Chief Willy Ezugwu is a human rights activist and convener of Save Enugu Group (SEG) and secretary general of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). In this interview with PAUL UWADIMA, he spoke on Enugu State politics and other national issues.
What is your assessment of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration?
I will give you a simple answer. Enugu has a man from God as the Governor of the State. And why did I say that? It is only a man, who is God-sent like Governor Ugwuanyi that can do what he is doing in Enugu State. Only a God-sent can be as humble, God-fearing and friendly as Governor Ugwuanyi is to the people of Enugu State. It is only a God-sent that can be a team player, bridge builder and peacemaker like Ugwuanyi.
It is only a man sent from God that can have the level of passion for philanthropy that Governor Ugwuanyi has.
The people love him because of his exemplary leadership qualities.
This did not start from the current office he occupies as governor of Enugu State. If you recall, he was a three-time member of the House of Representatives and has been a man of the people. His humanitarian services and his style of leadership have brought him this far.
Now, I can tell you that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has, in the last three years, surpassed in achievement all the achievements of former governors of the state since the return to democracy in 1999.
Remember that before he became governor in 2015, he was the longest serving National Assembly member in the Enugu North Senatorial District of Enugu State. And I can tell you categorically that if he did not contest the governorship election in 2015, he would have been in the National Assembly. Why did I say that?
It is because of his heart for service and love for the ordinary people, which explains why his administration has concentrated more on projects that impact positively on the lives of the ordinary people. He has been opening up villages and farm areas with access roads. You can see why the endorsements are coming from every individual and groups in the state.
Despite his leadership qualities, which you highlighted there are those who felt he has not done enough, people like Nollywood actor, Kenneth
Okonkwo who is challenging him for the governorship seat in 2019. What can you say about this?
That in no way indicates that he has failed as governor. As many as want to contest the governorship seat are welcome but there is no vacancy in Enugu State Government House until 2023.
Why are you so sure?
I am not the person that said it. I’m only quoting the people. You know as a traditional ruler, I’m in touch with the ordinary people in the state and they talk to me concerning what they feel about the government. The ordinary people are not interested in any other candidate in 2019 except the man of the people, the ‘Gburugburu’ himself.
The governor has proven to be trusted and can be trusted with a second tenure. That is what the people are saying. And mind you, the former governor of the state, Okwy Nwodo has endorsed him, clergymen including Bishop Onaga, and Bishop Chukwuma and business moguls in the State, have tipped him for 2019.
You can see that his endorsement cuts across all classes of people in the state. So, any person coming out to contest against the governor in 2019, will suffer a colossal defeat; and it will be worse for anyone from Enugu North, the governor’s constituency. What will you tell the people? That the governor is not working when they are seeing what he is doing?
It won’t work. All the people in Enugu North know that it is their turn to complete two terms like other senatorial districts in the state. So, the people are committed to seeing Governor Ugwuanyi complete his two terms of eight years.
You spoke about the governor’s good performance while at the House of Representatives but what can you say about the performance of the present representatives of Enugu State at the National Assembly?
To be sincere with you, I am always heartbroken each time I remember the poor quality of representation at the National Assembly from Enugu State. And it is worse in Enugu North where I come from. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the previous governors of the state were so wicked to the state that they imposed on our people, individuals that take no responsibility for anything and cannot be held accountable for anything.
Look, the major reason the state has been backward in terms of development over the years, is because former governors killed the spirit of competition through imposition of candidates. They left the state in the hands of greedy political business men who, have over the years, lived their lives for material acquisition for the singular purpose of intimidating the people through irresponsible show of wealth. Politics is not about how much money you amass, it is about how many people your life and wealth have touched and changed their lives. What I am saying in essence is that politics should be about service to the people. And this is where Governor Ugwuanyi stands out.
I believe he will not use his position to impose the wrong people on the citizens of Enugu State. From what he has been doing, I see him allowing the people to choose who they want to represent them. With his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), apologising to Nigerians over the years of imposition, which resulted in their defeat at the federal level, I see the governor having a renewed commitment to allowing the people choose who represents them at the National Assembly.
It will be the best thing to do; it will be the best gift he will give to the people of Enugu State in 2019 because it will ease his work. If not for the current state government, our people would have been in very deep suffering considering that there is no federal presence in the entire South East and Enugu State in particular. That is why the people of Enugu State see Governor Ugwuanyi as God-sent at this time.
The Save Enugu Group, which you are the convener, has not been very active as a civil society organisation, what is going on?
It is not that we are quiet. Advocacy is not the only thing the organisation is doing. You recall that when the former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime travelled for some months without any convincing explanation, leaving the state ungoverned, we issued a 14-day ultimatum to the government and he returned on the tenth day. We are still as formidable today as ever.
The only difference is that we have an administration that is taking governance seriously. We are not irresponsible people. If the administration deviates, we will also act accordingly. We have no reason to troop to the streets in protest or agitate when the Governor is doing his best with the little resources coming to the state.
You sponsored Easter greeting billboards in praise of the governor at strategic places in Obollo Afor and Opi at a time people are saying that the government is not doing anything, what prompted that?
The truth about the billboards in Enugu State is that people erect them in appreciation of the good things the governor is doing. It is not out of sycophancy. It is to tell a man who has given himself to service of the people that you are appreciated. It is true that he is just performing his duty as a governor but it is also good to say ‘we see what you are doing’.
I don’t see anything wrong in that. So, those who are saying that the governor is not working may be politicians who are just condemning him for political reasons. Such blackmail won’t give them any political advantage because the people are happy with the state governor.