August 27, 2018, was 27 years after Enugu State was created in 1991, the culmination of 63 years old struggle which began with the formation of Enugu Aborigines Improvement Union on May 29, 1928. The Aborigines Union was the first to fight for separate identity of the people of Enugu area, otherwise called the Wawa, from the rest of the other Igbo, even under the yoke of British colonial domination.
We seize the opportunity to look back on those who held forte in Enugu as the seat of government, beginning from when political power was transferred to Africans by the British colonial government, to see the legacies they left behind.
Following the victory of the NCNC in the election held under the Macpherson Constitution, the first African to rule in Enugu was Professor Eyo Ita (1952 to 1954) who was Leader of Government Business. He ruled under the ubiquitous presence of British colonial officials. So, he did not achieve much.
Eyo Ita was succeeded by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (1954 to 1959) as Premier of Eastern Region, who made a detour after he was betrayed and prevented from assuming leadership of the Western House of Assembly.
Azikiwe laid solid foundation for the economic development of Eastern Region. With a booming agricultural sector, he sowed the seed for future industrialization of the region. He founded the African Continental Bank (ACB), the Nigerian Cement Company (NIGERCEM), and constructed some network of roads.
Azikiwe also established the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC) that embarked on aggressive industrial and agricultural development of the region, such as Oghe Cashew Industry, Obudu Cattle Ranch and a rubber plantation in Calabar.
It was Azikiwe that founded the first autonomous university in Nigeria, the University of Nigeria, and established the Eastern Nigeria Information Service (ENIS) that published the Eastern Nigeria Outlook and Cameroun Star, and later, the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service (ESBS).
In 1959, Dr. Michael Okpara took over as Premier of Eastern Region, with Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam as Governor, though in non-executive capacity. As a pragmatist, Okpara embarked on aggressive agricultural programme by setting up farm settlements at Igbariam, Adani and Ohaji.
He also established industries and hotels like the Asbestos, Niger Steel and Nigergas companies in Emene; the Modern Ceramics Industries and Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia, Onitsha and Aba Textile Mills, Hotel Presidentials at Enugu and Port Harcourt, the Old Lion Building, Enugu, National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu, then known as the Governor’s Lodge; the Ministers’ Quarters in Enugu, as well as many housing estates in Enugu, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri and Aba. Under Dr. Okpara’ regime, Eastern Nigeria was adjudged the fastest growing economy in the world.
The 1966 military coup ended Okpara’s regime, with the then Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as Military Governor. Ojukwu’s radical programmes were still at their embryonic stage when the Nigerian crisis erupted in July 1966 to disrupt them. By 1967, Enugu had assumed a new status as capital of the Republic of Biafra and for the next three years, Ojukwu was engaged in war of survival to defend his people.
Ojukwu left the country on January 12, 1970 and handed over to General Philip Effiong, who on January 15, 1970, surrendered Biafran sovereignty to the Nigerian federal government.
Before then, in 1967, the Nigerian government had appointed Mr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika, Administrator of the newly created East Central State. But Asika was “Administrator in exile”, since the bulk of the people he was supposed to govern were on the other side of the war. He only assumed full control at the end of war in 1970.
Battling a credibility crisis with a people who at first had disowned him and called him a ” renegade “, Asika embraced the federal government’s post civil war programme of “reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction” of the war ravaged East Central State.
That aside, Asika had his own ideas. He introduced state takeover of schools, considered as punitive action against the Christian missionaries who supported Biafra during the war. He also broke East Central State into 35 administrative divisions and 640 community councils for effective administration under his Divisional Administration Department (DAD) programme.
Asika was shuffled out on July 29, 1975, following a military takeover in the country. He was replaced by Colonel Anthony Ochefu as Military Governor. But before Ochefu could settle down to work, the military hierarchy discovered that they had made a mistake, and decided to drop him in October 1975.
It was during the regime of Col. John Atom Kpera (1975 to 1978) that the East Central State was split into Anambra and Imo States. Atom Kpera also embarked on a number of administrative reforms, including splitting Anambra State into 23 divisions as well as according recognition to first set of traditional rulers in the state.
Datti Sadiq Abubakar (1978 to 1979), who took over from Atom Kpera had only one single assignment. That was to provide enabling environment for military handover to civilian regime, which he faithfully did.
Chief Jim Nwobodo (1979 to 1983) was the first democratically elected Governor of Anambra State. He adopted “mass attack” approach at rebuilding the dilapidated infrastructure of the state. Nwobodo founded the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH), Anambra Television, Sunrise Flour Mill, Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Aluminum Manufacturing Company, Ohebe Dim, Building Materials Industry, Ezzangbo and embarked on the ambitious programme of rural electrification.
Chief Christian Onoh (October 1983 to December 31, 1983) was barely three months in office when the military struck and sent politicians packing, but not before Onoh showed that some road projects could be executed by direct labour, while he mapped out two days in a week when civil servants would go to the farm.
Navy Captain Allison Madueke as he then was (1984 to August 1985), took bold measures to clear backlog of salary arrears owed civil servants by the ousted civilian regime, completed some abandoned projects like Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium and Nike Lake Resort. Madueke also sought to merge the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), with the Anambra State University of Technology
The first action Group Captain Emeka Omeruah (1985 to 1987), took when he assumed the mantle of leadership was to demergedl IMT and ASUTECH. He introduced the Mmanwu Festival, embarked on beautification of Enugu Coal City with flowers and artifacts and sought to reenact the Okpara agricultural revolution with his “Operation Palm to Palm” project.
It was during the regime of Col. Robert Akonobi (1987 to 1990) that Ayamelum Clan was excised from Uzo Uwani where it belonged, while Col. Herbert Obi Eze (1990 to 1992) was at the helm of affairs when Enugu State was created in August 1991.
Dr. Okwesieze Nwodo (1992 to 1993), was noted for his twin policy of “Triangular Equilibrium and Meriquotocracy”, by which he sought to ensure equitable distribution of human and material resources among the three zones of the state.
The return of the military in 1993, saw Navy Captain Temison Ejoor (1993 to 1994) at the helm of affairs. He however got himself enmeshed in land “carveouts” at GRA, Enugu. Ejoor was replaced by Col. Mike Torey (1994 to 1996), who took decisive action against the land “scandal”, even if he was to backpedal thereafter.
It was Colonel Sule Ahman (1996 to 1998) who introduced the controversial “non-indigene” policy, whereby civil servants who hailed from outside Enugu State were asked to return to their states of origin, while Navy Captain Benson Agbaja (1998 to 1999) ensured that the transition to civil rule went on smoothly.
The first action which Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani (1999 to 2007) took when he mounted the saddle was to cancel the “non-indigenes” policy introduced by Sule Ahman, even if he was to disengage 5,000 civil servants of the state origin.
This notwithstanding, Chimaroke took bold action to repair the dilapidated infrastructure of the state caused by several years of neglect. He rehabilitated several rural and urban roads, built Ebeano and Golf Estates, Ebeano bypass, a campus of Nigerian Law school at Agbani, Air force Comprehensive College, Agbani, ESUT permanent site at Agbani, ESUT Teaching Hospital, Park Lane, Enugu, and permanent site of the state judiciary. He also created development centres aimed at bringing government to the grassroots.
Under the four point agenda of Barrister Sullivan Chime (2007 to 2015), many rural and urban roads were given facelifts, while new roads were constructed to reach from Enugu to the hinterland, such as Nike Ugwogo-Opi Road, Ugwuogo-Ikem Road, Eke-Egede-Affa Road, Ninth Mile Corner-Oghe-Olo-Umulokpa Road, Akpasha-Agbogugu-Ihe-Awgu Road, etc.
Sullivan not only recalled civil servants disengaged by the immediate past adminstration, but also that salaries of civil servants were enhanced and paid regularly. He also constructed a new Secretariat for civil servants and the new Lion Building. Under his tenure, Enugu Coal City got a befitting facelift with massive infrastructural development.
Rt. Hon. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (2015 to date), while committing Enugu State to the hands of God, lays the main plank of his programme on peace as foundation for development. He ensures that everybody gets his fair share and does not want to ruffle feathers. While maintaining regular payment of workers salaries, even at most difficult periods, he also drives development down the grassroots like road constructions and provision of electricity.
As you enter the EXCO Chambers of Enugu State, these faces stare at you, you then begin to ask what role they have in history