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Nigeria

Open letter to Governor Dave Umahi

By Muhammad Ajah

Your Excellency, sir

Congratulations on your election victory and swearing in as the third executive governor of our beloved Ebonyi state. This is first year of the occupation of your Excellency of the White House as the first citizen the state. You have, therefore, made history that would have to contend between advancing you as the best governor of the state or otherwise at the end of your first tenure. Your achievements will speak for themselves and put Ebonyians in the position to demand for your second tenure. I trust you can do it.

Governor Dave UmahiIn 1999, the first executive governor of the state, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu emerged. He was the first civilian governor. That meant that he had the greatest opportunity to prove his worth in the academics and turn around the very little fortunes of the state. Dr. Egwu as an educationist, however, started on a good step as most politicians do in Nigeria. But his eight years of leadership finally left many asterisks and the state of the state spoke at the end louder than what a pen could scribe. Chief Martin Nwachor Elechi who was one of the founding fathers of the state came, saw but left many questions unanswered on why he participated in the founding of the state.

I am a very critical observer of the development in Ebonyi state. I was angered when the National Planning Commission (NPC) and donor agencies comprising the British Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID0 and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) rated the state fifth in Nigeria in terms of budget and fiscal management, service delivery, policy formulation, communication and transparency during Egwu’s regime. I doubted that rating because the truth was that Ebonyi did not attain its position as the salt of Nigeria. There were acute hunger, frustrating illiteracy, high health and environmental hazard and maternal mortality problems pervading the state. Writers commended and celebrated failure or partook in misguiding the government that was democratically set up to deliver dividends to the Ebonyi people. I was even more angered when former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, on assessment tour of the development in the state, gave a pass mark to the Elechi administration.

Your Excellency, this is a chronic ailment in the Nigerian society, but worse in states where development is seriously lagging behind. I appeal to you to be guided by the wisdom that you employed in defeating a sitting governor. And on that note, I strongly advance that education is the future hope for the state. Whatever developmental plans a governor maps out for his state are to achieve little results if education is not given priority. Education is the fulcrum for social development, mental and creative productivity as well as individual self-reliance and progress. A byword says that with knowledge and wealth, people build their domain; and never had a realm been built with ignorance and poverty. Here, emphasis is laid on knowledge because many unlearned rich or influential people have failed basically because the light of knowledge and wisdom at times is missing.

Your Excellency, though said it is easier to force a horse to a river but difficult to force it drink, you should give Ebonyians the fundamental opportunity to create a future for and by themselves. Give the Ebonyi teachers the motivation to make Ebonyi children drink the pure and healthy water. Rural programmes, schools, hospitals, roads, housing scheme, sports and tourism are areas that need tremendous turn-around. Ebonyi rural dwellers yearn to have power supply. They need schools and hospitals with adequate facilities. They need infrastructures. They desire portable drinking water and they deserve living homes. They need security and food. And they need freedom of association. Bring back our Ebonyi Angels.

Your Excellency, some Ebonyi pupils still learn under trees and bare floor. General hospitals, examples of those in Enohia Itim, Okposi, Ibii and Amasiri are virtually without facilities and trained medical personnel. Internal roads in places like Afikpo which is the second city of the state are in very deplorable conditions. The Abakaliki-Afikpo Road is an eyesore. Moreover, the advancement of the educational system can only work by offering a compulsory and free education at both primary and secondary school levels. The Ebonyi indigenes should be given preferential acceptance in the state varsity in Abakaliki and the federal university and polytechnic at Ndufu-Aleke and Unwana respectively.

Sir, effective and efficient learning demand conducive environment and competent selfless administrators and instructors. To make teachers more efficient, active and productive, training programmes and seminars should be compulsorily and periodically organized for them while stringent rules that will guide the activities of the pupils and students should be reviewed. There should be annual fiscal and honorary rewards to the best performing teachers at ward, local and state levels while the supervisors should equally be motivated so that they do not play foul as the educational umpires in the state.

Investigations showed that during Egwu and Elechi regimes, school fees were not paid, but public school authorities created unnecessary levies that amounted to paying a double school fee: levies such as PTA, sports, inter-house, birth certificate, examination, lab, condolence, send forth, corpers’, security, agriculture, school maintenance, among others. All these make it very difficult for an average income earner to release the children and wards for training, thus frustrating, confusing and sabotaging the free education regime of those regimes. The sum of money collected by the public schools forced more youths and children out of school to swell the child labour and child abuse eyesore.

Once the Ebonyi education is functional, the attitude of the people will be projected for aggressive state and national utility from their young ages. And connected to these too are the social vices like examination malpractices, general school maladministration, cultism, child-abuse (trafficking and prostitution) at schools. Parents and teachers can stop exam cheatings and child abuse if there is an enforceable law that stipulates punishment for non-compliance and negligence. The State House of Assembly should enact such law if it had not been in existence. The state police should collaborate with the teachers, lecturers and parents to battle cultism to a standstill. Cultism, worrisomely, is gradually and steadily gaining acceptance into the secondary schools.

Your Excellency, in the interest of the Ebonyi people, actions should be taken on these: One, the local government leaderships (including the development centres) seem to be doing extremely very little or nothing in terms of complementing the efforts of the state government in developing the grassroots. There is need to set up a monitoring team that will quarterly or bi-annually tour all the local government areas and development centres to see what is being done for the people at the rural levels. The tour should be unscheduled and without pre-information to the local leaderships. Moreover, the state at the local government levels has vast and fertile unutilized lands that demand modern farming technology. Nearly every human need comes from land and with farming most of the developed countries without petroleum or gold have flourished. Egypt, for instance, lives largely on revenues from the duo of farming and tourism. Most North African countries have turned their deserts into green farmlands from where they export cash crops for their national incomes. Ebonyi is blessed by God with such vast arable lands, thereby demanding some sophisticated agricultural plans and mechanism to grow and engage the citizens. Small sale industrial scheme should be seriously encouraged while Ebonyi Investment and Property Company should rise up to its challenges.

Your Excellency, you need to create under the Ministry of Women Affairs the Ebonyi State Welfare Board that can be saddled with the responsibility of catering for the widows, orphans and deserted elderly. One of the greatest problems facing the state is associated with the youth: unemployment, lack of education and thus the natural inclination to crime and societal vices. The sports sector of the state should be revitalized. Ebonyi Angels should be brought back to life. Sports assist in preventing the youths from criminality especially in the face of harsh economy and somewhat frustrating conditions. Problems associated with the youth are the greatest. Any leader who is able to contain them can comfortably be addressed as progress-friendly. He can be called labour-friendly, child-friendly, youth-friendly and parent-friendly.

Finally, do not be complacent with whatever you achieve as a leader. When a leader is commended, it should be a challenge to do more. You should handle the scanty resources of the state with utmost frugality. Ebonyi people have entrusted the state onto you and to let them down cannot be acceptable. It is hoped that you will make clear difference in the governance of the state. This is the first year of your first tenure. But you are not new in the government. Explore the potentials of the state; search your heart and carry every Ebonyi citizen along. Ebonyi people are ready to assist in the struggle to move the state forward. God bless you with the wisdom, political will and selflessness required for success in your task ahead.

Source: Muhammad Ajah is an Ebonyi citizen, a writer, author, advocate of good governance and the rule of law Email: [email protected]

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