For the second time in the life of this administration, President Muhammadu Buhari visited Ebonyi State last week, commissioned landmark projects, and equally passed the night. Rare, very rare on visits to States.
The President has 36 Governors to relate with, and possibly contend with. Political party would not matter, as he is the father of all. And good fathers, they say, should not like a child more than the other. Even if they do, they should not show it, for the sake of domestic concord and amity.
But I can wager that this President loves Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State. Why and how? We will come to that later.
Landing at Akanu Ibiam International Airport in the Presidential jet Nigerian Air Force 001, we continued the trip to Ebonyi in helicopters. And we entered the State through Osborn La Palm Event Centre, Uburu, in Ohaozara Local Government Area, where the Governor hails from. The man has made sure that development reached his own very community, and copiously too.
From there, we proceeded to the King David University of Medical Sciences, Uburu, built by the State Government. I had last December written on the state of the art university, with ultra-modern facilities. You wonder how a state like Ebonyi, not earning derivation from oil money, could put up such a showpiece. It is one of the wonders of David Umahi in Ebonyi.
Very significant to me was something that happened as our convoy snaked its way towards the university. About five boys, most likely between ages 3 and 5, stood by the roadside, and were waving at us cheerily. Two of them didn’t wear knickers, and you could see their tiny ‘things’ peeping from in between their thighs. They didn’t care a hoot if anybody was looking at them. They were happy to see the motorcade, and nothing else mattered in the whole world. They kept waving delightfully till we went out of their sight.
Childhood. Innocence. No bile, no guile, no malice. Those boys obviously knew nothing called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Nor do they know the Eastern Security Network (ESN). They were just creations of God with pure souls, no murderous inclinations, no corroding thoughts of marginalization, real or imagined.
Oh, that mankind could return to the original way in which we were created. What Heaven this earth would be. Make me like a child again. Make me gentle and trusting. Let little children come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God. The world as God made it is one thing, and the world as man mars it is another thing. May those boys maintain the kind of heart they displayed, for life. Amen.
In that neighborhood, President Buhari commissioned twin flyover bridges, 12 kilometers dualized Federal road from Mbu, Enugu State to Uburu, Ebonyi State. And then the eye-popping university building, facilities and equipment.
Also inaugurated that day were the International Airport at Onueke, including the Airport lounge and five kilometers dualized road. Others were a new Governor’s Lodge, office complex for the Governor’s wife, Margaret Umahi International Market Complex, the wondrous Light Tunnel Flyover, and Ebonyi Shopping Mall, which compares with any other you see in other developed countries of the world.
So delighted was President Buhari with all he saw, that he declared: “It has always been a pleasure coming to Ebonyi State. The last time I came was in 2017 in the 2nd quarter of the first tenure of Governor Umahi’s administration. I witnessed the commencement of mind blowing projects. I saw in Governor Umahi a strong desire to change the narrative of the State, and meet the aspirations of the founding fathers.”
The President, at a State Banquet that night recalled that he was given two traditional titles in 2017. The Enyioha 1 of Ebonyi State, and Ochioha 1 of South East.
On day two of the visit, President Buhari commissioned another befitting edifice, the new Executive Council Chambers, where he also held a meeting with illustrious leaders of the South East.
Now, to the crux of the matter. Why does the President love this Governor, so much so that he has paid two State Visits, and passed the night at both times?
Governor Umahi loves and serves his people, and that is evidenced in how he has changed the face and landscape of the State. Old, rustic Abakaliki has suddenly become like any other modern city of the world. President Buhari loves infrastructural development, as seen in roads, rail, bridges, airports, and many others round the country. He sees Umahi doing the same thing, and he just loves it. At the time Umahi was still in the opposition People’s Democratic Party, it didn’t stop the President loving him.
Umahi is forthright. No beating about the bush. At a time he saw that it was more in the interest of his people and State to be in the party at the center, he joined the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Said the President: “I am honored that in the life of my administration, Ebonyi State Government and her people made the right choice to join our progressive party, APC. I commend the Governor for the courage to join the party at the center, and for all his contributions in moving our nation forward.”
For the courage he displays, the President loves Umahi.
Another reason. For touching the lives of the people through his projects and policies. Hear the President again:
“You have done your people proud. I am particularly amazed by the economic development records of the State under your administration, the wonderful network of roads, critical infrastructure and investment opportunities in the State. ..I commend the State for emerging as the second overall best in fiscal performance in Nigeria and for soaring high in fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability in the use of public resources.”
Touch the lives of the people. Utilize their money and resources to improve their lot, and Buhari would love you. That is why he loves Umahi.
Umahi got nearly everything he requested for. He asked the Federal Government to take over the University of Medical Sciences, the President acceded. He asked for assistance to buy Airport equipment, the President promised to look into it. He named a number of projects after a normally self-effacing President Buhari, whom I’ve seen turn down such requests, but the President said yes to Umahi. Greater love hath no man than this…
At the meeting with leaders of the South East, two requests resonated. The release of leader of the outlawed IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, and the ceding of power to the region, so that there could be a President of South East extraction in 2023.
On the first request, the President maintained a position he had always upheld. The case was before the courts, and the onus was on the judiciary to adjudicate. The second request was purely political, and rested with the political parties, who would decide where their candidates for President came from.
Serve the people selflessly. Touch their lives. Achieve results. Be accountable, transparent, make the best use of resources at your disposal. Be frank, sincere, truthful, having the courage of your conviction. And President Buhari would love you. That’s how it is with Governor Umahi.
NB: Femi Adesina is Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.