With high wire intrigues, the Ebonyi State Governor, Martin Elechi, is now the issue in the state’s politics, writes Benjamin Nworie
At the inception of the Chief Martin Elechi administration in 2007, there was some sort of relief and many thought the ‘saviour’ had come. And true, they were not wrong after all. From job creation, to human capacity building and infrastructure development, the Elechi success story is almost endless. When he initially reeled out his programmes for the state, he became the 'oracle' almost instantly. Yet, the emergence of governorship has many sides to the story.
There was the part of perceived 'betrayal' by the former governor, Dr Sam Egwu to handover to the erstwhile speaker of the state House of Assembly, Barrister Julius Ucha based on the rumoured 'gentlemanly' agreement that Egwu would relinquish power to Ucha for preventing him from being devoured by the ‘Abuja Group’.
At the state township stadium, venue of the governorship primaries, people came out en mass to celebrate the ascension of Ucha to the exalted seat in the state as he was the most popular aspirant. But the moment Ucha announced that he had stepped down for Elechi, the whole stadium was deserted, enveloped with despair, anguish and flood of tears overwhelmed Ucha's supporters.
By this time, Elechi was not in the equation even though he was the commissioner for works from the East Central state and on the front seat in the clamour for the creation of Ebonyi state. In fact, when the news of his emergence as the PDP candidate filtered into town, people began to look for his posters to know who he was. But regardless of the disappointment and misgivings, he was accepted by the people.
His popularity, occasioned by his acceptance, continued. As governor, he started by initiating and constructing 19 bridges of unity across in the state for interconnectivity of the hitherto disjointed communities by Ebonyi Rivers. And as he continued to send messages of purposeful leadership, he launched the attitudinal change policy anchored on the premise that nothing is right until it is done right, which gave birth to his being nicknamed 'Ochudo time' as he is fastidious about punctuality. In the past, time was not really of essence. Government functions billed to start, for instance, at 10am might kick off by 2pm.
From instilling the need for everybody to be of good behaviour, especially those in government to the need for the masses to obey government policies and programmes, the peace of the state was affected following the Ezza/Ezillo communal land dispute in 2008. The crisis which claimed many lives both of indigenes and non-indigenes was adjudged to have been politically motivated, though the immediate cause of the crisis was as a result of the differences that attended the need to set up phone booths in the state.
As the governor battled to solve the dispute, agitation for increment in the minimum wage set in and this bifurcated further the thrust in Elechi’s administration. Opinions and supports became polarised with increased acrimonies in the polity. As time went on, the performances in the three point agenda of Elechi’s administration namely institutional reform, infrastructural development and attitudinal change became the assessment index, albeit to the consternation of his transducers.
Seven years into the life of the administration, there are believed to be the manifestation of concrete achievements, monumental transformation and a transition to new and cleaner state. The national good governance tour led by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Labaran Maku visited Ebonyi and was amazed on the transformation and achievements in virtually all sectors in the state.
Apart from physical development, Elechi has attained a strong political footing in the country and cannot be pushed around to supporting whatever is contrary to his belief and convictions. For instance, he has strongly opposed the creation of state police, regional government, and local government autonomy and has remained disgusted on the abuse of the presidency.
This year’s democracy celebration was another litmus test for the assessment of the Elechi administration. From Udensi roundabout to the old kpiri-kpiri market, there was heavy human and vehicular traffic gridlock, such that the security had to block the old Enugu Abakaliki road leading to the state township stadium, to prevent stampede or negative eventualities.
There was equally heavy presence of security men at various strategic points in the capital city. But the crowd was difficult to contend with as the stadium was filled to capacity with over 20, 000 people outside the gate of the stadium. It was also a nightmare for motorists as there was no parking space. Apart from the tumultuous crowd, those who matter in Ebonyi were also in attendance. Former governor Egwu chaired the occasion. National assembly members, captain of industries opinion leaders, founding fathers and mothers graced the occasion.
Senator Paulinus Igwe Nwagu was however absent. But the attendance of the dignitaries was not surprising because most of them came to hatch and cement their political ambition in 2015. The solidarity was therefore understandable.
As the 2015 general election is around the corner, with Elechi at the center of deciding mostly who gets what, the general assumption was that Elechi had become the “Oracle” of the state’s politics. This may not be far from the truth though. In every society, before serious decisions are taken, the oracle must be consulted. And whatever the oracle says is sacrosanct.
When the chairman of PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih visited the state in 2012, he affirmed that Elechi was an 'oracle' in national discourse. Anenih said Elechi had remained a pivotal force on national issues for his advice, views and suggestions. The BoT chairman said there was no issue of national importance that the governor won't be consulted for his wealth of knowledge.
In 2011 at the state PDP secretariat, Elechi endorsed the former PDP chairman, Dave Umahi as his deputy and his “supernatural” power in the state politics crept into the 2013 local government elections, where he orchestrated the endorsement of four council chairmen for second term against acclaimed ‘gentlemanly’ agreement in the councils. The agitation for power shift and zoning principle has to an extent been nipped in the bud.
The ‘oracle’ has zoned power to Ebonyi South for sake of equity and fairness. Since Elechi came into power, the assumption of oracleship became glaring in the eyes of political watchers.
The state PDP youth leader and National President of Ebonyi Youth Assembly, Comrade Chinedu Ogah once said whoever the governor chooses as his successor automatically receives the support of the youths in the state. For him, Elechi has brought democratic dividends to the people.
Ogah's boys, apart from being the backbone of Elechi's security, also rallied round the governor in 2007 and 2011 to ensure his victory. Not only that Ogah and his boys have endorsed Elechi for Ebonyi Central senatorial position, it is trite to say that the group had begun the project in the four council areas to seek the approval of the zone for Elechi's ambition.
The campaign started with church visitation to seek the face of God in the senatorial project solely undertaken by Ebonyi Youths Assembly. Elechi's senatorial endorsements and consent have dwarfed other interested aspirants in the zone. His campaign offices across the four council areas of Ikwo, Ishielu, Ezza South and Ezza North are ready for use. And the assurance of the youths is that they would stop at nothing to ensure that Elechi emerges victorious.
To ensure easy mobilisation and movement in the rural areas in the zone for the project, Ogah has launched four Sienna buses for the four council coordinators and motorcycles for all the wards coordinator for Elechi's campaign, waiting to be inaugurated.
Even as Elechi's ambition gathers momentum, the present occupier, Senator Paulinus Igwe-Nwagu has kept mute over the political calculation of the youth arm of the PDP to cede his position to the Ikwo born 'oracle'. Although speculation has it that Igwe-Nwagu is quiet because he is interested in Elechi's seat. If the calculation works out for him, he might go into negotiations with Elechi.
But the governor has not openly accepted the offer placed on his table to vie for the position, as he is said to be interested only in completing his projects before leaving office.
Elechi, in his transformation drive, was never scared of taking blames and criticism. He had always convoked town hall meetings to feel the pulse of the people on various policies and programmes of the government. The thinking of many is that he would leave office on May 29, 2015 as a fulfilled governor.
Commissioner for Information and state Orientation and one of the advocates of the Clamour for Continuity Initiative for Elechi’s re-election in 2011, Chief Chike Onwe collaborated such a thinking when he said on a visit to Ebonyi State today, one would be pleasantly shocked to see how Elechi has “unleashed exceptional powers of ingenuity to transform an ordinarily rural state into one modern city where life is fast becoming living.
“Elechi has delivered on his promises. He has repositioned the state civil service, cleaned the system of corruption as his administration is about the only one in which even the opposition parties have not found any reason to accuse it of diverting the peoples’ commonwealth into private coffers as well as provided massive infrastructure that the people may enjoy quality life,” he said.