By Osita Julius Nworu
In 2015, the slogan “iron gate” was used and promoted by Governor David Umahi’s campaign organization – the Divine Mandate. Unaware of the implication of what the slogan connotes, the campaign organization deceptively interpreted the slogan to mean that Umahi is the Iron Gate and capable and able to live and make the dreams of the founding fathers a reality. Umahi was packaged in a manner that made Ebonyians believe he was the best among other contestant despite his rebellion against his boss, Governor Martin Elechi, in the build up to the 2015 election.
In the illusion of the Iron Gate and without proper insight to what “Iron gate” portends, Ebonyians sang the chorus – Dave Umahi bu Iron gate- anwa kwana anwa ku ya kpam.
Umahi had a different meaning in mind regarding his Iron gate slogan. He was actually referring to the kind of administration he was going to run in Ebonyi State when elected, which is today a non-inclusive administration entrenched in “Iron gate policies” that keeps Ebonyians at a distance from the scheme of things and affairs of the state.
The Iron Gate slogan and what it portends has been reeled out in phases. As part of the iron gate policy, double taxation was introduced; first of its kind in the poor state of Ebonyi, which eventually gave rise to closure of businesses across the state. The salary increase already on course was reversed by Umahi as against the promise he made that he was going to sustain and increase the salary to a hundred percent if elected.
He roundly sacked permanent secretaries appointed by his predecessor and has been running his government without permanent secretaries in more than three years of his administration, with no plan to appoint permanent secretaries, making his administration one with the record of no permanent secretaries in the history of the state.
The Iron gate” is nothing short of “family affairs government” where Ebonyians are completely shut out in the scheme of things and prevented from knocking at the “Iron gate family government” to ask for what is due them.
In bid to give the family affair administration a democratic coloration, Ebonyians are permitted to perch around the Iron Gate like the biblical Lazarus and the king. Marginalized and rejected after they were used for political gains, they end up at the gate, waiting for crumbs that fall from the left over from everyday feast by members of the family affair government.
From the foregoing, Umahi is not necessarily a governor for the entire state, but a governor of his family members and other selected few randomly chosen within his kindred. He configured his administration in such a way that his blood brothers must hold strategic and juicy positions in PDP and in his administration.
To mention but a few, he foisted his brother Austin on Ebonyi PDP, as the South East Zonal Chairman, shutting Ebonyians out with his Iron Gate policy and desperation to have it all, allocated to the state for the position zoned to the south east zone by the PDP national body. Another of his brother is the vice chairman of the Ebony PDP, and he is literally the chairman of the party given how the party is internally configured, while the legal services of the state is handled by his brother Roy, as the governor had secured approval of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, for the salary of his wife to be at par with his as a governor.
The overbearing influence of the wife of the governor, further reinforces the family affair kind of administration of her husband, and observably, a sitting governor whose wife has overbearing influence is like to infuse possessive mentality in the administration that have effect on the inability of the governor to deliver. All these and more speak volume of how the Iron Gate administration and policies are working to impoverish Ebonyi people.
The Iron Gate is indeed an ideology devoid of democratic principles. If we look around properly, we will notice that no projects in the state even the overhead bridges, is with a sign post indicating the name of the contractor handling it. In our states or even in the past administration, every ongoing project comes with a sign post indicating the name of the contractors and their clients. Ebonyians are eager to know contractors doing jobs in their state for research and record purposes. If there are no spurious agenda in the whole arrangement why hide the names of the contractors. The answer is that as a family government, they owe no one any explanation to Ebonyians who are already at distance with their Iron Gate policy.
Ebonyi State has never had a political figure like Umahi that do things or say things in the manner that defies even the modest political calculations. Because of his Iron Gate philosophy and ideology, every Ebonyi except members of Iron Gate family government are treated as pawns. Resignations from his government are termed suspension or sack as we have witnessed in the recent times even Umahi makes his appointees victims of the circus atmosphere he created.
Umahi’s Iron Gate administration ushered in a sobering realization and it has impaired and blinded Ebonyians in such a way that some of them live with the perception that democracy is a family affair thing, as such whatever the governor says and or does is correct and should not be questioned.
Governor Umahi’s “Divine Mandate” that coined the Iron Gate slogan is a scam. It was used to make Ebonyians delusional in the face of realities not to peep into the package Umahi had for the state. Hence, the Divine Mandate mantra is like the devil quoting authoritatively from the Holy Scriptures. Suffice to say that Dave Umahi’s mandate is ”Man’s” Mandate never a DIVINE Mandate and his ambition is induced by pecuniary and mercantile motives.
If in a state of about 2.2 million people one man thinks he’s the best and the only person most qualified to govern and no one else even when it is clear that he has failed, what do you expect outside what is happening today in the state under his watch? Ebonyi State governorship is no one’s birth right, but our collective right and Umahi’s new slogan of 4+4 is a worn-out argument, because Ebonyians having realized the spurious agenda inherent in the so called divine mandate of Umahi, the good people of Ebonyi can’t wait to be liberated by collectively and individually voting him out in the coming election.
Ebonyians have come to terms with reality and never again shall they be used, abused and dumped by Umahi and his family members. Ndi Ebonyi are now aware that Umahi’s administration is reminder that progress is not dependent on a specific political party or the ambitions of one man, and Ebonyians this time must be vigilant and informed to make the best choice devoid of spurious promises.
The good people of the state are on the verge of the red sea, for liberation and cross over to the Promised Land. Never again shall Ebonyians become victims of cups of rice, money from Man’s mandate that prides as Divine mandate.
Such calculated philanthropy is Greek gifts of Horse to the Trojans. Don’t be deceived again. Umahi has exhausted the best plan he has for Ebonyi State. A second coming if allowed would be to consolidate his family affairs administration at the expense of Ndi Ebonyi.
Another opportunity has come for Ebonyians to correct the mistakes made in 2015. Senator Sunny Ogbuoji has made himself available for the task of making a new Ebonyi devoid of winner takes all, iron gate policies and family affair kind of administration. He is on the mission, to liberate the state from the shackles of the peril of the family affair government and its private enterprise kind of administration in which Ebonyians are kept at a distance with police, dogs and barbed wire, preventing them from questioning the mismanagement of the state affairs and asking for their rights.
Records show that Ogbuoji takes off his family in the government affairs. In all the elective positions he has held, he never allowed the wife, children or relatives to meddle in his administration, which is in total contrast to what is obtainable in the administration of Umahi, where the wife is practically placed above the Deputy Governor of the state, even as the constitution makes no such provision for her.
The liberation agenda by Ogbuoji entails an open door policy, co-responsibilities between the government and the with ideals of democracy that will give room for participatory democracy that will move the state forward, obviously lacking in the Iron Gate administration. He will not annex the capital of Ebonyi State or covert his country home to a political pilgrimage centre like Umahi. He will be a governor for everyone and every party of the state.
Ogbuoji is determined to employ problem mix solutions to tackle the challenges facing the state and determined to avert any thing that could lead them to another four years of social imprisonment by the Iron Gate administration of Umahi. Let us therefore, collectively and individually support Ogbuoji for the liberation of Ebonyi State. He is the man that has the right solutions to addressing the fundamental challenges inherent in the state, which Umahi has been playing politics with.
Ogbuoji will not keep everything to his chest like Umahi is doing. His administration will usher in a new Ebonyi by reconciling and healing the wound inflicted in the state by the Iron Gate administration.
His administration won’t have room for the elevation of thugs above the carrier civil servant as we see presently under Umahi, where thugs are handsomely paid while the welfare of the civil servants is downplayed.
Ebonyians can’t afford another four years of social imprisonment by Iron Gate administration. Let us collectively and individually support Ogbuoji for the liberation of Ebonyi. He is the man that has the right solutions to addressing the fundamental challenges inherent in the state, which Umahi has been playing politics with.
Nworu is journalist and social analyst in Abakaliki