Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Convener of Save Enugu Group (SEG) and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG). He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP). He spoke with PAUL UWADIMA on the administration of governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and some national issues.
What is your assessment of your state governor, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in terms of delivering dividends of democracy?
I can tell you as a civil society activist that the governor is doing his best at the moment because if you consider where we are coming from and where we are in terms of development in Enugu State, the governor has done excellently well. Remember that Governor Ugwuanyi came into office at a time Nigeria slid into recession, with dwindling federal allocation, while Enugu State as a civil servant state had low internally generated revenue.
However, in the last three and a half years, in the face of the nation’s economic challenges, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has outperformed his predecessors who served for eight years in infrastructural development. He is opening up rural communities and wiping the tears of years of neglect by constructing roads and putting in place necessary amenities in rural areas.
Still many opposition candidates have been indicating their readiness to take over the state in 2019 saying the governor has not performed to their satisfaction. What is your take on this?
The Enugu State governor does not believe in going to media houses to advertise what he is doing in the state. You can see some governors engaging in media hype in desperate move to sell themselves, even when they know that what they are publicising are not on ground. One of the very key achievements of the Governor Ugwuanyi government is prompt payment of salaries and pensions. While some governors owe over 20 months’ salaries and civil servants are committing suicide in their states because they don’t have money to meet their basic responsibilities, Enugu State is paying 13th month salary to civil servants. I can tell you that because of the priority and compassion he has for the workers, the governor will pay any amount agreed by the workers and the federal government as minimum wage.
And, one other thing working for Governor Ugwuanyi is the level of peace and security the people enjoy in the state. He has succeeded in carrying everyone along in the state. That is his selling point.
Now, go and ask the people of Amurri in Nkanu local government area, a village neglected for almost hundred years by successive administrations in the state, how they feel about the administration of Governor Ugwuanyi. The community is one of the numerous rural areas without access roads in the state until the current administration took over.
It will surprise you that the local government has produced two governors of the state, yet Amurri community had no road. In his second year in office, the first Executive Governor of Kaduna State and the founding National Chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa visited the state and was astonished at the level of development.
There is the Milikin Hill Road abandoned since after the war, which has been fixed by Ugwuanyi government. Other remarkable places he has touched positively are Ikem Road where he also built a bridge, and the Akpugo Road in Nkanu West has been fixed too. We have the 9th Mile Corner-Benue State border road, the Opi-Nsukka roads, Opi-Obollor road, Egede Junction road in Udi local government, the old 9th Mile to Awka Road, up to the boundary and many others. As he is building solid-state roads, he is also undertaking the rehabilitation of federal roads in the state.
It is important to note that Governor Ugwuanyi is building roads simultaneously in all the neglected communities across the three senatorial districts of Enugu State and the quality of roads are of international standard. The way he is working on roads is the same way he is working on other sectors, including health and education.
So, it is obvious that some aspirants, who are banking on federal might to win election in the state as they have even been boasting, will make all kinds of noise. It is normal with failed politicians.
But like I said recently during an interview with another medium, there are states you cannot rig election with federal might and Enugu State happens to be one of them. We cannot allow election rigging in Enugu State in 2019. Let election riggers be warned.
Recently, the federal government allegedly withheld the Benue State’s Paris Club refund, what do you make of this?
Ordinarily, I would have advised the Benue State government to go to court but the unfortunate thing is that the current federal government does not obey court orders. However, it will be ideal to proceed to court; at least, to put it on record even if the federal government won’t obey. For me, it is quite unfortunate and unthinkable that because you have political differences with a state governor you now withheld funds due to the state. You are not concerned about the plight of the ordinary citizens who are suffering?
It is shameful and wicked to go to that length. What offence did the ordinary people of Benue commit that you will choose to punish them because you disagreed with their governor? See what the herdsmen have done there and you deny them funds to rebuild the devastated state.
What is your reaction to the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate?
That is a good omen for Nigeria and I think the PDP seems to have gotten it right by its choice of presidential candidate, by offering Nigerian voters a man who believes in restructuring.
And like the South East Revival Group said in our press release recently, the candidate of the PDP should bring to the table of South East stakeholders his comprehensive plan for the development of the region. Atiku is a man who will treat all parts of the country equally and fairly. I know him very well because I have been following his comments on issues for a long time. He is not a man who will treat some parts of the country unfairly because they did not vote for him.
He is mature, articulate, decisive and has an independent mind. He has relationships across the country through marriage and business. He is married to two women from the south and two women from the north. You can see that he loves the north and south equally.
Since his emergence, I have followed comments on social media, newspapers, television, the radio, and in market places. People’s reactions have shown that over 90 per cent of Nigerians want Atiku Abubakar as President in 2019.
The Nigerian elite have seen the trend of opinions and do not want to be left out, hence the meeting with former President Obasanjo. You saw the who-is-who at the meeting; it was more or less a unity meeting of leaders of all the leading institutions, including the religious institutions. You saw the Muslims and Christians come together in unity behind Atiku. He is a uniting bridge, a pillar of hope for a united Nigeria and gives me hope that truly Nigeria can work again.
So, an Atiku presidency will unite Nigeria and birth a new country where peace and security reigns.
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