Ahead of the forthcoming general elections, the traditional ruler of Obimo Kingdom in Nsukka local government area of Enugu State, His Royal Highness Igwe Spencer Ugwuoke (Eze Duru 1) of Obimo, in this interview with select journalists spoke on why his community should produce the next House of Representatives member for the constituency. ADEBIYI ADEDAPO was there for LEADERSHIP
What is your assessment of the performance of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led administration in Enugu State in the past three years?
If you know me very well, I’m a Kight of Anglican Communion. I don’t tell lies. And I’m not afraid of telling the truth in any circumstance. Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was sent by God to this state. Why I said this is because he is disciplined. Go and listen to what is going on in Benue State, Kogi, Abia and other states around us, you will be grateful to God. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi upholds the maintenance of law and order. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has set a very big example. Look at Opi – Nsukka Road; look at the schools. We know our state is poor in terms of the amount of money it is getting from the federation account and internally generated revenue, yet salaries are still being paid.
We know that we don’t have federal amenities as our neighbouring states have but, the governor is still managing the little money available to the government to take good care of our schools. I don’t think saying the truth is partisanship, I don’t know what you pressmen or learned people will say; for me if he is not doing well, I will tell it to the press that he is doing well.
When Chimaroke Nnamani was governor, you all saw how I challenged him. When the then President Olusegun Obasanjo came on tour of Enugu state, he went to Enugu East and commissioned eight projects; went to Enugu West commissioned one project, but, none here in Enugu North. I quarreled about it.
During the last Census exercise, I hosted some traditional rulers and leaders of some political parties in my palace in Obimo. I told them that this is not politics; that in this country we share things based on population and that we in Nsukka, otherwise called Enugu North senatorial district, are controlling 52 percent of Enugu state population, yet we are being marginalised, and, we are keeping quiet. I told them that we should all come out and defend ourselves.
They went and reported me to the then Governor Chimaroke Nnamani; that I am hosting a political activity, and, he gave order that I should be suspended as a traditional ruler. But I am learned, and I know that in law you don’t suspend somebody without querying him. You should issue the person query first. But he suspended me before querying me. So, I challenged him in Court. And I replied to his query sent to me by the then chairman of Nsukka local government council, Dr. Dan Shere. After reading my reply to the query, he called Dr. Shere and told him ‘cancel that suspension we gave to that traditional ruler’.
We understand that there are some people from Nsukka who are gearing up to stop Governor Ugwuanyi from being re-elected, yet you have spoken glowingly about his performance so far . What is your reaction concerning the position of such people?
I’m a Nigerian, I’m not a stranger in the game of politics. No candidate from here (Nsukka socio- cultural zone) will come out to oppose Ugwuanyi’s re-election, do you hear me? Take it or leave it. Some of them are coming out particularly under the APC to get a share from the top because some people must be vote for candidates of parties from the party’s national headquarters. And when they get such money, they will just put it under their pillow and put their head on it. They will not campaign against Ugwuanyi.
Enugu state government currently gave each community the sum of N5 million to carry out any project of their choice in their respective areas. How do you see the policy?
That policy is the best I have ever seen since the past 39 years that I have been on the throne as Igwe. There are some communities that have no access road, they can use that money to construct road. There are some communities that don’t have water, they can use that money to construct water borehole. There are some communities that don’t have town hall. In such communities, when couples do their wedding, or when anybody wants to organise public ceremony, they won’t find a place to do it. So, they will now go to their primary school. So, such community can now use the money to build a community hall. So, that money has made us traditional rulers to feel the impact of his governance the more.
And it is not only five million Naira, it is N10million. They said if you finish the five million, government will come and inspect the project you did with it, if government is satisfied, it will give you another five million Naira. Who has ever done that before? And this policy is now making Governor Ugwuanyi more popular in every senatorial zone. He is even becoming more popular in the East, and, the West senatorial zones than here in the North where he comes from. We are proud of him.
We learnt that tempers are rising among the people in Nsukka local government over the Igbo Eze south/ Nsukka federal constituency seat. The people of the area are said to be kicking against the ambition of the incumbent representative, Hon. Pat Asadu who is from Igbo- Eze south to seek re- election in the forthcoming 2019 election. What is your take on this?
Igbo-Eze South/Nsukka federal constituency is made up of two local governments: Igbo-Eze South and Nsukka local governments. In Nsukka local government, we have Nsukka East, and Nsukka west. Nsukka East is one state constituency, and Nsukka West is one state constituency. And the whole of Igbo- Eze south is one state constituency. We held a meeting when this current democratic era started in 1999. At the meeting, we agreed that nobody who is elected will go for second tenure. My own subject, late Hon. Alexander Ike Eze was the first to represent this our Nsukka/ Igbo-Eze south federal constituency from 1999 to 2003. He stayed for only four years, and, we brought him out in accordance with what we agreed on.
In law, there is what we call equity. Equity usually takes precedence in law. After Alexander completed his one tenure of four years, the position went to Nsukka East where we brought out Hon. Charles Ugwu from Ehalumona. Charles Ugwu went to the House of Representatives, stayed four years and came out. And the slot moved to Igbo-Eze south. And Igbo-Eze south brought out Dr. Pat Asadu. Asadu went for the first four years, Asadu went for another four years, and went for another four years, making it 12 years! And he now wants to go for another four years to make it 16 years he alone will occupy the seat! What does it connote? What does it show? Nsukka-West (otherwise, called Ovogovo) alone is more than the entire Igbo-Eze south population-wise.
Nsukka-East which is made up Ede-Oballa, Opi, Ehalumona and Leja are more than Igbo- Eze south, in terms of population. So, if this federal constituency seat leaves and comes back to Nsukka as we are praying and Nsukka insists on retaining the position till the next twelve years, will Igbo-Eze south people be happy? And it is the turn of Nsukka-West to produce the next candidate. I’m a Knight of Anglican Communion, so it is difficult for me to see the truth and come and tell lies because you may give me contract or something? No! I’ve passed that age. The remaining part of my life is for me to tell the truth. Let me even ask: if it is prison that Dr. Asadu went to, on our behalf, the people of our federal constituency, will he accept to return to the prison on our behalf after spending 12 years? And we shall pray for him to go back to prison to spend 16 years in prison on our behal, and, he will agree? Even if going to the House is prison, let Asadu come out, let another person go to the prison on our behalf. I’m happy that reasonable persons from Nsukka, especially from Nsukka-West are already showing interest. This is not being partisan, this is stating the fact.
And we have to agree this time, if it is eight years that the person will stay, let it be made known to everybody. We are talking about our children. History will have it that Nsukka-West went for four years, Nsukka-East went for four years and Igbo-Eze-south went for 12 years and we allowed him to return for another four years to make it 16 years? That means that nobody is in Nsukka. Right is different from privilege. We are talking about our right. It is the right of Nsukka to produce the next House of Reps member for the federal constituency come the 2019 general elections.
What is your view concerning the call by some people for the establishment of state police as part of the measures to curtail the current incessant killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen and the general insecurity pervading the country?
I don’t very much support states to have their own police. This is because it will be abused by the political party in power in the respective states, especially during elections. The political parties will use the police to coerce voters to vote for candidates of their parties during elections, and, that way people will no longer vote for people they want.
But the federal government should do something to tighten security in this country. If you go to developed countries, security is usually their top priority. What is happening in the country today is indeed sad. Everyday, you hear how people are killed here and there. If you open the newspapers or tune your radio, television set, what you will be reading or hearing everyday is how people are being butchered everywhere in the country. And they say it is Fulani herdsmen. And I dare ask: Have we not been harbouring Fulanis and their cattle in this country? Why have they become killers now? I want to caution the government, because, from my personal point of view which I’m entitled to say, I don’t believe that this Boko Haram issue is about Northerners. I don’t believe that at all. They are immigrants from Niger and Chad Republic who have been sponsored to come here and see how they can push whatever is their objective. Have we not been living in Maiduguri before? Have we not been living in Sokoto? Why is it that it is this time that this type of killings is happening? Nobody is happy about what is happening. No reasonable person should be happy.
The Emir of Sokoto has spoken against what is happening. I read his comment in the newspapers. Many other reasonable people have spoken against it. So, I will cal on the federal government, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, to tighten the security network of this country. People are living in fear and when you are in a country where people live in fear then there is a serious problem.
Look at the situation in Nasarawa and Benue. We hear of 25 killed in Kogi, another number killed in Taraba, and, you ask: why all these killings? Imagine such a blessed country like ours, and, we are living in fears.
So, I will advise the federal government to give proper attention to the issue of security. I will also suggest that the state governors should be in control of the security organs in the state. Since the situation is changing, we should also adopt new strategies, and flow along with the current. The security situation is not acceptable to me. I am not here to condemn any government or any administration, I am a traditional ruler, my own is to advise. I therefore advise the federal government to give a second thought to the security situation in the country.
We understand that Nsukka area, due to its closeness to some of the Northern states of Kogi and Benue have been recording attacks by the suspected rampaging Fulani herdsmen. What is the true situation?
Yes, that’s what we are saying, that’s why we are crying. Go to Okwutu, from there you enter Kogi. Go to Enugu-Ezike, you enter Benue. We intermarry with them. We are afraid! And when there is fear, nothing will move, the economy will not move. We are afraid.
How have the security agencies been responding to the situation?
Right now, we don’t know who is a genuine policeman. You go on the roads and you see people wearing mufti with guns and they are policemen. If not because sometimes you see them wearing T-shirts with inscriptions on their back showing they are policemen, there is no formal physical identification they wear.
Sometimes, you hear that police from Enugu are here. They won’t even let the Area Commander in charge here know that they are here. And we, traditional rulers will not even know. Policemen will come in here and arrest somebody even in a matter that is a bailable offence, take him all the way to Enugu without letting the traditional ruler know.
As traditional rulers, we should be able to have powers to secure bail for our people who are arrested on any issue that is a bailable offence. But there is no law backing us to exercise that powers. But if anything happens in any community now, you will hear government asking “where is the Igwe of the place?” But there is nothing investing any power on us. If policemen come to Obimo for instance, to carry out a serious investigation, maybe something that involves life, and they do not first of all call on the traditional ruler, it is not proper. They should call on the Igwe to let him know that they are in his domain to carry out an investigation. If that happens, Igwe will be in a better position to assist the police.
What efforts are the leaders in Nsukka making to sensitise eligible voters to go and obtain their Permanent Voter Cards?
We are doing our best, especially because of our governor, His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. And the governor on his own is doing his best to ensure that all those who are qualified to vote obtain their PVCs. He has set up a team that is going round to sensitise the people to go and register and obtain their PVCs. We are organising it so that every eligible voter gets his PVC.
Let me give you an example, Ovogovo, that’s Nsukka-West, alone is half of the population of the entire Nsukka local government area. Right now, there more than 150,000 PVC-holders in this area. But in the whole of Igbo-Eze south, there are not up to 70 PVC-holders there. So, we are determined to ensue that Governor Ugwuanyi is re-elected because he is a humanitarian, he recognises traditional rulers, he likes us. He accords traditional rulers their full respect in any public gathering he sees us. This is what we, traditional rulers, like, not money. And, as it is now, more than 90 percent of the traditional rulers are mobilising their subjects to come out and register to obtain their PVCs.
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