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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Besides Propaganda, What’s the Opposition Offering in Enugu?

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2023 is around the corner. But it is not just another year. Nigerians are living in desperate times and 2023 becomes that year of deliberate decision-making to either put Nigeria on the path of recovery and prosperity or shove her further down the path of doom.

It will be wonderful if we elect the best president in the world to tackle Nigeria’s hydra-headed challenges. But he will not be able to do much if we don’t elect governors who have what it takes to also lead their people through the prevailing economic and security challenges and the tough times ahead.

Time was when the states lived off the Federation Account. But if we consider when last the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) made remittances to the national coffers, then we must come to terms with the reality that the era of national cake from the centre is gone.

There is hardly anything left to share. States must now bake their own cakes and chart their respective course to self-reinvention or perish. That naturally means that more than any other time, states are in desperate need of visionary, innovative, courageous and competent leaderships.

It means that anyone, who is a lover of Enugu, who has keenly followed the events leading up to the 2023 governorship election will agree that the efforts by the opposition to reduce the contest to sheer propaganda and sloganeering instead of energetically proposing alternative visions and programmes for the tough days ahead is dangerous.

Meanwhile, when I say “opposition”, I say it with a lot of reluctance because if you ask me, what I see are mostly people, who jumped unto other political platforms in their desperate bid for the Lion Building. Some of them jumped ship after losing out in contest for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket.

In fact, one of them served as a member of the House of Representatives, Special Adviser to Deputy President of the Senate, Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan, Commissioner for Local Government Affairs and later Commissioner for Environment in the Governor IfeanyiUgwuanyi administration until he resigned in March 2022 to seek the PDP governorship ticket. He occupied all these positions on the platform of the PDP and only jumped ship in June 2022.

Another governorship candidate served as Coordinator of the Community County Council initiative during the PDP administration of Senator ChimarokeNnamani administration and later as Chief of Staff to Nnamani before proceeding to Abuja to serve as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Duties at 37 in 2003.

He went on to serve as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Special Duties and Youth Development, Minister of Information and National Orientation as well as Minister of Information and Communication in the Chief OlusegunObasanjo administration.

Some of the candidates and ‘opposition’ leaders in Enugu were founding members of the PDP, ran for offices in the PDP, served in one federal board or the other and executed many mouth-watering contracts under the PDP.

So, when they come out lampooning the same PDP where they nested in and made their political fortunes and when they besmear the PDP candidate, Dr. Peter Mbah, for serving in the same Dr. Nnamani administration, which they also served in or benefitted hugely from, you are compelled to wonder if they took all of us for fools or thought that the entire Ndi Enugu just dropped from the outer space.

But let us even pretend that we have opposition in Enugu State in the real sense of it, the question is: what are they proposing to the people of Enugu come 2023? I asked this question because we are not seeing them campaigning. We are not seeing them speaking to issues. We are not seeing them proffering credible alternatives or solutions.

We have not seen their manifestoes. In fact, when the Enugu State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association invited the governorship candidates to an interactive session during their Law Week recently, one of the ‘opposition’ candidates told the lawyers that he had no manifesto. Are you kidding me? Na propaganda Enugu people go chop for desperate times like these?

Conversely, even if for any reason you don’t like Dr. Mbah and the PDP, you cannot accuse him of not being clear on his agenda for Enugu State.

He launched a manifesto that even cerebral and respected clergies like Msgr. Prof. Obiora Ike have hailed as comprehensive and ambitious.

Msgr. Ike, who recently recounted the story of Mbah, his humble beginning, his days in school and rise to an entrepreneurial giant, had gone further to describe him as a technocrat, not a politician.

Looking through Mbah’s manifesto, you could easily see his intent, views or beliefs and motivation for running for the office of the governor. He clearly states that his vision is to make Enugu one of the top three states in Nigeria in terms of GDP, and achieve zero percent rate in the poverty headcount index, while his mission is to deliver quality, people-focused governance by making Enugu the preferred destination for investment, business, tourism, and living.

He specifically outlines his strategic objectives as ensuring peace and security, inclusive economic development, and sustainable prosperity for all citizens of Enugu State by 2031.

Meanwhile, he did not just make promises, his vision is reduced to specific, measurable, achievable and realistic bits.

Importantly, his programmes are time-bound and he tells you how he hopes to achieve each of them.

In the area of economy, for instance, it has gone into the subconscious of Enugu people that he promises to grow the state’s economy from the present $4.4 billion GDP to $30 billion in eight years.

On how he hopes to achieve that, he outlines strategic policy incentives that enhance public-private investments in key growth-enabling sectors, energy and natural resources development, agricultural and agro-allied industrialization and rural development, private sector development and integrated development.

In the area of infrastructure, you could hold him accountable for promising to do 1,250 kilometers of roads every year for eight consecutive years, totaling 10,000 kilometers for that period. This covers major, access and ring roads.

For security and peace, he has proposed a three-pronged approach, namely, integrated programme to speed up youth employment, integrated rural development programme (roads, water, sanitation, IT infrastructure, agro-allied industrialization, distributed renewable energy systems), as well as community policing and participatory governance.

He also intends to roll out and enhance security infrastructures such as CCTV cameras, drones and also build or modernise fingerprint analysis systems, databases, laboratories, DNA laboratories, etc.

From water resources, to creative industry, urban renewal, public and civil service, judiciary, public transportation, tourism development, education, healthcare, employment generation, sport and youth development, environmental management and sanitation, etc., it is the same clear vision, programmes, how and when they would be achieved.

On how to fund his ambitious manifesto, he has developed a funding model that doesn’t even mention the Federation Account.

Instead, he is focusing on enhancing the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), blocking revenue leakages, expanding the tax net without increasing the tax rate, attracting private sector investors, engendering innovative co-financing with the private sector, introducing Diaspora Investment Bond and Securitization, building partnerships with financial institutions and international development banks to attract funds and investments.

Despite flying the flag of the ruling party, he is presently holding town hall meetings across the 68 development centres of the state, interacting with the people on their peculiar needs while also explaining his manifesto and how he hopes to impact their lives. He is also doing the same with professional bodies, labour unions, religious bodies, traditional institutions, etc. His media and outdoor advertising presence are also heavy.

Regrettably, whereas Enugu can only be built on the strength of vision and innovative ideas, the ‘opposition’ is nowhere to be found, except the dingy pits of propaganda, fabrication of fake stories, attacks and smear campaigns rather than focusing on issues.

Could it be that NwaMgbeke doesn’t know how to barb or that the edges of the blade are blunt? Obviously, they have nothing to offer, otherwise they should have been preoccupied with dishing out their agenda and programmes to the electorate. But as the Latin saying goes, _Nemodat quod non habet_ (no one can give what they do not have).

By Raymond Okorie

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