“Positive shock that awaits those coming back home this season: They will encounter the amazing revolution taking place in Ebonyi. They will be shocked that the flyovers they see in other big cities in Nigeria are now very visible in our state. They will be shocked that most of the headquarters of our local government areas are now fully electrified, even as street lights are now part of life in Ebonyi State. They will be shocked by the beauty and peace in the state as the governor has ensured that no criminal activity is witnessed during this season. They will be shocked by the quality of roundabouts in the state. They will not help but admire the classy and new-look Government House Gate is now wearing. They will be shocked by the quality of roads that litter all our local government areas. They will be shocked that their elders and parents are well-taken care of by the government of Ebonyi State. They will be so shocked that going back to these other towns may no longer be a wise decision.”
Ebonyi: Umahi Lays Foundation for Memorable Christmas And New Year By Monica Ada C. Eze Prelude Let me start this treatise on how Ebonyians are remembered so specially during this season by quoting Kamil Ali, who stated: “As we enter the Season of Goodwill – Feel the warm glow in your heart by lighting up a smile on someone’s face.” And according to Engr. Dave Umahi the indefatigable Governor of Ebonyi State, “Love is in the air as we celebrate the Prince of love and peace embodied in the personality of Christ Jesus”
Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi, the Governor of Ebonyi State, South-East of Nigeria, was a very successful businessman before he ventured into politics and has all the good things to make one comfortable, but his desire to make a difference in the politics of his state influenced him to contest the highest political office in the state and, as God would have it, he succeeded through what is commonly defined in Ebonyi as divine mandate. He is popularly known by his chieftaincy title, Akubaraaoha (wealth that touches the lives of the multitude), because of his benevolence and philanthropy through which he has awarded thousands of scholarship to indigent students of Ebonyi State and alleviated others in other ventures.
Based on this, it looks as if Brian Tracy was foreseeing what is currently happening in Ebonyi State through the incumbent governor, Engr. Umahi, when he stated: “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” To strengthen the position of Tracy, John Bunyan on the other hand stated: “You have not lived today, until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” All these leader’s positions tally with Engr Dave Umahi’s vision and mission for Ebonyi State when he stated, “Our mission is to enhance the welfare of our people, and empower all Ebonyians to be self-reliant, through the compassionate delivery of transparent and God-fearing governance, based on integrity and dignity.”
Aim This article is not aimed at writing generally about the philanthropic acts of Governor Umahi because doing that is to write a book but, rather, this attempt is to expose to the entire world recent benevolence acts of the governor towards Ebonyi people; in making their Christmas and New Year celebrations not only memorable, but events they will live to remember for a long time.
Peace in Ebonyi The governor, in his principle that if there is no peace meaningful development will not only be elusive but developments earlier achieved will be destroyed, have reiterated that trouble-makers should look for other states to relocate.
Setting the pace in sustaining peace in Ebonyi, thereby making the state conducive for a peaceful celebration, Chief Umahi, said he would deal decisive with any individual or group of persons that attempt to re-ignite the Ezza-Ezillo crisis that has claimed more than 200 lives, and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
The governor’s statement is coming on the heels of alleged security report that some youths in the area were perfecting plans to organise a rally to remember their brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident.
The governor said that he is still committed to ensure that the peace accord signed by Ezilo and Ezza-Ezilo people, which brought to an end the protracted communal clash, is not violated by any individual no matter how highly placed.
The governor stated this at a thanksgiving service organised by the Ebonyi State Government, to appreciate God for his benevolence on the people, at the Government House Chapel, Abakaliki, on 19thDecember, 2016.
His words: “I stand on the altar of God to say that anybody that wants to ignite crisis in Ezza-Ezillo, I will crush the person. I have directed that the people that organised or wanted to organise a rally in honour of their brothers and sisters in the unfortunate incident should be made available to me. They will spend the Christmas in cell. I must be emphatic, there is nothing to remember.” Governor Umahi said the thanksgiving was to appreciate God for the settlement of the crisis and the peaceful atmosphere being enjoyed in the state, pointing out that it was responsible for the level of infrastructural and social development so far recorded by his administration. Umahi slashes Ebonyi varsity student’s tuition To make the students feel the benevolence of the Ebonyi State Government under the able leadership of Engr. David Umahi; the Governor out of his magnanimity directed for the reduction of the fees of the state university students by N10,000 thereby bringing to an end the intractable agitation by students for tuition slashing. Recall that tuition was increased by former Governor Martin Elechi, a development that led to protests by the students. This reduction was in fulfilment of Umahi pledge during his campaign when he assured that he would reduce the fees if supported to win 2015 governorship election. The governor, who announced the reduction during an interactive forum with the management and staff of the university at the permanent site, Ezzamgbo, explained that the reduction which would take effect from next year was for both students of Ebonyi origin and non-Ebonyians. Umahi, who had while making his remarks, noted that the reduction was necessary because students of the university paid almost the highest fees in the South- East and South-South, explained that the slash was to cushion the suffering of the students and their parents. He however enjoined the students to avoid cultism and criminal tendencies in order to continue to enjoy the tuition reduction. Umahi slashes Ebonyi varsity student’s tuition The governor had while announcing 3,000 bags of rice and N10 million for the students of the university as their Christmas gifts, over heard them chanting,”reduce our fees, reduce our fees.” He also donated two buses to the Students Union Government for easy transportation of students to lectures. Before then, he announced the donation of rice each to all staff of the university with N5m to be shared by them for the Yuletide.He he told the students to continue to partner with his government. Umahi approved all promotions of the university staff which had been kept on hold for years and gave the university authorities N100m loan for agricultural activities. The declaration caused a wide jubilation among the students and staff who sang and thanked the governor for his largesse. Umahi also advised that for any student to graduate from the Department of Agriculture,he/she should have at least one hectare of farm. The Acting Vice Chancellor of the University,Prof. Francis Idike who commended the governor for gazetting the university staff and bringing commendable changes to the system. He assured the preparedness of the university community to toeing the vision and mission of his administration. Yuletide: 13th Month Salary Bonus To give Ebonyians a surprise Christmas package, Governor Umahi has not only approved to pay extra one month salary bonus, otherwise called 13th month to workers under the state employment in the spirit of Christmas celebration, but has paid and distributed bags of rice and tubers of yam to each of staff. He approved and directed that junior workers would receive 100 per cent bonus, whereas senior ones would be paid 50 per cent of whatever they receive monthly, boasting that his administration was neither owing workers salaries nor pensions. He disclosed his administration’s plan to begin immediate payment of gratuity arrears owed by both local and state governments since 1993, amounting to N8 billion. The governor, who expressed dismay that civil servants found it difficult to pay their retired colleagues their pensions but would want to be paid when they retired, noted that he would begin payment of gratuities this December, with the families of retirees who had already died. He said: “We are not owing anybody pension in Ebonyi State. Gratuity is owed since 1993, and gratuity for both local and state governments is over N8 billion, but the funny thing is that when you seat as a civil servant, you refuse to pay others their gratuities, and when you now leave, you start insisting, we should pay gratuity. “So, for those we have owed gratuity for a very long time; we are expecting a miracle. What we want to do for our brothers and sisters that were not paid gratuities before their death: we intend to look at their case and see how we can pay off their gratuities through their families. We hope to do it this December. “We also want to pay everyone that has retired 10 per cent of whatever we owe him/her in the name of pension and other allowances.” Christmas largesse for former Lawmakers from the State, members of NUJ, NUT, Federal Workers, Political Office Holders, University Staff, Others Ebonyi State is truly in a celebration mood as Governor Umahi goes about distributing love and touching the lives of every segments of Ebonyi State. No citizen from Ebonyi State or residents from other States will say that the Governor has not reached him or her one way or the other during this season. Be it former Lawmakers from the State, be it Federal Workers working in various organisations in the State or be it members of Nigeria UNION OF Teachers (NUT) or members of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) everybody have something from the Governor to celebrate Christmas. Apart from the largesse to civil servants, all the political office-holders, including the NWC of PDP, senior technical assistants and technical assistants have been granted funds to celebrate their Christmas and New Year festivities, including bags of rice and tubers of yam. Never in the history of Ebonyi State has our people been so remembered by their governor. Uplifting Women Petty Traders Women like me, and other appointees, are given place of honour and well-respected and regarded, but let me state that it is only the highly-placed women that are regarded. But even women, who under normal circumstances would not be privileged to get near the seat of power, are today given equal opportunities as any other citizen of the state. In this regard, Umahi has assisted Ebonyians, mostly women doing petty business (not hawkers) in Lagos with N140 million, which was shared N10 million per local government, to enhance their business ventures. Umahi extends empowerment scheme to wives of policemen The Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Nweze Umahi, has extended his administration's empowerment programme to police officers wives.in the state. He announced this during Christmas party organized for the officers and men of the state command in Abakaliki. Engr. Umahi, who noted that government would not ask police officers on duty to join in his rice cultivation programme, said their wives should key into his women empowerment scheme in order to reduce over dependence on the salaries of their husbands. "There is no way we can ask police officers on duty to come and cultivate rice or go and do training for empowerment but we offer to partner their wives," the governor said in a statement issued by his spokesman, Emma Anya, on Tuesday. He added, "Your wives can actually hold your homes. They can make up for the differences in your wages if they engage in our empowerment programme. We can agree on what and what your wives can be doing so that we can support them; so that at the end of the day, they can be one of the pillars of your respective homes, This, I believe will reduce financial challenges, friction and tension in your homes. Umahi, who said the visit/party for the officers and men was to celebrate the Yuletide with them, lauded them for their commitment to combating crimes in the state. He explained that his administration's provision of social amenities for them in their barracks was because of their efforts in sustaining peace in the state. He added, "I want to appeal to the Commissioner of Police to call the herdsmen for a meeting. There are so many cases of herdsmen. You've done extremely well and I have told the police headquarters of how you have been trying to solve the problem of herdsmen in the state. But it is like they are reneging on the agreement we made in this place and so we have to call them back for us to review the agreement." The governor, who noted that the living environment of the policemen was not too healthy, immediately approved the release of fund for the relocation of septic tanks in the barracks. Apart from ordering removal and replacement of windows of their apartments, Umahi directed that the barracks should be decorated to reflect the mood of the season. He also donated bags of rice and tubers of yam to the officers and men. Earlier, the State Police Commissioner, Mrs Peace. Ibekwe- Abdallah, had said that Governor Umahi had been of great support to the command as he had reconstructed the internal roads in the barracks and provided street light and water for the officers and men. She eulogised the governor for providing enabling environment for the police in the state to perform their constitutional responsibility of checking crimes. Early Payment of Civil Servants’ Salaries While several states in the federation are finding it difficult to pay their staff salaries at this recession period, Umahi has directed that the salaries of staff of Ebonyi State be paid by the 15th of every month, and in order to motivate and empower its civil servants, the governor has also directed that the salaries be increased by five per cent. Based on this, Mr Leonard Nkah, the President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Ebonyi chapter, commended Governor Umahi for approving 5 per cent pay-rise for workers, adding that by the action, Umahi had proved to be a listening governor. Governor Umahi announced the five per cent increase in workers’ salaries when he addressed the people on Saturday, at the Abakaliki Township Stadium, to mark the country’s 56th Independence Day anniversary. The state NULGE president expressed optimism that, “as a listening governor, Umahi would continue to adjust workers’ salaries upwards periodically.” Nkah also appealed to the governor to direct the relevant authorities to comply with the governor’s directive, by paying local government workers by the 15th of every month. Free Transpiration of Home-bound Ebonyians In demonstration of the selfless nature of his administration, the governor has directed the transportation of all Ebonyians in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Nnewi, Onitstha and other big towns in Nigeria where they reside back home to the state capital, Abakaliki, for the 2016 festivities. Martin Luther King Jr,, may have had Umahi at the back of his mind when he stated: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Throwing more light in this regard, the great Indian leader of all times, Mahatma Gandhi, said: “The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” Umahi’s benevolence and his love for his people will forever speak for him throughout his life. Early Payment of Civil Servants’ Salaries While several states in the federation are finding it difficult to pay their staff salaries at this recession period, Umahi has directed that the salaries of staff of Ebonyi State be paid by the 15th of every month, and in order to motivate and empower its civil servants, the governor has also directed that the salaries be increased by five per cent. Based on this, Mr Leonard Nkah, the President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Ebonyi chapter, commended Governor Umahi for approving 5 per cent pay-rise for workers, adding that by the action, Umahi had proved to be a listening governor. Governor Umahi announced the five per cent increase in workers’ salaries when he addressed the people on Saturday, at the Abakaliki Township Stadium, to mark the country’s 56th Independence Day anniversary. The state NULGE president expressed optimism that, “as a listening governor, Umahi would continue to adjust workers’ salaries upwards periodically.” Nkah also appealed to the governor to direct the relevant authorities to comply with the governor’s directive, by paying local government workers by the 15th of every month. Positive shock that awaits those coming back home this season: They will encounter the amazing revolution taking place in Ebonyi. They will be shocked that the flyovers they see in other big cities in Nigeria are now very visible in our State. They will be shocked that most of the headquarters of our local government areas are now fully electrified, even as street lights are now part of life in Ebonyi State. They will be shocked by the beauty and peace in the state as the governor has ensured that no criminal activity is witnessed during this season. They will be shocked by the quality of roundabouts in the state. They will not help but admire the classy and new-look Government House Gate is now wearing. They will be shocked by the quality of roads that litter all our local government areas. They will be shocked that their elders and parents are well-taken care of by the government of Ebonyi State. They will be so shocked that going back to these other towns may no longer be a wise decision. Conclusion I will conclude this attempt by quoting Eleanor Roosevelt who stated: “When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” and Abraham lincoln,who said that, “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” Finally, to Lord Bloody Soul, “A piece of benevolence, a shard of good will is sometimes all that is needed to raise a truly loyal army.” Governor Dave Nweze Umahi, you have through your benevolence, love, compassion and commitment to your people raised truly a loyal army that will ever be there for you to crush and conquer the world for you. Merry Christmas to my leader and uncle! Monica Ada Chidinma Eze is Technical Assistant (TA) on Media to Governor Dave Nweze Umahi and can be reached on dunaebonyitransformation001@