• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why Governor Peter Mbah cannot afford sit-at-home in Enugu

Mbah wins at tribunal as election is upheld

For many years now, the South- East geopolitical zone has suffered from the activities of non-state actors. Since the introduction of sit-at-home by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to press for the release of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, the economy of the zone has taken a hit. It started with every Monday, which is usually an important day for business activities both in public and private sector-led ventures. In recent times, the non-state actors have begun to impose a mandatory one week sit-at-home, which means that for a complete seven days nothing happens in all the states in the zone.

Schools are shut; markets are shut; offices are shut; worship centres are shut; and everything is shut, yet people must eat.

For years, political leaders in the zone have treated the issue with levity by not being intentional about it. Allegations abound also that some politicians have leveraged the state of anomie to levy death, through assassination, on their perceived political foes.

These political elements recruit bad boys to attack their opponents and blame it on IPOB.

On many occasions, IPOB leadership has come out to denounce some killings and had also pointed fingers at politicians. Those who live and do business in South East are now concerned that what began like a child’s play may have assumed large scale disruptions in the zone.

A few days ago, there was a fresh threat that a two-week sit-at-home would be imposed any time towards the end of the current month, July.

The new phase of sit-at-home introduced recently, upscaling the one-day-imposed imprisonment to seven days is agitating the minds of many people. One of those who do not find the situation tolerable is the Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah, and the reason is obvious.

Before he ever went in for the gubernatorial election on March 18, 2023, Mbah had envisioned an Enugu that would be transformed from public sector to private sector-driven state. Shortly before his inauguration, he reiterated his pledge to turn Enugu State around. This he said during a meeting with editors in Lagos and he pointedly said that they should call him out if he derailed.

He shared with the editors his timelines, saying that within 180 days of his inauguration, he would restore public water supply in Enugu Urban. He also said that he would run the business of government with the efficiency of the private sector by adopting the best of corporate governance code in the administration of the state to reposition and make it ready for business.

Governor Mbah has an ambitious target of growing the Enugu economy, moving it from a $4.4 billion to $30 billion economy.

This and many more he promised to do within his first term of four years. To achieve these, the governor knows that a State bogged down by insecurity cannot attract big-ticket investment.

Mbah had earlier in June declared an end to sit-at-home in the state, effective from June 5, 2023, saying such orders were restricting creativity, entrepreneurship, and productivity in Enugu State.

Knowing the enormous task ahead, the governor had said: “There is no time to waste. The clock has started ticking on the mandate you gave me and deliverables I promised. A time comes in the lives of a people when they must decide whether they genuinely want to move forward or remain stuck with the conditions of their underdevelopment.

“The creativity and sense of industry of Ndi Igbo are remarkable. Our DNA is wired with commercial and entrepreneurial prowess. If this is what we are known for, then it becomes inconsistent with reality that the spirit of entrepreneurship, commerce and creativity are killed every Monday in our land. Our restless spirit of industry abhors laxity and indolence.

“The idea behind sitting at home on Monday, the first working and business day of the week, is abominable and antithetical to greatness and the spirit of industry we profess to have inherited from our forebears. This cannot be us. Tufiakwa (God forbid). It does colossal damage to us.”

He had also reminded the Enugu people that, “For us to transit from a public service economy to a private sector-driven one, we must free our markets from the shackles of restriction to commerce. If indeed we aspire and anticipate an influx of private sector practitioners and investors in Enugu State, we must know that this will not happen where the perception of us is that of unproductive people.

“Therefore, those that strike on Mondays, putting restrictions in the way of our Igbo spirit of creativity, cannot be our true representatives. In fact, they kill our spirit. We know that our land is a fertile ground for commerce. However, businesses, entrepreneurship and commerce require a vibrant workforce and big markets where they can flourish and make money.

“To this end, therefore, from Monday, June 5, 2023, there will be no observance of any sit-at-home in all nooks and crannies of Enugu State. Government will enforce this with all the powers at its disposal.

“My charge to all of you – market men and women, the corporate world, industries, schools, civil servants, and all strata of workers in Enugu State is for us to take back our sense of industry, pride of place and re-enact our glorious past. By heeding this call, you would have set us on the path of actualising our mandate.”

Last week, when the news broke that a faction of IPOB led by Simon Ekpa had ordered a two-week sit-at-home towards the end of July, Governor Mbah quickly addressed a press conference in Enugu, where he called on the people to discountenance the order.

He had also emphasised at the event that investors could go into states where other indices like infrastructure and power are limited but would never risk investing in a troubled zone or state.

He reminded the media that he had told the people that there was no way Enugu could become the premier destination for investment, when the people are ordered when to work and when not to work from faceless persons outside the country.

While insisting that those who impose restrictions on people’s movements are hurting their own people, calling on them to desist from such actions, the governor is also seeking ways of treating the water from the source, as it were.

That was the essence of his recent visit to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu where he pleaded for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, which he believed was important for the healing of the country.

“I call on our newly sworn in President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to consciously work towards the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. We believe that his release will expedite the healing process Nigeria needs at this time.

“It will also be a pointer to his administration’s extension of brotherly hands of fellowship to Ndigbo,” he said.

Mbah indeed, wants to make a success of Enugu State the same way he has done his personal business as a big player in the private sector.

He is the owner of Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited, a foremost indigenous player in the downstream sector of the nation’s oil and gas industry.

The company is reputed to have a market share of about 23 percent and an annual turnover of about 600 billion naira. Recently, the company opened the largest storage and logistics facilities in Nigeria.

Having attained this level of success in business, Governor Mbah would not like to leave behind a record that could be decried by anyone, as the chief executive officer of Enugu State.