“The future of Igbo is not tied to any particular individual. The future of the Igbo is with God and God has decided where the Igbo will be”
Magnus Eze, Enugu
A two-time senator, Ayogu Eze is the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate for Enugu State. He believes that the future of the party is very bright in the South-East despite the recent endorsement of the Atiku/Obi ticket by some Igbo leaders. Eze, who said he would reposition and transform the state; reconnect it to the centre if he wins the election next year, also stated that the poll will not be won by blackmail.
What will you tell Enugu people when embargo on campaign is lifted?
I will be telling them that I am poised to reposition Enugu; to reclaim the old glory of Enugu and to restore the dignity of Enugu. I will be telling them that we will convert the resources of Enugu to better the lives of the people of Enugu, to make them comfortable. We will be restoring water in every home in the Enugu metropolis and Nsukka within the first one year of my government. We will repair all the roads, and make sure we have motorable roads within the city and connecting our various communities. We will open up agriculture and empower our youths to go into agriculture and we’re also going to attract foreign investors into that sector. Our aim is that every year, we should be able to create a minimum of 100,000 jobs because we are going to prepare the lands, give it our graduates to be the ones to do them and then they will employ other graduates.
What will be your position on the back and forth argument over the national minimum wage?
I believe a worker in Nigeria deserves a living wage because it helps to solve a lot of problems; it will motivate the people to do more, it will stop this circle of moonlighting; people not paying attention to their work, people going to do other subsidiary ventures to augment their ends and then of course what suffers at the end is productivity. The state ends up paying more than even the so called N30,000 a month in terms of actual cost they bear; productivity takes the heat, that is the problem that we need to put on the table and analyse and see if we can pay more than N30,000; we pay more depending what we are able to generate because we are going to make sure we collect all our taxes and revenue very diligently and plug all leakages and make sure that all the resources of the state come to the state.
If you become the governor; what will you do about the prevalent chieftaincy- related cases in the state?
We will be introducing a locality administration that will take care of running our local governments – a government that will include traditional rulers, the town unions, the clergy and some stakeholders in the locality, so that we promote accountability, promote peace and promote openness because some of these things happen because there is strong communication gap within the community but if you put a system in place that everybody can relate; first of all, the local government chairman will not be able to run away with their allocation; secondly, the governor will not be able to bounce on the allocation of the local government at the state level because those people will shout because it is no longer a question of calling just your party men and make a deal with them; that will not happen under my admiration. In fact, I am going to make sure that certain offices in the local government like local government secretaries become competitive and elective as it happens in America so that you run for office and when you win that office you are also accountable just like chief executives. It means that you are not an appointee that can be manipulated. These are some of the things we want to do and also we are going to start experimenting the municipal government from Enugu and Nsukka and maybe Oji-River. We want to start a municipal government where we will make a law in the House of Assembly giving Enugu municipal a kind of autonomous status maybe Enugu North, Enugu South, Enugu East to start with. You have some autonomous status where they will run the administration the way counties in America are run. We will make them control a lot of things so that they can generate their own income. It will promote hygiene, cleanness in the cities; it will promote tourism because we are going to charge them to make sure they have a particular level of maintenance of facilities within their scope. We are also going to give them revenue target to make money to be able to run their governments besides whatever that is coming from the centre so that you can come into Enugu you get maps that can take you to where you are going and get things just like you have town governments in other countries. We want to make sure we have locality administration model that will encourage peace and harmony; participation; accountability; diligence because so many people are involved in the administration. So, it is no longer a local government chairman coming to Enugu to discuss with the governor and then he goes back to do whatever he likes. Those people are going to be key members of that government and their views will matter a lot.
The current administration has brandished its achievements in the area of peace and security in Enugu State. What will you do differently?
Enugu has been peaceful since the time of Sullivan Chime. In short I listened to a radio programme where Sullivan was saying that the then IG of police came and told him that Enugu has managed to become one of the most peaceful states with the lowest crime rate in Nigeria and that was three years plus ago and that was the state he handed over and you are now telling me of peace and security as achievement. That time there were no communal clashes which we see everywhere now. So, it is not a question of sloganeering about peace; it is a question of us seeing what is on the ground because Enugu was not a theatre of war before so, nobody can tell us he has brought peace because there was peace here and there has always been peace here, Enugu has always been peaceful and peace loving.
How far has your party gone in managing grievances arising from the primary?
We set up a reconciliation committee headed by Sullivan Chime. We also have other sub-committees at different levels led by the candidates of the party who are pursing reconciliation and pursuing peace and that have yielded a lot of dividends maybe for one or two people, almost everybody who ran for office or contested one thing or the other has queued behind the candidates of the party and we are working together. Let me tell you, contestation and this kind of squabble if I may use the word squabble, is an indication of the health of the party. If people did not see a future, they will not be struggling. Everybody is struggling because there is future in APC; the future of the party has suddenly become very bright in Enugu and they are realising suddenly that APC has become a machine that can deliver election; that can deliver what has eluded them over the years. It is when people are proud of their party that they struggle to be the ones to fly the flag of the party. I believe that it is not really a negative development that so many people are kicking and pushing – I want to get into the party. In 2014, what you are seeing in APC today was totally absent; it used to be in PDP that you hear all these kind of contestation because everybody assumed then that once you get the ticket it’s as good as you have won the election. I believe that is what has reversed today. Those who do not read politics correctly see it in negative way but for me it is a positive development, it is a positive sign that there is something happening there; people rather than leaving the party, stay in the party and get counted that is what I see.
Some Igbo leaders recently endorsed the candidature of Atiku Abubakar. How did you receive that?
As far as I am concerned, endorsement by a socio-cultural organisation of a particular candidate or particular party is a personal decision. What they did, they must have done in their personal capacities not in the capacity of Igbo leaders. They spoke as members of the PDP who were masquerading as Igbo leaders; which is within their rights. They have right to endorse whoever they want to endorse; the Igbo are not a monolithic entity that some group of people will rise up and say that they have endorsed somebody on their behalf. The people who were in that conference I respect them a lot, they are very credible Igbo people, but they were only acting within their own capacities as individuals not as leaders of Igbo.
They said the future of Ndigbo is tied to the Atiku/Obi ticket; do you agree with this?
That is a very myopic statement to come from even anybody. If they put that in their communiqué, I want to say that it is unfortunate; if Atiku and Obi enter an aircraft today, God forbid and something happens, then the future of the Igbo is doomed. Is that what they were saying? The future of Ndigbo is not tied to any particular individual. The future of the Igbo is with God and God has decided where the Igbo will be and this will be determined when the time comes in 2023. The only way we can get that presidency is to fight on the platform of APC not on the platform of any other political party. That is my opinion as a partisan member of APC. I have nothing personal against Atiku, he is a gentleman and distinguished Nigerian; I like him but he is not in my party and I am voting for my party. I will be voting for Buhari who is my President. I believe that Buhari has got the moral strength and energy to fight corruption, to make Nigeria great and to handover to an Igbo man, because we are looking for the first Igbo president after the war and the prospect has never been as bright as it is today.