to top

The blue suits “asoebi” in Enugu and the blues of facing government’s clenched fists

Enugu State is wearing a fresh new look. It has to. There is a new government in the state, and even if it is bearing the increasingly unbearable baggage of electoral heist and contrived victory, the Nigerian electoral system that often rewards even the loser has adorned it with the fading garland of legitimacy.

Nigerians are fashionable people, and the world has given us due recognition for that. All around the world, fashion labels flying the Nigerian flag are many and increasing. Lisa Folawiyo of the Jewel by Lisa fame is the label behind Beyoncé, Tasha Smith, Eve, Angela Simmons, and Tandie Newton, among others. Ugo Muozie, owner of Aston Muozie, has clothed big names like  Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Travis Scott, and Beyoncé, while another big name, Duro Olowu, has dressed the likes of Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles, and Uma Thurman.

It is in our DNA to appear alluringly colourful, and, as many of us have seen, our political leaders have been making contributions that can no longer be ignored, to the growth and development of the Nigerian couture.

This first became noticeable at the onset of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration when his preferred dress style, the bowler hat, and the Niger Delta safari suit became the prevalent dress code in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. The recent swearing-in of Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the new President has had those who trade in power and influence switching to the traditional Yoruba cap, with many embroidering the signature insignia adopted by Tinubu before he became Governor of Lagos State in 1999.

As the capital of the southeast, Enugu State has also been found in the politics of fashion, and with the emergence of Peter Mbah, a new era that is slowly triggering massive wardrobe overhauls across the state is emerging.

The creed of our democracy is that liberty is acquired and kept by men and women who are strong and self-reliant, and possessed of such wisdom as God gives mankind – men and women who are just, and understanding, and generous to others — men and women who are capable of disciplining themselves. For they are the rulers and they must rule themselves.

Governor Mbah, prior to his swearing-in, turned out mostly in kaftans, the one that is also known as “senator.” Although he was known to have adorned suits before then, it was not his traditional way of dressing.

This changed on the day he was sworn in when he turned out in a shining blue suit that, I must admit, did well to mask the stress and strains of the bruising election battles and the other telltales of a victory so unintelligently stolen. His suits are well cut, sharp on all the angles, and once he is in any one of them, you are likely not to think they are worn by a man in whose innards might be a boiling cauldron of fear and uncertainty as his electoral victory facing challenges that will likely upturn it in court.

I have also noticed that the men in his team have begun to adorn blue suits. Prof Chidiebere Onyia, Secretary to the State Government and the de facto sole administrator of the state, and Victor Udeh, Chief of Staff to the Governor have joined this “colour coding.” While he has not been making many public appearances, unlike the SSG, who appears everywhere, from house demolitions, through market closures, to issuing all the press statements from the government, Udeh, the lawyer who incidentally was allegedly Governor Mbah’s boss during his youth service programme that the NYSC has repeatedly said he failed to perform, appeared in blue suits during his oath-taking ceremony on June 22, 2023.

I have also heard that most senior civil servants in Enugu and political appointees have begun to invest in blue suits. Those who cannot afford a total wardrobe revamp have made efforts to get at least one blue suit to be adorned each time they have a meeting with the governor. For instance, it has been said that the Chief Medical Director of Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (Parklane Hospital), Prof Hyacinth Onah, had to purchase himself a couple of blue-coloured suits for the meetings he had with Governor Mbah and his team, with the hope of saving his job, after it was rumoured that he was being turned to the exit door.

I like the fact that the current occupants of my dear state’s Government House are turning out in good suits. Fashion can help make statements of statesmanship, and although it is hard for the sharp cuts of blazers to unwrite the forgery and perjury allegations and the testimonies and mountains of evidence from the NYSC on his national service record (or lack thereof), nor would it blemish the shocking entries in INEC result sheets in Nkanu East and other parts of the state that has presented the state in very bad light before the world.

But just in case Governor Mbah spent too much time abroad to have noticed, Enugu people have always been fashionable. We might not be trendsetters in the media position sense of it, but we have always been fashionable. Cleanliness is in our nature. It does not matter that since this government came in, mountains of refuse of epidemic proportions have taken over major roads in the city. Our people have been fashionable and need something more than fashion statements to tilt the downward-sloping graph of of their social and economic indices. This is where I am worried.

A few days ago, information filtered out that the Enugu State Government has made upward adjustments in land registration. Part of these changes was the skyrocket of the cost of processing of certificate of occupancy (C of O) to between N10 million and N13 million. It also included a N4,000 per square metre cost for the processing of power of attorney.

From this, one can best describe the current regime in Enugu as a transactional, rent-seeking regime that is interested mostly in what it could take from the state than what it would give the people. We know that fine suits cost is steep, and given that we would concede to him as being entitled to designer labels, what goes into those shiny blue ensembles of fashion cannot be expected to be cheap. But this must not be to the detriment of the people and the development of the state.

Let us look at it from a cost perspective. If a person struggles to purchase a piece of land for N20 million, what this means is that such a person would have to look for another n10 or N13 million before he would be granted a certificate of occupancy. In Enugu State where the expert view is that land is unduly costly, adding N10 million for the processing of C of O cannot be anything but a development retardant that discourages investment and economic growth.

It is also an incredible corruption fueller because there’d be very few private people that would throw in N13 million to process C of O for just one parcel of land. Only corrupt government officials and those who benefit from them would afford to buy lands. Sadly, such properties, as we have witnessed in many parts of the country, constitute swathes of idle real estate that dot the skylines of most of the state capitals and Abuja.

According to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), between N240 trillion ($300 billion) or as and N720 trillion ($900 billion) are wasting away in Nigeria as dead capital in residential real estate and agricultural land alone. Most of these properties were acquired from the proceeds of corruption, with the properties serving as a much more primitive piggybank-like means of banking the money, in situations where laundering the funds through banks proves difficult.

Peter Mbah and his team should smell the coffee. What this policy will fuel is not development, but corruption. The economy is bad enough as it is; except it was made as an excuse for the government to take lands from people, and hand the same over to politicians and their friends who can easily afford N13 million to process their C of O, the policy is horribly exclusive and anti-development, this policy is going to be counterproductive.

I have seen a few articles where the administration is being praised for alleged ongoing efforts towards restoring power supply in the Enugu metropolis, in fulfillment of his campaign promise of making water available in 180 days. We all are happy about that, and if that is achieved, that perhaps would be the only gain from an administration that, from available evidence, would not last beyond the 180 days the governor gave as the benchmark.

But the hike in the fees for the processing of Certificates of Occupancy is disconcerting. So are the related desperate efforts targeted at forcefully stripping citizens and institutions of their land titles. As we speak, the government is at war with the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), and a retired Assistant Comptroller General of Immigration, Okey Ezeugwu over the demotion of their properties in clear contemptuous disrespect of ongoing court cases over the matter.

We love the blue suits you and your team members and friends now adorn. But we have been left feeling blue as a result of the biting poverty and highhandedness of the government.

It was former American President, Franklin Roosevelt who said; “The creed of our democracy is that liberty is acquired and kept by men and women who are strong and self-reliant, and possessed of such wisdom as God gives mankind – men and women who are just, and understanding, and generous to others — men and women who are capable of disciplining themselves. For they are the rulers and they must rule themselves.”

Those who will read this, I appeal, should read this statement of Roosevelts very slowly and repeatedly. A kind government would not impose prohibitive access to land at a time the state is suffering a housing deficit. An understanding and generous government would not close the shops and businesses of citizens merely to bolster their ego. A disciplined government will refrain from every financial recklessness, and refrain from every act capable of rendering an unfair dispensation of the values of governance and favouring some to the detriment of those outside their immediate prebendaries.


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.

  • Omeje Odinaka

    Nice write up

    August 9, 2023 at 12:26 pm Reply
  • Ikembuchukwu Nwodo

    A beautiful piece with incisive report on high handedness of the place holder governor of not more than 10 months.

    August 9, 2023 at 12:34 pm Reply
  • Onyinyechi

    Out of many things that have to be done in Enugu State, this section was part of what he started from. I guess he wants to grab some things before his time is up.

    Keep up the good work Sir.

    August 11, 2023 at 9:31 pm Reply

Leave a Comment