Chief Willy Ezugwu is the President and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG) and the Secretary General of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). He is one of the highly rated national leaders in the Nigerian Civil Society community, a first class traditional ruler and a public affairs commentator.
In this interview, he spoke on recent Supreme Court of Nigeria verdicts on the validity of the election of Senator Hope Uzodinma as the Imo State Governor, as well as the expected Bayelsa State governorship election judgment on an intraparty dispute between the incumbent Governor and Chief Timi Alaibe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a case seen as a threat to Senator Douye Diri seat as governor of Bayelsa State Excerpts:
As a major stakeholder in South East politics, how do you react to the second Supreme Court verdict on Imo governorship election?
First of all, as the leader a pan South East pressure group, the South East Revival Group (SERG) we have described the dismissal of the application filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, for the review of the Supreme Court judgment declaring Senator Hope Uzodinma the validly elected governor of Imo State as a final affirmation.
For me personally, when God chooses someone, there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Our group has always maintained that the verdict of the Supreme Court declaring Senator Hope Uzodinma winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo State was an act of God. So, the dismissal of the review application is nothing but a second affirmation of the election of Senator Uzodinma as an act of God for the second time. It proves to all that he is God-sent to Imolites.
Now that the distraction is over, and with the olive branch extended to all Imo sons and daughters, both at home and abroad to contribute their ideas, it is obvious that he sees his second victory at the apex court as a stamp of divine ordination and he is now using the opportunity to work for the good people of Imo State in particular and the entire South East in general.
The steps he is taking shows that he is ready outperform all former governors of Imo State at the end of his tenure.
I think that it’s time for all Imo sons and daughters to embrace the new administration with both hands.
What will be your advice to the Governor?
You see, the Governor has been taking good decisions so far. He understands his priorities and he is working to fulfil his election campaign promises. However, my advice for him is to learn from the mistakes of others. When you start enjoying the good will of the people, there is always the temptation to take them for granted. But so far, so good. The new administration in Imo State is on track.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri has been sworn in, but the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) did not take the judgment lightly. He has however asked his opponents to join him. What is your advice to them?
Elections have come and gone, there is nothing to fight about. God and man have spoken. The most honourable thing to do is for everyone, including his opponent, to join hands with him and make Imo State better if that is their aspiration. Everyone should contribute his or her quota in the business of governing Imo State for the benefit of all.
How do you see the Bayelsa State governorship tussle between the incumbent and Timi Alaibe, who is in court seeking to remove Senator Diri ?
Thank you. The long and short route to seeking 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 much we might see the judiciary.
It is normal for politicians like us to wail when the judgment of the courts did not go in our favour. However, in protesting the verdict of the court, we must follow due process.
I’m not a member of PDP, but if Timi Alaibe feels that he was grossly cheated during the primary 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 judgment, 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 support from the people, it would have been difficult for INEC to declare APC candidate winner in the first place
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 Timi 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 that could protect their personal interests and subvert the will of the people than thinking about delivering on electoral promises to the people. I believe that it is what happened in Bayelsa state that led to the dilemma PDP has found itself in right now. The Timi Alaibe case has become a serious nightmare for the party. But another dimension to the governorship tussle is the report that the APC has file an Appeal urging the Supreme Court to review its judgment. So, it is getting more complex.
As a traditional ruler and political activist, what is your assessment of your state governor’s second term in office?
As a first class traditional ruler in Enugu State, 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 till the governor 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 Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in his second tenure, I have not changed my position that Governor Ugwuanyi 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 ….(laughs). 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 our political party affiliation. It does not diminish us, rather it tells how much humanness is in us.
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.