Chief U.S.A. Igwesi was a member of the fifth House of Representatives, before his emergence to the National Assembly in 2003 and he was also the majority leader of Enugu State House of Assembly. In this interview, Igwesi barred his mind on a number of national issues including expectations from Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as he settles down for a second term in office.
During the recent swearing in of his new cabinet, Governor Ugwuanyi charged them to fasten their seat belt and get ready for motion? What do you make of that statement?
This is a parting tenure for the governor, and he is in hurry to deliver legacy projects to the people of Enugu State and does not need a cabinet that will be foot-dragging on his avowed determination to leave indelible footprints in the annals of Enugu State political engineering and management. Enugu State is fully working to the extent that there is peace, unity and understanding among the entire citizenry including major stakeholders. The dream of our founding fathers has not been vitiated but has been rekindled by our ever working and amiable governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. So simply put, he charged his team of aides to get ready for the job of resuscitation, and regeneration of a new Enugu State.
What is your impression about the state of infrastructural development in the South-East?
My impression is as good as that of any person who has visited the South-East geopolitical zone recently. It is a region that has been abandoned, neglected and fully marginalised in terms of the distribution of basic and social infrastructure. It is indeed a shadow of itself, neglected to the extent that all the federal roads in the zone are all death traps, in bad shape and dangerous haven for bandits and kidnappers who take advantage of the sorry state of the road to unleash terror and mayhem on our people. The lives of our people are constantly wasted and consumed on these bad roads. To be honest to you, there is a crack in the foundation of Nigeria which has created monumental imbalance against the Igbo and need to be addressed by the Federal Government to ensure equity, fair play and justice to all the ethnic nationalities that made up Nigeria. We need to have South-East development Commission quickly as a legislative intervention that will not only create wealth for the resuscitation and rehabilitation of the region, but also to address the dilapidated state of our infrastructural development in the zone. Presently, South-East is the only zone with only five states. When I was in National Assembly, we made efforts to engage our colleagues from other zones on how best to address the issue and assuage the imbalance but yet nothing came out of the exercise. He who comes to equity should come with clean hands. This imbalance is demoralising and frustrating and should quickly be addressed to ensure our unflinching faith in the Nigerian project.
Do you think a president of Igbo extraction will be feasible in 2023?
There is no positive decision that is beyond God Almighty to take. God advised his people in our holy scripture to use their strength to lift the weak among them in times like this.
I completely believe that if there is genuine understanding, serious collaboration and consistent inter-face by the Igbo with other ethnic nationalities. This is what we are saying; any government devoid of politics of inclusion is heading to the rocks and is designed to fail. There should be fairness, equity and justice in the management, engineering and administration of the Nigeria project. The Igbo are a resilient people with good sense of administration anchored on their natural intelligence and wisdom. A president from the South-East geo-political zone will definitely be the biblical Daniel that has come to judgement. It is going to provide good leadership and direction for the country. It is therefore in the best interest of all political parties in Nigeria to zone the position to the Igbo so that Nigeria can be rebuilt and recovered from annihilation. But the Igbo need to be in front and must come together, brainstorm and cross fertilize ideas on how best to achieve this onerous task.
What advice can you give the Igbo especially with the recent face-off between the proscribed IPOB and the Igbo leaders?
The Igbo have no option than to be United more than ever before and fight for a place in the Nigerian nation; it appears like we escorted other ethnic nationalities to Nigeria as spectators; we are not active participants, rather we are passive participants and spectators. The Igbo are as a result of the situation they find themselves resolved to come together without further delay and chart a common course for themselves. Power is taken not given; it is a struggle that is usually rewarded by sustained efforts and doggedness.
Members of IPOB are Igbo fighting for the same cause but they should change their system and operational strategies and liaise in a more refined manner with other Igbo leaders in search of freedom of the Igbo. Whatever is standing against peace among Igbo nation should be quickly addressed and sorted out because a house divided against itself is bound to fail. We should be our brother’s keeper, we should not dance naked in the market and should not deplete our energy internally but galvanize it to wage a common front.
Sowore and DSS. What is your take?
What governs a just society and makes it different from the animal kingdom is the Rule of Law. Any society that does not respect the rule of law is heading to anarchy and pandemonium. In the case of Sowore, a judgement was delivered that Sowore should be detained further for 45 days and that was respected and the same judge still after the expiration of the 45days, made another order for his release to enable him attend his arraignment pending the determination of the substantive suit against him. This latest order should have been adhered to and respected by whoever is concerned in the interest of respect and reverence to human rights. His temporal release does not in any way translate to freedom from charges leveled against him. If we keep disobeying court orders with impunity, what future are we leaving for the younger generation who are following our narratives with studied attention and sees the law as an ass that is no respecter of anybody. I am of the view that the Federal Government should at all times respect judicial decisions because a society that does not obey decisions of the court is heading for disintegration and anarchy.
Recently, President Buhari set up an Economic Advisory Council (EAC) in place of the economic team headed previously by the Vice President. What is your take on this?
That was a well thought out decision from the presidency; they also demonstrated the fact that they yielded finally to the yearnings and aspirations of the good people of Nigeria in that direction. Economy is the bedrock and the corner stone of any government; if a government does not get it right economically, then all facets of life will be frustrated and stranded. The Nigerian economy is required to be properly directed and managed by experts, professionals and pundits. The government needs to be advised and guided properly in the areas of fiscal and monetary policies, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues.
One good thing is that they have unlimited access to the president and members of his cabinet who are charged with the responsibilities to supervise fiscal and monetary agencies of the government; presently our revenue generation is on the decline, while our debt profile is on the rise. One thing is to set up this team but the most important thing is for the government to make use of the advice from them. If this will be properly harnessed, we will definitely have a turnaround economy in the next few years.
A glance at the antecedents, academic and professional backgrounds of members of the council will convince anybody that a good job will be done.
What is your take on the 2023 governorship race in Enugu and the controversy on the zoning arrangement?
There is no controversy on the zoning arrangement. We have freedom of speech and some persons might just want to fly a kite; we have an internalised zoning arrangement which has been working for the state and the state is comfortable with it. The understanding has brought peace and unity in the state; believe me, when the stage is set, you will witness a seamless transition to a new government. Meanwhile, the governor is in his first year in his send tenure and has just chosen his cabinet, so the proper thing is to encourage him to work and not to distract him. It is very unfair to distract him now with a non-issue.