Democracy, as a government of the people, by the people and for them, was at play during an event we withnessed, over last weekend at Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital. It was like never been seen or heard in the history of Nigeria, but it happened before our own very eyes on the 24 of June, 2020. It was at the magnificent, state of art, multi purpose Ecumenical Center Abakaliki.
I was in Abakaliki, in company of a friend for a different funtion that took place at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Ebonyi state. We were attracted, as we passed Abakalik iti, on our way, by some attractive banners which read; ” EBONYI REVISED 2020 BUDGET— Citizens’ Input…”.
A friend who joined us for the trip, from Abakaliki, tried to explain what it was all about, but the things he said sounded strange and unbelievable to happen anywhere in the current political era. That the state Gov, Engr Dave Umahi, was going to meet with the people of Ebonyi, from all walks of life, to revisit and approve the state revised budget for 2020, which had been passed into law by the State House of Assemby earlier in the year, but has become unrealizable due to the current economic reality ocassioned by Covic 19 pandemic. We just did not believe it was possible, by any administration, in today’s Nigeria, to carry the people along in such a situation. Of course we told our Ebonyi friend he did not know what he talked about because It was so unthinkable to be true.
On our way back from lkwo, we saw a mammot crowd movement towards the said venue and decided, since it was free, to look in and withness ourselves, what was really happening.
We were shocked that a state governor, in the Nigeria of today or any other time in our history, had actually thought about it to invite the people of his state and representatives of professional bodies in the state like, NMA, NBA, NUT, NUJ, NSE, THE CLERGY, Civil soceity groups, the organised private sector, market men and women in the state to listen to a presentation by the Governor, ask him questions, make inputs in a revised or new budget proposal to reflect the current realities or uncertainties of the current covid 19 era.
That Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state, actually conducted such an excercise and the ordinary people were allowed to make their inputs, agree and disagree with him in some areas were not the only shocker at the unprecedented event, but that he called for a vote by the people on whether they accepted the proposal or not of the revised budget, was the high point of it all.
Infact it is not possible to express the mood in the hall or how we, visitors, felt withnessing such in this country where, most times, the peoples’ votes and opinion don’t count.
We were dumbfounded and speechless at the exortic, ultra-modern Ebonyi Ecumenical Centre, best or first of its kind anywhere in Africa, sitting next to, what one can safely say, is the largest Shopping Mall in Nigeria, getting finishing touches.
To sound very sincer and modest, most of the things we saw in Ebonyi state and Abakaliki, the state capital in particular, were very peculiar to the state. The roads, the numerous flyovers, the lightings, state generated power/water supply, their new Government House, water fountains and city beautification, don’t happen or exist anywhere else in this country.
The democratic excercise we saw take place, where the people had to decide their fate, which we really withnessed, neither happens nor exist in any other Nigerian state.
I did not wait to be told this time, but saw it myself that Ebonyi state is working like no other and Gov Dave Umahi, is like no other in his class.
Dr Nath Dike