The creation of Enugu State by the administration of former military President of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (Retd.) on August 27, 1991, was expectedly received with great joy across Waawaland. The founding fathers of the state, Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh, HRH Igwe Edward Nnaji, Chief Enechi Onyia, HRH Igwe Charles Abangwu, Chief Basil Okwu, HRH Igwe John Ugwu Nwodo and a host of others, also heaved a sigh of relief. Their doggedness, sacrifices and foresightedness had ultimately paid off.
Nevertheless, it was not lost on the people that the actualisation of a state of their own was never an end in itself but the beginning of a consequential journey to the social, political and economic transformation of Waawaland. And in this voyage, Enugu State has made progress under the leaderships of the late Col. Herbert Obieze, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Navy Capt. Temi Ejoor, Col. Mike Torey, Col. Sule Ahman, Navy Capt. Adewunmi Agbaje, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Barr. Sullivan Chime and Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who all paid their dues.
Likewise, Enugu State has had a fair share of limelight in national politics, especially in the legislative arm of government where several Enugu indigenes have played strategic roles. Foremost among them are former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani; former three-term Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Senator Ayogu Eze, Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi and Hon. Toby Okechukwu, who served as chairmen of the Works Committee, with Okechukwu additionally serving as Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. Others include Senator Gil Nnaji, who served as Deputy Leader of the House before proceeding to the Senate, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, Hon. Pat Asadu and Hon. Nnoli Nnaji. They, together with a host of their compatriots, have not only put Enugu on the map of the nation’s politics but also immensely complemented the efforts of their home government in the development of Enugu State, especially in the area of employment, infrastructural and human capital development.
Enugu State has equally remained the centrepiece of South East politics, a cosmopolitan centre and an undisputed home for Ndigbo and people from every section of Nigeria. Thus, in addition to pressures by South East leaders, it is on record that the Senator Ekweremadu-led delegation of the entire South East Caucus of the Sixth Senate to former President Umaru Yar’Adua made a collective demand for the designation of Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu, as an international airport, a request instantaneously granted by the late President. Also, while the Enugu State Caucus of the National Assembly collectively appropriated the sum of N2 billion due to their constituencies for development projects in the 2009 budget to shore up funds for upgrade of the Enugu Airport, South East leaders, notably federal lawmakers and the Governors’ Forum, led by former Governor Dave Umahi, played remarkable roles in the major upgrade of the airport that cost the federal government well over N10 billion.
Despite these commendable efforts, however, Enugu State still has a long way to go. Since its creation, the state has thrived on incremental growth, which is heavily dependent on federal handouts. But this development model has run a full course. In fact, many have also argued that Enugu has lost its glory as the once envied capital of old Eastern Nigeria, while the incremental model has evidently begun a downward journey from its crescendo, making a disruption of the status quo both urgent and inevitable.
However, even the holy book rightly reminds that for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Thus, for Ndi-Enugu, the 2023 governorship election was a decisive time for a paradigm shift, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, an accomplished entrepreneur, public administrator, technocrat and lawyer, is a perfect fit. He represents new-generation leadership, not just by age but also by ideas, pedigree, antecedents and mentality. He proposed a visionary manifesto that stood him out as the one needed to disrupt the status quo and reinvent the state, building on the achievements of his predecessors.
Notably, the Mbah administration has expressed a gargantuan vision that will raise Enugu’s economy from the present $4.4 billion GDP to $30 billion GDP in four to eight years, eradicate poverty, build 10,000km of roads in the urban and rural areas and deliver pipe-borne water to Enugu City in the first 180 days of his administration, create employment and generally make Enugu State a preferred destination for investment, business and living. He has equally executed a social contract on his first day in office to that effect.
To make this possible, the administration adopted an integrated sector-based productivity growth plan that covers agriculture, energy and mineral resources, commerce and industry, rural and urban infrastructure, creative industry, tourism and development, and information and communication technology (ICT) that will see Enugu attain a growth and transformation level never experienced anywhere in Nigeria.
But it is not just about promises; the Mbah administration put the pathways to that desired destination in black and white. For instance, agriculture and agro-allied industrialisation alone will contribute $10 billion to Enugu’s GDP. To this end, the Mbah government plans to create Special Agriculture Processing Zones (SAPZ); Technology for Agriculture Systems Transformation, Enugu (TASTE); E-Wallet that will introduce high-yielding seeds, fertilizers and farm inputs to farmers; M-Farm that will communicate directly to suppliers and off-takers and thereby cutting off middle men; and a rejigg of the land tenure system (working with the communities and the Enugu State House of Assembly) to make land accessible to large scale commercial farmers.
In the energy sector, the administration is working to catalyse energy and mineral resources development by revamping the state’s dormant assets to productive assets, attracting investors to explore and exploit Enugu’s oil and gas fields, coal, glass sand, iron ore, gypsum, limestone, alum, clay stone, kaolin, among others. It equally plans to explore renewable energy and tap into existing finance to set up captive power for industries and homes, and explore solar energy, wind, biomass and hydroelectric energy sources.
As a businessman who understands the challenges of starting up and running businesses in Nigeria, Mbah’s administration plans to initiate and implement policies to effect ease of doing business, de-risk investment flow, upscale the Common Export Facility Centre, create innovation incubation centres for young entrepreneurs, develop a program for apprenticeship system for vocational education, and equally set up a N100 billion venture capital seed funds to catalyse small businesses and start-ups.
Meanwhile, how the government hopes to raise resources to fund the enormous vision has been a nagging question among Ndi-Enugu. In this regard, the administration has developed various funding models that comprise blocking revenue leakages, enhancing the IGR, attracting investments, including Diaspora Investment Bond and Securitization, expanding the tax net without increasing the tax rate as well as innovative co-financing with the private sector and financial institutions, and international development banks. All aimed at attracting funds and investments.
Whereas it is yet early hours of the morning on creation day for the Governor Mbah administration, he had since set sail laying the groundwork for his giant dreams. Understanding that the Enugu that the founding fathers and people of Enugu envisioned coupled with his great dreams could not be actualised under a state of insecurity. He rightly identified the illegal sit-at-home, as the big elephant in the room, that is anti-investments and productivity and quickly banned it and took the battle to the criminal elements behind the sad phenomenon. Today, Monday sit-at-home has virtually become a thing of the past in Enugu State.
Beside ensuring enormous security presence, the governor is also putting in place the necessary technology to fight crime. To this effect, streetlights are coming back to life in Enugu once again, to strengthen security and encourage nightlife.
Furthermore, he has either visited or hosted the service chiefs, including the Chief of Defence, Chief of the Air Staff, and Chief of the Naval Staff, among others. Only recently, the governor and the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, toured the Ogurugu jetty and waterways, pursuant to the planned naval base to boost security, water transportation, and economy around the South East and North Central.
Mbah is also building the necessary local and international partnerships and collaborations to boost investment. He was among the first governors to visit and hold private meetings with the President at the Aso Villa. As a fallout from that visit, Mbah has hosted the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Kabir Yusuf Mohammed, with whom he toured the ongoing international terminal and the proposed cargo terminal of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, with a view to partnering with the central government to earnestly complete and construct the projects, respectively. He has visited the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, and hosted the UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Richard Montgomery.
Meanwhile, the government is set to hold the Investment and Economic Growth Stakeholder Roundtable in September 2023, which is a precursor to the launch of the first edition of the Enugu State Diaspora and Investment Forum (ES-DIF) scheduled for April 2024, all in line with the promises stated in his manifesto.
Of course, Mbah understands that water is life. He understands the place of water in the socio-economic wellbeing of the state and is even set to deliver water to Enugu city earlier than the promised 180 days.
As we say in the Nigerian parlance, we hazard from “good morning” what “good evening” would look like. Thus, on the 32nd anniversary of Enugu State, it is safe to say that the man, Governor Peter Mbah, has met the moment and the long awaited tomorrow is finally here.
•Anichukwu is SSA (External Relations) to the Governor of Enugu State