Economic Challenges and Ugwuanyi’s Midas Touch
We salute you for keeping Enugu State out of the news for bad reasons,
And for keeping Enugu State in the news for the right reasons. (Frank Nweke Jr. October 19, 2020).
At the end of the Second World War, Japan was in ruins, having been pummelled to rubbles by two atomic bombs. About a decade after Japan had transformed into an economic superpower, confidently seated as, until recently, the second largest economy in the world. How did it happen? Japan abandoned war and armament and pursued economic prosperity. And the country rose like a Phoenix from the ashes, in fact, by 1968 (barely 13 years after an atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima), Japan had risen to the position of second largest economy in the world. Russia probably has the largest armament in the world, but the per capita income of a Japanese is almost twice that of a Russian. Likewise, the Second World War tore Germany into shreds, especially economically. With Hitler gone and the War over, like Japan, Germany accepted to pursue peace, and channelled energy away from weaponry to pursue economic prosperity. By 1950 (five years after the War ended) Germany, especially Western Germany was already blossoming. The road to economic prosperity is Peace! Peace! Peace!
Enugu State was definitely not in a war situation, but in 2015 when Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi assumed office as the Governor of Enugu State, the political atmosphere in Enugu was cyclonic. The State was in a cauldron of hate, rivalry and rancour. The tension was palpable. The struggle for power had been bitter and rancorous. Some party men clung to their ambitions, and refused to let go. Some of the political bigwigs even within Ugwuanyi’s own party were determined not to throw in the towel, and had sworn to ruin his Government. Ugwuanyi would not let that happen! He came to power with an economic blue-print to lead the State to prosperity. And he knew that if he was going to make headway, he must, first of all, de-tense the State. He understood that peace was a sin qua non for development, whether at the State or National level. So, Ugwuanyi set to work building bridges. In less than one year the bitterness was gone, and was replaced by a pan-Enugu vision shared, not only by the political class across party lines, but also by the multi-ethnic groups that people the State.
What followed was an economic leap that was unprecedented in the history of the State. In one clean sweep Ugwuanyi doubled the IGR of the State. In December 2020, Enugu State was voted the second-best State after Kaduna State in Accountability and Transparency in governance. In 2018, World Bank ranked Enugu State first in the South-East, and third in Nigeria, in terms of Ease of Doing Business and Business Start-Ups. Of all the thirty-six States in Nigeria, Enugu State was ranked among the six most viable States by the reputable Economic Confidential in its 2019 Annual State Viability Index (ASVI). Is it not intriguing, even mystifying that Governor Ugwuanyi was able to double the IGR of Enugu State, yet maintains a leading position among the thirty-six States, in terms of Ease of Doing Business? It indeed is, if we consider that in the 2016 Journal of Economic Perspectives, Ease of Doing Business pertains to the strategies of evolving better and simpler regulations to enable businesses to thrive.
Oftentimes, an increase in IGR means an increase in taxation. So, how did Ugwuanyi manage to double the IGR of his State, and still rank first in Ease of Doing Business? A million-dollar-question! Under Ugwuanyi, Enugu State has joined the prestigious Global Start-Up Ecosystem ranking as reported by Dr Baida Ziv. Enugu became a full-fledged State in 1991, but it had never been captured in the Start-up Ecosystem ranking; Ugwuanyi made it possible for Enugu to be ranked in the 2021 global Start-up Ecosystem report. The report emerged in the middle of June 2021. Enugu is probably the only State from Nigeria, which had never been ranked before that managed to make it into the league in 2021.
Ugwuanyi’s polished, smooth, easy-going exterior disguises an ultra-brilliant, keen-minded, deep-thinker. He combines exposure with native intelligence. He is a man in a class of his own. Solidly educated and armed with highquality first and second degrees in Business Administration, topped up by a plethora of professional qualifications, Ugwuanyi is at home in basically every area of life. It is his shinning intellect that he has brought to bear on governance. He plans with precision, and delivers results with pin-point accuracy. He has a bird’s eye-view of every aspect of human capital and infrastructural development. His magnificent success in economic planning is giving birth to projects that are ordinarily beyond the fiscal capacity of the State. For the first time in the history of the State, a flyover is about to become a reality at the strategic point of the popular T-Junction at Abakpa Nike.
For the first time in the history of the state a housing project for civil servants comprising 750 one bedroom, two bedroom, and three bedroom bungalows with an unbelievably prolonged instalment payment plan is fasting becoming a reality near the New Market Bridge at Onyeama. Of all the thirty-six States in Nigeria, including the FCT, Enugu State is adjudged by credible statistics to have the least number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Ugwuanyi made it possible. The story of what Ugwuanyi has accomplished in the areas of health-care, road infrastructure, education, scholarships, SME (Small and Medium Enterprises that is generating thousands of jobs leveraging modern technology), just name them, some day the story will be told. While some States are downsizing their work-force, Ugwuanyi is employing, while some States are owing salaries, Ugwuanyi, is not only paying regularly (25th day of every month), but has also continued to pay thirteenth month salary at the end of the year since the inception of his administration. While some States are on a borrowing spree, Ugwuanyi has refused to borrow a quid, effectively managing the funds he is generating, while some States have abandoned projects littered everywhere, Ugwuanyi has no such thing. With him to begin is to finish!
To say that Enugu is not a resource-based State amounts to repeating the obvious; neither is the State a beneficiary of any special revenue formula. But Ugwuanyi has a special formula: fiscal responsibility. He deploys money like a General in the battle-field deploying his soldiers for effective combat. Expectedly, therefore, Ugwuanyi has kept his State in the news for only the right reasons! Hopefully, we shall come to a point in this country when our finest men, when men who have a natural skill in dousing tension and bringing peace, when men, who live clean, exemplary, and scandal-free life, when men for whom justice, equity and fair-play is a way of life will have the opportunity to come to the centre-stage and show the world the giant we really are. Indeed our dream of a peaceful, prosperous nation is possible, but we must, as a nation, show perspicacity and discernment in recognising the leaders among us, who are our brands.