Ugwuanyi: 56 garlands for a rare humanist

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If truth be told, one of the most daunting tasks of working with Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as the governor of Enugu State is the ability to keep pace with him when your energy levels dip and other dictates of mortality beckon on you to retreat.

In whispers, most of his aides and watchers express their amazement as to how he is able to sustain his staying power each passing day. At such unholy hours when some doze off behind their tables and others ceaselessly yawn and rest their cheeks in their weary palms, Governor Ugwuanyi stays awake, attending to files and visitors till the wee hours.

Still, he returns to the office in good time the next day without showing any visible signs of exhaustion or hangover. No doubt, such is his uncompromising dedication to his job that speaks to a leader’s resolve to build for the next generation.

As he celebrates his 56th birthday today, many of his family members, close aides and friends would not be surprised that Ugwuanyi is sure to supplicate to God quietly than contemplate any lavish ceremony.

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Since his ascent to power, his birthday celebrations have always taken a familiar pattern: prayers, exchange of birthday pleasantries from close family members, visits to the needy, and he is back to work where a handful of his aides or visitors would say “Happy birthday.” It is very unlikely that the ritual will change this year.

To underscore his humble background and the divine favours bestowed on him by God, Ugwuanyi is never shy to acknowledge that he is nwa ogbenye Chukwu mere ebere. That clearly explains why he seizes every opportunity to reverence God and return due glory, honour and adoration to Him – as a man from a humble background favoured by the divine creator.

Such chosen solemnity accords well with Ugwuanyi’s humility. Rather than throw expensive birthday parties, he has treaded a familiar path these past five years at the Lion Building. Today, it will be unsurprising to see him visit orphanages and old people’s homes with gifts to commemorate his birthday. There, he enjoys his quiet time with his hosts who usually do not have any inkling of the possibility of the encounter with such a notable personality.

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It is in the same spirit of giving humble service to the poor and the sick that the wife of the governor, Mrs. Monica Ugochi Ugwuanyi, has chosen to offer one week free medical outreach across the 17 local government areas (LGAs) in commemoration of her husband’s 56th birthday.

The free medical outreach holding at the headquarters of each LGA is a brainchild of the collaborative efforts of Mrs. Ugwuanyi’s pet project, Ugo’s Touch of Life Foundation (U-TOLF) and a Germany-based hospital, which is essentially a humanitarian exercise that caters to the health challenges of rural dwellers. Such acts of benevolence that seek no earthly acclaim have endeared the Enugu State First Family to Ndi Enugu.

A man of powerful introspection, Gov. Ugwuanyi is always driven by a high sense of public duty that is not tainted by needless self-glorification. That is why he sees his birthday as an occasion for reflection more than celebration.

If the governor has consistently chosen low-key birthday celebrations, it is only ideal not to use this year’s event to call attention to his legendary kind-heartedness, undying knack to better the lives of the poor, laudable landmark achievements and a unique governance style that highlights inclusiveness and participation by relevant stakeholders.

From the provision of critical infrastructure, affordable and accessible education to quality healthcare, peace-building, security of life and property and sundry other social amenities of note, the huge goodwill that Gburugburu commands has shown that the common folk know their true leader.

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For a governor who secured 95.54 per cent in the 2019 gubernatorial election, that outstanding victory speaks to his place in the hearts of the people, and also places a burden on him to continue to serve with compassion.

Surely, a day will come when we shall, using verifiable facts and figures, bear witness to the realities on ground and chronicle the numerous achievements to his name. That will be the time to reflect on how his massive investments have turned education around, how the free maternal child healthcare has drastically reduced morbidity and mortality, and how he places the people above other considerations.

Above all, he will be remembered forever for enthroning peace across the state and for his grave risk to life and limb when he had to go into caves and forests to flush out criminals and make the entire state safe and secure for residents and investors.

But then, that is why society needs to identify and celebrate such pathfinders, even if to inspire upcoming generation to embrace devotion, hard work and selflessness in governance. These are, without doubt, enduring virtues and values we must inculcate in the leaders of tomorrow.

Such are the legacies that Gov. Ugwuanyi will bequeath to the proud inheritors of the solid foundation he is laying today. For Ndi Enugu, they will always have the fondest memories of this servant leadership, which will outlast his days in power and his earthly sojourn.

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And to Your Excellency, the bitter truth is that you cannot stop people from paying birthday tributes to you, either through newspaper adverts, phone calls or via other communication platforms. Those messages that will come your way today underline what your state and nation think about you; they shall speak to your sacrifices and service as a governor but also, more importantly, as a humanist and philanthropist.

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