Francis Ogbonnaya Ekwe is the chairman, Uburu Peoples Assembly (UPA), Lagos. He spoke about political developments in Ebonyi State and Nigeria generally.
How can you access the performance of the present administration in Ebonyi State?
It is an uncommon transformation in Ebonyi State, judging from what it used to be. If you had been to Ebonyi State between 2015 and now, you will not even know it is the same Abakaliki, the state capital, you were used to because of the massive infrastructure development. It is turning to a smart city. Now you can see smooth road network, bridges, flyovers, and a modern international market, which is about 90 percent completed. All the streets in Abakaliki urban are totally tarred. At least, it is a plus. To be sure, the Umahi administration has not restricted development to the state capital. Other parts of the state have also witnessed development in one form or another.
Umahi has done well in many other areas. For instance, between 2017 /2018, he empowered over 520 Ebonyi people in Lagos State with N250, 000 each, while the Federal Government is giving N10, 000 to traders. About two months ago, I was reliably informed that he was distributing N10million to each of the autonomous communities in Ebonyi State for them to carry out any project that is so dear to them. The autonomous communities are given the opportunity to carry out the projects by themselves without the involvement of the state government. They would choose the contractor, pay and do everything by themselves so that nobody would say the government did not do anything for them. The idea is, do it yourself. I think the man has an uncommon vision.
What are Umahi’s chances of another term, considering the onslaught from the opposition?
Umahi’s cutting edge is that he has a deep intellectual knowledge and a high level of integrity. He understands and knows the geography of the state perfectly and the desires of the people. And because he is determined to deepen the development of Ebonyi and take it to greater heights, he hit the ground running immediately he took over. From what I am seeing so far, I don’t think that there is anybody that can challenge him in the state. In fact, there is no meaningful opposition in Ebonyi. Where are other governorship candidates? Perhaps they are campaigning in the moon or inside their rooms; we don’t know them in Ebonyi. Anybody running against Umahi is a joker; the person is just wasting his time and resources. Apart from his performance, his, is a divine mandate. If the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will allow the votes of the people to count, I think Governor Dave Umahi will have over 80 percent of the total vote cast.
What are your expectations in the general election?
My expectations are that the Federal Government will allow the masses to decide; let the ballot paper and voter cards speak for the masses. There should not be intimidation like what was experienced during Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections not long ago. But I believe that this time around, it will be different. I believe that the will of the masses and the voter cards will count.
Do you think the APC government at the federal level has done well?
There is nothing to write home about the APC government. The masses are complaining. From the judiciary to the market women, everybody is complaining. There is no food. The power they promised is not working. Out of the things they promised that made people to vote for them, there is no one that you can see. You cannot point out one single thing and say, this is what they achieved. If anything at all, it’s only selective fight against corruption. If you are in APC you are a saint, but if you are in any other party, you are corrupt. That is not how to fight corruption. I am not saying that some members of the PDP or other parties are not corrupt, but when you want to fight corruption, fight it all round, not selective. That is why people are not happy with the way the corruption war is going on.
Between Buhari and Atiku, who do you think will win in the South- East?
My own opinion is that the South- East will vote Atiku Abubakar because he is the best candidate right now. Again, Peter Obi being the vice presidential candidate is the icing on the cake of victory. Any right thinking Igbo, who knows Obi and the way he handled Anambra State for eight years when he was the governor, knows that he will impact positively on the presidency.
But some South- East PDP governors and stakeholders were against Obi’s selection by Atiku. Won’t it affect the outcome?
No. That was not what happened. They were not against Obi’s selection, but the way and manner it was carried out. My governor, for example, was not against it. He was not against Obi as a person. The only thing he was against was the way and manner it was carried out. Some of the stakeholders were angry about the selection process; they were angry that they were ignored. Obi is a bonafide Igbo son, but they ignored the stakeholders. They heard it in the news like other Nigerians. That was the only area they were against. Umahi has no grudges against Obi. Obi later came to visit him in Government House and they sorted things out.
What is your advice to people out there?
My message is, go use your PVC; let your PVC speak for you. No violence. I believe, with your PVC, PDP will carry the day and by the grace of God come May 29 every Nigerian will be happy.