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The Secretary General of the Alhaji Balarabe Musa-led Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu has given some tips on how the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can make next year’s elections credible.
Ezugwu, who is also the convener of Save Enugu Group (SEG), the convener and national coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG) and life patron of the Coalition of Civil Society and Human Rights Activists of Enugu State Origin, noted that INEC’s ongoing continuous voters’ registration exercise was a right step in the right direction.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the time-table for next year’s general elections and currently carrying out continuous voters’ registration; how would you assess the exercise and the electoral umpire’s preparedness for the 2019 general elections?
INEC has done well so far with the continuous voters’ registration programme. Some people were apprehensive when the rumour mill had it that the exercise would end in January 2018. 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, who are always in the majority going by the history of elections in this country. And it is this group that actually aid the emergence of bad leaders. So, every Nigerian should take advantage of the continuous registration 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 election of the 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 put the presidential election last. I stand with the national assembly on this.
Some people are afraid that the security situation in the country may threaten the general elections next year; do you subscribe to these fears?
Of course, yes. The increasing killings in many states now and the rising cases of kidnapping may affect the campaigns. Though security is the primary business of the 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 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 would 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 didn’t change before the election, then, it will be difficult to hold the election in some parts of the country.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has been receiving series of endorsements for a second term in recent time; as a politician from the state, how do you look at the development?
It is obvious that the series of endorsements the governor is getting from the citizens, market women, the civil society and from local and international groups are testimonies 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 of the House of Representatives. He simply touched lives everywhere in the state. That was why he got unprecedented support as the candidate when he joined the governorship race, which eventually resulted in his election as the state governor. And since he was sworn into office, he has continued to touch lives everywhere in the three senatorial districts.
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 education, health, rural development, security, sports, workers’ welfare, name it. He is the only governor in Nigeria today that pays salary in advance to the workers at a time when some other states owe salaries up to 11 months. The Ugwuanyi’s leadership quality is unusual and I will tell you why.
Former governors of Enugu State have either had cold wars with their deputies throughout their tenure or had obvious political differences with their deputies due to their overbearing political leadership style. But Governor Ugwuanyi always carries along his deputy. In most occasions, you will see the governor sitting with his deputy. So, when a governor has nothing to hide, he is free with the people around him. That is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for you. I am not in the same party with the governor, so I have no reason to sing his praises unduly. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am not a sycophant.
But a movie star from Enugu, Kenneth Okonkwo (Andy) has criticised the governor for non-performance, accusing him of erecting only billboards even on bad roads, how would you react to that?
You see, everyone is entitled to his opinion, but your opinion may not be the truth. I can tell you that Kenneth Okonkwo is not telling the truth. In his constituency, the road from Obolor Afor to Nsukka, Opi to Nsukka, Odenigbo road, Oba Echara road to mention but a few in his town 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 Gburugburu touch is 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 say so, but because that is what the people are also saying. Come to think of it, if somebody like the Archbishop of Enugu Anglican Diocese, Most Rev Dr Emmanuel Chukwuma, who is known to 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 commendations by Bishop Chukwuma was on the 2018 budget prepared by the Enugu State government, which he described as realistic. The most recent was the commendation at the late Dr 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 can 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 the overwhelming majority of the people of Enugu State are happy with the governor and in 2019 he will win 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 this 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), how would you react to that 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 its favour.