In this interview with OBIORA IFOH, the secretary-general of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, speaks on his visit to The Gambia, the state of the nation, among other national issues.
Recently you returned from The Gambia. What took you to the West African country?
Yes, it was an eye opening trip. The journey was on the invitation of a new political party, the National People Party (NPP), which was launched on January 30. I visited the country in my capacity as the secretary-general of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). So, on why I embarked on the journey, it was an opportunity to explore that part of West Africa and see how Nigeria can contribute to deepening democracy in that country and the party’s launch was very successful and the country needs all the support it can get from other African countries. The journey provided an opportunity for physical interaction with the president of The Gambia, a very gentle man who has love for his country.
Why did you refer to the visit to The Gambia as eye opening?
First, I discovered in President Adama Barrow of The Gambia a gentleman and a committed leader whose overall interest is on the good of his people, not a selfish leader like some African leaders. He is a man full of ideas and very thorough person, and an extremely busy president, yet very welcoming, even on a very short notice.
Secondly, I also found that the West African country is set to break new grounds with the successful launch of its new political party, the National People’s Party (NPP). What the new party has achieved in grassroots mobilisation surpassed my expectations. That was why I described the NPP’s administrative secretary, Mr. Ma-Magic Nijie, as a great asset for the new party in a press release in The Gambia. West Africa has great talents. And that is why we have to work towards ensuring better cooperation and integration among West African states to assist one another in order to grow the sub-regional economy. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally, West Africa need a better coordinated sub-regional cooperation and integration now more than ever. Nobody knows what challenges the world or the sub-region will face tomorrow. Today, it COVID-19 and the other time it was Ebola virus. So, before the rainy days, I see a sense of urgency and burning need to deliberately work to ensure sociopolitical and economic stability in West Africa in order to provide good governance for our people.
The Gambian President may be running for reelection later this year, what are the chances of Dr. Adama Barrow in the forthcoming election in view of the crisis that followed his disagreement with the coalition of political parties that brought him to power?
With what I witnessed at the launching of the new party in The Gambia, Dr. Barrow, who is the incumbent president, the leader and secretary general of the new party, there may be no contest in the real sense of it. The president has proved that he is a grassroots leader with the large crowd of delegates and supporters that gathered at the Independence Stadium in Bakau for the launch of new NPP that he has good followership in the country. You may have seen the crowd on international televisions. They had more supporters outside the Stadium than inside. That is the reality. So, the chances of his reelection are very high, if not absolute.
President Barrow has helped in uniting The Gambia and the people are fast rising above ethnic and partisan differences and it is evidence in their support for the President Barrow and his new party.
It is true that he was backed by a coalition of seven opposition parties to win the December 2016 presidential election, which ended the 22 year-long rule of former President Yahya Jammeh, who has been forced into exile after he initially refused to admit defeat. But most members of the coalition have joined the new party. So, the new party has since become a unifying ground for the majority of the opposition party and I believe that before the election, he will win back the few members of the opposition who are yet to join his party at the moment. And President Barrow has been holding the reign of power in the country since January 2017 and he is doing well. The people are happy with him and I saw their excitement at the party launch.
There have been various challenges facing the country in the past few months, ranging from security to economic downturn. What is your reaction to some of these issues?
Anyway, there is nothing anyone will say that have not been said. However, the security situation in Nigeria needs to be addressed now before it gets out of hand. What began as famer/herders disagreement in some parts of the country is snowballing into a full blown war between the Fulani communities and their hosts because of the criminal activities of a few Fulani herdsmen parading the forests with AK47 rifles unchecked. Even Mr. President at a time identified those killer herdsmen as foreigners from Libya and other places. What the president needs to do is to issue a matching order to the new service chiefs and declare full war against arms-bearing herders to end the ravaging clash between herdsmen and their hosts before it scales to a full blown war.
Hopefully Nigeria will be able to overcome the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant negative economic impact. Excessive borrowing is already taking its toll on federal government revenue due to the increase in amount spent servicing our debts. Already, the increases in fuel pump price and Value Added Tax (VAT), among other harsh economic policies are adding to the overall weight of hardship the ordinary citizens have continued to bear in the last six years. Even you in the media sector and allied sectors are not left out. How many pages of newspapers are you printing now due to high cost of production? So, the economy, just like security issues, requires a better proactive approach by the government.