Chief Willy Ezugwu is the secretary general of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) as well as the president and national coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG) among others. He spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday on the state of affairs in Enugu State, South East presidency and sundry national issues.
The national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in which Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, your state governor, played a key role in midwifing as the sub-committee chairman on zoning, has come and gone. As a CNPP leader, how do you rate the outcome, especially the role played by Ugwuanyi?
First of all, the PDP convention took many by surprise as the outcome shocked many. From the now fruitless Uche Secondus’ legal battle to the zoning maneuverings, many Nigerians believed that the PDP convention was to be a bitter event if it was not stopped by the courts. But it turned out to be one of the best conventions ever held by any party with large followers and diverse political interests like the PDP. And, like you rightly mentioned, the success of the convention was tied to the kind of leaders who manage the pre-convention events. One of them is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, my state governor as you rightly said. His leadership qualities were evident in managing his duties as chairman of the PDP zoning committee, which he did to the best of his ability. That is what we enjoy in Enugu State at the moment; quality leadership under the administration of Governor Ugwuanyi. So, he played a critical role, he delivered and the PDP is better for it.
Some political watchers believe that the South East has not shown much commitment in convincing other zones to allow the region produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023, what is your take on this?
In 1999, how prepared was the South West?
Was the South West shouting on the rooftops asking for the presidency? No. The elders of Nigeria looked at the political atmosphere in the country and saw that there was an injustice against the South West, where an Egba man, Chief MKO Abiola, was robbed of his mandate after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election. That was how an Egba man, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became president. Did the South West ask for presidency before they were appeased? Today the South West has a sense of belonging and is fully integrated into national politics. Just as was done in 1999 when all major political parties were made to produce South West presidential candidates with Alliance for Democracy (AD) producing Chief Olu Falae and PDP producing Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, why can’t the same opportunity be given to the South East for them to be fully integrated into national politics in 2023? If Nigeria is to be united, the South East should be given the opportunity to produce the president in 2023.
The South East has capable hands; look at what Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done in Enugu State with little allocations from the centre. Do you think if given the chance he will not transform Nigeria as a president?
We have Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, whom I once served as his presidential campaign director general. He was the first man to give the PDP N100 million in 1999 when he was not yet a governor. He was already rich before he became governor of Abia State. We also have the former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi who left billions of naira for the government after his tenure. We have Kingsley Moghalu, the former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) among others.
Looking at Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration in the last six years, what do you think are his selling points should he declare interest to contest the presidency in 2023?
The truth of the matter is that if I begin to tell you what Governor Ugwuanyi has done in Enugu State which qualifies him to be the president of Nigeria in 2023, your paper won’t be able to accommodate all of them. But I will give you a few critical ones. First, one of the things lacking in Nigeria today is peace; the protection of lives and property of the citizens. That is said to be the primary responsibility of the government anywhere in the world and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration has given Enugu State the peace they lacked before he came. Recall that there was a time when cultists virtually took over the government of Enugu State. He has been able to manage the herdsmen – farmers’ crisis in the state. So, number one selling point is that despite
the enormity of challenges facing the country, the governor has done well in the area of security. Secondly, in the area of business investment development, ICT innovation and creativity, start-ups, product acceleration and wealth creation
for the youth of Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done well as a governor. Road infrastructure is revolutionary in Enugu State today. Governor Ugwuanyi has moved Enugu State from its World Bank ease of doing business ranking in 2014 as 27th out of 36 states to the number two most improved state in the 2018 World Bank ease of doing business sub-national ranking. The governor has opened up local communities with good roads and has given rural areas sense of belonging. These are what Nigeria is lacking as a country.
In some quarters, it is believed that your support for governor Ugwuanyi administration is because you have been on his payroll. How do you react to that?
You see, people will always speak on issues, even when they have no understanding about them. For those who watch television, you must have seen Chief Dan Ulashi on the Kakaaki morning show on AIT recently giving his verdict on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as the best performing state executive in the South East. Is he also on the governor’s payroll? The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Bishop Godfrey Onah, at one time said that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi‘s achievements in office in the face of troubling economic challenges in the country have been outstanding. He called for the governor to be well celebrated. Is the Bishop also on the governor’s payroll? Governor Ugwuanyi has mobilised and paid over N27.3m hospital bills of indigent patients in the state and got commendation from Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Is CAN also on his payroll? So, I don’t criticize people just for the sake of criticism, I speak based on facts on ground, which anyone can be easily verified independently.