Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG), In this interview, he spoke on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s development strides in Enugu State among other issues.
Some people are accusing Governor Ugwuanyi of non-performance; what is your take on that?
Politicians are always politicians. So, anybody can say anything but the truth is that those who are saying that the governor is doing nothing are those who don’t go home, year in, year out. I can assure you of that. In fact, the governor is working more in his second term than even his first tenure unlike many of his colleagues who do not work in their second term. He wants to leave a legacy and write his name in gold. He is determined to reposition Enugu State.
Time and space may not allow me to tell you all the verifiable achievements of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration in the last one year of his second tenure. Of course, it was his works in the first tenure that gave the governor a landslide victory across the three senatorial districts.
It is said that governors don’t do much in their second tenure because they are not contesting in the next election. Ironically, in the last one year of his tenure, despite the COVID-19 challenges, Governor Ugwuanyi has given the ordinary people a taste of good governance in all its ramifications.
In his immediate response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Governor Ugwuanyi has not only given succour to many suffering people of the state, he has also rebuilt hospitals. To name a few hospital rehabilitation interventions, the governor gave a new face to General Hospital in Agbani, in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State. Another is the recently rehabilitated former Udi District Hospital and Polly Clinic, Asata with new structures. He also upgraded them to General Hospitals.
The General Hospital in Nsukka has also been upgraded and fully equipped. There is a massive construction of another General Hospital in Enugu Ezike which was ordered by the governor. By the way, the Enugu Ezike General Hospital was built 62 years ago, in 1958. The governor paid unscheduled visit to the General Hospital in Ogrute, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area recently to assess the state of the hospital and ordered massive rehabilitation of the aged hospital. Will you imagine that the hospital has not had electricity since 2008 because of huge bill, among other challenges? But the governor immediately directed the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) to restore power to the hospital and also made funds available to the hospital management to enable it commence clearing of the premises and other immediate interventions.
These are verifiable hospital projects across the state by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration as part of its efforts in upgrading health facilities in the urban and rural areas to ensure quality and affordable healthcare delivery to the ordinary people. He is currently coing so much in the state’s health sector.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the governor quickly established a Multi-sectoral Rapid Response Team comprising representatives of relevant ministries, departments and agencies, with local and foreign bodies like the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in the team.
I’m aware that the governor immediately released N330, 000, 000.00 (Three Hundred and Thirty Million Naira) for strengthening the Coronavirus Disease Preparedness and Response in Enugu State, N150million of the cash dedicated to purchase of additional Ambulances and Incident vehicles, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), upgrade of State Infectious Diseases Isolation Centre; others are training of Health Workers; advocacy and public enlightenment. I am aware the governor set aside as much as N100million for unforeseen public health challenges. Is that not a proactive Governor? Since the first case of Coronavirus in Enugu State, the government has been carrying out decontamination and fumigation exercises in the whole state.
The state government released palliatives to several categories of individuals affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, including tricycle riders, taxi operators and the poor in worship places.
Despite the lockdown, there are massive road projects that have been delivered by the administration in his infrastructure transformation of the state. For instance, Oji River LGA of Enugu State, got a special link road built by Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration, the popular Agbalenyi/Enugu-Onitsha Expressway link road in Oji River Local Government Area. The Echara Road -Obechara Junction in the University town of Nsukka was completed to standard amid the pandemic.
The government is constructing the 76 Police Mobile Force Squadron Facility at Ekwegbe, in Igbo-Etiti LGA among numerous interventions in enhancing the security architecture of the state, to sustain its enviable status as one of the most peaceful and safest in the country.
The government also constructed access road to the 200-bed Igbo Ano Specialist Hospital (phase one) in Enugu North Senatorial District, to serve as facilities for the ESUT College of Medicine, which has been relocated to Nsukka, in compliance with the return of the institution to its original multi-campus purpose. The specialist hospital is located along Opi/Obollo-Afor federal expressway. There is also an unprecedented massive infrastructural rebirth in IMT Enugu.
With the picture you are painting, why are some saying he has not done enough?
No, no, no! If the governor is not working, I will tell you. He is working and any time he deviates from what he is currently doing, I will be the first to cry out. There have been governors before him, but some of them I quarreled with all through their tenure because they refused to work for the people who elected them. They were not taking care of the people.
I’m not the only one speaking about what the governor is doing. You know that recently, the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunlusi, extolled the leadership qualities of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, describing him as a “wonderful” leader whose hospitality is second to none. He led a delegation to the Enugu Government House to deliver four modular motorised fumigators donated by him to the Enugu State government as part of his contributions to contain the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in the country.
Like I said earlier, time will not permit me to tell you about the completion of the fixing of potholes, traffic lights, asphalting of Agbani dual carriageway from the Nigerian Police College, to Gariki in Enugu South Local Government Area; the 13km Abapka-Harmony Estate- Emene link road, the 13-kilometre Nike Lake Junction-Harmony Estate-Amorji Nike- Adoration Pilgrimage Centre–Orie Emene road, which cut across the thick forest of Umuchigbo community, in Enugu East Local Government Area. Father Mbaka described the completion of the Abakpa-Emene link as a miraculous road given by Governor Ugwuanyi because the road passed through a thick forest.
Despite the proactive measures taken by the governor, the number of COVID-19 positive cases are on the increase in the state. What do you think is the problem?
When you look at the number of cases, Enugu State is still low compared to some other states. And you must note that most of the positive cases are returnees from other states and that is one of the reasons the South East Revival Group advocated for a total blockade of interstate boundaries, using local security guards and a regional committee to assist the government. The government cannot do everything. To be fair to the Enugu State governor, he has been on the roads to personally monitor compliance to the curfew imposed by the Federal Government and to minimize interstate travelling. Most nights, the governor had been pictured on the roads along with other government functionaries trying to monitor the situation in the state.
Recently, we were informed that eleven new cases of Coronavirus disease in Enugu were people who entered the state illegally despite the presidential order on restriction of interstate movement and the state government’s closure of all boundaries and interstate transportation.
There is need for more hands to police the South East. It requires proper coordination cutting across the five states.
What is your assessment of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the South East of Nigeria?
The South East is more challenged by threat of insecurity than the COVID-19. But I can tell you that most of the South East governors have done well in managing the disease and their actions may account to slow infection rate in the region.
Eastern states governors have individually set up active anti-Coronavirus committees or Task Force, saddled with the responsibility of awareness creation and information management under the supervision of health authorities in the state and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). But more can still be done because there is no central coordinating front to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
During a press conference by the South East Revival Group, you demanded for many things, including construction of barricades as a measure to curb COVID-19, and to launch a central body to coordinate both relief efforts and security amid the pandemic. Have the South East governors carried out any of your recommendations?
Yes, we advocated tougher security measures, particularly in view of the obvious invasion of the region by some suspected killer herders.
And because of the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19, we called on South East governors, to set up a central coordinating centre for the region to better manage the pandemic. The centre should be able to, among other things, coordinate information dissemination and such measures that are aimed at cushioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the people and businesses in the South during and after the disease with view to reduce the negative impact of Coronavirus spread prevention measures like the ongoing lockdown in the country.
This is because even a partial lockdown hurts businesses. We proposed that the centre, when established, should be able to plan post-COVID-19 measures the South East could adopt to reduce the effects of the pandemic on small and medium scale businesses, and also work out modalities for possible support to small businesses in the region for a period not less than five years to speed up economic growth in post-coronavirus South East.
We also recommend that the five governors of the South East establish a COVID-19 intervention fund by whatever name it may be called to also be coordinated by the centre.
The key essence of the centre is to have a central purse where individual sons and daughters of the region can donate cash, food and materials that could serve as palliative to the less privileged members of the society.
We advocated for a central committee to coordinate a pool of funds where Igbo sons and daughters with means, both at home and abroad, can donate fund to assist governments in the zone to overcome the Coronavirus pandemic.
We advocated for interstate border closure in compliance to Federal Government directive and we advised the five governors of the South East to immediately safeguard the region by closing all the interstate borders and build barricades to stop unauthorized vehicles from entering the state.