Engineer David Nweze Umahi is making remarkable strides in the development agenda of a state known for its rich salt deposits. In his less than four years as the chief executive of the state, he has turned the once rural Ebonyi communities into beehives of activities especially in the areas of agriculture and infrastructure. For his indelible footprints in the administration of Ebonyi State, Governor Dave Umahi is LEADERSHIP Governor of the Year 2018.
Governor Dave Umahi has, within three years in office, transformed the state into one of the fastest-growing states in the country. This is even more poignant when it is considered that Umahi came on board as the nation was tottering on the brink of economic recession. Invariably, it was no surprise that, within that period, revenue from the federal allocation accruing to the state nosedived from N6–9 billion before 2015 to N2.3bn–N3.5bn.
This was barely enough to pay the wage bill, including pensions and gratuities. Not given to excuses, the engineer-turned-politician has been able to husband the available meagre resources judiciously to be able to record the kind of impact his people, friends and even his adversaries are celebrating and which, deservedly, attracted the attention of this newspaper.
The achievements so far made by the Umahi administration have continued to earn for him accolades from far and near. President Muhammadu Buhari, during his state visit to Ebonyi to commission some of these projects, lauded the achievements of the state governor.
For anyone who knew Ebonyi State and in particular its capital Abakaliki, the transformation under Umahi can only be described as breath-taking. He adopted the policy of inclusive politics, which has made it possible for him to carry everyone along and has ensured the state experiences integrated development. This strategy has yielded tremendous gains. As the education sector is receiving attention, so is the health sector as well as all other sectors in different zones of the state.
He had, on assumption of office, assured that the new roads his administration would embark on would be dependable and durable. When he introduced the concrete pavement road construction in the state, relying on his experience as an engineer, many did not understand where he was coming from. But, today, many states go to Ebonyi to copy and seek professional advice on how to go about the construction of the concrete rigid pavement roads with a 50-year lifespan.
So far, the state government has built three 700-metre twin flyover bridges at Akanu Ibiam Roundabout, Offia Nwali Junction as well as the International Market bypass and a pedestrian bridge at Ebonyi State University permanent site gate. All the bridges are strategically located along the African Trans-Sahara Highway.
Apart from the bridges which have given the state capital a different outlook, the Umahi administration has also constructed numerous roads in the state. Some of the roads and bridges constructed within this time include: Onueke—Ezzama—Oshiri–Onicha road, 35km; Obiozara–Onicha road, 8.3km; Uburu–Presbyterian Church road,12km; Umuchima road, 7.5km; Okposi road, 23km, Akaeze–Ivo road,15km; a section of Abakaliki–Afikpo federal highway, 14.5km; Abakaliki internal roads, 150km, with one major bridge; 7 bridges along Nkalagu–Ehamufu road,15km; Abaomege—Ukawu—Ugwulangwu–Okposi federal road, 25km; and Abaomege Ukawu bridge.
In the education sector, the state government, on assumption of office, paid all its counterpart funds to the Universal Basic Education Board and has accessed all the funds accruing to it, which it channelled to critical areas in the education sector.
The state also procured and distributed 20,000 pieces of two-seater classroom furniture. At least 190 schools have been renovated while model primary and junior secondary schools have been constructed. Information communication technology infrastructure has been constructed and e-learning programmes will soon come on stream in junior and senior secondary schools in the state.
It is on record that the laudable achievements of Gov Umahi culminated in Ebonyi State attaining the 10th position in WAEC/NECO results in 2016 and 2017, and retaining the position in 2018 – an unprecedented achievement in the over two-decade history of the state. Also, the Ebonyi State College of Education, Ikwo, has been affiliated to Ebonyi State University through the National Universities Commission; with this, the college is now a degree-awarding institution.
In the area of agriculture, Ebonyi State is reaping bountifully from the federal government’s ban on the importation of rice, as it has made farming a profitable venture in the state. He latched on to the rice revolution spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria through the Anchor Borrowers Scheme. Ebonyi Rice has become a household name in every family, and the state governor has received presidential encomium and won prestigious awards from many reputable institutions across the country.
The Umahi administration introduced a unique agriculture programme targeted at making farming attractive to young people in particular. This has weaned many youths away from unemployment and crime.
In the health sector, the state government under Governor Umahi constructed and equipped the much-celebrated Virology Centre and Chest Clinic located at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. The state government has also embarked on the renovation and equipping of 13 general hospitals in the state.
Governor Umahi has appropriated the sum of N2.036 billion for the financial empowerment of 10,526 Ebonyi people, especially widows. Six persons received N1 million each; 6,520 beneficiaries got N200, 000 each while 4,000 widows received N100, 000 each. The beneficiaries cut across unemployed graduates and non-graduates — youths, men, women, widows, and indigent Ebonyi citizens in Lagos.
The sum of N263.2 million was used to acquire 400 tricycles which were distributed free to deserving Ebonyi people at home and outside. The state government, in partnership with the Bank of Industry, has made an N8 billion loan facility available to civil servants and Ebonyi intending entrepreneurs at single-digit interest rate for the establishment of agro-based industries in Ebonyi State.
The most striking quality of His Excellency Engr. David Nweze Umahi, right from the cradle to his current midlife status, is that he neither takes the easy path nor casually marches to whichever destination the path may lead; instead, he beats his own path and leaves a historical trail, regardless of the walls or obstacles that are erected before him or around him.
Governor Umahi attended Umunaga Primary School, Uburu, from 1971 to 1977 where he excelled with a Distinction in the First School Leaving Certificate Examination. Upon completion of his primary education, he proceeded to Ishiagu High School from 1978 to 1979. He completed his secondary education at the prestigious Government College, Afikpo, which he attended from 1979 to 1982, and sustained his academic brilliance by gaining Division One in the West African School Certificate Examination, accumulating ‘As’ in science subjects.
Umahi gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Anambra State University of Science and Technology in 1987.
Engr. Umahi’s foray into public/political arena started in 2007 when he became the acting state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (Ebonyi State). In 2009, he was made the substantive Chairman of the party. He transformed the Ebonyi State PDP from an organisation troubled by high-profile political and administrative disputes, defections and rancour into a highly effective political machine.