The Ebonyi State Commissioner for Project Monitoring and Evaluation, Chief Oluchukwu Ukie Ezeali (Chief P Noble), has said that residents of the state will eternally be grateful to Governor David Nweze Umahi as a result of efforts in bringing development to the state since he assumed office in 2015.
In an interview with our reporter Friday, Ezeali said that since the state was created on October 1, 1996, by late General Sani Abacha, it has never witnessed the unprecedented development brought by Umahi through the execution of projects, human empowerment, among others.
He said: “As Ebonyi State turns 25 years today, there is need to recount the interesting journey of this state and her people and measure the impact of the military and democratic leadership over the last quarter of the century.
“Ebonyi State was created by the military government of General Sani Abacha on the 1st of October, 1996, carved out of the old Enugu State and Abia State and made up of two dominant blocs: the Abakaliki Bloc and the Afikpo Bloc; a unique people richly endowed with human and mineral resources with Enugu, Abia, Cross River and Benue States as neighbours.
“Strategically located in the trade route map of Nigeria, with access to the Cameroonian continental shelf and Northern Nigeria, it was the birth of a state that held so much promise for her people.
“For 19 years, the state experienced its teething challenges as different leaders deployed the meagre resources available to the state to bring development and economic growth to the people of Ebonyi State.
“For most of the 3 years of military rule in Ebonyi State, under the administration of Navy Commander Walter Feghabor, reclaiming and renaming legacy assets seemed like the focus. The mass return and resettlement of civil servants from Abia and Enugu States saw the emergence of the Ebonyi State Civil Service and educational institutions like Ebonyi State University.”
He added: “This era witnessed quite a few challenges as the housing deficit in Abakaliki, the State capital, meant a rapid building revolution to accommodate the growing population of the state. The infrastructure deficit was equally cumbersome as road networks, electrification (especially rural electrification), pipe-borne water and even healthcare became stretched to breaking points.
“The young Military Administrator engaged these problems as best as he could, so it was a relatively stabilizing socioeconomic environment that was bequeathed to the administration of Dr Sam Egwu when democracy returned in 1999; just 3 year after the creation of the nascent state.
“Dr Sam Egwu, an educationist, immediately embarked on bridging the educational gap between Ebonyi State and the rest of the high-flying South Eastern states; with huge investments in primary, secondary and tertiary education in the state. The appeal and opportunities for higher learning created by the Sam Egwu administration saw the emergence of a well-educated Ebonyi workforce and the drastic improvement in the educational rating of the state as it became more competitive.
“Despite the skepticism of the Nigerian populace on the sustainability of the democratic era and its associated political upheavals, Dr Egwu’s was an administration of modest gains and learning for various stakeholders, especially the people.
“With a touted zoning arrangement and appreciation for his Founding Father role, Dr Martin Elechi became the second democratically elected Governor of the State in 2007. The experienced and accomplished civil servant immediately embarked on reforms within the state civil service and creating policies to attract new businesses.”
Continuing, he said: “As more service providers arrived Abakaliki and banks opened along the length of Ogoja Road and Water Works Road, Ebonyi State seemed to begin to wear the look of a destination that had come to stay and achieve sustainable development.
“Elechi’s interventions saw the increase in value of real estate investments and the increased political awareness of the people. He also increased the number of higher institutions in the state by attracting the Federal University of Agriculture Ikwo (FUNAI) and grew the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state.
“While Dr Elechi was Governor, his team was strengthened by the developmental acumen of his Deputy, Engr David Umahi, and it was no surprise, despite the manipulations, that the latter emerged the Governor of the State in 2015. Enter His Excellency, Engr David Nweze Umahi, the current Governor of Ebonyi State.
“Unlike his predecessors, this visionary was no accidental Governor. He was prepared for leadership and knew exactly what to do with the meagre resources and powers at his disposal.
“Governor Umahi hit the ground running with the amazing transformation of the Ebonyi State capital from a relatively obscure town, covered in dust, to an amazing city that glitters in the sun.”
He added: “His concrete revolution started to spread to all nooks and crannies of the state linking villages and urbanizing hinterlands. Like a spring of flowing water, the concrete roads permeated all localities and created a socioeconomic integration that has seen each village in Ebonyi State grow a commercial hub.
“He did not stop at that. Over the past 6 years Ebonyi State has emerged as the fastest growing economy in the South East of Nigeria, becoming a destination of choice; all thanks to the visionary leadership of Engr David Umahi and his amazing transformation agenda. The roads. The schools. The flyovers. The malls. The hospitals. The airport. The industrial hubs. The upgraded administrative offices.
“This accomplished civil engineer and entrepreneur knew exactly what to do to energize the rapid development and growth of the State. Ebonyi today is ranked among the best states in the country across all socioeconomic indices as more investors arrive, more jobs created, more industries opening and less urban migration ensuring sufficient skilled workforce available for employment and deployment.
“The question on the lips of political pundits across the country is; with the heights that Governor Umahi has raised the bar on governance, who could possibly be the next Governor of Ebonyi State?
“Who has the mental and moral capacity to sustain the developmental strides of this prudent gentleman? But, most of all, could there be a better candidate to take over from President Buhari and make Nigeria great again, just like Ebonyi State?”