Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Executive Governor of Enugu State.

It is often said in Igbo parlance that a man who was not present when a corpse is buried, usually exhume it from the head. This was exactly what happened after the recent security lapses in Enugu state that led to the killing of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Paul Offuh on August 1 by gunmen.

In his emotive and sensational reactions, a UK-based Nigerian Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Ike Odigbo in his misinformed and jaundiced article titled “Insecurity in Enugu State, Crowd Renting and The Conspiracy”, which has since gone viral on social media platforms threw caution into the wind.

He desecrated priesthood and his Cassock by peddling lies against Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi over the killing and further described the stakeholders, which include Catholic Bishops, Council chairmen, traditional rulers, presidents-general of town unions and others that attended emergency security meetings summoned by Ugwuanyi at the peak of the ugly incident as a rented crowd.  What a disappointing disposition and display of ignorance by a priest of Odigbo’s exposure that ought to have known and seen it all at home and abroad.

Odigbo should be reminded that 2019 elections are over. Neither Ugwuanyi nor PDP rented crowd to win the election landslide. So, why the rent of crowd now that elections are over. Ugwuanyi has enjoined everybody to join hands with his government to move the state forward. But it appears some elements are hell bent on destroying the peace of the state to give Ugwuanyi’s government a bad name. Unfortunately, the likes of Rev. Odigbo are handy to be used for such hatchet job.

Biblically and traditionally, the slain Rev. Offuh, who happens to be Odigbo’s kinsman and colleague deserves some modicum of respect from him, which is to mourn and bury him before politicizing his untimely demise. The speed at which Odigbo drew conclusion on the security situation in Enugu, even without being on ground or make adequate inquiries showed that he was acting a written script.

As an ordained Catholic priest, with deep knowledge of morality and life, it behoves Odigbo to get his fact right first, before making a public comment on sensitive issue like security. This is because such public comment could be swallowed hook, line and sinker by the faithful, especially the uninformed. This is capable of inciting them against a government they have before now commended and supported for its giant stride in security of the state and other feats. It is on record that since assuming office, Ugwuanyi‘s government has never shirked her responsibility in the area of security and others. That is why security has improved tremendously in Enugu under his watch. And this has been attested to by all in the state, including visitors and the heads of security agencies in the country. That does not mean that once in a while, there will be no security lapses such as the killing of Rev. Fr. Offuh. Even in the developed countries like UK where Odigbo resides, there are occasional upsurge of crimes. This is not withstanding the technologies at work there. But such isolated crimes are not enough for one to conclude that such developed society is not safe or peaceful.

On Odigbo’s claim that traditional rulers are on the pay roll of the state government and are instructed by Gov. Ugwuanyi not to challenge the Fulani herdsmen in their areas, this is a lie from the pit of hell and exposition of ignorance by the priest. Across the country and constitutionally, traditional institution is under the purview of the state government. Enugu is not an exception.  No traditional ruler in Enugu state was given instruction by Ugwuanyi not to fight herders in their communities.  Apart from the fact that traditional rulers are not security agents that fight crimes and criminals, such instruction is not necessary, because the traditional rulers are neither illiterates nor charlatans. Their work is to identify and volunteer credible information about crimes in their communities to the security agents and the governors for action.

No community or traditional ruler has right to fight or maim anybody without recourse to the security agents. That is the position of law. For now, Nigeria is not yet a Banana Republic. Enugu is not a jungle city, where jungle justice reigns. It is unfair of Odigbo to fanning the ember of crisis in Enugu from the comfort of his home in UK.  It is hoped Odigbo is a good literary student, who read and understood the poem titled The Casualties, written by the John Pepper Clark of blessed memory. 

On Odigbo’s allegation that Ugwuanyi is being protective of the herdsmen to securehis senatorial ambition in 2023, this is the height of hypocrisy by the ordained man of God that supposed to be a symbol of truth and purveyor of peace. Which senatorial ambition, when Ugwuanyi has just commenced his second term as governor? How could Odigbo talk about 2023 poll with such finality, when no one knows who will be alive in 2023 to contest election? Is Odigbo saying that he has the power of death and life? What has human lives got to do with 2023 elections in Enugu? Has Odigbo forgotten that it was not the powers-that-be at Abuja or the herdsmen that made Ugwuanyi’s first and second term victories possible? It was the people of Enugu, including the Catholic faithful of which Odigbo is a critical stakeholder. They voted for Ugwuanyi en masse in the two elections, because of his track record and performance in office. It is known by all that Ugwuanyi is not a politician with inordinate ambition and desperation. He is a man of everlasting peace, who is always ready to sacrifice anything for peace to reign. He is a man of quality content and contentment.

It is also on record and a public knowledge that neither Ugwuanyi nor any of his appointees were under any anti-graft agencies’ investigations or prosecution before and after he assumed office in 2015. Ugwuanyi’s government has against all odds instilled fiscal discipline, accountability, transparency and due process in the governance of Enugu State since 2015. It is no longer business as usual. That is why salaries are being paid every 23rd of the month and 13th month in December.  Several laudable and legacy projects have been completed across the state, while many are still ongoing. On the suspended RUGA, is Odigbo saying he is not aware of the position of the Southeast governors on the issue, which among others are- that there is no land anywhere in Southeast for RUGA project and that they will employ forest guards with a centralized security headquarters for the zone in Enugu to coordinate it. Ugwuanyi is part and parcel of the Southeast Governors Forum and his position is not different from that of his colleagues. That Ugwuanyi is not loquacious like some of his colleagues does not make him a weakling. He is not a governor of public notice or media publicity. He prefers for his works to speak for him. Leadership is about the style that helps one to get the desired result and solves problems. Ugwuanyi’s leadership style has not failed him and the people of his state and is not failing them.

 For Odigbo and his cohorts’ information, anti-kidnapping law has been in place in Enugu and was amended in 2016 and it has been represented by the governor for further amendment by the state assembly to tackle the current security challenges. On the call for anti-open grazing bill, that has not provided solution to the security challenges in the states like Benue and Taraba that have passed the bill into law. It has created more Internally Displaced Camps IDPs than peace in these states. Why should one expect or prod Enugu government to toe the line, when it has not provided solution to the herder/herdsmen clashes in states that have adopted it. What is needed in Enugu is absolute peace and not peace of graveyard as being advocated by Odigbo and his allies.

People like Odigbo were among those who sold the dummy at the peak of Boko Haram insurgence in the country that the menace was a ploy by the North and Muslims to deny President Goodluck Jonathan victory in 2015 elections and chased the Christians away from the North. Alas, even with Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in 2105 and 2019 elections, Boko Haram insurgence has been taking toll in the Northern states than any other part of the country. As if that was not enough challenge, banditry and killings are now ravaging some once peaceful states of Northwest states, including President Buhari’s state of Katsina that was once insulted of Boko Haram insurgence and banditry. Today, the North and Muslims have received fair share of these crimes more than any other part in the country. Scaremongers and falsehood peddlers like Odigbo and others are not saying anything again in this regard; just for the mere fact that they are not directly affected, thereby forgetting that human lives are the same everywhere. 

The likes of Odigbo and his sponsors in the state cannot feign ignorance of the heightened insecurity across the country in the recent times. But Enugu has been peaceful until the recent killing of the Catholic priest. Instead of sitting in the comfort of his home in UK to decry the security situation in Enugu to suit the political agenda of his paymasters, Odigbo should take this summer holiday to visit home and see things himself. There is a popular dictum which says that seeing is believing.  Relying on hearsay and lies being circulated on social media platforms by merchants of lies to pass judgment on critical matter like security in Enugu State is an act of mischief, hypocrisy and blackmail.

Enugu is peaceful. It is in the hands of God. No amount of lies, mischief and propaganda that can erase the established and verifiable indices that placed Enugu above other states in the area of security, infrastructure, education, roads and other sectors of the economy. Not even the recent security lapses in a particular axis of the state, is enough to rubbish the commendable efforts of the present government in securing the state. Odigbo should know that being a priest does not give him licence to libelous and caustic comment and write-up on sensible issue like security in Enugu without concrete evidence to buttress his claims. It is not too late for him to come down from the Olympian Height and go for restitution. After all, he is a human being and fallible.

-         Amauche wrote from Obinagu, Udi Enugu State.

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