Chief Willy Ezugwu, a chieftain of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP). He spoke with PAUL UWADIMA on 2019 poll and the politics of Enugu State.
What is your assessment of the ongoing voter registration and the level of INEC’s preparedness for the 2019 general election?
INEC has done well so far with the Continuous Voters’ Registration. Some people were apprehensive when the rumour mill had it that the exercise would end in January 2018. But the Commission cleared the air by refuting it. I encourage those who have not registered to go and register to enable them choose the right leadership for the country. It is those who do not vote, who are always in the majority going by the history of the Nigerian elections, that actually aid the emergence of bad leaders. So, every Nigerian should take advantage of the continuous registration exercise to register and ensure that they vote. On the timetable for the election, I would have preferred the Presidential election coming last, after the governorship and House of Assembly elections. The problem with Presidential election coming first is that after the election of the President, the electorate may be persuaded to vote along that line during the governorship and State Assembly elections. Therefore, if the stakeholders want free and fair election in the country, they should support the National Assembly, which put the presidential election last. I stand with the National Assembly on the presidential election coming last.
Some people are afraid that the security situation in the country may threaten the general elections next year. Do you entertain the same fears?
Of course, yes. The increasing killings in many states now and the rising cases of kidnapping may affect the campaign. Though security is the primary business of government, it is everybody’s business. We have to find a way of dealing with the situation before the election. Beyond the killings, the current hunger in the land is even a bigger threat to credible election. The number of hungry unemployed youths in the country is alarming and the politicians may unleash them against their opponents with peanut in their hands as political thugs. I would advice the government to do something very fast to arrest the trend. We need peace and security to have a credible election in 2019 if the government is committed to that. If the security situation didn’t change before the election, then, it will be difficult to hold the general elections.
The Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has received series of endorsements for second term. What is your take on such endorsements?
It is obvious that the series of endorsements the governor is getting from the citizens, market women, the civil society and from local and international groups remains a testimony that Governor Ugwuanyi is a performer. And mind you, it did not begin with his becoming the state governor. His history of performance dates back to when he was a member of the House of Representatives. He simply touched lives everywhere in the state. That was why he got unprecedented support as the candidate when he joined the governorship race, which eventually resulted in his election as the state governor. And since he was sworn into office, he has continued to touch lives everywhere in the three senatorial districts. Today, no person in the three senatorial zones is complaining or crying of marginalisation because he is working simultaneously in the entire state at the same pace. He has done well, in education, health, rural development, security, sports, workers’ welfare, name it. He is the only governor in Nigeria today that paid salary in advance to the workers at a time some other states owe salaries up to 11 months.
The Ugwuanyi’s leadership quality is unusual and I will tell you why. Former governors of Enugu State either had cold war with their deputies throughout their tenure or had obvious political difference with their deputies due to their overbearing political leadership style. But Governor Ugwuanyi always carries along his deputy. In most occasions, you will see the governor sitting with his deputy. So, when a governor has nothing to hide, he is free with people around him. That is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for you. I am not in the same party with the governor, so I have no reason to sing his praises unduly. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am not a sycophant.
But some people from the state including the movie star Kenneth Okonkwo have criticised the governor for non-performance.
You see, everyone is entitled to his opinion but your opinion may not be the truth. I can tell you that Kenneth Okonkwo is not telling the truth. In his constituency, the road from Obolor Afor to Nsukka, Opi to Nsukka, Odenigbo road, Oba Echara road to mention but a few in his town. These roads were abandoned for years, they have been fixed by the Ugwuanyi administration. Enugu is developing so fast that if you leave Enugu State for one month, if care is not taken, when you return, you will miss the road to your father’s house because massive construction work is constantly ongoing. For those who are resident in Enugu State, the Gburugburu touch is everywhere. He has so far opened up several rural communities, linking them with good roads and bridges and the people are very happy with him. That is why many people are saying that there is no vacancy in the Enugu State Government House come 2019. His victory at the polls in 2019 is undisputable; not because I said so, but because that is what the people are also saying. Come to think of it, if somebody like the Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, an Anglican Bishop who is known be a vocal critic, is commending Governor Ugwuanyi for the good job he is doing in Enugu State, and I, the Eze Ogbozarra the third of Opi Kingdom is telling you that the governor is a performer; he is doing well. One of such commendation by Bishop Chukwuma was on the 2018 budget prepared by the Enugu State government, which he described as realistic. That is governor Ugwuanyi, he is always realistic. The most recent was the commendation at the late Chief Alex Ekwueme’s funeral service, where Bishop Chukwuma urged other governors to emulate Ugwuanyi on being close to the people at the grassroots so that when they leave office, the people will not desert them. If someone like Bishop Chukwuma who is not a politician is openly commending the governor, then you can understand what I am talking about.
On the issue of erecting billboards, I can tell you that most of the billboards were erected by people who are only appreciating the good work the governor is doing. I can tell you that because I know some individuals and communities that have on their own erected such billboards. It is misinformation to say that the governor is erecting billboards, not to talk of erecting them on bad roads. The billboards in the state are only speaking of the work the governor is doing in communities and towns.
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