What should I say? To say goodbye to Governor Elechi, our own Ochudo and bridge builder? No, I will not! Chief Elechi impacted us in many ways that it will be unkind of us to forget him in a hurry. He came into our political space in a blaze of glory, eight years today, and is leaving us with fond memories that will live in our hearts for years to come. When I remember that he will be stepping aside today, I imagine how short time is, and I remember Sam Altman’s words: The days are long, but the decades are short!
He came in wearing the toga of Musa Al-Khwarizmi, the wisest man in Babylon from whose name we got Algorithm. Being one of the foremost founding fathers of Ebonyi, he knew where the problems of the state were located and set to work; literally, he was on fire to take us to the next level. He began building bridges of unity to connect a once scattered people to their kith and kin. From there, he went to battle with guinea worm that was embarrassingly seen across the country as our ornamental embellishment. In order to chase this scourge from our borders, he started the gigantic Oferekpe and Ukawu Water Schemes which many saw as killing a fly with a sledge hammer. It has gulped—and is still gulping—billions of our federal allocation. That project, though well intentioned, has a sore point. The truth of the matter is that while the Oferekpe project will soon start, that of Ukawu may not work given its geographical location. That portion of the water project is meant to serve Ebonyians from the southern axis, but the former governor was swayed by political considerations and defied simple science of gravity and economics by locating it on a valley to pump water to hilly areas like Afikpo and Edda!
But he was not done yet. He built and commissioned state of the art Secretariat Complex and increased the state minimum wage to the federal index. Ochudo completed some of the projects initiated by his predecessor and even when he had his hands full, he assured us he would not leave any project undone. He must have spoken out of the abundance of the heart without reckoning with the vagaries in the economic climate. But today, he is taking a bow, going home and leaving many projects uncompleted for his former deputy and now governor, to complete; at his benevolence!
Elechi became governor in 2007 with the mindset to solve the infrastructure deficit in the state, which he said was for the Ebonyi of the future, but in the process he neglected Ebonyi of the present. Take for instance the sleepy and rural nature of our state capital Abakaliki that is bereft of any social amenities. The story is worse when you visit our senatorial zone headquarters like Afikpo and Onueke. As he bows out of the stage today, there are many puzzles which will take the minds of many Al-Khwarizmis to unravel, if they are some of them here. For example, what one cannot easily understand is the logic behind ceding the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital to the federal government. Again, Elechi had a very good idea to promote agriculture in the state by establishing modern rice processing mill plants. But what one could not understand was if he actually gave thought to how the mills will be kept busy without equal emphasis on rice cultivation by empowering the farmers. In all honesty, I see this as building a bridge where there is no river.
However, this piece is neither a treatise nor a chronicle of Elechi’s successes and failures: that will amount to writing history in a hurry; and besides, that is the duty of historians. It is a periscope about a man who was full of zeal to make Ebonyi a city on a hill that will shine forth like a meteor and illumine the darkness around it. It is a promenade, an excursion into the mind of a man who brooded no opposition against his president but who was wounded by the same bayonet he dared not raise a finger against. It is a peep into the mind of a man who on November 6, 2013, invited me into his office and asked me to show cause why I should not be dismissed from the service for daring to criticize Jonathan in support of Buhari.
But even upon all these, it is sufficient to say that no matter what anybody may say, Elechi achieved much given the resources at his disposal compared to his predecessor. He came to lay the foundations on which the new Ebonyi will sprout. But where he muddled things up was in the political sphere. And in my imaginations, I can hear him echoing and telling Ebonyians the first stanza of the lyrics of Madonna in her immortal song: “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”.
“It won’t be easy; you’ll think it strange,
When I try to explain how I feel,
That I still need your love after all I have done.”