Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretaryp-General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). He is also member, the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as well as National Coordinator of South East Revival Group (SERG). He speaks with IGNATIUS OKOROCHA on the state of the nation, Igbo presidency, Apo Six, amongst other national issues
President Buhari returned after nearly two months of his medical vacation in London. From howVice President Yemi Osinbajo performed, do you think he should be given more responsibility in national governance?
I welcome President Buhari back and the umbrella organization of all registered political parties in Nigeria, the CNPP, which I’m the Secretary General, issued a press release welcoming him back to his duty post. We had warned the Presidency to stop deceiving Nigerians with media reports of phone calls. We told them that if he is healthy enough to make phone calls to individuals, he should return to his duty post and speak to Nigerians, not ruling Nigeria through phone calls. We have been vindicated by his return and he should see his return as a second chance to do what is right for the masses of this country. We want to see him stand up and work because there is so much suffering under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and he should do something urgently to alleviate the suffering of the ordinary people who voted them into office to serve them. Now that he is back he should do more to serve Nigerians better than he has done before he went on medical vacation. The Presidency, both the President and his Vice won a joint ticket to rule Nigeria. The Vice President as a younger man should be given more responsibilities by Mr. President if that is what he wants to do because this has to do with constitutional provisions. The Constitution should be amended to give more roles to the office of the vice president.
INEC has just released 2019 election timetable, two years before the election proper. As a chieftain of the CNPP, what is your take on this?
The release timetable is condemnable, insensitive and a disservice to the country. Ordinarily, you will think that it will serve as a wakeup call to elected officials in the country to perform or be voted out but the truth is that what INEC has done is to arouse the greed of these political officeholders to go into a free-for-all stealing spree of public funds in other to finance the next election. Why should INEC release an election timetable more than two years before next handover date? Looking at the environment where we are, INEC has succeeded in causing irreparable damage to good governance by its action. It is a major distraction for elected and appointed officeholders, who now will have to channel all their energy to amass wealth for the 2019 elections. Who will focus on governance when the timetable is out? Nobody will.
I can tell you that President Muhammadu Buhari’s non-performing government will be worse for it. Some of his ministers who want to be governors, Senators, and so on, will now be frequenting home to show presence because of their respective ambition. Some of them who want to be seen by the President as good ‘boys’ will now be stealing to donate to the party and have enough for their personal estate. INEC may have done that for people to think they are working but it is a major distraction for those in government.
With the Electoral Act undergoing amendment, why should INEC ambush the process by releasing the 2019 timetable? What do they want to achieve? How can you announce 2019 timetable when the law under which you will conduct the elections is being amended? INEC is not sincere and I smell a rat in the hasty release of the 2019 election timetable.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently asked the Igbos to prepare to produce the next President in 2019. How do you see this?
The advocacy by former President Obasanjo is not welcomed by Ndigbo. You should know the antecedents of Obasanjo. Why didn’t Obasanjo make an Igbo a running mate to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua if he loved the Igbos so much? Why did he not advocate for Igbo Presidency in 2007? You see, what Obasanjo is doing trying to see how he can set Ndigbo against the North and we are wiser than he can never imagine. The North has two terms and they should be allowed to complete their eight years. So, nobody in the South East should listen to Obasanjo; he knows how to knock two heads together and when they start fighting he will stand as a referee. No South East politician will listen to Obasanjo and he cannot pitch us against the North. By 2023, it will be the turn on Igbo presidency and if they refuse to allow the Igbos to take their turn, then, we will know that we are not wanted in this country.
The neglect of the South East in the 2017 budget is said to have been informed by the limited votes given to APC during the 2015 election. Do you think this is fair?
It is not new. How will they build railway from Lagos to the Northern Nigeria without it passing through Onitsha? Is Onitsha not a commercial city? They have always neglected the South East. It has nothing to do with the voting in 2015 election. Before 2015, is there any good federal road in the entire south east? It is just a continuation of an agenda by the Nigerian State to under-develop the South East and impoverish our people. The South East has only five states while other zones have six states each and one zone in the north even has seven states. Was states created after 2015 elections? So, Ndigbo has been isolated in Nigeria’s infrastructural development plan long before the 2015 elections.
The years of neglect was because Ndigbo had no leader until the emergence new Ohaneze leadership, led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo. Today, the Igbo speaking communities across the country have a leader and in a short while, things will change.