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Gburugburu: Celebrating A Rare Pacifist @ 60


By Samson Ezea

The name Gburugburu is unique. It exemplifies all-round. It means a man of the people. Ex-Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, popularly known as Gburugburu, is indeed a friend of all. He is a gentleman from sole to crown. He is a sexagenerian today having attained 60 years of age. He has remained himself, a unique personality with unblemished record and outstanding selfless service to humanity and mankind.

   He is disarming, amiable and awesome. He is an ex-governor whose political attainments in the murky waters of Nigerian politics and other human endeavours have been impressive, divine, quiet, smooth and seamless. He is not the usual Nigerian politician, but a leader with many positive, exemplary, enigmatic and phenomenal parts. He is indeed a living school for leadership and followership.

   Relating with him at any level leaves one with good knowledge, pleasant experiences, practical lessons and testimonies to give about his person.

    I have continued to find it difficult choosing my words or the most suitable adjectives to describe him whenever I want to write about him. Not that I don’t know what to write, I know. But my problem is how I will write about him without omitting or forgetting anything.

   This has been my challenge over the years. The more I struggle to overcome it, the more he springs up surprises by his wonderful and commendable actions and inactions that bring out the uniqueness and rare attributes in him.  

    Ugwuanyi, who clocks 60 years today, has never seen political office and politics as a do-or-die affair. To him, it should be a peaceful, rancour-free and communal exercise. This is not far from the reason he is often called Priest in politics by many.

   Meanwhile, I can vividly recall that as a young man who was desirous of making a name in journalism practice more than a decade ago, I was fortunate and privileged to commence practice of the noble profession on the politics desk.

    Writing and covering politics, politicians and their activities exposed me to many things and brought me in contact with many politicians and critical stakeholders across the country, of which Ugwuanyi is one of them.

   Since then, I have meticulously followed Ugwuanyi’s political trajectory and leadership exploits, just like other colleagues of his who are political players.

    Without mincing words or sounding hyperbolic, I can confidently and unequivocally say that Ugwuanyi, is not a typical Nigerian politician, who often politicises and sees everything from the prism of partisanship, even after elections. This is the attitude that has been the bane of good governance, peace, development and security in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.

  To Ugwuanyi, partisan politics is secondary, while good governance associated with the general wellbeing of the people and peaceful co-existence is primary. Politics to him, starts and ends before, during and after elections.

  Immediately after that, good governance takes the centre stage. The overall interest, welfare and wellbeing of the people irrespective of party affiliation, religion, tribe or status take precedence over any other interest. This has been his leadership style before and since 2015 he became Governor of Enugu State, amidst daunting and obvious challenges. He is neither pretentious, political nor hypocritical about it.

   As could be seen and experienced, while he was in office as Governor, his government’s policies and programmes had always been fashioned in that direction. It is not in doubt that it is in his nature to care and cater for others. He places so much premium on it more than any other thing. He has been passionate and consistent about it and derives joy in doing it. 

   No wonder, he has been often described as a compassionate leader, rare humanist, welfarist, pacifist and humility personified.

   Of utmost concern and worry to Ugwuanyi at every given time is how to take care of the immediate welfare and wellbeing of the people, especially the downtrodden. He believes so much in humanity and mankind.  

    As a Governor, he massively touched lives and provided comfort for people at the grassroots level with the provision of numerous critical infrastructure which include roads, hospitals, schools, jobs, and others in the rural areas across Enugu State in an equitable and unprecedented manner.

   These rural areas or communities have only been remembered or accessed by politicians before and during elections. Indigenes and residents of some of these rural communities have not seen buldozer, or asphalted roads for years. The people had lived and survived on self-help and communal efforts, that were not enough to make life meaningful and comfortable for them before now.

   Ugwuanyi government’s massive infrastructural development and opening of the rural areas across the state, led to the completion of more than 248 rural roads. That was what changed the condition for the good of the people of Akpugo community in Nkanu West Council Area, Nimbo and Nkpologu in Uzo-Uwani Council Area, Ogboduaba in Udenu Council Area and other rural communities across the state.

   Ugwuanyi is a man who is at peace with his people and God. He can sacrifice anything to ensure that peace reigns. He was never carried away by the paraphernalia of his office and exalted position of governor. He rather demystified and commonalised the myth surrounding political office, by making it accessible and available to people. He used his then position and power as Governor to unite and develop the state. Very unassuming and urbane, he is a listening leader, who loves details, people around him and good results.

   He was born into the modest and cultured family of Mr David and Mrs Veronica Ugwuanyi, of Ohom Orba in the present Udenu Local Council Area of Enugu State during the lenten period.

   He was christened Lawrence and was also given Igbo name-Ifeanyichukwu, meaning “nothing is impossible with God." A name that is meaningful, philosophical, symbolic and spiritual in all ramifications. A name that has lived with him and has continued to manifest in all his endeavours.

   Ugwuanyi, just like his siblings, was brought up under strict Christian precepts. This has in addition to nature and nurture clothed him with humility, taciturnity, intelligence, honesty and diligence.These virtues remain his greatest assets and strengths. 

   Growing among his peers, he shone like a star both in academic and extra-curricular activities during his primary, secondary and tertiary education pursuit. His exemplary leadership quality began to manifest early in his life as a secondary school student at the prestigious St. Theresa College, Nsukka, where he was outstanding in character and learning.  

    After his secondary education, he secured admission into the Nigeria’s foremost university, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and M.Sc degree in Marketing, majoring in Public Relations.

   In his quest for deep and wider knowledge, he moved further to acquire MBA degree in Finance and Accountancy from Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). While his colleagues scrambled for white collar jobs, within and outside the country upon graduation, Ugwuanyi, who has always believed and preferred working for and with his people for the common good of all, picked a job at Premier Brokers Limited, a prime insurance broking firm in the Southeast zone owned by the five states of the zone and African Continental Bank (ACB) now defunct.

  After many years of excellent performance, he rose to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Premier Broking Firm. In 2002, he became the 16th President of the Rotary Club of Emene, Enugu. It was at this point that his leadership qualities and exceptional philanthropy, especially to the downtrodden and the less privileged in the society, came to public fore.

    Without hesitation and in appreciation of his rare philanthropy, the people of his town, Orba, in an elaborate traditional ceremony conferred on him the title of Dunukenyi Gburugburu 1 of Orba, meaning the man of the people. Satisfied with his exploits and track record in public and community service, Ugwuanyi’s people beckoned on him to offer himself for political office. His foray into Nigerian politics commenced with his quest to serve as chairman of his local council area, Udenu.     

  Despite losing the opportunity due to political intrigues and backbitting, Ugwuanyi remained undaunted and focused in his political pursuits, banking on God, his people’s support and prayers.     

    In 2003, true to Ugwuanyi’s belief, expectation and hope, the political opportunity came calling. He won the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest for Igbo-Eze North/ Udenu Federal Constituency seat. He overwhelmingly won the election and his constituents enjoyed his quality representation.   

  He was rewarded and appreciated by his people with reelection in 2007 and 2011, making him the longest serving House of Representatives member in Enugu State before 2015 general elections.

    While in the House of Representatives, he moved so many motions and initiated some people-oriented bills. He also chaired and co-chaired so many committees,including Marine Transport committee,⁸ which he chaired for eight consecutive years. He built bridges across party lines and the divide. Following his philanthropy, performance and antecedent, while in the House of Representatives for more than a decade, Ugwuanyi’s desire to contest for Enugu State governorship seat on PDP platform in 2015 received massive support and accolades across the state. He won the PDP governorship ticket, contested and won again the governorship election in Enugu State in 2019.

   Unfortunately for him and for the first time since 1999, his party, PDP lost the presidency to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 election. That was how Ugwuanyi unlike his predecessors didn’t enjoy the privileges and advantages of his party being in control of the state and the centre as well.

    On assumption of office, Ugwuanyi was not perturbed by the change in the political equation at the centre. In the face of the obvious and daunting financial challenges occasioned by the country’s recessed economy in 2015, Ugwuanyi first sought the face of God and handed over the affairs of the state to Him. He faced his job with utmost diligence, equanimity and fear of God.

   Knowing that nothing could be achieved in an atmosphere of crisis and insecurity, Ugwuanyi’s administration aggressively embarked on peace, security, reconciliation missions. First, he reached out to Enugu people, which include the opposition members, youths, elders, religious leaders, women and politicians, asking them to join hands with him to move the state forward.

   He reminded them that elections were over and the wellbeing and peace of Ndi Enugu remain paramount. Initially, not many believed and took him serious until he convinced them by his actions that he is sincere and genuine in his approach to finding a lasting solution to myriad of problems confronting his people and government.With this, the people’s belief and support for his administration improved tremendously because they saw in him a man who can sacrifice anything for peace to reign. Ndi Enugu, irrespective of status, tribe, religious or party affiliation, wholeheartedly joined hands with him and his government to move the state forward.

    That was how and why Ugwuanyi was able to reconcile the political heavyweights and rivals in the state, who have been at loggerheads over age-long political differences. That was why and how estranged political allies, enemies and friends begin to talk to each other in Enugu.  This was not possible before Ugwuanyi assumed office in 2015.

   Ugwuanyi is an apostle of peace and peace reigned in Enugu under his watch like never before. That was why he was conferred with the award of the most peaceful Governor in Nigeria by Messengers Of Peace Foundation Nigeria.

   In the area of infrastructural development and appointments, Ugwuanyi’s administration equitably and sincerely distributed and allocated them without minding whose ox is gored or compromising quality, competence and standard. His penchant for youth inclusion in governance was unparalleled. This, he demonstrated by the number and quality of youths he appointed into his government.

   Many youths were also elected chairmen and councillors during his tenure in office. The autonomous communities, three senatorial zones, 17 local government areas and 260 electoral wards in the state felt the impact of Ugwuanyi’s administration one way or the other. If it is not by appointment, it is by developmental projects and others.

    No group or individual or community was excluded or marginalized in the business of governance in the state especially at the grassroots level. Apart from rejigging and repositioning the state security apparatus for optimal performance, it was Ugwuanyi’s government that first introduced and commenced the Forest Guard model in the country with the recruitment and equipping of 1700 personnel to work as Forest Guards in the state.

  The state, despite not being an oil producing state or ranked high in the monthly federation allocation remained a reference point in financial and human resources management, courtesy of Ugwuanyi’s prudence, fiscal discipline and transparency.

   Massive infrastructural development were taken to the rural areas where people have been neglected and abandoned for years. That was how the people of Amuri, a sleepy town close to Agbani in Nkanu West Council Area saw and enjoyed for the first time an asphalt road in more than100 years of their existence. Also completed was 26.6 km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima- Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani Council Area. The road was the second asphalt road in the entire council area since its creation. 

   Under Ugwuanyi’s government, Enugu State’s Internally Generated Revenues improved significantly and the state performed creditably well in the Ease of Doing Business. In 2020, his government was honoured by the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN) as the second most accountable state governments in Nigeria. While some of Ugwuanyi’s colleagues often globetrot in search of foreign investors that never come, Ugwuanyi only travelled to overseas twice while in office as Governor. He was always in the state working diligently. He was highly addicted to the business of good governance.Ugwuanyi by his leadership style which was result-driven proved that leading a state without much resources like Enugu was not a rocket science. He was the most accessible Governor in Nigeria and a governor of many feats and firsts. His popularity soared and has  continued to soar high even outside office, because of his sterling performance in office and unique attributes. Testimonies of his goodness and performances abound and overwhelming.

    Among the workers, pensioners, security agents, religious leaders, artisans, downtrodden, residents, visitors and others, Ugwuanyi’s government was popular and acceptable, because of its good governance and people-oriented programmes that directly impacted on the lives and welfare of the people. Apart from paying workers salary as at when due, his government took adequate care of other needs of workers in the state. His government rebuilt, built and equipped more 500 primary and secondary schools, recruited more than 4000 teachers and provided conducive environment for teaching and learning especially in rural areas that have been abandoned for too long.

     His administration conceptualized, commenced and completed the State University of Medical and Applied Sciences (SUMAS ) Igbo Eno. A specialized university,  first of its kind in Nigeria and the second university  in Enugu North Senatorial zone, more than 60 years after University of Nigeria Nsukka was established. Also attracted during his administration were the Federal Polytechnic Ohodo and National Open University, Opi. 

    Also constructed by his administration were the Opi Nsukka dual carriage way that was adorned with traffic and street lights, 600,000 capacity Nsukka International Stadium,  State Secretariat Annex and International Conference Centre, Ede Oballa Nsukka. It was under Ugwuanyi’s government that the first flyover bridge was constructed at T-Junction, Abakpa Nike Enugu to ease perennial traffic snarl along the axis. 

   Enugu was among the first states in Nigeria that approved and paid 30,000 minimum wage. It was because of Ugwuanyi’s sterling performance in office and others that four national dailies-The Sun, Independent, Vanguard and Leadership, independently found him worthy of honour in 2018 with different and unprecedented awards at the same time.

   These awards were first of its kind to any governor in the southeast region, if not the entire country since 1999. Even in the face of his remarkable performance in office and the accolades that poured in, Ugwuanyi didn't rest on his oars while in office. He remained humble, workaholic and focused on his job. 

   The ease, peacefulness and massive votes of which Ugwuanyi was reelected for second term spoke volume of his performance, popularity and acceptance by the people in the state. It was a clear indicator of the renewed confidence and trust the people had in him to steer the ship of the state for the next four years. It showed that Ugwuanyi was not only at home with his people, but was accessible by them and of assistance to them in time of needs and wants.

     Meanwhile, while it is expected that his family members, friends and well-wishers will roll out drums today to celebrate him amidst fanfare and razzmatazz, Ugwuanyi will in his usual manner, philanthropy and religious belief celebrate his birthday in a low key at the orphanage homes and homes of the elderly and the less privileged in Enugu. 

      His Excellency, birthday is a new start, a fresh beginning and a time to pursue new endeavours with new goals. Trudge on with confidence and trust in God, you are a very special and good person.  May today and all your days be amazing, prosperous and fulfilling as you sincerely and selflessly serve humanity. True to your name Ifeanyichukwu, Nothing Will surpass God in your life. Hurray and many more rewarding years ahead, the indefatigable leader at 60.

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