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Chief Willy Ezugwu is a frontline vocal political activist and renowned leader in the Nigerian civil society community. He is the National Coordinator of the Save Enugu Group (SEG), President and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG) and the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), the umbrella body of all registered political parties and political associations in the country. He is also the founder of the Nsukka Democratic Movement, the umbrella body of civil society groups in Enugu North Senatorial District of Enugu State.
In this interview with select journalists, Chief Ezugwu spoke on the chances of the incumbent Governor of Enugu State and the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Peter Obi’s presidential bid, among other national issues.
What is your take in the ongoing move by the young people in the country to project Peter Obi, a South Easterner, as the President of Nigeria in 2023?
First of all, Nigerians are generally tired of the status quo and are desirous of change. What we are seeing today is what was ignited in 2015, when the same young people led the presidential campaign of the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari. The young people took over the APC campaign against the PDP but not in the magnitude we are seeing today.
Today, young Nigerians who are the ones without jobs, who cannot go to school, who can’t get admission despite writing and passing JAMB because there is a percentage of people the available tertiary institutions can accommodate, and many of whom are hungry and living in hopelessness. They bear the brunt of insecurity because they cannot farm, they cannot do businesses and they cannot travel safely to holiday in choice places in the country. These are the people who you see daily on the streets agitating for Peter Obi, whom they spotted among the crowd of today’s politicians jostling for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
So, in 2015, APC as a political party sold President Muhammadu Buhari to them but today, Peter Obi was discovered by the people.
Secondly, millions of Nigerians who have never voted before because they don’t believe in the electoral system have gotten a new hope after they struggled for the amendment of the electoral act to provide for electronic transmission of result and the use of technology for elections. After the President signed the electoral act amendment 2022, these young Nigerians got a renewed hope that they can choose their leaders. This is the situation in Nigeria today.
They found that among all the contestants who are running for president, Peter Obi stands out as a man with capacity and well prepared for presidency. Since he left office as a governor, he has not contested for any election until he was picked as a running mate in 2019, which portrayed him as one who is not desperate to be in office.
The other factor is his performance as the governor of Anambra State. Everyone who gets to know how he left huge sums of money and investments for Anambra at the end of his tenure will fall in love with him and sees him as one who can save the country from debt and improve the economy. So, his track records became his selling points.
Talking of track records, the incumbent governor of Enugu State is contesting for senate in your constituency; the same constituency where you ran for the same position twice. In view of the Obidient movement, do you think the governor has a chance?
Now, let me clear you on this one; the governor of Enugu State has a track record of performance speaking for him. The truth is that because of certain political interests, one or two individuals may not want to support you. But when it comes to performance as a governor based on available resources, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done well on education, infrastructure, health, rural development and so on. His commitment to workers welfare was significant as a governor who paid thirteen months salaries as bonus to motivate workers.
So, to answer your question directly, the governor will win. He has no rival in Enugu North Senatorial election in 2023. As you rightly said, I ran for Senate twice in that constituency and I know our people well. Who among the contestants in the senatorial district can match Governor Ugwuanyi in that constituency? I earlier talked about track records.
The governor has track records that no other person in the constituency who is contesting for Senate has. I am the only person that would have given the governor a run for his money if I was contesting in the senatorial election. But because of what the governor has done in terms of his performance, I decided not to run against him. That is the only reason I am not contesting in this election. So, as one who knows the constituency very well, I can categorically tell you that the Governor has already won the senate seat even before the contest.
But many people from Enugu North Senatorial District are not happy with how the governor handled the PDP governorship primary in the state and have vowed to work against the governor’s senatorial bid in protest. What can you say to that?
It is unfortunate that whatever you do, those who want to disagree with you will always do so. But the important thing in life is to do what the majority want, which is what democracy, as government of the people by the people and for the people, is all about. Democracy is the rule of the majority and that’s why they refer to it in local parlance as “majority carries the vote”.
So, the minority will always have their say when it comes to contests like elections but the majority will have their way. In that context, the governor cannot impose a governorship candidate on the party. The choice of the candidates in a delegate election is purely that of the delegates who decide the fate of the contestants. In this case, the delegates made their choice. But I recall that before the election, many people from other senatorial districts were accusing the governor of working for one of the contestants in the governorship primary whom they called his brother.
The argument was that the individual candidate some people of Enugu North supported and preferred to succeed Governor Ugwuanyi was considered to be from the same cultural zone with the governor, even though he is in another senatorial district. That was what I believe to have worked against the contestant who eventually lost in the governorship primary. So, how can anyone blame the Governor for the failure of his or her preferred aspirant to emerge the winner of the governorship election?
The governor was not the sole delegate neither was he a delegate with more than one vote. In every contest, there must be winners and losers. Politicians should learn to be sportsmanly both in victory and in lose. The governor has done a lot in the senatorial district that will speak for him in Enugu North.
The people of the constituency know what Enugu North popularly called Nsukka zone used to be before Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi came to office. The zone was entirely neglected. In fact, I would say that the zone was abandoned by previous administrations even though it has a university town where the University of Nigeria was situated. The ancient city of Nsukka was abandoned by former governments but Governor Ugwanyi has given the zone a facelift. Under his administration, there has been upgrade of road infrastructure and reconstruction of rural roads in the senatorial district.
Can you mention specifically some of the projects?
They are very visible to all and the governor is still working; he has not finished his tenure. But to mention a few of them, Governor Ugwanyi fixed the abandoned 11km Opi-Nsukka dual carriageway with proper drainage system, rehabilitated some failed sections of federal road, eight modern complex of Magistrate court halls and two High Court halls, model customary courts in two local governments alone, the Nsukka Stadium, street lights are seen for the first time in some parts of Nsukka zone for the very first time, our youths have been trained in modern agriculture, we have a massive University Medical and Applied Sciences, Igbo-Eno, which has already gotten the NUC recognition, a Federal Polytechnic, Ohodo.
The governor constructed the Enugu State secretariat Annex at Ede Oballa in Nsukka, nearly completed international conference center, and the strategic flyover bridge at Nike Lake Road has eased traffic congestions in that axis and shortened the movement from Enugu to Nsukka. Due to his performance, Enugu North traditional rulers went out of their way to endorse him for Senate in September and presented the Ofo, which is a symbolism for truth and justice.
From 1999 to date, Enugu North has produced three senators, Senators Okoro, Ayogu Eze, and Utazi. What can they say they attracted from the federal to Nsukka? Before Ugwuanyi became governor, Nsukka had top appointments in Enugu State government, including Acting Governor at a time, what were their achievements? So, anyone blinded by certain political convenience and does not want to see that governor Ugwuanyi has done well for Nsukka zone can suit himself or herself. The majority who are standing with Governor Ugwuanyi in Nsukka zone will have their way while the minority will have their say in 2023.
Despite all you said about what governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration has done for Nsukka zone, many people seem not to agree that the governor has done anything significant in the zone?
Like I said, not everybody will agree with you. That cannot change the opinion of majority of the residents who are enjoying dividends of democracy made possible by Governor Ugwuanyi for the first time in the history of Nsukka zone. Some people see him as governor of Nsukka, forgetting that all parts of Enugu State equally need attention. Yes, we want more, but it cannot make us not to commend the governor for what he has done.
It means that you are certain that PDP will win your senatorial district, knowing that election rigging is becoming more and more difficult in Nigeria, particularly with the new electoral act amendment?
It is not about the PDP, it is about the personality. Governor Ugwuanyi as a leader has done well. Mind you, his party, the PDP, made the choice of the governorship candidate. Governor Ugwuanyi only had one vote. Agreed that as a sitting governor, he can influence certain things but in politics, the wish of majority will always prevail. StreetReporters.ng
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