By Prince Ejeh Josh
Over the past 100 days in Enugu State since Peter Mbah took the oath of office as the Executive Governor of the state, the people of the state, and by extension, interacting people within the global sphere of cybernetics, could have observed the glaring evidence targeted at redefining the historical trajectory of the state and shaping the shared values and common destiny of the citizens in terms of what the state could achieve in the next four to eight years that would span the tenure of the administration.
Rather than bask in the euphoria that associates with the ascension of office of the governor and the command he enjoys, Governor Mbah literally set agenda for his administration even long before his election as governor. He was clear as to what the shape of leadership his government would take. He understands that the journey to arriving at the destination which he had set for himself would be tortuous, rough and tough to navigate if he must reach there with his governance philosophy being achieved.
Before Mbah took over office as governor, the state and the Southeast zone had been brooded over by hydra-headed challenges arising from insecurity, economic comatose, alarming rate of poverty, infrastructural decay, dwindling revenue, youth restiveness and leadership deficiency. These were consequential issues that deserved immediate antidotes and determined political will to solve.
One would have no doubt that the hope of rescuing the state from this multifaceted asphyxiation was farfetched given the trend of leadership culture, self-glorification and primal accumulation over altruistic gesture and lack of empathy by leaders. However, for the governor, tackling these menaces would go beyond commitment to marshaling actionable plans phased with measurable indicators and citizen-participation in governance.
In the midst of this deeming hope, Mbah pulled the string in a swift move he called disruptive innovation. Keen watchers of the emerging development, although described the actions as an unpredictable shift in the norm of governance in the country, submitted that such audacity to confront the contemporary challenges frontally would figure out the governance as the “last man standing” who had refused to be cowed by monstrous threats consuming the state like a deadly cancer.
In order to leave nobody in doubt as to his resolve to bring an array of hope to his people, who had been plagued by the holocaust of insecurity fundamentally manifesting in different variants such as the illegal sit-at-home declared by some criminal non-state actors, frightening spate of kidnapping and terrorist activities, Mbah had spared no time to identify that as an elephant to be escorted out of the state.
He explained why his administration would not cower to blackmail or be deterred by social media terrorism in the efforts to rid the state of insecurity. That explanation directly went to the threshold of his governance philosophy and promise to drive the state out of economic doldrums, eradicate poverty through exponential growth, industrialise the state with the deliberate agro-allied policy the administration had put in place. All these lofty dreams would not see the light of the day if insecurity was not dealt a fatal blow.
This led to the immediate cancellation of the much dreaded illegal sit-at-home order by criminals who had been holding the people by the jugular. The governor rallied the security architecture by building a formidable synergy among the security agencies. Fighting and winning the war against insecurity, especially the self-inflicted sit-at-home order driven by propaganda, acute ignorance and indoctrination, could be stormy and exhausting. The governor was reminded of the attempts made by different states to dismantle the chain of slavery called “sit-at-home” and how they cowardly recoiled back to their shell. Mbah would not be deterred. It was no retreat! His passion to liberate his people from implosion, starvation, ignorance and extinction saw him pledging to make the ultimate sacrifice such as his personal comfort and the reputation he had painstakingly built as a global citizen.
The commitment to provide a safe, secure and peaceful environment where investors could find attractive, sink their capital, move the state away from public sector to private sector driven economy carefully delineated to meet the $30 billion gross domestic product has seen the new administration supporting security agencies for the emerging new state. Arguably, today, Enugu State is one of the safest states for business, tourism and living. Within a short period of 100 days, Mbah was able to turn things around—moving Enugu from a state of dystopia to a state enviously standing tall amongst its contemporaries.
Sit-at-home, from all indications, has become a thing of history not only in Enugu State, but in the entire Southeast region. Mbah cracked and demystified the myth and restored sanity to the region. However, he has refused to take the credit, attributing the success to the cooperation he enjoyed from the people who elected him.
In the area of water, the state had hitherto become notorious and archetypal of an oasis without hope. Water was a luxury. It was years of agony for the residents of the state. Hope of having water flowing again in the premier state had not only dimmed but had also dissipated over the past decades.
When Mbah assumed office and said he wanted to do things differently by giving the people of the state clean water that would be taken for granted within 180 days of his administration, many had described it as a political joke taken too far. That promise sounded strange to their hearing. Perhaps, it was factual impossibility because they were used to bad governance.
The governor said it was a promise he must achieve, in fact, in less than that 180 days’ timeframe. He assembled the best of the engineers who identified the issues and the quick fix remedies. He understood that the daily consumption rate of water in the state metropolis is about 100,000 cubic metres, and the capacity each of the sources of water in the state could produce. With the intervention so far, in less than 100 days in office, the state is generating over 125,000 cubic metres of water. At the Ninth Mile crash programme, the target of producing 60,000 cubic metres has been met through over 18 industrial boreholes of 150 horsepower pumps each. The Oji and Ajali water schemes had been activated to a capacity of about 60,000 cubic metres, with the Iva Valley producing between 5,000 and 6,000 cubic metres of water. Harvesting water from these sources could mean sending rocket to the space for those that had previously tried it. But Mbah has done it through another means by disrupting the traditional space.
Currently, massive works are ongoing at some of the reservoir facilities, which had been abandoned for years. With the Abaja Ngwo pressure tank housing about 10,000 cubic metres, High Pressure Tank at Ugwu Peak with 3,000 cubic metres, North East Tank at Emene with 12,500 cubic metres, Nsude Break Pressure tanks with over 2,500 cubic metres and Milliken Hill storing 20,000 cubic metres of water, all now restored to good working condition, the state is set for the industrial revolution.
Presently, the state-of-the-art model school, which would be constructed in the 260 wards in the state with its pilot scheme at the verge of completion, the Mbah’s administration has set the pace for what is termed digital revolution. The model of the school is targeted at exposing every child in the state who has attained the age of three to information and communication technology (ICT). The idea of the education policy is to have our children compete with students in developed countries. This is a foundation for a generation that would drive the needed development in the international digital space.
The governor had earlier bemoaned the increasing poverty among the citizens and made it a matter of state policy to eradicate poverty by bringing the index to zero percent. This process has been activated with the payments of arrears of pensions, which his government inherited. He is as well taking further steps to clear the over 17 years of gratuities the state and local governments are owing its retirees. The development economists are already describing this step as a policy that would radically transform the economy of the state in a matter of time.
Enugu environment is now second to none in the country. Few months ago, the state was an object of ridicule, decked with stench and foul-smelling refuse and garbage. Every street and corner had a fair share of heaps of rubbish. It appeared the state had lost sense of urgency to governance. But the governor reasoned that things would not continue in that trend. Health, he noted, is wealth. To do things differently, in that very week he took office, he declared a state of emergency on the environment with his crack team. In just three months, with modern waste management system, refuse disposal compactor trucks and trained personnel, Enugu is breathing back to life. The aesthetics is back. Night life is also back in the state with the attention the streets had recently got in areas of street light, proper policing system, decent traffic management and assurances of safety.
The governor is known for his policy on innovation and digital transformation of the public service through e-governance. This is a key to efficiency and proactive response approach to meeting the people needs. In only 100 days, Enugu State has joined the comity of states with a platform of e-governance and automation of services. Most of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies have migrated from traditional pipeline of offering services to modern method where anyone can access the state’s services in any part of the world. All thanks to the innovative digital governor.
Several reforms that would ensure accountability, transparency, traceability and prudent management of the state resources had been taken by Governor Mbah in the past months. At least, 81 roads had also been identified to be constructed and completed before the end of 2023. Mbah’s audacity to do things differently even in the face of resistance by norms that had stunted growth is beaming an array of hope. Gradually, the state is inching closer to the tomorrow, which is already hovering around us.
Prince Ejeh Josh is the Special Assistant to Governor on Research and Publication