Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretary General of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). In this interview, he speaks on the recent Supreme Court verdict on Bayelsa State governorship election and developments over it as well as governance in Enugu State. Felix Nwaneri reports
What is your take on the Supreme Court judgement that nullified the election of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Bayelsa State governorship election, David Lyon and declaration of Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner?
The best route to seek redress at any time injustice is perceived is to go to court. The law does not permit any of us to take laws into our hands or to resort to self-help unless the doors of the courts were shut. But as long as the doors to the courts are wide open to entertain cases, the courts remain that last hope of the common man, no matter how we may view the judiciary.
It is normal for politicians like us to wail when the judgement of the courts is not in our favour. However, in protesting the verdict of the court, we must follow due process. Thank God that the Supreme Court is looking into the possibility of overruling its self or affirming its earlier judgement on the suit between Hope Uzodinma and Emeka Ihedioha. So, those who disagree with the Supreme Court on the Bayelsa governorship dispute should seek redress or see it as an act of God and move on.
But the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshimhole, had in his reaction to the Supreme Court verdict, insisted that no person was going to be sworn in as governor in Bayelsa State. What is your reaction to that?
If you have been following the utterances of Adams Oshiomhole since he became the national chairman of APC, you will not be surprised that he made such a treasonable comment. How can a national chairman of a ruling party, who should be an example to other political parties, be the one that called for anarchy in the Bayelsa State? It is a shame that APC still retains him as their chairman.
You can see what he is doing in Edo State; working to destroy the party if he can’t have his way in removing the incumbent governor. Oshiomhole is yet to understand the difference between a labour union and a country. He is used to bullying as they did when he was president of the Nigerian Labour Congress. If he continues to exhibit the character he has been known for since he became APC national chairman, the party will suffer for it.
It seems that the Bayelsa governorship legal battle is not yet over as there is a pending suit filed Timi Alaibe against the emergence of Diri as PDP’s candidate for the election. What do you think is the way out for the party?
I am not a member of PDP, but if Timi Alaibe feels that he was grossly cheated during the primary election and cannot let go. The doors of the courts are open and he is free to continue his case. Injustice is injustice and if you are robbed and there are avenues to seek redress, you take advantage of that. If you saw those protesting in Bayelsa after the Supreme Court judgement, you will discover that majority of them were PDP members, who left the party or switched allegiance after it became obvious that Timi Alaibe, who was their preferred candidate was taken out of the way. Due to his popularity and peoples’ support, it would have been difficult for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare the APC candidate winner in the first place.
But Alaibe is asking the court to declare him as the validly nominated governorship candidate of the PDP. He joined the PDP, Diri and two others as defendants in the suit…
Like I said, it all depends on Alaibe to choose what to do. But as far as I am concerned, Alaibe is equally a credible candidate that could have won the election for the PDP. He is loved by the people and that was one of the major reasons for protest votes that gave the APC candidate the lead in the election. As Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), he touched the lives of the people and that accounts to why he has massive support among the ordinary people in the state.
However, it is an internal party matter that will not affect the PDP in any way except that individuals within the party may lose out should the court agree with Alaibe that he was the validly nominated candidate of the PDP. These issues arise because of lack of internal democracy in most of our political parties. Some governors and leaders of political parties are more interested in imposing candidates, who will protect their personal interests and subvert the will of the people than thinking about delivering on electoral promises to the people.
I believe that was what happened in Bayelsa State and which led to the dilemma PDP has found itself in right now. Alaibe’s case has become a serious nightmare for the party, but another dimension to the governorship tussle is the report that APC has filed an appeal, urging the Supreme Court to review its judgement. So, it is getting more complex.
So far, how would you assess the performance your state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his second term in office?
I’m a first class traditional ruler in Enugu State and I want to state clearly that my throne is hereditary and has nothing to do with government in any way. That is why I can boldly tell any government in Enugu State the truth. Right from the days of Chimaroke Nnamani to that of Sullivan Chime and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration, I have always stood with the people of my kingdom in particular and all the people of Enugu State in general.
Having made that clear and looking at the performance of Governor Ugwuanyi in his second tenure, I have not changed my position that he is God-sent to the people of Enugu State. What surprises me is that the governor is doing better in his second tenure as if he is going for a third term. Governor Ugwuanyi loves the people and that is where we connect.
I’m not a member of the PDP, but when someone has done well in office, we should have the courage to say so irrespective of party affiliation. It does not diminish us; rather it tells how much humanness is in us. In that past eight months or so, Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration has continued with renewed vigour to open up rural communities through massive construction of new roads and rehabilitation of old ones as he delivers more and more dividends of democracy to the people of Enugu State.
He has awarded multiple contracts for more infrastructural development worth over N9 billion across the state. His delivery on good governance cuts across all sectors. His administration has approved payment of counterpart funds for the Universal Basic Education scheme to ensure the construction and renovation of more primary and junior secondary school buildings, youths agricultural empowerment and the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and among other critical interventions to the tune of N1.9 billion, beside over N4 billion counterpart funds paid during his first tenure.
Several roads in the state are currently bearing the performance signatures of the Governor Ugwuanyi administration. They are so many that one cannot mention them; the completion of the Nike Lake junction-Harmony Estate Road, Amorji Nike to Adoration Pilgrimage Centre in Enugu East council, which will certainly decongest traffic gridlock at Abakpa T-junction, asphalting of over 22km inter-community link road, Neke-Mbu-Ogbodu Aba-Obollo Etiti road, a road that connects Isi-Uzo and Udenu?
Are we to talk about the internal roads in Nsukka, the University town that have been left over the years to deteriorate? Also, the governor has taken security of lives and property in the state to another new level. I am sure that you are aware that recently, he strengthened security in the state by donating 100 units of patrol vans equipped with communication gadgets to the various security agencies in the state to aid their operations.
How about the issue of security, which is a major source of concern for many?
Within the same period, almost 2,000 Forest Guards were employed to strengthen the Vigilante and Neighborhood Watch groups. As if that was not enough, he donated over 250 security vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles for the vigilante groups. He recently handed over fire-fighting trucks to the state fire service. The judiciary is not left out as new court buildings, two in each local government area across the state, were constructed. The state now boasts of a Customary Court of Appeal headquarters complex, the first in the history of the state.
Governor Ugwuanyi is already paying the N30, 000 Minimum Wage for state civil servants and there are many giant strides in area of infrastructure in the education sector. The people in all sectors in Enugu State are happy and that is why it is commonly said that Enugu State is in the hands of God.