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Handover of Enugu diagnostic centre: the inability of Ugwuanyi to read what’s on the page

The handover of the Enugu State Medical Diagnostics Centre to the Nigerian Sovereign Investments Authority (NSIA) on May 2, 2023, was outlandish, even by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s not very immodest standards of ceremony escalation. I doubt if any governor in Nigeria, save for his friend, Nyesom Wike infuses as much pomp and ceremony into their events, many of which are pedestrian and ill-fittingly beneath the offices they occupy.

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Nyesom Wike share a lot in hugging klieg lights they mounted by themselves, for themselves. The day Ugwuanyi handed over the Enugu Diagnostics Centre, a landmark project commenced by former Governor Sullivan Chime, there was a public holiday of sorts in the entire state. A lawyer who had a case at one of the Magistrate Courts in the state informed me that all magistrates and judges in the state were asked to adjourn all cases as they had been asked to gather for the vast reception ceremony organised for the Nigerian Sovereign Investments Authority (NSIA), the agency of the federal government that the centre was handed over to. All senior civil servants and uniformed members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were also persuaded to gather for the rousing welcome given to Uche Orji, the Managing Director of NSIA, and his entourage.

A couple of days later, in Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike, on his part, had to declare a state-wide public holiday, as he welcomed President-elect, Bola Tinubu, who had been invited to commission one of the flyovers constructed by the attention-seeking, raucous-voiced Rivers governor

Two peas in a pod, but we shall leave Wike and his “rivers” of political brigandage to focus on Governor Ugwuanyi, who, once again, has demonstrated a disturbing ability to think beyond the green podium he stands behind to READ speeches. I felt concerned, not just as a citizen of Enugu State, but more as a Nigerian that Governor Ugwuanyi had to perform this cheap act of betrayal at a time that even changes in the direction of governance in Nigeria prescribe a different perspective in terms of executive action.

Why will Governor Ugwuanyi hand over this project that was touted to be, and actually advertised, as a centre of excellence in medical diagnostics to the federal government? Was that action a loud demonstration of the state’s famed profligacy or a sanctimonious ego massaging of an outgoing governor needing a soft landing by the federal government?

When you stay far from the corridor of power, you live under this illusion that those spaces are populated by brilliant, future-forward eggheads that chew innovation like cobs of corn (apologies to the President-elect Tinubu), when you make the mistake of coming close, what hits you are usually the unpleasant surprises of an assemblage of the dregs of the society’s most bubbleheaded, arrogantly strutting their ignorance, and attempting to infest everyone with their retardation.

The date for this handover ceremony was May 2, 2023. I have mentioned this at the beginning of this intervention, and repeating it here for emphasis. Ladies and gentlemen, on March 16, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari was widely reported in all national and a number of international media to have signed some amendments in the Nigerian Constitution to the effect that Rail transport, as well as power generation, transmission and distribution, which hitherto, were in the Exclusive list, are now in the concurrent list.

What this means is that, unlike as obtainable before this arrangement, where only the federal government can build and manage railway transportation and everything in the electricity value chain, states, as Nigeria’s constitutionally recognised federating units have been empowered to build their own rails and generate, transmit and distribute their own electricity.

A few days after this became news, a major announcement was made by the governors of the six southwest states, wherein they stated their intention to connect the region with railway transportation, as a way of boosting economic integration.

Have you begun to read what is on the page now?

Is it not shocking that while the federal government is blazing the amber lights of a progression to stronger states, the Enugu State governor is busily ceding its powers to the federal government? Healthcare delivery is on the concurrent list and in the state, there is a Ministry of Health that everyone knows, has been existing at various degrees of performance ill-health, thanks to misplaced priorities.

I also know about the governor’s generosity, even to highly placed people that can afford his gifts. The thing about Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is that, were the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the one of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to visit Ugwuanyi, he would work his heart out to delight his visitors with gifts

While reading his speech at the handing over ceremony, Governor Ugwuanyi had said, among other things; “The partnership with NSIA to transform this facility with the promise of significantly better equipment and services will go a long way towards contributing to healthcare security in the state. With this, our state will be one of the few states equipped with world-class healthcare infrastructure and amenities.”

I disagree with Ugwuanyi’s position here and I will provide reasons

Firstly, by stating that the diagnostics centre would have a “promise of significantly better equipment,” under the management of the NSIA, Ugwuanyi was cleverly trying to impress upon people that there was some equipment at the centre for the NSIA to leverage.

This is not true. I know I drove past the Centre quite a few times between December 2022 and March 25th 2023, and the only thing that was visible about the centre was the luxuriating grasses sprouting with wild liberty in the compound. Even the cobblestoned grounds could not prevent the grasses from the growth that abandonment afforded them.

So where was the equipment, even stethoscopes for this centre, when no single employee, not even cleaners, showed human presence?

I remember clearly the challenge the state had during the ravage of COVID-19. First, the state reported that the centre was going to be used as Isolation Centre for suspected covid patients. But the sad reality was that health officials were secretly ferreting patients to Benin for isolation and treatment. Where then are the equipment that Ugwuanyi suggested in his speech?

The second point of my disagreement is poor prioritization, and in explaining this, I will start with the welcome party for NSIA officials. Knowing the way my governor and his penchant for needlessly lavish, sometimes ridiculously self-serving hospitality, I can guess that there was no way it would not have cost Enugu State between N30 million to N50 million to organise that event. That is even if there was no private jet chartered to ferry the officials to and from Abuja. I also know about the governor’s generosity, even to highly placed people that can afford his gifts. The thing about Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is that, were the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the one of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to visit Ugwuanyi, he would work his heart out to delight his visitors with gifts, mostly in cash, delivered in goodie bags. If you are aware of this and you do the math the way I have done, then you’d understand why N30 million is conservative.

The point I am making here is that the money voted for this superfluous hospitality, would have been enough to buy even some of the equipment that Ugwuanyi said was the reason for handing over the centre to NSIA. For instance, the cost of a 3-Crank manual hospital bed is $880 to $1,000 per unit. This translates to N651,000 to N740,000.

And I can list a number of other items of equipment whose costs are not as prohibitive as the government make us believe. Can you then begin to imagine how many of these beds constituted potential opportunities cost for the frivolous reception accorded to people who wouldn’t even say a proper “thank you? If you then add this to the litter of ego-swelling political, social and even religious jamborees Governor Ugwuanyi had frittered billions of naira on since he assumed his second term in office, you’ll cry in the realisation of how waste and priority misplacement had cost the state this project.

Not done, I want us to travel the road of revenue and employment generation. A report published by The Guardian newspapers, on December 27, 2022, stated that The Federal Nigerians spend between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion on medical tourism yearly. Ladies and gentlemen, this is between N888 billion and N1.2 trillion!

For most of these cases, the reasons for travelling abroad to seek help stem from the absence of diagnostic equipment. Now imagine that Enugu State owns a centre of excellence in medical diagnostics. Imagine that someone with vision was able to resist the distractions and delivered this project as one fully owned by Enugu State.

For starters, the annual budget of Enugu State has never exceeded N166. 6 billion. Did Ugwuanyi ever reflect on the economic value of such a centre to the economy of Enugu State before his decision to invite the federal government to come take over? A project such as this would have created direct employment opportunities for scores of our people. The indirect employment in terms of the establishment of well-equipped hospitals to take advantage of better diagnostic services should have also been a direct consequence of this.

As it is going to become, the Federal Government will begin to determine who would be employed in the hospital and who would not, who would be responsible for which procurement services and who would not. And in the end, all the revenue opportunities would either be shared in a disproportionate ratio that would significantly rob the state of opportunities, or completely go to Abuja, depending on what Ugwuanyi and NSIA signed.

It is heart-wrenching that what is a brutal opportunity lost for Enugu State and entire southeastern Nigeria is what Governor Ugwuanyi celebrated as an accomplishment a day after Nigerian workers marked their annual May Day rally. My dear governor, that was not an accomplishment; it was an activity that deserves a place in the darkest sides of a hall of shame.

If it took two administrations in Enugu State the better of 12 years to build a diagnostics centre that they would eventually handover to the federal government, one can only imagine how long it would take to begin to take advantage of the windows the Nigerian government has started opening for devolution of power and the consequent opportunity for regional economic integration.

For a man that was born to parents from the most commercial-minded community in Enugu State, for a governor who frequently explained serious state matters in the language of commerce, it is disappointing that Ugwuanyi was unable to see the goldmine in not just completing, but going ahead to fully own and expand this facility. Enugu State is going to lose billions of dollars in revenue, and for our people in search of advanced Medicare, we are, by this handover, cursed to enter like strangers, a facility that should have been ours.

We need a National Day of mourning to immortalize this mediocre leadership.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Chidibere Francis Ezeh

    As usual the gov from Orba signed off ingloriously. Lke they say ,’ you can’t give what you don’t have”. It was fun while 8 year long party lasted. So long.

    May 4, 2023 at 3:48 pm Reply
  • Onyinyechi

    Many of us didn’t understand the implications of handing over the project to NSIA. I became sad after reading this piece.

    Thank you Sir.

    May 5, 2023 at 5:33 am Reply
  • Asadu Ikembuchukwu

    From the day of that show of shame called a handing over, I kept thing, if it can ever be possible for Enugu state to ever recover that diagnostic center again. I don’t know why nature permitted the system and society, to give Enugu state a man like ugwuanyi ifeanyi as a governor. I believe and look forward to a governor outside of pdp, that would heal the pdp inflicted wounds of Enugu state.

    May 6, 2023 at 8:18 am Reply

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