Development is freedom, says Amartya Sen. Development is roads and bridges, says Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State.
I visited Abakiliki, the Ebonyi State Capital last two years. I saw significant physical development. I saw the foundations of a big stadium being constructed by the state government. I asked if Ebonyi has any club featuring in the Nigerian Professional League. I was told Ebonyi has none. That’s typical Dave Umahi: big projects without contexts and content. The biggest diagnostic center without insulins, drugs and medical experts.
Dave has done a lot in terms of basic physical infrastructure. The skyline of much of urban Abakiliki looks bright. Like Governor Rochas Okorocha, he has a knack for bricks and mortars, being a respected civil engineer who ran a modestly successful engineering firm before becoming a Governor. But unlike Rochas Okorocha, everything Dave Umahi built is sensible and strong, even if bogus and perhaps not needful. His projects can stand the test of time. Rochas’ expire with the exuberance that inspires them.
But if you go past the urban eldorado that Umahi built, what you see in the rest of Ebonyi are poverty and disempowerment. Dave has not developed Ebonyi. He has built up a part of it. Unlike Sam Egwu who made tremendous investment in education, Dave Umahi has not done much to improve the human capital of Ebonyi. A look at the human development indexes with the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics tells the story of misconceived development. Ebonyi is fighting hard with the poorest northern states in terms of these vital statistics.
The fault for Ebonyi’s poor stats on human development is partly Umahi’s. His concept of development is the strong man who terrorizes everyone and foist his wisdom on everything. Unfortunately, the failure of development in Nigeria has created the wrong paradigm of the strong, authoritarian and brutish leader rather than the democratic, compassionate leader. Umahi has brutalized every political leader in Ebonyi who has not bowed to him. It is painful to travel through Ebony and run into palpable fear and submissiveness. Ebonyi people are not experiencing democratic citizenship. They are in the prison built with hubris and brute ambition.
Umahi should not succeed Buhari. His leadership in Ebonyi shows he will not be able to fix the development challenges of Nigeria. He will see them as matter of more bridges and roads( even if two bridges run through his massive compound and none for the communities that need them); he will not understand why the leader should bother about human rights; and will compound the problem of poverty as Buhari has done.
Dave Umahi claims to adore Buhari. May be he is honest in this claim. But whereas his hero is authoritarian but largely absentminded, Dave will be authoritarian and ever present.
That is really frightening. Therefore, don’t let Dave be on the 2023 Presidential ballot.
By Sam Amadi