By Muhammad Ajah
Your Excellency, sir
State of Ebonyi State
This is the facsimile of the writer’s conscience. To frankly begin, the first year of the return of your Excellency to the White House as the second executive governor of the state for the second term since May 29, 2011 has continued to mount challenges and yet spark hope that at the end of your second tenure, history would have to contend between advancing you as the best ever or otherwise in the leadership of the state.
When I first heard, while studying abroad, that Ebonyi was created, I was filled with joyous tears. More so, I could not contain my elation when in 1999, the first executive governor of the state, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu emerged. I sat for several hours in my cubicle and pondered over the future of the state. At last I silently told myself, “How I wished Akanu Ibiam lived to see the struggle he began with some good fathers of Ebonyi, not with the slightest thought that one of them will govern the state in no distant time. But at last, my beloved state will soon begin to taste the joy of independence and progress under a civilian governor,” i soothed myself further.
Although the penultimate military administrators had displayed their individual capacities of human senses and wisdom, people at then were still gripped with the effect of gun and gnashing teeth, lack of freedom of speech and economic hardship under the military juntas. I even entertained fears before the swearing-in. So, after May 29, 1999, I heaved a breath of relief and began to feel more nostalgic of Ebonyi as I had prayed for her prosperity and posterity.
Dr. Egwu, a son of the soil and an educationist, however, started on a good step as most politicians do in Nigeria. His eight years of leadership have left many asterisks and the state of the state speaks louder than what a pen can scribe. A good leader never accepts the philosophy of putting the past behind. And it is not for an individual man to judge his fellow.
Your Excellency, when I came into the state few years after Egwu’s inception into office, I made enquiries on his performance. The answer was from a local government official who proclaimed, “I tell you the truth. Though I am from the grassroots but always visit the state capital for official assignments, the man is wonderful; he is at his best; I think he needs only depend more on God.” I told the respondent that the best testimony is from an adversary and not a lover or beneficiary.
As a critical observer of the development in the state, my anger was quite aroused 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), USAID and CIDA rated the state fifth in terms of budget and fiscal management, service delivery, policy formulation, communication and transparency during Egwu’s regime. Well, history can be much correct now than ever.
Now, the apex of my knowledge is that Ebonyi is yet to attain its position as the salt of Nigeria. And I feel justified because a lot has not been done. There are still acute hunger, illiteracy, health hazard and maternal mortality problems pervading the state. It is socially unfair, politically unpatriotic and religiously hypocritical for writers to commend and celebrate failure or partake in misguiding a government democratically set up to deliver dividends to the people. This is a chronic ailment in the Nigerian society, but worse in states where development is seriously lagging behind.
I have always strongly advanced that education is the future hope for the state. Whatever developmental plans a governor maps out for his state are due for burial, if education is not given priority. Education is the fulcrum of 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 do fail or err basically because the light of knowledge and wisdom at times is missing.
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. Summarily, let the teachers make Ebonyi children drink the pure and healthy. Rural programmes, schools, hospitals, roads, housing scheme, sports and tourism are areas that need tremendous turn-around. Ebonyi rural dwellers yearn to have only eight hours of uninterrupted power supply every day. They need schools and hospitals with adequate infrastructures. They desire portable drinking water and they deserve living homes.
To bear in mind, constructive criticisms are like suggestions which affect positively when meticulously analysed, filtered and considered. Pupils still learn under trees and bare floor. General hospitals, examples of those in Enohia Itim, Okposi and Amasiri are without facilities and trained medical personnel. Internal roads in places like Afikpo (the second city of the state) and Isiagu where a Federal College of Agriculture is situated are in deplorable conditions.
Again, the advancement of the educational system can only work by offering a compulsory and free education at both primary and secondary school levels with the state indigenes having preferential acceptance in the state varsity in Abakaliki and the federal polytechnic in Unwana. So, you should not treat the minimum wage matter alongside free and compulsory education for Ebonyi children. It is quite worrisome that the minimum wage should be looked at by your government to be a hindrance to the educational scheme which has not yet been effectively pursued or implemented.
Sir, learning needs 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 student 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 as not to play foul as the umpires.
It was observed, even during Egwu’s regime, that although school fees were not paid, many school authorities of public schools created unnecessary levies that amounted to paying a double school fee: levies such as PTA, sports, inter-house, birth certificate, examination, lab, condolence, sendforth, 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 the government.
That, in its direct effect, forced more youths and children out of school to swell the child labour and child abuse eyesore. Once the Ebonyi education becomes functional, the thought and attitude of the people will be refined, defined and naturally projected for aggressive national utility from their young ages.
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 they are severely rebuked and punished for non-compliance and negligence. The State House of Assembly may enact a law on this. The state police and teachers/lecturers/parents can 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 at all in terms of complementing the efforts of the state government in developing the grassroots. If it can be effectively carried out, 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 with eyes 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 level has vast and fertile unploughed 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 has already been blessed by God with such vast arable lands, thereby demanding some sophisticated agricultural plans, machines 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 bring close to your government non-governmental organizations which are really not money-sharing but which are passionately devoted to assist the underprivileged in the society: such NGOs that extend hands of love and support to the widows, orphans, deserted elderly and the needy. Is it possible to create Ebonyi State Welfare Board?
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 labour market is the crime nurse. Therefore, in the presence of insufficient employment opportunities, aggressive enlightenment campaigns on youth should be carried out in such a way that the youth would imbibe the virtue of selfless sacrifice for posterity especially when they are made to accept that good work never dies unremembered or rewarded.
The sports sector of the state should be revitalized. Ebonyi Angels should not be allowed to die. Sports assist in preventing the youths from criminality especially in the face of harsh economy and somewhat frustrating conditions. The youth problem is 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 can not be acceptable. As a citizen of the state and having observed and criticized the state of Ebonyi, I, like every other Ebonyi man and woman, repose my hope on your leadership. It is the hope of Ebonyi diplomats, ambassadors of goodness, teachers, civil servants, philosophers, brainstormers/political analysts, philanthropists, fulfillers and foresighted patriots that you succeed.
This is the first year of your second tenure and concurrently the fifth year of your governance of the state. Without distracting your attention from your ongoing developmental projects, I believe more need to be done in a more sensitive, proactive and accommodating manner. More of the potentials of the state need to be explored. You should search your heart and learn to appreciate that every good you render for the state as one of its founding fathers would attract double rewards from God.
Good Ebonyi people are alive, watchful, prayerful and ready to assist in the struggle to move the state forward. And as you do your best, may God continue to assist and protect you.
Muhammad Ajah is an Ebonyi citizen, a writer, author and advocate of good governance Email: firstname.lastname@example.org