Chief Chaka Nweze was the pioneer Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State and a staunch supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on the economy and security as well as what the President should do as regards his successor as 2023 approaches
How do you rate the nation’s economy presently under the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration?
With due apologies to economists; one may not objectively assess the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the area of economy if you don’t situate it with the circumstances of the moment. Nigeria is predominantly a mono-cultural economy and with the dwindling price of oil in the global market, which started at the inception of the present administration.
It worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic and no doubt, the economy has suffered.
However, the Federal Government has tried to diversify the economy by opening the comatose agricultural sector through effective funding of farmers and today, Nigerian farmers are doing very well and the economy is picking up from that sector.
Also with the recent directive of the President that the minister of Finance and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should ensure immediate release of N2.3 trillion to fund the Economic Sustainability Plan, there is no doubt that economy will flourish and other sectors will benefit.
The 2023 general elections are fast approaching. What do you think the President should do as regards his successor?
The President should look beyond party affiliations in choosing his successor when he completes his second term in 2023. He should shun sentiments and other forms of distractions and search for a candidate with enviable records of performance in office, especially in the areas of infrastructure, security among others.
The President should be mindful of the zoning order, which will ultimately foster national cohesion and integration. The subsisting and growing clamour for a president of Igbo extraction will foster national cohesion and unity as the nation needs ‘performers’ to do the magic for the country.
In your estimation, does the polity boast of “performers” who can perform the expected magic in 2023?
Two leaders in my estimation will suffice in terms of incredible performances in the areas of infrastructure, security, economy, education, health among others.
They are Governors David Umahi of Ebonyi State and Prof, Babagana Zulum of Borno State.
The Nigerian constitution does not provide for independent candidacy during elections, so the APC has a duty to ensure that both men are presented to Nigerians to sustain the President’s legacies.
The President should, therefore, not hesitate to urge Umahi to quickly join the APC from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in order to replicate his infrastructural strides in Ebonyi at the national level, which the country’s presidency provides.
What parameters did you look at in arriving at these assertions?
Using what is presently happening in Ebonyi as a test case, the state has been magically turned around by Umahi and though I am not of the PDP, which the governor belongs to, I boldly say that he has simply transformed the state even beyond the expectations of people like us in the opposition.
Nigeria’s major problems are infrastructural decay and insecurity and these have slowed the rate of development in the country, scaring foreign investment which in turn, has greatly affected its economy and social sector.
President Buhari has done a lot in addressing these challenges by revamping dilapidated infrastructure, deploying necessary resources to tackle insecurity as the country needs a leader who will ‘digitally’ consolidate on these gains.
Umahi on the saddle of the country’s leadership will pay unbridled attention to infrastructure as he has done in Ebonyi, especially Abakaliki, the state capital, which has been made the beautiful bride of the South-East zone and the country.
You are a known critic of Governor Umahi but recently, you seem to be seeing things differently. What is truly happening?
I am not singing Umahi’s praises but my conscience will not allow me to hide the phenomenal transformation of my state under the governor. Umahi has suddenly turned Ebonyi into Dubai of Nigeria with infrastructural strides that will be difficult to see elsewhere.
He has completed over eight standard and world class flyovers and is on the verge of completing several others. An interesting aspect is that the Abakaliki- Enugu high way has a large chunk of the flyover projects and this has strategically connected Ebonyi nay Nigeria with neighbouring countries such as Cameroon among others as well improving trade, investments and other business opportunities in the process.
This is the type of infrastructural innovation the country needs to ensure free trade, massive economic transformation, enhance business ties with its neighbours in order to wriggle it from economic quagmire and become an economic hub sub-regionally, continentally and internationally.
The governor’s creative and passionate flair for infrastructural transformation, made him rehabilitate all Federal Government’s owned roads in the state, making them models among such projects across the country.
Do you feel that the governor can replicate these seeming feats at the national level?
The country’s federal roads are in deplorable conditions but with what is going on in Ebonyi, it is not in doubt that an Umahi presidency under the APC will permanently solve this systematic defect and ensure that other areas such as the power sector are also revamped.
The icing which has turned to be the most intriguing aspect of all is that Ebonyi ranks among the least states in revenue allocation in the country and one wonders how the governor has been able to achieve all these with the scarce resources.
This aspect will come in handy because of the corruption witnessed in the infrastructural sector of the country with the indication that Umahi will effectively manage the nation’s scarce resources with great transformational effects.
What is your take on Zulum, whom you also said has capacity?
Zulum’s feat in the area of security underscores the fact that his combination with Umahi will go a long way in solving the hydra- headed monster of insecurity ravaging the country. Umahi has made Ebonyi safe for its citizens, with the present record of being one of the safest states in the country with minimal record of crime incidences.
This has made businesses thrive and citizens sleeping with their two eyes closed. Zulum on the other hand, has ensured that though the Boko Haram insurgency still rages. Borno is still working with massive infrastructural development adorning the landscape, while offering hope and rehabilitation to indigenes displaced by the insurgency.
The level of destruction inflicted by the Boko Haram insurgency could have made some governors not perform at all; citing the unfortunate mayhem as an excuse but Zulum has braced the odds and still ensures that Borno keeps moving.
I recently visited Maiduguri and though despondency over the onslaughts of the terrorists can still be felt, the state still thrives with massive investment in infrastructure, education, health, economic revamping among other sectors of the state.
The same can be seen in most parts of Borno as Zulum has provided unfettered assistance to security agencies, especially the military in the discharge of their duties as Nigerians wait for the end of insurgency in the state and other north eastern parts of the country.
The security situation in the country seems to be degenerating steadily. Do you foresee any way forward?
The country undoubtedly appears overwhelmed with security challenges ranging from Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping as well as farmers/herders clashes, among others.
The Federal Government has tried its best to contain these challenges through adequate funding and enhancing the capacities of relevant security agencies but these seem not to be working as more people are reportedly killed every day and properties destroyed.
The good news, however, is that the Federal Government is thinking out of the box by trying to engage these hoodlums peacefully through dialogue and rehabilitation of the repentant ones. It is also collaborating with states in establishing community policing as every security challenge is localized.
The Federal Government is also serious combating the issue of illegal drug peddling and usage, especially by youths. This we know is a major driving force in the youth’s engagement in various crimes.
It is hoped that with effective community policing, dialogue and rehabilitation of repentant youths, checking the severe consequences of illegal drug usage, the security challenges in our country will drastically reduce.