“One thing working for Governor Ugwuanyi is the level of peace and security the people enjoy. He has succeeded in carrying everyone along in the state.”
Chief Willy Ezugwu is a member of the Board of trustees of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP).
He speaks on the political atmosphere in his state, Enugu, the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, among other issues.
Ahead of the general elections, how will you assess the political situation in Enugu, your state?
The truth is that Enugu State politics has advanced and is getting more and more sophisticated, just as we are experiencing at the national level. The reason is not far-fetched; Nigeria’s democracy is growing despite forces currently working to cause the stagnation of our political advancement. But, be that as it may, with stronger opposition parties coming up ahead of 2019 general elections, things will get more interesting politically, all things being equal. So, the situation is the same in Enugu State. But the distinguishing factor will be the level of performance by the political office holders.
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Talking about performance, how is your state governor doing in terms of delivering dividends of democracy?
I can tell you as a civil society activist that the governor is doing his best at the moment because if you consider where we are coming from and where we are in terms of development in Enugu State, the governor has done excellently well. Remember that Governor Ugwuanyi came into office at a time Nigeria slid into recession, with dwindling federal allocation, while Enugu State as a civil service state had low internally generated revenue.
However, in the last three and half years, in the face of the nation’s economic challenges, Governor Ugwuanyi has outperformed his predecessors who served for eight years in infrastructure development. He is opening up rural communities and he is wiping the years of tears of neglect by constructing roads and putting in place necessary amenities in rural areas.
Can you be specific on some of the infrastructure the governor has put in place in the state because many opposition aspirants have been indicating their readiness to take over that state in 2019?
You are a journalist and you know that the Enugu State governor does not believe in going to media houses to advertise what he is doing in the state. You can see some governors engaging in media hype in desperate move to sell themselves, even when they know that what they are publicising are not on ground. One of the very key achievements of the Governor Ugwuanyi government is prompt payment of salaries and pensions. While some governors owe over 20 months salaries and civil servants are committing suicide in their state because they don’t have money to meet their basic responsibilities, Enugu is paying 13th month salary to civil servants. I can tell you that because of the priority and compassion he has for the workers, the governor will pay any amount agreed by the workers and the Federal Government as minimum wage.
And, one other thing working for Governor Ugwuanyi is the level of peace and security the people enjoy in the state. He has succeeded in carrying everyone along in the state. That is his selling point.
Now, go and ask the people of Amurri in Nkanu Local Government Area, a village neglected for almost a 100 years by successive administrations in the state, how they feel about the administration of Governor Ugwuanyi. The community is one of the numerous rural areas without access roads in the state until the current administration took over.
It will surprise you that the local government has produced two governors of the state, yet Amurri community had no road. In his second year in office, the first Executive Governor of Kaduna State and the founding National Chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa visited the state and he was astonished at the level of development.
At Akpugo Eze in Orji River, APC leaders, including Chief Gbazuoagu Nweke Ggazuoagu, gathered to hail him the day a bridge was commissioned in that community. There is the Miliki Hill Road abandoned since after the war, which has been fixed by the Governor Ugwuanyi government. Other remarkable places he has touched positively are Ikem Road where he also built a bridge, and the Akpugo Road in Nkanu West has been fixed too. We have the 9th Mile Corner-Benue State border road, the Opi-Nsukka roads, Opi-Obollo road, Egede Junction road in Udi local government, the old 9th Mile to Awka Road, up to the boundary and many others. As he is building solid state roads, he is also undertaking the rehabilitation of federal roads in the state.
It is important to note that Governor Ugwuanyi is building roads simultaneously in all the neglected communities across the three senatorial districts of Enugu State and the quality of roads are of international standard. The way he is working on roads is the same way he is working on other sectors, including health and education.
So, it is obvious that some aspirants, who are banking on the federal might to win election in the state as they have even been boasting, will make all kinds of noise. It is normal with failed politicians. But like I said recently during an interview on AIT, there are states you cannot rig election with the federal might and Enugu State happens to be one of them. The reason is that the people themselves will resist the election riggers. The everyday people, all the- who-is-who in Enugu State, and the artisans, not to mention the trade unions and religious leaders have unanimously endorsed Ugwuanyi for a second term. If Governor Ugwuanyi is not doing well, as a civil society activist, I would have told him because I have nothing to lose if I say so. I’m not looking for political appointment and I am not a contractor. I don’t also play the sycophancy game.
There is the rumour of automatic ticket to serving national assembly members by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) as part of efforts to make them remain in the parties. What is your take on this?
Well, I am neither a member of the APC nor PDP; I am a Board of Trustees member of APGA. However, I don’t see anything wrong in the doctrine of continuity if the political office holder has done well. What I have been trying to prove is that the doctrine of continuity favours Ugwuanyi. So, I don’t really care if a lawmaker spends 100 years in office. But are we saying that legislators who have not done well in representing their constituency must be returned just to buy political favour? No! I cannot support that.
In Enugu North where I come from, we have suffered more than any zone because of this automatic ticket thing. It used to be ‘Carry Go’ and that is why Enugu North has had the worst of people representing us at the legislative level over the years. In any case, I don’t see Governor Ugwuanyi repeating the mistake of the past because, from what I have observed about him, the well-being of the ordinary people is uppermost in his mind. I have observed him from when he was a lawmaker. He extended his hand of benevolence beyond his constituency as a House of Representatives member and that is why, overtime, he has proven to be a man of the people. And I have not seen the people regretting choosing him as governor. That is why I always tell those seeking elective offices to present what they have done for the people, even if they have never held any public office before. Without blowing my trumpet, I know how many people are on my scholarship list beyond Igbo land. You don’t have to be a governor to have a heart of benevolence; if it is not there, even if you become a president, it won’t be there because you cannot give what you don’t have. So, there is no automatic ticket to any Enugu State lawmaker who has not done well. I will resist it.
Recently, the Federal Government was said to have withheld the Benue State’s Paris Club refund. What is your take on that?
Ordinarily, I would have advised the Benue State government to go to court but the unfortunate thing is that the current Federal Government does not obey court orders. However, it will be ideal to proceed to court; at least, to put it on record even if the Federal Government won’t obey. For me, it is quite unfortunate and unthinkable that because you have political differences with a state governor, you now withheld funds due to a state. You are not concerned about the plight of the ordinary citizens who are suffering? It is shameful and wicked to go to that length.
What offence did the ordinary people of Benue commit that you will choose to punish them because you disagreed with their governor? See what the herdsmen have done there and you deny them funds to rebuild the devastated state. One wonders if we are practising democracy where choices are respected but it seems we are practising government of hatred and marginalisation of the people. Governor Samuel Ortom has chosen to be on the side of his people. He chose not to dine and wine with the kings like Joseph and have decided to suffer with the people of Benue and as far as I am concerned, that is exemplary leadership.
It would not have taken the governor anything to remain in his former party to get re-elected but he chose otherwise.