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The N250 million autonomous community racket in Enugu and Ugwuanyi’s road to fragmentalism

As you may have heard, and/or perhaps read, the committee set up by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for the creation of more autonomous communities in Enugu State recently submitted its report, and as expected, it has, according to reports, recommended the creation of additional 353 autonomous communities, in addition to the existing 402 autonomous communities.

What this means is that, if, as I am sure he will do (I will explain why I am positive about this), Governor Ugwuanyi creates the recommended number, the 17 Local Government Areas in the state will have an average of slightly above 44 autonomous communities each.

It is simply crazy. Had Governor Ugwuanyi won his election to represent Enugu North at the Nigerian Senate, I could have sworn by the strongest deity in my village that he was not going to create any autonomous community. He would not even have bothered to receive the report of that committee.

You see, Governor Ugwuanyi began flying these autonomous community kites long before the 2019 elections. I joined his government midway into 2018, and I recall that some of the frequent visitors to the Government House at the time were communities and interest groups with eyes on “owning”  autonomous communities of their own. Some are just people who see themselves as influential enough to apply for the status, most certainly on behalf of their retired fathers in the village.

I asked a lot of questions of many of the people at the time, and other than the desire to have fiefdoms of their own, no matter how small, and no matter how badly it fractures the traditional family-line structures of the communities, the reasons for many of the applications were just inexplicably frivolous.

I saw people who said their reason was oppression by the community they hitherto belonged, but further interrogation revealed their intention to be the enabling of access and control of vast acres of community land they have either sold or want to sell for personal profits. As I pointed out earlier, some have fathers who have retired as headmasters or senior civil servants, and perhaps because money has found its way into the family, the children gathered and felt the Igweship of a new autonomous community would help keep papa busy and, who knows, extend his life.

…assuming the first informant was correct, it means that 716 autonomous community applicants paid the committee, a total of N214,800,000 (Two hundred and fourteen million, eight hundred thousand naira). If, on the other hand, only the 353 that were submitted for approval made the payment, then a total sum of N105,900,000 was raked in from communities who are crying, as the Israelites did before the break of the Kingdom, “What portion have we in David?”

Aware of the vanities behind the demands, Ugwuanyi had, back then, made campaign capital out of it. In his characteristic heart-softening façade, he literally made promises to virtually everyone who applied and kept all of them hoping for success until the 2019 election was over and he had won his re-election as governor.

The music changed at this time. The noise about the possible creation of autonomous communities perished. In about three meetings, which I was privileged to attend, Governor bitterly lamented the autonomous communities he had created. In one of those meetings, he told us that rather than solve community problems, autonomous communities had multiplied them.

It, therefore, came as a surprise to those who knew this disposition of the governor towards the end of 2019 that the governor did not only open the window for the creation of new autonomous communities but also set up a committee to work towards their actualization. But I was not surprised. The timing, an election season, was the explainer for me. I saw it as a rehash of the 2019 strategy when the gambit was thrown in as bait for votes. The Governor was vying for a Senate seat, and therefore those who expected their demands to be cleared had to seek strong guarantees by voting for the governor. And once he gets the votes, he disappears, as he did in 2019.

Two things are making it difficult for the governor to dump the files in the same bottomless trashcans he had dumped previous proposals, White Papers, and recommendations that were of even more social, political, and economic value than the one for autonomous communities.

The first is the cost of the present enterprise.

Immediately I read the news about the validation of as many as 353 additional autonomous communities in a state that ordinarily should not have more than 100 in total, I began to ask questions, especially to unravel what could have given rise to these large number of fresh recommendations.

According to bits of information from the committee, there were a total of 716 requests for autonomous communities from the existing 402. One source said each of those applicants paid a princely sum of N300,000 to be considered, while another source said only those who demonstrated capacity by paying the fee were given consideration.

So, assuming the first informant was correct, it means that 716 autonomous community applicants paid the committee, a total of N214,800,000 (Two hundred and fourteen million, eight hundred thousand naira). If, on the other hand, only the 353 that were submitted for approval made the payment, then a total sum of N105,900,000 was raked in from communities who are crying, as the Israelites did before the break of the Kingdom, “What portion have we in David?”

Two hundred million naira is a lot of money. Even N100 million is a whole lot, and this goes to tell you that affordability would have been the greatest factor that spoke for those who were put before the governor for approval. The real people who are truly marginalized (if there was ever such) won’t be able to afford N300,000 for a project as centrifugal and self-serving.

Having therefore made such huge financial commitments, it will be hard for anyone to go back and tell these tiny territory agitators that their demands have been shredded and incinerated on the compost heap. So, we are looking at a short time in the future when there will be coronation ceremonies across Enugu State for as many as 353 chiefs!

Very interesting.

The second reason is Governor Ugwuanyi’s present peculiar situation: he is not the happiest of persons at this time. The bruises, emotional, physical, and career-wise. The brutal loss that was inflicted on him in his failed bid for the senate will most likely influence a lot of the decisions he is going to make between now and May 29, 2023, when he will leave office.

As offended as he is at the moment, the likelihood of him preferring to leave a badly splintered and culturally fractured state as punishment for the rejection he received from the people during the elections, is quite high. People around him are usually taken in by his sanctimonious affection for Christianity and its tenets. But those who claim to truly know him would say that Governor Ugwuanyi rarely forgives those that have offended him in the past.

His method is to never keep his enemies at arm’s length. Rather than this, what he does is lure people into his web, where, like the spider, he ensnares and renders whoever it is helpless.

This is what will likely be the lot of Enugu in the immediate aftermath of the Ugwuanyi tenure: he will very likely approve the autonomous communities at the twilight of his administration, most likely by the middle of May. He will approve it, knowing that most of them will trigger increased strife between and among members of the same community. He loved curating the reputation of a peace builder and would certainly harbour some sadistic eureka when people begin to vainly grope in nostalgia to the era when Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was governor and would summon feuding communities to solve their problems. He wants Enugu people to look back to his tenure as the best, and will plant all sorts of landmines for strife, chaos and divisiveness as seeds of the future nostalgia to his term as governor.

And believe it or not, these autonomous communities will create unlimited intractable divisions among the people; divisions that will create demands for even more autonomous communities while compelling others into a reality check where they wonder if it was ever worth the time, the effort and the victory, N300,000 and all?

The problem with us is we’d rather spend time in lamentations than invest the same time in asking preventive questions. Why the people who are demanding autonomous communities have failed to ask questions on the economic, social, and cultural developmental multipliers of the superfluous autonomous communities we already have before demanding these new ones we will soon have is something that defies commonsense and logic.

Oh! I forgot I had suggested earlier that the reasons are self-serving rather than economic. I cannot begrudge the people who feel that they can buy an autonomous community for their retired father. It is within their rights. I am not also sure I have the powers to prevent professional land speculators from agitating for the carving out of their own fiefdom and feudal territories. But what I do know is that where my interest is affected, whoever the feudal lords are will have me and the spirits of my ancestors to contend with, autonomous community or no autonomous community.


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.

  • Onyinyechi

    This is really sad.

    Thank you sir for the explicit explanation. Truly, this is not what the state needs now. Just like you pointed out, too many problems will emanate from this.

    April 8, 2023 at 4:16 am Reply

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