Chief Willy Ezugwu is the President and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG). A national leaders in the Civil Society community, and the Secretary General of the Balarabe Musa-led Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP).
In this interview, he the efforts of South East governors in fighting COVIC 19 pandemic, as well as the need to strengthen regional security among others.
What is your assessment of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the South East of Nigeria
The South east is more challenged by threat of insecurity than the COVID-19. But I can tell you that most of the South East governors have done well in managing the disease and their actions may account to slow infection rate in the region.
South east governors have individually set up active anti-Coronavirus Committees or Task Forces, saddled with the responsibility of awareness creation and information management under the supervision of health authorities in the state and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). But more can still be done because there is no central coordinating front to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Your group, the South East Revival Group, recently demanded for construction of barricades as a measure to cob movement in this COVID-19 era, launch of a central body to coordinate both relief efforts and security amid the pandemic. How far has this adhered to by the south east governors
Yes, we advocated tougher security measures, particularly in view of the obvious invasion of the region by some suspected killer herders.
And because of the far-reaching impact of the OVID-19, we called on south east governors, to set up a central coordinating centre for the region to better manage the pandemic. The centre should be able to, among other things, coordinate information dissemination and such measures that are aimed at cushioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the people and businesses in the South during and after the disease with view to reduce the negative impact of Coronavirus spread prevention measures like the ongoing lockdown in the country.
This is because even a partial lockdown hurts businesses. We proposed that the centre, when established, should be able to plan post-COVID-19 measures the south east could adopt to reduce the effects of the pandemic on small and medium scale businesses with worked out modalities to support economic growth in the region
We advocated for interstate border closure in compliance to federal government directive and we advised the five governors of the south east immediately safeguard the region by closing all the interstate borders and build barricades to stop unauthorized vehicles from entering the state.
There have been several reports of interstate travellers from the North with trailer loads of Almajiris being intercepted in parts of the south east. And that’s why we called on all south east governors to immediately empower all their local security groups, including the local hunters and Vigilante groups, the Forest Guards, the Neighbourhood Watch, and all others local security groups to immediately compliment the efforts of regular security agencies to man the south east borders day and night to end cross-border movements.
What is the south east waiting for to launch her regional security outfits?
How long will it take state houses of Assembly in the zone to pass the law? The challenge is that there is no political will on the part of some south east governors who are nursing ambition to become President or vice President in 2023.
If you betray your own people because of political ambition, how will you get the confidence of other regions to support you? They will believe that you won’t care about them and you cannot do anything for the country but for yourself.
So, we are still expecting the governors to act in the interest of the region and do their job of securing the lives and property of the people of south east Nigeria.
Some people accuse Governor Ugwuanyi of Enugu State of non performance. What is your take on that
(Laughs) You see politicians are always politicians. So, anybody can say anything but the truth is that those who are saying that the Governor is doing nothing are those who don’t go home, year in, year out. I can assure you of that.
Time and space may not allow me to tell you all the verifiable achievements of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration in the last one year of his second tenure. Of course, it was his works in the first tenure that gave the Governor a landslide victory across the three senatorial districts.
It is said that governors don’t do much in their second tenure because they are not contesting in the next election. Ironically, in the last one year of his second tenure, despite the COVID-19 challenges, Governor Ugwuanyi has given the ordinary people a taste of good governance in all its ramifications.
In his immediate response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Governor Ugwuanyi has not only given succour to many suffering people of the state, he has also rebuilt hospitals. To name a few hospital rehabilitation interventions, the Governor gave a new face to general hospitals in Agbani, Nsukka, Enugu Ezike, Ogrute, in Igbo Eze North, as well as the former Udi district hospital and Polly Clinic, Asata which he upgraded into general hospital with new structures..
These are verifiable hospital projects across the state by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration as part of its efforts in upgrading health facilities in the urban and rural areas to ensure quality and affordable healthcare delivery to the ordinary people.
I’m aware that the Governor immediately released N330, 000, 000.00 (Three Hundred and Thirty Million Naira) for strengthening the Coronavirus Disease Preparedness and Response in the Enugu State, N150, 000, 000.00 (one hundred and fifty million naira) of the cash dedicated to purchase of additional Ambulances and Incident vehicles, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), upgrade of State Infectious Diseases Isolation Centre; training of Health Workers; advocacy and public enlightenment.
Despite the lockdown, there are massive road projects that have been delivered by the administration in his infrastructure transformation of the state. For instance, Oji River LGA of Enugu State, got a special link road built by Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration; the popular Agbalenyi/Enugu-Onitsha Expressway link road in Oji River Local Government Area. The Achara Road – Obechara Junction in the University town of Nsukka was completed to standard amid the pandemic.
You’re really decorating the Governor Ugwuanyi administration with…?
(Cuts in) No, no, no! If the governor is not working, I will tell you. He is working and any time he deviates from what he is currently doing I will be the first to cry out. There have been governors before him, but some of them I quarreled with all through their tenure because they refused to work for the people who elected them. They were not taking care of the people.
I’m not the only one speaking about what the governor is doing. You know that recently, the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunlusi, extolled the leadership qualities of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, describing him as a “wonderful” leader whose hospitality is second to none. His delegation at the Government House to deliver four modular motorised fumigators donated by him to the Enugu State government as part of his contributions to contain the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in the country.
Like I said earlier, time will not permit me to tell you about the completion of the fixing of potholes, traffic lights, asphalting of Agbani dual carriageway from the Nigerian Police College, to Gariki in Enugu South Local Government Area and many others.