By Oswald Agwu
Reward mechanisms are instituted by human societies as means of encouraging excellence and spurring its citizens for greater achievements in various spheres of endeavour.
Apart from financial rewards, prizes and awards have in modern times assumed the centre stage of reward instrument, especially as symbol of extraordinary performance.
A fortnight ago, the Governor of Ebonyi State, a man of indubitable political prowess, social eminence and intellectual pedigree, Engr. David Umahi, was spotted by the eagle eyes of the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC) for the award of the prestigious Zik Prize for Leadership in Good Governance. This development, which has continued to attract accolades from within and outside the country, not only bears witness to Umahi’s popularity, as an exemplary politician but more importantly, reveals that his leadership qualities have significantly assumed a universal signpost of excellence to be emulated in so many ways.
First, in this era where prizes and awards have become matters of merchandise, PPRAC, established in 1994, as a non-governmental, non-political institution, has acquired reputation for integrity in making informed appraisals of and independent inputs into the formation of public policies in Nigeria. It has thus, grown beyond any form of hoodwink capable of obscuring the objectivity of its choices and assessments.
Back home, Umahi’s achievements within the last two years speak volumes and truly justify the degree of solidarity he enjoys in public domain. Apart from avalanche of physical infrastructures scattered across the entire state, Governor Umahi’s other policies have brought about unprecedented youth empowerment and improvement of the welfare of citizens of the state as well as positive turnaround in the health, education and agricultural sectors.
At the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Street on Victoria Island, Lagos venue of the award night, Umahi indeed stole the show, as more than half of the hall was filled with Ebonyians from home and abroad, who came unsolicited to cheer a leader who has made them walk boldly and proudly in public, as Ebonyians. No wonder he assumed the position of reference point from the Masters of Ceremony, the Chairman, the special guests and all speakers at the event.
However, the highest point of the event was the entry of Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, into the arena. Obasanjo was assigned the sole responsibility of personally presenting the award to Governor Umahi. That was seen by many, as a clear manifestation of a twin honour.
The former president noted that although all the other recipients of the various awards deserved the honour, Governor Umahis’s was distinctly significant because he (Obasanjo) had knowledge of the person of Umahi, partly as an in-law, and all he was doing in Ebonyi State, as a governor.
Said he: “I know this governor, not only as a governor but also as an in-law…But more importantly, this governor is a doer; an achiever. I have seen him at work and I know what he is doing in his state.”
To buttress his point, Obasanjo seized the opportunity to inform the crowd that based on the obvious performance of Governor Umahi in the area of Agriculture, Ebonyi was chosen as one of the focus states for the Zero Hunger Project, which he was championing.
Reflecting on the speeches of the Executive Director of PPRAC, Chief Mac Wabara, and the Chairman on the occasion, Prof. Joe Irukwu (SAN), in which they were in agreement that poor leadership was the bane of our national development, one would see the inevitable need to encourage present leaders, who, like the great Zik of Africa, have broken the barriers of sectional dichotomy and employed politics as a means of impacting positively on the lives of their subjects.
Governor Umahi fits into the crop of modern day leaders, who are determined to pursue the much needed course correction in Nigerian politics based on corrupt-free leadership, good conscience, love and selfless service to the people.
The assertion made by Chief Wabara in his remarks that “leadership used properly will promote a society…” can better be appreciated when one becomes familiar with the administrative ingenuity of the Ebonyi governor, which have distributed developmental projects equally across the three zones of the state.
The award, no doubt challenges all modern day leaders on the possibility of emulating the legacies and values of good leadership, as enunciated by the late sage, Zik, even at a time as this when the unity of the country, is threatened by parochial interests.
The deep conviction of Governor Umahi towards the ideals of oneness and service in leadership was further revealed at the event, as he mounted the podium for the second time to pass a vote of thanks on behalf of all the awardees: “We need exemplary leaders like Zik at a time when our understanding of a united Nigeria is troubled. I believe in one indivisible, united Nigeria, built in love, peace, fairness, equity and justice…”
To the governor, being nominated for the award was by the grace of God and as such, a call for greater services, first to the people of Ebonyi State, and to the country in general.
“This award will spur us to greater works and greater services to our people; people of this great county, Nigeria; especially to pursue those virtues for which the Zik of Africa lived and died in this country, Nigeria” the governor stressed.
In fact, Engr. Umahi is a profile of a distinguished Nigerian; a man of remarkable leadership quality, a passionate democrat and a promoter of true democratic ideals, accountability in governance and separation of powers.
• Agwu wrote from the Press Unit, Ebonyi State Govt. House.