By Sheddy Ozoene —
All roads, literally, led to Ikem last Monday as the long-awaited governorship campaign of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi took off to a rousing start. The choice of the once-sleepy headquarters of Isi Uzo Local Government Area is somewhat strategic: nothing else better showcases the transformation of the rural areas Enugu state, a priority policy of the outgoing Governor, Sullivan Chime.
To Ugwuanyi, Ikem is a metaphor for rural development. Not only have the dusty roads given way to smooth asphalt, pockets of industries are already springing up. Now one of the state’s emerging urban areas is already taking political centre-stage. It is a conversation in development that is ongoing in several other areas of Enugu State which Ugwuanyi has pledged to continue.
The PDP candidate had chosen to kick-start his quest for Enugu State governorship by pledging to follow in the footsteps of the incumbent governor. While delivering his address at the rally that drew an unprecedented crowd of party faithful, he had declared that he would run his administration on a mantra of 3Cs: continuity, consistency and consolidation. While he vowed that his government will be a seamless continuation of Chime’s administration, programmes would only be reviewed where necessary, but “there will be no radical departure from the heritage of this trajectory and blueprint for success which we will be most honoured and privileged to inherit come May 29, 2015”.
It was a capacity crowd that had in attendance all the political heavyweights in the state. Governor Chime had led Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Representative Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, Senator Gil Nnaji, Amb. Kingsley Ebenyi and several others to the rally, a symbolic closing of ranks for all the major gladiators in the state’s politics. At a stage, they all found space to stand side-by-side on the raised platform. The message was clear that the party was united behind Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, one man they say carries their collective aspirations.
Ugwuanyi’s speech was full of eulogies for each of them, but especially for Chime, whom he said rose to the demands of our times by confronting the challenges of development and political leadership in the state. In extolling his Four-Point Agenda, namely Physical Infrastructure, Economic Expansion and Employment, Rural Development and Service Delivery, Ugwuanyi said Chime’s tenure had “opened a new chapter of good governance, moral leadership, and unequalled transformation of our State”.
In noting the present administration’s bold steps towards the infrastructural transformation of Isi-uzo, especially the Ugwogo Nike-Opi-Nsukka asphalt road, the Ugwogo-Ikem road and other road projects in the area, he promised to continue the road project from Ikem through Neke, Mbu, Umualor, Eha-Amufu, and all the way to Nkalagu.
He drew a loud hilarious ovation, however, when he declared that “were it not for the constraint by Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution which provides that a governor can only occupy office for a maximum of two terms of four years each, people of the state would have gladly asked Governor Chime to continue in office beyond 2015”. Not even Chime, who is already looking forward to a deserved rest after handing over in May, could hold his laughter at the testimonial. The ball will, however, soon be in the court of Ugwuanyi, who humbly regards his choice for the February 28 elections as a great honour which he would reciprocate to the best of his ability through hard work and purposeful leadership.
To the outgoing governor, it was a day to wax optimistic. As far as he was concerned, PDP will ultimately carry the day in the polls of February. The ongoing campaign rallies are “simply to renew the cordial relationship between the government and people of the state and to introduce candidates for elective positions and ask for continued support”. He had no doubts that, as usual, the party will trounce the others. At the appropriate time, he continued, he would embark on a ‘thank-you’ tour across the state to show appreciation for the support given the PDP all through his tenure.
From both Chime and Ugwuanyi, the message to Ndigbo on the 2014 elections was clear: vote PDP all the way and not trust people that would come to you with promissory notes. They were unanimous in rallying them behind President Goodluck Jonathan for another term. He has not only given Ndigbo a sense of belonging in the affairs of this nation, he made the age-long quest for an international airport in the South-East possible. The Onitsha Seaport, which Ugwuanyi as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Transport, was privileged to be part of its realization, is another landmark of the Jonathan PDP administration, just like the ongoing construction of the Second Niger Bridge and the revival of Port Harcourt –Enugu railway service.
The highpoint of the outing came with the introduction of Hon. Cecilia Ezeilo, Ugwuanyi’s running mate and member representing Ezeagu constituency in the state House of Assembly. As the state’s first female deputy governor, if elected, her candidature is a big boost for the Ugwuanyi ticket which has drawn plaudits across the state.