that has never witnessed any form of development or government presence on its land in the past 100 years. In the same vein, the Ogonogoeji-Ndiagu-Akpugo Road from Atavu Bailey Bridge to Afor Onovo is the first state government road in the entire Akpugo land since the creation of the Enugu State.

Not left out is the popular and historic Milliken Hill Road, Ngwo, constructed in 1909, but was abandoned for several decades before Ugwuanyi’s administration reconstructed it with streetlights. The three-kilometre road is part of the 12-kilometre 9th Mile-Ekochin-Ngwo- Miliken Hill-New Market federal road, which the state government rehabilitated to serve as an alternative route for commuters and motorists plying Enugu-Onitsha Expressway. Also within the state capital, Ugwuanyi’s administration executed numerous road projects.

The governor also left huge footprints in the health and education sectors among many other sectors where a lot was done to change the cause of the sectors in the state.

However, as good as the Ugwuanyi policy initiatives may have been, critics of his administration insist that he failed woefully, especially in the area of provision of potable water to the Enugu metropolis and development of the suburbs of the Enugu metropolis to contain the surging population in the state capital, which would have been for the betterment of the people if done.

Also, the lack of potable water within the Enugu metropolis has been the worst treatment meted out to the people and it is said to have been one of the issues against the Ugwuanyi administration.

Going by the 2006 Population Census, Enugu State has a population of 3,267, 837. Out of the figure, about 820,000 persons are said to be residing in the area considered as the metropolis, where public water supply circulates to. These include GRA, Trans-Ekulu, Uwani, Coal Camp (Ogbaete) Achala Layout, New Haven, Ogui and Independence Layout. Other suburbs have far more populations but only get water from unclean wells or buy water from vendors at exorbitant rates. Public taps have all dried up since the better part of the Ugwuanyi administration even though he met the taps running with water though not regularly.

Also, among such basic infrastructure that he was expected to provide, but which he failed to do is the dualisation of the Abakpa-Opi (Nsukka) Road to reduce the overpopulation in the Abakpa and Emene axis of the city and reduce traffic within that axis. This has brought about an immense hatred for the governor in the areas affected. Also, some roads in his Nsukka zone, which his people had expected him to use his power to construct were left untouched.

Other issues which increased the hatred for the governor are his handling of the party’s primaries. Before the primaries, the governor made a lot of promises to his political allies, allegedly asking anyone around to pick nomination forms for positions of their choice even when he was said to have pencilled down some individuals for the positions. Thus, many aspirants who would have gladly supported party candidates and the governor himself ended up spending their hard-earned resources that they were the governor’s chosen candidates were not anything to go by.

Apart from that, his handling of the PDP governorship primary, as well as that of the Enugu East senatorial race equally diminished his achievements. Ugwuanyi was applauded for edging out former deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu from the race. But, rather than remain equitable in the allocation of the tickets for the governorship and Enugu East senatorial race, he simply allowed former Governor Chimaraoke Nnamani to vie for a return to the Senate. He also allowed Nnamani’s godson and current governor-elect, Dr. Peter Mbah to emerge as the party’s candidate.

Ugwuanyi gave preferential treatment to Nkanu, where Nnamani and Mbah hail from, to the detriment of Isi-Uzo Local Government, which forms part of the Enugu East Senatorial District. Isi-Uzor did not get even a House of Representatives ticket within the PDP. This bred bad blood.

To worsen the matter, it was said in many quarters that Isi-Uzo is part of Enugu North (Nsukka Zone), whereas it is in Enugu East Senatorial District, and that allowing them to become governor meant Nsukka retaining the seat.

In Nsukka Zone, it was gathered that the PDP senatorial ticket was supposed to go to Nsukka/Igboeze South Federal Constituency. But, the governor cornered the ticket to the dissatisfaction of the people of the constituency.

While the governor held the senatorial ticket, his kinsman from the same local government in Udenu, Ifeanyi Ossai, was also chosen as a running mate to the PDP governorship candidate to the chagrin of the other five local governments.

These and many others prompted the people to vent their anger on him during the senatorial polls which he lost out to Mr. Okey Ezea of the Labour Party (LP).

These also coupled with the fact that the people did not want to make any mistake in not voting for the LP presidential candidate, Peter Obi, their preferred candidate in the election.

However, close watchers of Enugu politics have continued to ask, “What next for Ugwuanyi as he hands over to his successor? Those who know him very well within the political circle, believe that given his brand of politics, Ugwuanyi will be far from retiring early in politics. This is because his politics are deliberately laced with negotiations and consultations to achieve his desired objectives. It is widely believed that people hardly say no to him because he does not make noise about his politics.

In the opinion of Petrus Obi, a political analyst and publisher of Everyday News, an online news platform, Governor Ugwuanyi performed creditably well and would be greatly missed by the people after May 29. Obi said that the governor brought governance to the doorsteps of the masses of Enugu State.

He said having worked as a journalist with several civilian governors and military administrators in the past, he can attest to the fact that Governor Ugwuanyi is different and surpasses the rest in character.

He said Ugwuanyi mostly worked for the development of rural communities. His words: “I’ve been in this job for a while. I’ve covered more than six governors, including two military administrators. And I must tell you that I have not seen somebody better.”

Obi added that despite the economic crunch and recession that dogged the Ugwuanyi’s administration, he made a significant impact in all sectors of the state’s economy through prudent management of resources.

He said: “I have not seen a man who brought governance to the doorsteps of the masses. Ugwuanyi has a place in history. I’m saying so because I have covered him for almost eight years. And I know that he came in at the time we were talking about bailout funds. He came out when there was a recession when you had to borrow money when you got bailout funds to pay salaries. Even at that, the man has done well in rural development, massively, which would be commended.

“Ugwuanyi lost an election and took it in good faith. When he leaves office, Enugu will miss him. Enugu will be missing a man who opens his doors; a man whom everybody has his phone number; a man you can call at any time.”

Obi however blamed the governor for not showcasing his retinue of projects in various communities. He said: “That alone was the major reason people felt he didn’t do so much because he didn’t concentrate his projects in the city, where travellers and visitors will see them. I think he should have publicised the projects well enough. Public relations (PR) is doing it and saying it.”

On what next for the governor after May 29 handover, Obi insisted that Ugwuanyi still has a lot to offer Enugu State and PDP at large because he would bounce back stronger. This, he added, is given the fact that Ugwuanyi succeeded in installing his anointed successor in the last election using everything at his disposal against all odds.

He said: “Definitely, Ugwuanyi will bounce back stronger. Given the kind of relationship that exists between the incoming governor, Peter Mbah and Ugwuanyi, I think the latter will remain a rallying point for Enugu politics. I say this because Enugu State doesn’t appear to have a political leader that can bring people together after the governor except for Ugwuanyi.

“Sullivan Chime was never there as a leader. Chimaraoke Nnamani remained there for some time but has crashed politically and has been lamenting. So, long as the relationship I’m seeing with Peter Mbah succeeds, then, Ugwuanyi may be the leader you are looking at.”

On the contrary, a former PDP National Auditor, Ray Nnaji, said it might be very difficult for Ugwuanyi to stay as a leader because he offended a lot of people and helped in dimming the fortunes of the party in Enugu during the last general elections.

He said: “Who am I to tell you what next for Ugwuanyi after May 29? Am I God? That he failed the election doesn’t mean he might be finished politically. He might come up in another circumstance and relaunch himself, but definitely, he’s not going to be a rallying point.

“But, all I know is that he performed woefully. I even said it today on the radio. He didn’t perform well and that was why we (PDP) lost. It’s just by the grace of God that we managed to get the governorship position. That also can be attributed to the one-week extension of the election by the INEC, which enabled Peter Mbah to go around the state selling himself in his capacity. This is coupled with the outburst of Chief Okey Ezea that the governorship election was a battle between Nsukka and Nkanu. Nkanu people took up that challenge. With that, a lot of people bought into Mbah’s candidature and voted for him. If not, the election would have been over if it had been held on March 11. Labour Party would have taken everything.

“This is a party that didn’t have functional office before the 2023 election. No campaign office and they were able to deal with us the way they did. As I have always said, it is the members of the PDP that make up the LP and those members were not happy because of the way the governor treated them.

“He (Ugwuanyi) dealt with so many people. He made so many promises to people that he did not intend to fulfil. So, many people felt so angry. It was out of that anger that they went and reinforced LP to beat us, including himself. It is the first time in history that a governor will be losing his polling unit.

“Let me correct one thing; he was not the one that made Mbah governor and therefore could not have become a rallying point as a result of Mbah’s victory. Chimaraoke Nnamani took Sullivan Chime around the 17 local governments. Sullivan in turn took Ugwuanyi around the 17 local governments. But, Ugwuanyi never did the same for Mbah, apparently because he knew his performance was not good enough to sell Mbah.”

Nevertheless, many who believe so much in Ugwuanyi, boasted that he is too young to go into political retirement at the end of his tenure on May 29, stressing that, he still has a lot of chances to go to the Senate by 2027 and for that reason, he would remain politically relevant.

To them, one of the options available for Ugwuanyi after leaving office is to remain supportive of his successor as he is the only person that can retrieve the Senate seat from LP’s Okey Ezea in 2027 with the support of Mbah as governor.

Also, his relationship with the incoming president, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may not be in vain. It was gathered that his relationship with Asiwaju dates back to 2003 when he was elected into the House of Representatives. This, some analysts believe, could help him relaunch his senatorial ambition come 2027.

Ugwuanyi’s recent visit to Tinubu in the company of the leader of the other PDP governors and members of the G-5 led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State signposted his relationship with the President-elect.