By Sunday Ani
Recently, the ambition of the Enugu State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to represent the people of Enugu North Senatorial zone in 2023 got a boost when the umbrella body of the traditional rulers in the zone, the Nsukka Zonal Council of Traditional Rulers endorsed him.
Similarly, the traditional rulers from Ugwuanyi’s own local government area, Udenu, have also endorsed the governor.
In this interview, the traditional ruler of Egali Amala Community in Udenu Local Government Area and Chairman of Udenu Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH Igwe Patrick Eze, known popularly as Igwe Waziri spoke on the rationale behind their decision to back Ugwuanyi’s senatorial ambition, among other national issues.
How do you assess Governor Ugwuanyi’s performance in Enugu State in the last seven and a half years, and why did the traditional rulers in Enugu North Senatorial zone endorse him for the Senate?
I have always said that Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as a politician and as a leader is hard working, grassroots-oriented and pro people, who know how to deliver service to the people. For me, as Enugu Governor in the last several and a half years, Ugwuanyi has done well in providing democracy dividends to the people of Enugu State. If you look at Enugu State critically under him in the last seven and a half years, you will agree with me that he has done marvelously well. In fact, I can give him 80 percent and above pass mark because nobody is perfect, otherwise I would have given him 100 percent. Yes, Ugwuanyi provided dividends of democracy in the areas of good human relationship such as in peace making and in uniting the good people of Enugu State like never before. Apparently, he ended political fighting in Enugu State given that his administration is quite peaceful unlike the previous administrations, where the governor was fighting with his predecessor, fighting with his deputy and fighting with the Speaker of the House of Assembly and all of that.
Under Governor Ugwuanyi, Enugu is cool and people, including government officials, the media and the public in general, are enjoying full scale freedom of speech, freedom of association and everything. That’s democracy at work. Again, Ugwuanyi’s administration has ensured consistent conduct of local government area elections in the state since he came on board, thereby taking democracy to the grassroots. In terms of infrastructure, he is not doing badly. Virtually all communities in Enugu State, including my own Egali Amala, has benefitted from the rural and urban road projects under the present administration. The same thing goes in education and health sectors, agriculture, water and sports. Many communities now have cottage hospitals. We now have a teaching hospital in Orba, and a stadium in Nsukka among other things. What about youths’ empowerment? He is the most youth-friendly governor in Nigeria. So, by all standards, he is doing wonderfully well as governor. And based on his performance, and of course, his wealth of experience in legislation as a former three-term member of the National Assembly in Federal House of Representatives, the traditional rulers deemed it right enough to support him to go to the Senate and represent the good people of Nsukka zone in 2023.
Despite all the achievements you have listed, the governor is still facing criticisms over the security situation in Enugu State. Besides, his people of Nsukka zone are accusing him of failure to empower them with jobs and infrastructural projects like his predecessors from the other zones who massively empowered their people; what do you have to say about that?
Well, security is a serious national challenge all over Nigeria, not just in Enugu State. As far as I know, Governor Ugwuanyi like other leaders in Nigeria is working hard to arrest the menace of insecurity in his domain, and for me, he is not doing badly. I will advise that we support the government’s efforts on security with fervent prayers for God’s intervention because God is the Chief security of the universe.
On the accusation that he did not empower Nsukka people, I would like to suggest that we organise a meeting of Nsukka General Assembly, and use the meeting to judge ourselves and find out if there has been any leader from Nsukka zone that has done better things to Nsukka people than Ugwuanyi. Ever before Ugwuanyi was born and before he joined politics, Nsukka people have had people in government as governor, Senators, federal ministers, Reps Members, Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers to the President and many more. Tell me any of them that did more things to Nsukka than Gburugburu. Nsukka had produced a governor that couldn’t construct a single road in the zone. Nsukka had a governor when Opi – Nsukka Road was too bad with motorists spending more than an hour to drive from Opi junction to Nsukka town, and that governor couldn’t do anything on the road. During the last military regime, Nsukka had a popular and highly respected federal minister, but what did he do for Nsukka zone? As a popular and respected minister, what project did he attract to Nsukka? How many people in Nsukka did he give job? Since the return of democracy in 1999, Nsukka has had Senators and Reps members with juicy Committee positions, including Chairman, Senate Committee on Defense, and Chairman Senate Committee on Works, what projects did they attract to Nsukka? How many people did they give job in Nsukka? Nsukka has produced the national chairman of the largest political party in Africa; what did Nsukka benefit from being in charge of the largest political party in Africa? Nsukka has produced President General of Ndigbo worldwide; what did Nsukka benefit from leading the entire Igbo race for four years? We had a Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, what did he do to Nsukka people? How many people did he help to get job in Abuja? What I am saying is that the accusation against Gburugburu from his own Nsukka people is not worth it because he has done much better for Nsukka than any leader from the zone. It took a Gburugburu to reconstruct Opi – Nsukka Road into a solid dual carriage way with a high quality standard work that will last for 50 years. It also took a Gburugburu to fix the rural and urban roads across Nsukka zone. My own community and other communities have benefited from his road construction project across Nsukka zone. Like I said earlier, Nsukka has received projects in education, health, power, sports and water, under Gburugburu, and don’t forget that he is still the governor of Enugu State with all powers to do much more for us. For me, we have to thank God for the gift of Ugwuanyi to Nsukka land.
Leadership has been the bane of Nigeria, despite the large number of well educated, exposed and experienced people in every human endeavor. Why has it remained very difficult to enthrone a good leadership that will bring about development in Nigeria?
The problem is that we are thriving on a borrowed system and borrowed culture, so to speak. You know, when you borrow something you won’t feel comfortable like when you have your own things. Take English language for an instance, we borrowed English language and you can observe that it is not easy for us to speak English as fluent as the people of England, who own the English language. So, we borrowed a culture that doesn’t really give us the energy to design and build things the way they should be. Before we became independent, we had our leadership built on the traditional stool, like Obi, Eze, Emir, Seriki, Amanyanabo and the rest of them and things were moving and flowing in our own way.
But let’s consider the fact that we have educated people in Nigeria, who have gone to school and acquired education, yet leadership remains a challenge. What then is the impact of education in Nigeria basically on leadership?
It is still the same problem of borrowed system. The Oyibo people designed the kind of education that protects their interest and handed it over to us because they have much better brains, wisdom and knowledge than us. The Oyibo gave us education in theories and paper and refused to teach us practical things that are good enough to develop our brains and skills. That’s why we are finding things difficult in Nigeria even though we have educated people.
So, what is the way forward?
The way forward is to go back to our origin; to retrace our root, our culture and our language and then design our own things in our own ways. You see God created people as a race, tribe, nationalities and ethnic groups with different cultures and languages. God has a purpose for doing that, so that people have to follow things in their own ways and do things in their own ways. When you abandon your own way to borrow other people’s ways, definitely, you will find things very difficult.
Obviously, the hope of better days and better things in Nigeria lies in the 2023 general election. How would you preview the election, especially the presidential election? What qualities do you expect Nigerians to look for in their choice of the next President?
The political situation is clear for the electorate to make their choice. They know the candidates contesting for president and their political parties. If you talk about the candidates, we have a former Vice President, who has served at the top most level for eight years, and who invariably, has acquired some degrees of exposure and experiences of what it takes to be President. Then, we have former governors, former senators and former ministers, among others, including businessmen and technocrats with no experience in politics. Then, if you talk about political parties, we have a political party that has made life very difficult for the masses with prices of essential commodities on the rooftops. What are the prices of fuel, gas, kerosene and food stuff, particularly rice, before the party came on board in 2015, and the prices now? When the party came on board in 2015, fuel was N65 per litre, gas was N120 per kilogramme, Kerosene was N90 per litre and a bag of rice was N12, 000. But today, check it out, fuel sells for N180 and above per litre, gas goes for N800 and above per kilogramme, kerosene N750 and above per litre; a bag of rice is no longer within the rich of ordinary families at the cost of N40,000. There is a major opposition party with capacity and experience and others without experience. That is the picture of the party in power, so it is left for Nigerians to make their choice.