By Sunday Ani
Pastor Eze Nwachukwu Eze is the Ebonyi State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview, he takes a look at various issues including the seeming faceoff between the former governor of Abia State and current Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and the state governor, Dave Umahi.
What is your honest assessment of the current government in Ebonyi State led by Dave Umahi?
The present PDP-led government in Ebonyi is nothing to write home about. The man piloting the affairs of the state now, Dave Umahi is the first civilian governor of the state to have come from the business sector. His predecessors, Sam Egwu and Martin Elechi were groomed in the civil service. So, expectations are high that as a businessman, he should be development- conscious to show his knowledge as an industrialist but regrettably, the reverse is the case. Instead of bringing development to the state, he has no industrial blueprint. He has no plan to industrialize Ebonyi State. He has no plan to attract investment considering the fact that the state is strategic. We have borders with the North, the South-south and the South East. A trip from Ebonyi to the Cameroun borders is about two and a half hours. From the United Nations report, we have Ndibe Beach very close to the high sea and Cameroun is close by; so if the state is industrialized and business activity commences, there are chances that we will contribute our quota to the development of nation’s economy. But, the government for now is nothing to write home about as far as development is concerned.
The education sector is even the worse in the state. During this current administration, the state university is losing accreditation in some departments. Gov. Umahi placed embargo on the promotion and payment of salaries of workers as well as leave allowance and other allowances in the state university. He also placed embargo on the promotion of the civil servants in the state. In the state university, he placed embargo on the conversion of workers. Most of the lecturers in the university are leaving and when you lose lecturers in the university, what you have there is an empty building which amounts to nothing. He got money from Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) but nothing is happening in the primary schools in the state. His predecessor, Elechi’s government is better because he introduced pilot schools, which is a credit to his government but instead of continuing from where Elechi stopped, this government withdrew those facilities which the students of those schools have been enjoying, thereby discouraging the boarding schools that really affected positively the performances of our children in public schools during the last administration. If you go to our primary schools now, there are absolutely nothing on ground; you see children sitting on blocks. In summary, the education sector is nothing to write home about.
In agriculture, the Federal Government is talking about people going into farm and I believe that in our state, there ought to be some kind of sensitization on that, since we are blessed in that regard and there is enough manpower here. What baffles us in opposition is that the PDP government in the state during Sam Egwu and Martin Elechi’s government procured tractors, but those tractors today have disappeared and instead of this current government making efforts to recover them and put them in use, it went ahead again to procure inferior tractors that have continued to litter the state without being used. As we speak, there is no improvement in agriculture sector. So, the grant they celebrated recently from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Programme in the state was merely N18 million that was given to 18 cooperative societies. The money was given during the harvest season and I ask, what will they do with the money when we are not in planting season?
From your assessment, you suggest that the current PDP government in the state is far from meeting the yearnings of the people. Does the APC have the capacity to upstage the PDP in the state in 2019?
Yes, the PDP’s unpopularity as a result of its anti-people programme is making us very popular with the people. You can interview the masses on the street and find out what they think of this government. We are gaining strength and momentum every day. All the known politicians in the state are with us and not with him and we are making every effort and putting strategies in place to ensure that we uproot him in 2019. Thank God the judiciary is being sanitized and the present government has zero tolerance for corruption. So, his idea and style of buying votes with money will disappoint him this time.
Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu is seen as the leader of the APC in Ebonyi State but many see him as a man, who is very apologetic, and so, does not have the capacity to attract anything to the state. Do you agree with that verdict?
He is an APC leader not only in Ebonyi State but also in the whole country. I laugh at those who hold such opinion about him because they don’t know the man they are talking about. The fact that a man doesn’t make noise in television and on the pages of newspapers doesn’t mean he should be taken for a ride. Ogbonnaya Onu is known by records of great achievements that he has the capacity to attract anything. In Ebonyi State, the man he nominated as an ambassador is celebrated all over the state. We are confident that immediately after the economic meltdown in Nigeria which all of us are witnesses to, his capacity to attract development to the state will manifest in several ways. He has the capacity through his ingenuity to create jobs. We should not lose sight of the fact that he was the only governor in Nigeria during his tenure in Abia State to establish a technology village, which has been replicated today as a computer village in Lagos and also in Abuja. He started it then and he has the capacity to do it again. We know that with the programmes of APC government, immediately after recovery from this economic recession, there is going to be an outburst of development in Nigeria, of which Ebonyi State will take its lot. So, we are confident in him. He is a great achiever. He is a leader and man of the people. He is our own ‘Oga,’ who is celebrated all over the world. So, we celebrate him here; we are proud of him and that is why we quickly responded to the trash, which Gov Umahi was saying about him. The governor is one of the people he made. He took him and made him whatever he is today.
During the 20th anniversary of the creation of Ebonyi state, Dr. Onu was reported to have rejected a car gift from Gov. Umahi. What really is the problem between the two?
There is no problem between them other than the problem between light and darkness. That is just the answer to it. Darkness and light will always be at variance; that is the summary of the problem between them. Dr. Onu as a father, a man that considers the prevailing economic situation of the country, thought it wise to reject the gift, reasoning that the money meant for the car should have gone to better the lots of his people, and not giving him such an expensive car as a gift. He also wanted the world to see the governor as a man talking from the two sides of his mouth because the man he is giving a car gift is the same man he called a political jobber. Does Umahi give car to political jobbers? If not his policy summersault and inconsistency in his speeches, why would he give a car gift to a man he called a political jobber? So, he gives cars to jobbers; he gives cars to people who don’t know the names of their traditional rulers; he gives cars to people who don’t know their wards in their constituencies. These are the things he said about Dr. Onu. Do such people deserve car keys? Our leader, whom we support, cheer and treasure so much told him that the needs of Ebonyi State is beyond the gift of a car and that goes a long way to tell you his mindset, his thoughts and wishes for Ebonyi State.
There was rumour that the governor wanted to defect to APC but Dr. Onu stopped him; could that be the cause of the problem between them?
Well, I am not aware of such rumour, but in any case, a party is a party and an individual is also an individual, and there are procedures if somebody wants to join the party. So, if a man really wants to join the party and he means well for the party, he will not go through the back doors. He will come open to the party. That is a general answer to that, but for the rumour that the governor wanted to join the party and Dr. Onu or anybody else stopped him, I am not aware of that.
However, if at any time somebody wants to join a political party, there is always a route to a destination or to any group.
What is your reaction to the letter by Justice Ngwuta alleging that Dr. Onu tried to bribe him to influence the outcome of the gubernatorial election tribunal judgement in favour of the APC candidate in 2015 election in the state?
I heard the man saying that he took a malaria drug and that he was dosing and drowsing; so maybe the dosing and drowsing affected him when he was writing the letter or he should better be called a judicial comedian. Yes, because for him now to say that Dr. Onu visited him and was trying to ask him to influence the judgement, people would like to know if it was Dr. Onu that also gave him the money, which was found in his house. But, I don’t want to dwell much on that because our father, Dr. Onu has responded and every sensible Nigerian who read through his answers to that letter will know that he spoke as a father. But for us as a party, the allegation is laughable and we believe that whenever he recovers from dosing and drowsing resulting from the malaria drugs he took, he will Ebonyi State chapter of the APC appears to be boiling in crisis with the former chairman, Ben Nwobasi, still claiming to be the chairman. What really is the matter?
The thing is very clear. It is clear to the extent that even the committee inaugurated by the party publicly and openly in our zonal meeting said that the PDP government in Ebonyi State was profusely pleading with them to return Nwobasi as the state chairman. One will now want to ask, what business does the PDP government have with the APC crisis if not to substantiate our earlier claim that they are being used to destabilize the APC? Gov. Umahi has made the PDP a family business, having succeeded in making his younger brother the deputy state chairman and South East zonal chairman. So, he wants to use Nwobasi’s clique to bring the APC down, so that by 2019, he would have no challenge but we thank God for the calibre and quality of the committee members, who understood the signs of the time, stood their ground and resisted the offer and did what was just. We know ourselves in Ebonyi State. We know those who are truly APC and those that are APC/PDP. God exposed them and gave us victory and this victory will continue till 2019 and beyond by the grace of God.