Chief U.S.A Igwesi was a member of the Federal House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007, but before his emergence to the National Assembly, he was the leader of Enugu State House of Assembly from 1999 till 2003. In this interview, Chief Igwesi spoke on various National and State issues including the developmental strides of Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in his five years in office and the recent insurgence of Northern Youths in the South East geopolitical zone.
What is your assessment of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration? Do you think he has impacted positively on the people of Enugu State in the past five years?
I did inform Nigerians and the people of Enugu State when Gov. Ugwuanyi took office in 2015, that his antecedents while in National Assembly, precisely House of Representatives have shown a robust character of a man who is consummate and cerebral in his actions. While we were in the House of Representatives because we were all elected in 2003, he demonstrated capacity required of a leader, when he was always thinking home and was devoted to salvaging the day to day needs of the members of his constituency. A good child starts early enough to reel out his positive attributes before his or her parents. It was his acceptance by members of his federal constituency that metamorphosed into his acceptance by the entire state, who trouped out en mass to vote for him, irrespective of tribe, creed, sex and status. His emergence was a total endorsement of all the stakeholders in Enugu State. People committed their resources, energy and time into his campaign without recourse to him. I strongly believe that he has left numerous legacies to the people of the state and still counting. He has been able to transform the state from what it used to be to a cynosure of all eyes where peace and love have taken centre stage. He has constructed and reconstructed several roads in the metropolis and also has taken development to obscure and neglected villages with full assurances of better life. Roads Like 12KM Opi – Nsukka dual Carriage, 11km Milken Hill Road, Ngwo, 9th Mile Corner, 31km Udenu Ring Road with two high tech bridges Iva-Valley Road Enugu, Nkalagu-Eha Amufu Road in Isi-Uzo, a road neglected for several years by past administrations. He has also done the 8.2Km Inyi -Akpugo Eze Road in Oji River, Amuri Community Road in Nkanu Land, that has been a dangerous challenge for the indigenes of the area. These and others unmentioned due to time were some roads undertaken by his administration. There is improvement in workers welfare, health care delivery, massive turn around in Education Sector, Improved Security of lives and properties. He has equally approved the payment of N30,000 minimum wage for civil Servants in the state, plus the 13th month Salary which has become a new normal in the state. The governor has equally renovated primary and Junior Secondary Schools in the state through payment of N1.5 billion as required as counterpart fund for Universal Basic Education UBE. In the past five years in office, he has recruited over 5,000 Primary and Secondary School Teachers in the state. What Gov. Ugwuanyi has done in the state cannot be completely exhausted within this time frame, so he is a wonderful and focused governor that does not fancy making noise in the media. He believed he should be assessed by his target audience, the people of Enugu State. Gov. Ugwuanyi decentralized development and leadership in the state, he did not just concentrate his infrastructural development in the state capital, he made bold to have decentralised his development to all the political wards in the state using traditional rulers and town union presidents in ensuring that infrastructural development are being felt in the rural areas.
Gov. Ugwuanyi is in his second tenure and power will definitely shift to another zone. What is your take on the zoning arrangement in the state?
The governor is still on the saddle and is working very hard to deliver democracy dividends to the people of the state. He still has three solid years to do that, and as such discussing zoning arrangement now will be a huge distraction to his government. And as a man of peace, who is humble and focused, one will be doing him good not to distract him at this material time. Meanwhile, the zoning arrangement is known and is not in dispute.
It is clear to all the political gladiators and stakeholders where the governor will come from especially with the support of the governor. We have a solid understanding on the zoning arrangement because Enugu is standing on a political tripod and no politician worth his or her onions will go against it. You can attempt to fly a kite but the question is how far can the kite fly. So, to be honest to you, we know where we took off from and we also know where we will start again, so if we get to the bridge at the appropriate time, we will definitely know how to cross it without much dissenting voice.
What is your take on the Compulsory Infectious Bill before the National Assembly.
As a former member of both the state and National Assembly, I can say without the services of traditional medicine man that whatever bills that are tabled before both chambers for consideration must meet certain requirements. Apart from known legislative process of first reading, second reading and third reading before the passage of the bill, be it private member bill or executive bill; such bill must be subjected to public hearing where the inputs of Nigerians and major stakeholders are required to fine-tune the bill. So, any attempt to suppress this all important aspect of the bill consideration, which is public hearing will definitely throw up an ill rated law which does not pass the true taste of law making. As I speak to you, I don’t even know the content of the said bill even though the sponsors have been accused of legislative plagiarizing. Meaning it was copied verbatim from another country and imposed on us without major alterations. So, to cut the story short, when the bill is subjected to public hearing which is public scrutiny, I trust Nigerians, both the civil Society organizations, the Nigeria Bar Association, the Nigerian Medical Association and other relevant bodies to do justice to the bill by bringing their professional competence to bear during the public hearing, so let’s leave it at that.
What is your take on the efforts of the Federal Government in fighting the challenges posed by the COVID 19 pandemic?
With the measures already taken by both the states and the Federal Government and the safety protocols reeled out by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nigerian Centre for Decease Control (NCDC) and other relevant bodies, Nigeria will be said to be on the right track to curtail the spread of the virus. The Nigerian populace should adhere strictly to these measures, while praying God to intervene. We just need to increase our testing capacity and build more isolation centres where patients can be kept for proper treatment, supervision and care. This is a monumental health challenge and the government should do everything possible to develop a home grown solution to the monster in the area of vaccines and finding a possible cure, like Madagascar that was able to tackle the problem traditionally.
As that is being done, the Federal Government should not create fear, anxiety and panic in the minds of Nigerians; more Nigerians are dying from fear and anxiety than even the virus. The approach in the media especially electronic and social media is devastating. This angle of the media while trying to inform and enlighten people on the precaution measures to take in curtailing the virus end up causing more harm than good psychologically. I also advocate that professionals in this field, virologists and other related professionals should constitute themselves into a research team in collaboration with the Federal Government and find cure and vaccine for the virus. Nigerians in this field has the capacity to do this and efficiently too.
Recently, Southern part of Nigeria, especially the South East geopolitical Zone has been complaining about the influx of Northern Youths to their area, what do you make out of it sir?
The main issue here is that all these were happening when the Federal Government of Nigeria imposed a nationwide curfew to curtail the spread of COVID 19. Even if the Northern Youths or the Amajirai as the case may be had genuine business or reason to visit states in the South East, it should not be when the government imposed interstate lockdown to avoid transportation of the contagious disease and the influx becomes more worrisome when we were told that they were shipped out of Kano State due to the high and rising case of the disease in the area. The people from the South East have suffered a great deal in the hands of Fulani herdsmen and are not prepared to tolerate such intimidation, killings, maiming and genocidal treatments metedton them before. Recently, some Shua Arab Youths from Niger Republic were on May 12 apprehended along the Enugu-Port Harcourt way with some loads. It was also reported that the Home land security team of Abia State on May 15th intercepted a large number of Northern Youths concealed in a cattle truck heading to the state. This had raised serious apprehension in the minds of the people and naturally the reactions may not be palatable. Recently, the Enugu state governor while leading a team of security personnel intercepted loads of cattle with over 15 able young men hiding in the vehicle; with all these developments, especially thriving during the lock down, apprehension and suspicion will be the order of the day. Much as Nigeria is a secular state, where everybody is free to live in any part of the country without any hindrance, such movement should not be enveloped with sinister motives and illicit intentions. I am of the view that such movement should be halted by all means by the security agents to avoid misinterpretation that can lead to serious uproar, especially with the lockdown subsisting.
As a former leader in Banking and Currency Committee of the House of Representatives, what is your take on the controversy surrounding the Second Tenure of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina as the President of African Development Bank (AfDB)?
The entire issue and debate are shrouded in politics and politics as it were, is being driven by power and authority; that is why you can see the level of power play and interests from even the United States of America who are pushing monumentally for independent investigation even with the clean bill given to Dr. Adesina by the ethics committee of the bank and the Bureau for governance. The African Development Bank has bequeathed itself with self regulatory measures, which means they have a process where they are meant to regulate their procedures and proceedings. So, I see it as re-invention of neo colonialism for an external body to call for an independent investigation after the internal disciplinary organs have done their investigation and exonerated him from all sorts of allegations and accusations. To start with, I have watched Dr. Adesina from afar when he was the Minister of Agriculture and I deducted that he is not only a man of passion, performance, delivery but most importantly a man of process. Even though I was not opportune to know his performance in AfDB, but proudly knew that his antecedents will always resurface wherever he is. Paramount in his achievement was his ability to have doubled the capital base of the bank as soon as he assumed office. I am happy that some important Nigerians have been speaking and attesting to the character of Adesina, people like the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo and the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. But it is important that the African countries through the Authority of heads of states and governments should rally round this visionary son of ours for him to be able to secure his second term office as the president of African Development Bank.