By Prof. Asogwa Eya
When on September 30th, 2018 Alhaji Kashim Shettima, then a governor of Borno State, endorsed Mr. Babagana Umara Zulum as his successor against the backdrop of the 2019 gubernatorial election, the news was received by the people of the State with a feeling of fulfilment and absolute satisfaction. The endorsement of Zulum by Shettima didn’t come to the people as a surprise. The news didn’t dog Borno’s airwaves with protest or rebellion despite Zulum not having a political godfather and not being a political godson to any political gladiator in the state. The announcement that Zulum, out of the 21 aspirants cleared by the All Progressive Congress to contest the party’s primary election was a warm fuzzies which aroused wide jubilation among the people.
Shettima didn’t shy away from the reasons for endorsing Governor Zulum as his successor. He was firm and resolute to tell the world of the decision to settle down for Zulum. He was happy that such decision was made in tandem with the wishes of the people.
“I endorsed the gubernatorial candidature of Babagana Zulum to fast track rapid social and economic transformation of the state,” Shettima audaciously broke the news to the cheering of Borno people whose hope was already dissipating and waning due to the devastating war of attrition the state had been mired into since 2009.
Shettima was even more factual and direct with his words when he stated that “… Zulum has shown the potentials to take the State to the next level. Zulum is without a slightest doubt, a workhorse.” His historical track was an undeviating conviction that he would inspire transformation in his state. True to that rational decision, Governor Zulum, since he came to power in 2019, has distinguished himself in no infinitesimal measure especially in the areas of infrastructure, education, peace and security, religious tolerability, social welfare, employment and healthcare system. He is now synonymous with good governance across Nigeria.
Today, that metaphor of the “workhorse” used by Shettima on his successor has replicated itself in Enugu State with evidence abounding in unimaginable proportion across the State. A curious look at what’s happening in the socio-political and economic cycles would reveal a flagship of a workhorse supporting the State’s structure and efforts to domicile good governance both within the urban areas and the hinterlands. There have been ceaseless efforts into activating a state where there would be interconnectivity infrastructure that would enhance economic activities and stimulate interdependent growth of all the sectors. In these efforts, we have seen very few individuals playing major roles to complement government’s agenda.
One of the foremost distinguishing members of the society, in his private capacity as a citizen with the epitome of a “workhorse” is a successful industrialist, engineer, political scientist and pilot, who has been driving growth, development, and employment in Enugu State and beyond is, Captain Evarest Nnaji Odengene. Popularly celebrated as Odengene, Captain Evarest has been consistent in his corporate social responsibility through his foundation; Odengene Charity Foundation. Despite spending millions of Naira every month on the welfare of the people, chiefly on the sick, needy, aged, less-privileged and those at the receiving end of the society through his foundation, he has also gone miles away contributing to other sectorial development from his personal efforts. But Odengene wouldn’t stop here. For over thirty years, Odengene has been touching the lives of the people of Enugu State, and has extended his goodwill and tentacles of philanthropy beyond the State and the Southeast zone.
Even though Odengene is not in government or wielding any political power, he has used his resources to bless men and women of different ethnics and backgrounds. He has optimally utilised his resources to respond to people’s distresses and predicaments. He has lifted thousands of people from rags to riches. He not only established industries for job creations, he has furthered the passion of making many employers of labour. Odengene keeps changing people’s status from employees to employers. Having been doing this over the years, it’s a fact with no streaks and stealth of doubt that his acts are God’s designed for humanity to progress. It’s an innate desire borne out of love to give humanity some light of hope in a world dampened by human selfishness and propagation of primitive accumulation. His types are definitely rare in our today’s world.
In most homes across the 17 local government areas of Enugu State, the discussions have fundamentally centred on Odengene and his passion to continue to serve the people in another capacity. Having become a household name, majority of the people in the State are already clamouring for him to succeed Governor Ugwuanyi and continue with Ugwuanyi’s leadership template. In churches, Odengene is being discussed by congregants not because of his posture for sainthood but because of his positive impacts and life-changing outreaches in those churches. That’s how to know a true Christian. Odengene is a staunch Catholic whose faith in God is unblemished and absolute. However, he doesn’t allow the cog of religious or sectarian fanaticism to impede his accommodation of other people’s faith. He reaches out to them. He supports the body of Christ in capacities that have left many desiring to have a person like him lead the state. In markets, it’s the same story of Odengene going about doing good. This is an unrivalled pedigree. His government will, predictably, flow from the legitimacy of the people rather than from the whims and caprices of godfathers since it’s only God Almighty that makes kings. God can decide to use Governor Ugwuanyi to achieve the mission given the fact that Ugwuanyi has committed the State into His hands while serving as God’s vessel.
But that’s not all. Even as Enugu people are appealing to Governor Ugwuanyi to endorse and anoint Odengene just like Moses anointed Joshua, Elijah anointed Elisha, Prophet Samuel anointed David King of Israel, and Governor Sullivan Chime anointed Governor Ugwuanyi in 2015, the signs that Enugu State is under the care and hands of God should be seen to be manifested in Christ. Shettima saw the antecedent of Zulum because Zulum had been working like a workhorse and anointed him, so are the people of Enugu State pleading, appealing, praying, and humbly calling on Governor Ugwuanyi to consider Odengene as his successor who will continue with his template of good governance.
It’s even more interesting, in the light of Shettima’s leadership foresight and utilitarian consideration of the common good of the greater number of the people with his statement that the track records of his successor had shown the potentials to take their state to the next level, here is Odengene already consolidating on the works of Governor Ugwuanyi by complementing his achievements. Just yesterday, a multi-billion naira 5.4 kilometers road, with necessary certified quality assurance and guarantee, was commissioned by the elated Governor. The project had been executed by Odengene with his hard earned money without making a noise about it. Even though Odengene has been discouraging people from campaigning with the legacy project as that was not intended to be an instrument of campaign, Enugu citizens are people of goodwill and they will stop at nothing from recognizing a trailblazing opportunity that presents itself. Just like Governor Ugwuanyi, Odengene is a silent achiever and a voice speaking through the people.
His good works are speaking all over the State, and the people of Enugu State are all out pleading with the Governor for this opportunity of Odengene. A ticket to Odengene is tantamount to another priceless and golden opportunity for the people of Enugu State to continue to experience rapid social and economic transformation. Now that the whole Enugu people are pleading and appealing to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to consider Captain Evarest Nnaji Odengene as his successor, will the governor forsake the people’s plea for this opportunity? Will Governor Ugwuanyi, a God-fearing man, like Shettima, say to the people of Enugu State, “Voce populi, voce Deus?” Will he, to quote Shettima, tell the good people of Enugu State thus; “With humility and absolute respect for all aspirants, I will like to say that from overwhelming opinions and feedback, the aspirant with an edge in understanding the peace development nexus of ‘Enugu’s future’ is Captain Evarest Nnaji Odengene?” Enugu State is truly in the Hands of God!