By Senator Anthony Agbo
Whoever has not visited Ebonyi State in recent times to behold the accomplishments of the governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, and also interacted with him, may not fully understand the complex realities of his character and motivation that gave rise to his momentous decision to join the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Ebonyi State, the youngest of the five South-Eastern states, created in 1996 was a rural state that trailed behind its sister states of the East in virtually every major indices of development, particularly in public and private revenue indices, education and infrastructure. The previous leaders of the state had done their best to lay some appreciable foundations in all these areas, but the story of the young state in its entirety, particularly the state capital, had remained a pathetic tale of infrastructure dearth and decay, projects well-conceived, but poorly executed, generalized squalour, dirt and dust.
The state of road networks across the length and breadth of the state was the greatest challenge. Few roads that received rehabilitation attention fell into hopeless disrepair within a year or two, due to corrupt profiteering that infest the award, execution and supervision of the contracts.
The coming of His Excellency, Engr. Dave Umahi, as governor through a keenly contested governorship election in 2015 came with it a new and rare leadership phenomenon in the state.
Much of leadership in Nigeria, particularly at state levels, have been routinely characterized by poverty of ideas arising from lack of robust mental exposure, all of which result in poorly conceived projects that are also poorly executed without taste, durability and esthetic appeal.
A fundamental element of national development and city building characteristic of developed and ambitious nation states all over the world is the fact that every and all elements of infrastructural projects are conceived, designed and constructed to possess strength and durability; create beauty and make bold, esthetic ornamental appeal and propaganda statements that continuously draws and hold attention. Through this, people flock to such cities to invest, to live and to pursue comfort and pleasure. These in consequence open the way for massive revenue inflow into the nation and city.
This is why people flock to Dubai, because in Dubai, you behold the tallest buildings on earth and revolving sky-scrapers and breathtaking infrastructure created by human vision and ingenuity. People flock to the United States because there you behold the Silicon Valley and Disney land, and witness the all-encompassing testimony of the power of human imagination.
Similarly, all roads lead to China today because everybody wants to feel and benefit from the vibrant energy of new and most current technologies and innovations in every dimension of human life and endeavour that is playing out there.
Governor Umahi is a young man imbued with sharp intellect, compulsive patriotic bent, passionate humanist proclivity, magnificent ethos of beauty and elevated thought. Hence it is not surprising that his mind is quickly tuned to the above trending global mindset of civilized leadership.
And the result is a supernova explosion of rare concepts of infrastructural projects conceived in the fertile and richly divergent recesses of the governor’s mind, all executed with delicate refinement of taste, durability and esthetic appeal.
Among these, Umahi’s road works and his concept of road construction is a developmental revolution and astonishment that defines a bold new thought in Nigerian infrastructural delivery. Deciding to do away with the harrowing nightmare of finished road works that fell or collapse into pothole chains and rugged bare earth within a year or two of their construction, Umahi on assumption of office introduced the concept of concrete roads, in which hundreds of kilometers of road network that intersperses and connects every major town of the state are done in extreme strength of concrete, nine inches thick with steel rods reinforcement.
These roads could stand the vagaries of weather and automobile usage for several decades without failing. Connected to this are outlandish long-span flyovers built in every busy traffic spot in the state capital as well as in every busy and semi busy intersections in all sub-urban towns; all designed, structured and finished with stunning dexterity and esthetic appeal.
Governor Umahi is building a College of Medicine/State Hospital Complex (already eighty percent completed) which size, sophistication and articulation of concept stuns the imagination and staggers the mind.
The sprawling network of grandiose, mammoth, and cyclopean structures which are all system-cast and being finished with delicate details and opulent refinement of taste have nothing to compare with it anywhere in the African continent.
The day this facility shall be commissioned, Nigerians shall behold the marvel and magic of the most prudent, selfless, and visionary application of scarce resources and the congruent value of a bright mind with elevated vision in leadership.
There are numerous airports all over the different cities of this country, most of which obviously were constructed by the Federal Government, but Ebonyi International Airport project being constructed by Governor Umahi (which is currently at 60 percent completion), when completed and delivered shall be a glorious astonishment and a stunning testimony to classic taste in aviation architecture and extra-ordinary leadership achievement.
The airport has a terminal building that is bigger than that of any airport in Nigeria. The tarmac is hundred metres in width and 4 kilometers long, with a concrete pavement of one-foot thick, making it thicker than that of most airports anywhere in the world.
I now invite the reader to the 6,000-seater capacity Ebonyi State Ecumenical Centre, and the International Shopping Mall close to it, to behold a sumptuous feast for the eye. An intricate network of tunnels and endless spiral flyovers convey you to the vicinity of these two structures. And when you step inside them, you will completely lose sense of being in a third-world country, as you are confronted with a stunning marvel in opulence, refinement and elevated taste that germinated out of a fertile mind imbued with definitive vision.
The new Government House complex located in Ebonyi Centenary City, just completed by Governor Umahi, made up of the Governor’s Office Complex, Governor’s Lodge, Presidential Lodge and other facilities, all of which every inch of their inner walls are covered with rich white marble, and all delicately equipped with the most sophisticated, current and durable light and toilet systems, and every usable space adorned with opulent antic furnitures; all pose a glorious spectacle which insufficiency of my elocution cannot paint.
Governor Umahi is currently dualizing Abakaliki-Enugu highway, being an interstate federal road that connects Ebonyi and Enugu states. The dualization is to run from Ebonyi State capital to Enugu. Bridges are being constructed across several rivers that cross this road, with outlandish, long-span flyovers at every busy and semi-busy intercession.
Similar dualization is going on in Abakaliki-Afikpo road. Each of these roads is close to 100 kilometers, and of course, the road works are both Umahi’s trademark of concrete.
The Ebonyi State International Olympic Stadium Complex, when completed, will dwarf the size, taste and attraction of such facility that had ever been done anywhere in this country.
The list of Umahi’s extraordinary projects is endless, as it rolls on to include a modern marvel of an International Market, interminable street light regime in the state capital and all sub-urban towns, as well as along major roads in the state, which automatically receives power from giant power generators scattered all over the state as soon as electrical power goes off, the Ebonyi State Poultry Farms, the ubiquitous rice farming and processing projects etc.
Politics and its irrationalities will always come and go, but undoubtedly, Umahi’s achievements shall certainly dominate the memories of Ebonyi people for endless generations and shall in times of necessity speak to the faint and shifty hearts of future leaders, and immeasurably raises the stakes against those who aspire to succeed him.
Any leader who has held a serious political leadership office, and did not leave a commensurate lasting beneficial legacy to the society he represents, which can be pointed to long after his death, (no matter how wealthy he becomes), is just a pathetic and pitiable soul, who was not able to differentiate himself from the beasts of the field (animal); for it is an animal that lives only for itself to eat and die and be forgotten, notwithstanding how big, how strong, or how beautiful it is.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, had justified this truism by defining a just leader as the one who aims at the good of the whole community and an unjust one as that which aim at his personal good alone. The reader can rightfully place Governor Umahi where he belongs in this divide.
In character, Governor Umahi is a glorious human enigma, decorated with deep, rare and enviable human qualities; a beautiful, humble and marvelous soul, a psychological healing machine and emotional human balm, with nebulous soothing elements of dispositions that steadily ooze from his radiant intellect; ethical lessons drawn from the scriptures that punctuates every of his discussions; steady stream of boisterous jokes and laughters that keeps the atmosphere around him in endless positive charge.
Umahi bears gratitude as a religion, and respect for fellow men as a sacred cord, irrespective of creed. He respects agreement like life and death oath, and is as reliable as the rising and setting of the sun.
Governor Umahi, by his peculiar leadership attribute and achievements, may have initiated a new leadership age and era in which emerging new leaders will want to tow his definitive path of doing things differently with distinctive bold ideas and concepts stimulated by a fertile imagination.
Proudly, I am persuaded to be a student of Umahi’s school of leadership. In the minds of objective and appreciative citizens of Ebonyi State, Umahi deserves a secular canonization. And by the time his governorship tenure draws to a close; this governor must have become a leadership supernova and humanist political icon.
Governor Umahi’s defection to the All Progressives Congress, APC, may have ruffled some dark and hideous feathers, but without apology to those who are mortally wounded by the action, I must make bold to say in succinct terms that, that defection is the most logical and pragmatic decision of a progressively spirited leader who, one, appreciates the generous spirit of President Muhammadu Buhari in helping states and governors with noble and sincere issues of development, as well as embracing the wisdom of seeking to address Igbo interest through the Nigerian seat of power and the ruling party, than the misguided strategy of staying in an opposition party to fruitlessly shoot blunt arrows at those through whom the solution could be gotten.
Umahi had always in the presence of all and sundry called Buhari his father, and had never hidden his admiration for the President’s nobility of character and sincerity of purpose, notwithstanding being in a different political party.
Success breeds envy and great success can breed danger. In an era and in a clime like ours in which human value is much warped, twisted and brazenly oriented to self, and in which ascension to an executive position is seen as absolutist inheritance of state’s financial resources to self and family; in a society which over the years have been unconsciously programmed to continuously oil the inglorious machinery of selfishness, greed and thievery; successful leaders, like Governor Umahi, who is bent on putting up legacies which endless generations of citizens shall meet and celebrate, could be viewed curiously, suspiciously and even be seen as a dangerous entity, who seeks to destroy the conspiratorial cult of loot and easy lucre, by opening the eyes of the people to what government is supposed to be. Hence success in such a society, like ours must contend with the vagaries of dark forces whose god is Mammon and their temple is the stomach.
His Excellency, Engr. David Nweze Umahi is God’s glorious gift to Ebonyi State, and the gift of Ebonyi State to modern Nigeria.
*Senator Agbo, an APC stalwart, represented Ebonyi North senatorial district in the 6th Senate (2007-2011)