By Polycarp Onwubiko
His Excellency, Dr. Chukwuemeka Pius Ezeife, Okwadike Igboukwu, a former Governor of Anambra state has played his part in the physical world and departed in a blaze of glory, as it were. The Harvard Economist, an enlightened politician who won the Anambra state gubernatorial contest in 1991 piloted the affairs of the then young state from January 1992 to November 1993 as irresponsible Military junta hijacked the government of the country with frivolous reason.
The medieval English poet, William Shakespeare said that “When beggars die, there is no comet seen, but heavens blaze forth, the fall of kings”. Ezeife will be remembered for reintroducing development planning in governance going by the fact of his rich background as an Economist trained in the one of the reputable institutions of higher learning, Harvard university, US.
Hitherto, the military regime that preceded his governance paid lip service to realistic principles guiding development planning in the sub national governments. Ezeife prioritized state government policies, programmes and projects hence his consideration for establishment of housing scheme for public sector workers and also since the state was young and newly carved out from Old Anambra state, the stark reality of shortage of living accommodation stared him on the face and he had to give top priority to shelter as one of the basic needs of man, according to management theorists.
Aged 85, Ezeife flew this mortal realm on the 15th of December, 2023 having fruitlessly battled with brief illness cum minor ailments that naturally accompany ageing in some mortals. Not being able to sustain the battle to overcome the brief ailment and move forward in life, his spirit had no option than to separate from his mortal body hence succumbed to cold hand of death.
The ebullient grassroots politician who performed creditably in the saddle in the brief period but could not be allowed to implement his lofty vision to transform Anambra state having used the term in Igbo language “Agam amanye Anambra state George”; “George” in the hoary past in Igbo land was associated with expensive women wrapper which rich men usually purchased for their loved spouse to distinguish them in public outing as wife of a wealthy merchant; usually public servants could not afford that for their wife.
After leaving the office as Governor, his public life was inimitable as he was considered fit to occupy appointment at the federal level. He was the Special Adviser on political matters to president Olusegun Obasanjo. As a true patriot, he exhibited utmost sense responsibility and “spoke truth to power”, as it were which means being fearless in his role. In other words, he engaged in research work before presenting his views on crucial public policies to his principal, the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Unfortunately, along the line he realized that Nigeria is still very faraway from governance as observed in the civilized countries of the world where we’ll researched advice is highly appreciated by the president. When he critically observed that Obasanjo rarely take his well-meaning and well-intentioned creditable position on critical issues that border on his deployment, he got sorely exasperated and decided to resign his appointment. Of course, he was demonstrating what he diligently observed in the US governance where political appointees call it quits whenever their honest efforts are not given credit and highly appreciated.
Thereafter, the great bureaucrat and accomplished economist having been permanent secretary in the federal civil service did not relent in making worthwhile contributions to make Nigeria occupy its place in the comity of developed countries of the world. His views on national growth and development were creditable including the strident advice to president Buhari administration to embark on the restructuring the lopsided Nigerian Federation to restore realistic principles of federal system of government. As e chieftain of Ohaneze Ndigbo, he joined other progressive groups like Afenifere and Middle Belt Forum in canvassing for the immediate Restructuring of the country so that it would record meaningful and sustainable socioeconomic growth and development in real terms.
He was equivocal in condemning the centralized federalism foisted by the military jackboots and taken as normal by the ultra conservative phalanx which made the southern part of the country to be shortchanged in virtually all the sectors of governance. He was an apostle of equity, fairness and justice in the distribution of the commonwealth.
His Excellency, Dr Ezeife laid the foundation of pragmatic roadmap for the socioeconomic growth and development of Anambra state through his “Think Home” mantra which has proved him right and foresighted with the unfortunate development in Lagos state which has hobbled Ndi Igbo and has made them to have a strategic rethink.
Adieu, the ebullient Governor and statesman of no mean repute.
Source/ Polycarp Onwubiko JP, Author and Public Policy Analyst.