Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). He speaks, in this interview with FELIX NWANERI, on the forthcoming general elections, particularly the Enugu State governorship, security situation in the country and the ongoing continuous voters’ registration exercise
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is carrying out its Continuous Voters’ Registration ahead of next year’s general elections. How would you assess the exercise and the electoral umpire’s preparedness for 2019 general election?
INEC has done well so far with the continuous voters’ registration exercise. Some people were apprehensive when the rumour mill had it that the exercise would end in January. But the commission cleared the air by refuting it. I encourage those who have not registered to go and register to enable them choose the right leadership for the country. It is those who do not vote that are always in the majority going by the history of the Nigerian elections. This actually aids the emergence of bad leaders.
So, every Nigerian should take advantage of the exercise to register and ensure that they vote. On the time table for the election, I would have preferred the presidential election to come last, after the governorship and House of Assembly elections.
The problem with presidential election coming first is that after the emergence a president, the electorate may be persuaded to vote along that line during the governorship and State Assembly elections. Therefore, if the stakeholders want free and fair election in the country, they should support the National Assembly, which has put the presidential election last. I stand with the National Assembly on the presidential election coming last.
Some people are afraid that the security situation in the country may threaten next year’s general elections next year. Do you entertain the same fear?
Of course, yes. The increasing killings in some states may affect the polls. Though security is the primary business of government, it is everybody’s business.
We have to find a way of dealing with the situation before the election. Beyond the killings, the current hunger in the land is even a bigger threat to a credible election.
The number of hungry unemployed youths in the country is alarming and the politicians may unleash them against their opponents with peanuts in their hands as political thugs. I will advise the government to do something very fast to arrest the trend. We need peace and security to have a credible election in 2019 if the government is committed to that. If the security situation doesn’t change before the election, it will be difficult to hold the general elections.
Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has received series of endorsements for a second term half way into his tenure. What is your take on that?
It is obvious that the series of endorsements the governor is getting from the citizens, market women, civil societies, local and international groups remain a testimony that Governor Ugwuanyi is a performer. And mind you, it did not begin with his becoming the state governor. His history of performance dates back to when he was a member in the House of Representatives. He touched lives everywhere in the state.
That was why he got unprecedented support as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when he joined the governorship race, which eventually resulted in his election as governor. And since he was sworn into office, he has continued to touch lives everywhere in the three senatorial districts of the state.
Today, no person in the three senatorial zones is complaining or crying of marginalisation because he is working simultaneously in the entire state at the same pace. He has done well, in the various sectors – education, health, rural development, security, sports, workers’ welfare, name it.
He is the only governor in Nigeria today that pays salaries in advance to the workers at a time some other states are owing salaries up to 11 months. Uguanyi’s leadership quality is unusual and I will tell you why; former governors of Enugu State either had cold war with their deputies throughout their tenure or had obvious political difference with their deputies due to their overbearing political leadership style.
But Governor Ugwuanyi is carrying his deputy along in whatever he is doing. In most occasions, you will see the governor sitting with his deputy.
So, when a governor has nothing to hide, he is free with people around him. That is Governor Ugwuanyi for you. I am not in the same party with the governor, so I have no reason to sing his praises unduly.
But some people indigenes of the state have criticised the governor for non-performance. They accused him of erecting billboards even on bad roads. How do you react to that?
You see, everyone is entitled to his opinion but your opinion may not be the truth. I know one of them criticizing the governor, but I can tell you that he is not telling the truth. In his constituency, the road from Obolor Afor to Nsukka and the one from Opi to Nsukka as well as Odenigbo and Oba-Echara roads, to mention a few, were abandoned for years, but they have been fixed by the Ugwuanyi administration.
Enugu is developing so fast that if you leave Enugu State for one month, if care is not taken, when you return, you will miss the road to your father’s house because massive construction work is constantly ongoing. For those who are resident in Enugu State, the governor has touched everywhere.
He has so far opened up several rural communities, linking them with good roads and bridges and the people are very happy with him. That is why many people are saying that there is no vacancy in the Enugu State Government House come 2019. His victory at the polls in 2019 is undisputable; not because I said so, but because that is what the people are also saying.
Come to think of it, if somebody like the Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, an Anglican Bishop who is known be a vocal critic, is commending Governor Ugwuanyi for the good job he is doing in Enugu State, and I, the Eze Ogbozarra the third of Opi Kingdom is telling you that the governor is a performer; then he is doing well. One of such commendation by Bishop Chukwuma was on the 2018 budget prepared by the Enugu State government, which he described as realistic. That is Governor Ugwuanyi for you, he is always realistic.
The most recent was the commendation at late Chief Alex Ekwueme’s funeral service, where Bishop Chukwuma urged other governors to emulate Ugwuanyi on being close to the people at the grassroots, so that when they leave office, the people will not desert them.
If someone like Bishop Chukwuma, who is not a politician, is openly commending the governor, then you will understand what I am talking about. But no matter how good a leader is, some people may choose to criticise him and no matter how bad a ruler is, he will have one or two followers. But majority of the people of Enugu State have eyes and can see what the governor is doing.
So, in 2019, he will win with a landslide because he is the people’s governor.
On the issue of erecting billboards, I can tell you that most of the billboards were erected by people who are only appreciating the good work the governor is doing.
I can tell you that because I know some individuals and communities that have on their own erected such billboards. It is misinformation to say that the governor is erecting billboards, not to talk of erecting them on bad roads. The billboards in the state are only speaking of the work the governor is doing in communities and towns.
Recently, the court ratified the rejection of Ibrahim Magu’s nomination as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). What is your reaction to the ruling?
The court verdict is a confirmation that the Senate was acting within its constitutional powers, when it rejected Magu’s nomination as EFCC chairman. I can only agree with the court’s decision on the matter.
I don’t think that Magu is the only good Nigerian to hold that position. There are other good people who can do the job even better, who are serving or retired officers in all the federal law enforcement agencies. The EFCC Establishment Act did not state that only police officers can occupy the position as EFCC chairman. Why is it that only police officers are nominated for the position?
The Senate decision on Magu should be respected by the executive now that the judiciary has ruled in their favour.
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