Governor Dave Umahi against all odds won the Ebonyi State gubernatorial election and was sworn in on May 29 at the Abakaliki Township Stadium.
Critics would argue that the governor’s 100 days in office has portrayed him as a man who had no plans before ascending into office with most of his actions so far looking more spontaneous than pre-planned.
Despite this, many still believe he will perform well as governor. But so far it has been a turbulent three months for the young governor who rode to power on the divine mandate mantra.
During his campaign, Mr. Umahi promised to increase workers salary by 100 per cent if elected governor.
This promise emboldened the workers to embark on a strike action which in turn forced the then incumbent governor, Martin Elechi, to increase workers’ salary by 50 per cent.
But immediately he was sworn in, Mr. Umahi sang a different tune, telling everyone who cared to listen that the state’s purse was too lean to pay the workers the 50 per cent salary increase effected by his predecessor.
The situation made the organized labour embark on a strike which forced the government to pay the workers in the state civil service with the new salary table.
But the June salaries were only paid in August as the government first embarked on a workers verification exercise which it claimed was to fish out ghost workers in the civil service.
Till date, details of the exercise have not been made public.
The late payment of the salaries, the first time such will occur in the state since it was created, unleashed untold hardship on the people of the state where the only industry available is the civil service.
The situation has led to an all time drastic dip in the popularity of the governor which many fear he may never recover from.
The situation was worsened by the death of a teacher in Ishielu Local Government Area during the verification exercise.
The governor was also openly booed by the workers during a town hall meeting he held at the International Conference Centre, Abakaliki, over the salary reduction he was canvassing for. Many other workers walked out on him.
The governor was saved by former governor Sam Egwu who intervened by calling for the setting up of a committee to mediate in the disagreement and make recommendations to the government on the way forward on the imbroglio.
While the salaries paid in arrears included the 50 per cent increase, the governor remains unpopular with his statement that further salaries will revert to the old salary structure in place before the increment.
The organised labour, on its part, has sworn to embark on another strike if the reduction is effected on their salaries.
More fiery exchanges are expected between the governor and labour in the days and months ahead as both sides are not ready to shift ground.
Controversial appointments and salary increment
While the governor is canvassing for reduction in workers’ salary, he hurriedly got the House of Assembly to increase the allowances and salary of his wife, who is the Director of the Staff Development Centre, Abakaliki.
This is also as he forced the new commissioners and other political appointees to take a pay cut.
But the governor himself refused to take a pay cut as he allegedly jacked up his own running cost or overhead while reducing that of ministries and departments.
Also, among the commissioners appointed by the governor include a murder suspect, Sabinus Nwankwegu, who is standing trial for the murder of a traditional ruler. The action didn’t sit well some residents and further made the governor unpopular especially since it was made known that the suspect was indicted by a government white paper for the crime during the Sam Egwu administration.
One area the governor can be commended on is road construction. The governor has already completed the Gunning Road in Abakaliki metropolis, while work is already at an advanced stage on the Nkaliki Road which leads to the State House of Assembly.
Also work is in progress on the Ogoja and New Market roads. These roads, when completed, will improve commerce in the state as they all lead to major markets in the city.
But there are reservations as to the quality of the work as most of the roads are being done with concrete base instead of the usual stone base which many believe are more durable.
The governor who is an engineer disagrees with the motion, maintaining that the concrete base lasts as long as the stone base. He said he decided to adopt the method because it can be used to construct roads both in the dry and rainy season while the stone base is only good for dry season.
Mr. Umahi during the campaigns blasted the Elechi administration for taking loans from the capital market to complete projects in the state. He said the loans taken by the government had put the state in bondage and even promised not to embark on such venture.
But immediately he assumed office, he started singing a different tune telling everyone who cared to listen that he needs loan to actualise his vision and programmes for the state.
With the support of the state assembly, he is on the verge of assessing a loan of N8.4 billion from the Central Bank.
Witch-hunt of opposition supporters
The Umahi administration has been accused of witchhunting opposition members in the state including his predecessor whom he ordered to stop his ongoing building construction at Ochudo City housing estate in Abakaliki.
Also the government is threatening to take over a land belonging to another staunch ally of the former governor, Chinedu Ogah.
Again, some of the former council chairmen under Mr. Elechi have been indicted of corruption and have been threatened to be taken to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; while those of them who supported Mr. Umahi during the election have been declared innocent.
The Governor is also facing stiff challenge to his position from the Labour Party candidate, Edward Nkwegu, who is challenging the results of the election at the tribunal.
Mr. Nkwegu is seeking, among other things, a declaration that the election of Mr. Umahi as the winner of the governorship election was marred by widespread irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the electoral act 2010 and the 2015 Independent National Electoral Commission election guidelines.
He is also praying the tribunal to declare that the first respondent (Mr. Umahi) was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast.
Mr. Nkwegu is further urging the tribunal to nullify the election and the return of Mr. Umahi as the winner and instead declare that the petitioner was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the April 11, 2015 governorship election or alternatively nullify the entire governorship election held in all the polling units in the state and conduct fresh polls.
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