By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
AS Nigeria’s political climate becomes charged ahead of the 2019 general elections, some of the major gladiators are already beating their chests, confident that their track record and winning strategies will lead them to victory. Oshiomhole was in Imo to insult me —Okorocha Umahi One of the political gladiators that believes his track record will deliver him in the 2019 election is the Chairman, South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Engineer Dave Umahi, who is boasting that he has no opposition to his journey to seek second tenure in office.
For him, the long years of neglect of Ebonyi State in terms of infrastructural development has become a thing of the past as his administration has embarked on massive development. Governor Umahi, who is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate has also bragged that though some of the opposition political parties may make some in-roads in the South-East in the 2019 elections, it was not yet time for them to dislodge the party in the zone.
The PDP’s Presidential coordinator in the South-East zone also believes that political affiliation of candidates may not make much impact in the forthcoming elections, rather the track records of individuals. He enthused that his agricultural revolution has made the state one of the leading food baskets of the nation.
Speaking in an interview in Abuja, the governor explained that the N4 billion agricultural loan he recently approved for workers in the state was to boost agricultural production and also improve the financial status of workers, adding that the state has a comparative advantage in agriculture. Explaining on the reason for making the state a food centre, Governor Umahi said:
“It is well known that Ebony State has a comparative advantage in agriculture and it is also a fact that what we met as our poverty index was so low in 2015 and a number of factors contributed to the level of our poverty index.
“Don’t forget that Ebonyi State is the creation of people that returned from the old Anambra State to Enugu and then to Ebonyi; the other are those from the old Imo State to Abia and then to Ebonyi State.
“We had what we can call criminal neglect over the number of years our people were in those states. And of course our state was known as the dust of the nation. So, there was no infrastructure to support development in Ebonyi State and when you talk about agriculture you also have to know that if you need to produce anything in the rural areas, you need the roads and bridges to bring them to where you can sell them. And so it made nonsense of our comparative advantage in agriculture.”
To change the narrative, the governor said he had to embark on aggressive development of the state by embarking on infrastructural development and agricultural revolution. His words:
“We have done data documentation regarding the farmers we are giving the loans and so this is responsible for the yield you are seeing in the area of rice production. We also purchased about five milling machines which we are installing in five local government areas. We are also into starch production right now and flower production. I can tell you that our poultry farm is revived and we are doing that.
“There is no amount of salary increase that will lift our civil servants from poverty level but there is also a fact to reckon with that there is so much redundancy in the civil service because when there is no money for workers to work, what will they use to work?
“So we decided to put about N4 billion so that civil servants can access soft loan depending on the number of years of your service remaining and how much is your salary. So, we gave them this loan at five percent to do agricultural activities.”
The governor, who was recently endorsed by religious and traditional groups, youths and women in the state for second tenure said, “God prepared me to His glory for this work. We have reduced our poverty index. I can technically say I don’t have opposition.”
But if there is any group of people that dread the governor, it is contractors as he scrutinizes all the contracts awarded before approving any payments. He said that his administration, despite the lean resources, was not owing any contractor although he said that contractors don’t like him.
In spite of the governor’s claims, there are opposition elements in the state. One of them All Progressives Congress, APC, Governorship Candidate, Senator Soni Ogbuoji, who has vowed to stop Governor Umahi.
He pledged to run an all inclusive government, if elected Governor next year adding that one of his reasons for going into the race was to change the present style of governance in the state and create leadership-driven administration. It is to be seen how far the opposition will go.