Politics

A president of Igbo extraction’ll unite Nigerians – Ezugwu

A president of Igbo extraction’ll unite Nigerians

Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretary General of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) as well as National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG). In this interview, he speaks on the state of affairs in Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration and sundry national issues. Excerpt

 

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; how do you rate the outcome, especially with the role played by Governor 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 people of the South-East have not shown much commitment in convincing other zones to allow them produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023. They also doubt that capable presidential aspirants from the South-East have associates across all geopolitical zones. What is your take on this? How prepared was the South West in 1999?

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 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 the presidency before they were appeased? Today, the South- West have a sense of belonging and are fully integrated into national politics.

As was done in 1999, when all major political parties were made to produce south westerners as presidential candidates; Chief Olu Falae and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; the same opportunity should be given to the South- East for them to be fully integrated into national politics.

 

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 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, who 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, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). And, like Dele Momodu once said, the Igbos are everywhere contributing to the world economy, why can’t they produce the president of Nigeria?

 

According to Dele Momodu, there is no part of the world that you cannot find a south easterner at the peak of his or her profession and in Nigeria, Igbos can be found in Kano, Sokoto, Borno and elsewhere in the country despite the agitation for Biafra and insecurity in those places.

It is time to bring them closer. Let’s give the South-East a sense of belonging and see if the country won’t be better for it. If I were President Muhammadu Buhari, I wouldn’t leave a wrong legacy as a hater of the Igbo race; I will bring them closer.

 

Looking at Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration and his performance in the last six years, what do you think are his selling points should he declare interest to contest for 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 what is lacking in Nigeria today is peace; protection of lives and property of the citizens. That is said to be the primary responsibility of government anywhere in the world and Governor Ugwuanyi’s 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, the 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, Ugwuanyi has done well as a governor. Road infrastructure is revolutionary in Enugu State today.

The governor 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 a sense of belonging. These are what Nigeria is lacking as a country.

 

In some quarters, it is believed that your support for the Ugwuanyi administration is because you have been on his payroll. How do you react to that?

 

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 recently, giving his verdict on Governor 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 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 funds and paid over N27.3 million hospital bills of indigent patients in the state and got commendation from the 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 easily verify independently because if any administration has worked since the creation of Enugu State, so far, Governor Ugwuanyi administration with meager income has performed above all.

 

There has been tension in Igbo-Eze South Local Government of Enugu State for a while. Even though your group, Save Enugu Group, had reacted to the crisis through a press statement, what is the situation as a leader in the state?

 

Save Enugu Group has called for calm over the violence in Igbo-Eze South Local Government of Enugu State.

 

We insisted that the mayhem in the local government was the handiwork of some political actors who are enemies of the people in the local government.

 

The situation right now is that a full investigation into the matter is ongoing and we urge the security agencies to bring the situation under permanent control and punish the culprits according to the law no matter how highly placed. Like we said in our reaction to the crisis in the local government, we believe that it is about who becomes the next chairman of Igbo-Eze South.

 

So, that is why the Save Enugu Group said in the statement you referred to that we are yet to connect the dots as to why someone will accuse the council chairman of openly leading thugs to cause mayhem in the area. So, Save Enugu Group has advised all the political actors in Igbo-Eze South, who have personal issues with each other, to resolve their personal matters without dragging the people into whatever problems they have.

 

The preliminary information we have points to a federal lawmaker as the individual behind the crisis but we await full investigation into the matter. We also have information that the local government chairman is being targeted for attacks by hired thugs for unleashing security agencies against violent actors in the council.

 

As a leader in Enugu North Senatorial District, how do you rate the performance of local government chairmen in the zone?

 

Right now, the Save Enugu Group is working on modalities for a full assessment tour of all the local governments in the state to know how they are performing. As sociopolitical actors, the Save Enugu Group wishes to deepen its activities in the state by monitoring more closely what is going on at that tier of government at the grassroots as we want all the local governments to be at the same pace with the state government for better development.

 

However, in Enugu North, we can single out two local government chairmen, Igbo-Eze South and Igbo- Eze North local government areas for commendation. The outcome of our governance assessment tour of the local governments will provide a holistic report on the state of local governments in Enugu State.

 

We will write to the state government formally before the commencement of the assessment tour visit because we want to identify those who are replicating the giant strides of the Ugwuanyi administration in their local councils.

 

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