Things have changed in Enugu State. It is no longer business as usual, the top-down approach with little regard to the needs of the people, the exaltation of the urban guerrillas, a dictatorship, not of the masses, but of the para-juntas, mostly self-appointed chiefs without coronation. A community-centred and grassroots-oriented empowerment programme has been enthroned.
All over Africa democracy has been government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich: a well-structured plutocracy masquerading as democracy forgetting that the root word “demos” in the original word stands for people.
One of the first things Chief Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi did on assumption of office as Governor of Enugu State was to democratize our democracy. Each of the over 450 autonomous communities in Enugu State was told to select five projects to be executed in their communities and write them in their order of priority, the first is a legacy project that will not only transform the lives of the people in the community now but will benefit generations yet unborn.
This was not only historic, it was innovative, catalytic and salutary.
The first community development project is a community project chosen by the people and capable of speeding up development in all other sectors of the community. Prior to now, what was in practice was pick a project, take your cut and dump it on the community. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu would turn in his grave with happiness and gratitude that at last the urban guerrillas and all the self-appointed chiefs even without umunna or a kindred have been dumped in the ESWEMA landfill sites for good, no ten per cent upfront commission paid to anybody for parading the corridors of power.
This singular initiative by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State of ‘one community, one project’ instilled the real meaning of democracy in the people of the state: it truly became government of the people, by the people and for the people. Again for the first time democracy became participatory, not in word, but in deed. The choice and execution of the project was left entirely to the people.
Igwe of the community automatically began to live the true meaning of his title as “Igwe na-ezoro Oha’, the heaven that drops the rain for everyone. In addition the befitting epithet of “Nnaanyi” was added to the Igwe as a true father in fact, the man through his agency the community received the benefaction of the government, a tranche of N10m (ten million naira) in two instalments for a project of their choice in their community. Also a new synergy developed between the traditional ruler and the president of the town union.
Governor Ugwuanyi’s novel approach to community development has a medicinal value. State capitals and other cities around them in Nigeria have been blighted by abandoned projects. No project in any of the recipient communities that has been given the first five million naira (N5m) or the first and the second totaling ten million (N10m) should be allowed to be abandoned whether carried out by a contractor or executed through direct labour.
While the Millennium Development Goals did not attain their set goals in the world by 2015 as envisaged in the year 2000, the Sustainable Development Goal is hitting its critical target in Enugu State. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has empowered the first and second batches of trainees totaling 750 from the seventeen local governments in Enugu State by giving everyone that has completed the training the seed money to start their own business and not flock to Enugu, the capital city, in search of jobs.
After one year from now, the government should audit all the projects to ensure that each one of them has been executed to specification and in record time. Anything short of absolute completion is not good enough and should be regarded as economic sabotage capable of being referred the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for the prosecution of offenders.
To whom much is given, much is expected.