Fellow Ebonyians, how can someone who is not part of the executive be allowed to sit in the chambers of the Executive Council? It is like sitting at the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja with the President presiding, or being part of the Senate with Saraki and his gavel on the table.I am not a commissioner. I am not a Special Assistant to the Governor. Neither am I the SSG nor one of the Technical Assistants—people that are supposed to form part of the Executive Council. But for five days, I sat there watching the debate.
For five days, I strode into the chambers in the morning and walked gingerly out in the evening, clutching my file jacket in my armpit like someone that has hit an irresistible contract. I did not hit any jackpot. Rather, I was granted the rare privilege, like St. Paul, to peep into heaven, to peep into our hallowed chambers of power and see—even if temporarily— the ways and means issues are dissected, debated and passed or rejected.
When my Commissioner told me I was going to appear at the Executive Council meeting, my heart jumped into my mouth. Yes I had every reason to fidget. I remembered a similar invitation in the same month, November 2013, when Chief Martin Elechi invited me to his office at the Government House, with my then Commissioner in toe. I went to my wardrobe and took out my bespoke suit which I had not worn. I thought the invitation was an interview for a Commissioner or Ministerial appointment. I was in my best element: shoe gleaming, hair shining brilliant white, body draped in an expensive suit. But behold, I did not know, like a sheep taken to the slaughter that I was on my way to Golgotha. Instead of giving me praise as an avid reader of my column, Elechi dressed me down for the simple reason that I criticised President Goodluck Jonathan on the hasty manner he set up a constitutional conference at the tail end of his administration. He asked me to show cause why he would not dismiss me there and then. I pleaded, and I was underwhelmed!
Sitting at the Executive Council meeting with Governor David Umahi was a privilege. What interested me so much was not the issues that were being discussed but the orderly manner they were discussed. You can easily see this from the banters and badinage the Governor throws from time to time.
Every meeting starts with a prayer, and the prayers are powerful. Rev. Father Nwali is more or less the chaplain. Every sitting he, like Abraham Lincoln, invokes heaven for powers to steer the ship of state. After this, the Governor opens the meeting by presenting issues for discussion and allowing every member to contribute before arriving at a conclusion. The air of seriousness pervades the chamber once a member takes his or her seat. I did not notice any absentee for the days I was there.
The manner the governor handled each deliberation showed the technocrat and entrepreneur in him. Every issue is properly scrutinised and examined with a pair of glasses. Contracts are properly weighed and the amount checked to ensure there is no rip off. For the good of Ebonyi State, he does not compromise on quality. He compels contractors of sensitive jobs to sign an undertaking to stick to the standard quality. He even goes the extra mile to compel them issue a cheque to the value of the contract as a guarantee against default,
However, what made deep impression in me was that at the end of each deliberation, the meeting ends with hymns powerful enough that one would be tempted to think here was a cathedral. Every executive member, from the governor to the last person has a hymn book which is brought out for the closing prayers, usually led by the Governor.
If there is anything I took home from the brief interaction, it is that this state is truly in the hands of God, for God cannot desert an assembly that praises His name and gives Him all the honour and glory. We are the Salt of the Nation, and with a man of God at the driver’s seat, our passage is sure because our anchor is strong.