Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). He speaks, in this interview with FELIX NWANERI, on the forthcoming general elections, particularly the Enugu State governorship, security situation in the country and the ongoing continuous voters’ registration exercise
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is carrying out its Continuous Voters’ Registration ahead of next year’s general elections. How would you assess the exercise and the electoral umpire’s preparedness for 2019 general election?
INEC has done well so far with the continuous voters’ registration exercise. Some people were apprehensive when the rumour mill had it that the exercise would end in January. 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 that are always in the majority going by the history of the Nigerian elections. This actually aids the emergence of bad leaders.
So, every Nigerian should take advantage of the 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 emergence a 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 has put the presidential election last. I stand with the National Assembly on the presidential election coming last.
Some people are afraid that the security situation in the country may threaten next year’s general elections next year. Do you entertain the same fear?
Of course, yes. The increasing killings in some states may affect the polls. Though security is the primary business of 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 a 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 will 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 doesn’t change before the election, it will be difficult to hold the general elections.
Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has received series of endorsements for a second term half way into his tenure. What is your take on that?
It is obvious that the series of endorsements the governor is getting from the citizens, market women, civil societies, local and international groups remain a testimony 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 in the House of Representatives. He touched lives everywhere in the state.
That was why he got unprecedented support as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when he joined the governorship race, which eventually resulted in his election as governor. And since he was sworn into office, he has continued to touch lives everywhere in the three senatorial districts of the state.
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 the various sectors – education, health, rural development, security, sports, workers’ welfare, name it.
He is the only governor in Nigeria today that pays salaries in advance to the workers at a time some other states are owing salaries up to 11 months. Uguanyi’s leadership quality is unusual and I will tell you why; former governors of Enugu State either had cold war with their deputies throughout their tenure or had obvious political difference with their deputies due to their overbearing political leadership style.
But Governor Ugwuanyi is carrying his deputy along in whatever he is doing. In most occasions, you will see the governor sitting with his deputy.
So, when a governor has nothing to hide, he is free with people around him. That is Governor Ugwuanyi for you. I am not in the same party with the governor, so I have no reason to sing his praises unduly.
But some people indigenes of the state have criticised the governor for non-performance. They accused him of erecting billboards even on bad roads. How do you react to that?
You see, everyone is entitled to his opinion but your opinion may not be the truth. I know one of them criticizing the governor, but I can tell you that he is not telling the truth. In his constituency, the road from Obolor Afor to Nsukka and the one from Opi to Nsukka as well as Odenigbo and Oba-Echara roads, to mention a few, 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 governor has touched 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 said so, but because that is what the people are also saying.
Come to think of it, if somebody like the Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, an Anglican Bishop who is known 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 commendation by Bishop Chukwuma was on the 2018 budget prepared by the Enugu State government, which he described as realistic. That is Governor Ugwuanyi for you, he is always realistic.
The most recent was the commendation at late Chief 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 will 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 majority of the people of Enugu State have eyes and can see what the governor is doing.
So, in 2019, he will win with a 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 that 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). What is your reaction to the 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 their favour.
We expect NWC’s intervention in Lagos APC crisis – Oki
Mr. Fouad Oki, a former vice chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) , emerged as a factional chairman of the party in the state last Saturday. In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, he speaks on the reason for the parallel congress that saw his emergence and the need for internal democracy in the APC, among other issues
What is your take on the state of the of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State looking at the outcome of last Saturday’s state congress of the party?
There is no doubt that there are frictions and crisis in our party. Most of our people are not satisfied with the state of the party prior to Saturday. Our commitment has always been that there is the need for reconciliation. Several attempts have been made for reconciliation, but it was met with stiff resistance. This is partly because those who are making efforts to reconcile are actually part of the problem. In going forward, our immediate task is to ensure that all members of the party are genuinely reconciled. Our mission is to reconcile all the members of the party.
Some of those who emerged at the state congress held at the Lagos APC secretariat described your congress held at Lagos Airport Hotel as a charade and waste of time. How would you react to that?
Whatever you were told is just individual opinion and I may not comment on that. The organ of the party that will determine that is the National Executive Committee (NEC) and by extension the National Working Committee (NWC). You may want to look at the constitution of the party and I am sure that what we did on Saturday at the Lagos Airport was in strict compliance with the guidelines for the conduct of the congress as stipulated in the constitution of our party.
There are insinuations that the parallel congress you and your group held and your eventual emergence as the chairman of the state chapter of the party was an affront against the leadership of the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu…
I think this question is essentially an opinion to sensationalise headlines and it is understandable. But let me set the tone right. What we are talking about is constitutionality and otherwise, nothing personal with anyone. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is my leader and I have a special relationship with him. You can’t imagine the level of my relationship with him, but the issue here is not about that, but on constitutionality and otherwise. What is the position of the Constitution of Nigeria? What is the position of the constitution of our party and the Electoral Act? What is the requirement of the guidelines for the conduct of the congress? We must interrogate all these before we form our opinion about what happened last Saturday?
There are insinuations that some chieftains of the party are using you in a proxy war against the leadership of the party in the state?
Again, an individual opinion! I am 59 years and if someone or some people are still teleguiding me, then something is wrong with me. The issue here is clear for all to see, it is simply about constitutionality and rule of law.
Can you elucidate on the constitutionality or otherwise that you are harping on?
The Constitution of Nigeria listed local governments in the country and they are 774, Lagos State has 20 local governments. Yes, sometimes in 2002, Lagos State government created local governments. The APC constitution also recognises the fact that only local governments duly listed in the Constitution of Nigeria would be recognised in the party’s process. Therefore, congresses into party offices can only hold in Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognised local governments and wards. We all know that any rule or regulation that is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will remain null and void to the extent of its inconsistency. So, what we have here is a situation where the guidelines for the conduct of congresses clearly say that congresses shall hold in INEC recognised ward.
In the case of Lagos State, it is 245 wards. Any congress, which holds contrary to that regulation, you know what the implications would be. For us, we have held all the congresses in absolute compliance with the law and its guidelines for the conduct of the congresses, 245 wards, and 20 local governments. The issue is this; when we demanded that congresses must hold in compliance with guidelines and extant regulations and rules, we were told by those who want to play God that, no, it should hold in 377 wards. We then raised an observation with the chairman of the state congress committee that these things cannot be done this way.
Because of that, we were not just excluded from collecting forms, which we paid for and have the tellers of payment, we were also forcibly barred from entering Plot 106 ACME road, Ikeja, the party’s secretariat. Now, you may want to ask if we went through the necessary gamut. The answer is that we did. We sent a petition to the Appeal Committee and they scheduled out their sitting arrangement. On the day they are supposed to attend to us, some people created commotion shooting teargas into the hall where members of the committees are. They took to their heels and never to return again. We also made another effort during the local government congress, but met the same brick wall from them.
Another interesting scenario is that the same set of people, who refused to conduct wards and local governments’ congresses in 245 wards and 20 local governments, reverted on the same day and venue of the local governments to elect national delegates in 20 local governments. Last Friday, the committee that was sent from the national headquarters to conduct congresses held a stakeholders meeting with everybody wherein we were all told that congresses can only hold in 20 local governments. What do you now find is that those who have elected delegates to the state congress in 57 local governments and 377 wards resorted to now writing out names of delegates into 20 local governments. Maybe you want to ask how do you convert delegates that were elected on the basis of 377 wards to come and hold state congress in 245 wards. I think people should ask the question and the answer will show where the legality and constitutionality of this exercise or otherwise.
Can your group be addressed as a faction of Lagos APC and where is your party’s secretariat?
We are not a faction of APC. We are the authentic party as of the moment, known in law and the constitution of our party. Because we are non-violent and I used to tell people that no human endeavour is worth fighting for to the extent that an arm will get maim talk less of life getting lost. We are not given to violence and we have chosen to move away from ACME secretariat because someone has gone to drive away officers sent from Abuja because the property belongs to him. Therefore, we have chosen to temporarily relocate the state secretariat to somewhere around Surulere. We will notify the world in the coming days of the permanent secretariat.
Don’t you think this issue will have implications on the fortunes of the party if it is not resolved before the 2019 general elections?
There are bound to be issues and differences and they would be ultimately be resolved. That is the hallmark of democracy, not violence. But the issue here is about the rule of law and constitutionality of events and process. We expect that the national secretariat, at the appropriate time, and I hope in not too distant future would look into this. So, the issue is not about personality or wanting to be something, but it is about standing for which is right. If we say we are democrats we must also be seen as defenders of rule of law and sticklers to constitutionality. The law is the law, everybody must obey the law. You cannot either as an individual or as a group put yourself above the law, it will not hold.
Aduwo: Underage voters pose threat to 2019 elections
Olufemi Aduwo is the Executive Director of Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI). In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, he speaks on the executive/ legislature rift and the menace of underage voters, among other issues
The crisis of confidence between the executive and the Senate appears to be degenerating on a daily basis. What is your take on that?
This Eighth Senate is nothing but a big disgrace to the nation and it has reduced the value attached to the hallowed chamber. Under this Eighth Senate, the Senate President will be in the dock today and tomorrow will come to preside over the chamber.
In an ideal society, he should have excused himself from the office or ensure that the case gets a speedy trial and get to the end of it. We are now seeing a situation where a senator is being arraigned for allegedly supplying arms and ammunition to criminals.
Aside from the looting, more than 40 per cent of the senators are not physically and psychologically fit. Many of them are old, especially after ruling their respective states for eight years. They are not in touch with the realities and they can’t even initiate any meaningful bill on the floor of the Senate. Seriously speaking, the Senate President should have ensured that his case with the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was speedily dispensed with and by that, he would be above board.
So far, the current Senate has ridiculed that hallowed chamber and it is a disgrace to the nation. However, there is no way we can talk about the shame in the Senate without going back to the way the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) came on board. The party wasn’t formed on the basis of any ideology; all the major players in the birth of the party had one interest or the other. That is why we are seeing what is playing out now.
What do you make of the recent alliance moves by former President Olusegun Obasanjo ahead of the 2019 general elections?
Former President Obasanjo is a man who is passionate about Nigeria. In his talks, actions, and ideas, it is Nigeria first. He doesn’t get himself involve in sectional interest, but always after national interest. I think Nigerians should be dispassionate about Obasanjo’s message.
Is his message authentic and good for the nation? The answer is yes. I think his movement is a good one, we need a robust opposition. President Muhammadu Buhari should follow the yardstick of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; he shouldn’t allow anyone to shed blood on the altar of his political ambition. Many of those following Buhari don’t really love him; in fact, some of them have openly abused him before the consummation of APC.
The more we have opposition the richer and deeper our democracy becomes. Obasanjo’s Movement seems to be gaining grounds by the day, we learnt they have about three million registered members and they are bringing a lot of opposition together.
When people condemn Obasanjo, I laugh. President Buhari had contested election for three times and didn’t win, but when the forces including Obasanjo supported him, he won in 2015. The question is why did they go and meet Obasanjo in 2014 if he is inconsequential. The truth is that Nigeria politics revolves around individuals who have what it takes and they are everywhere, they are many.
But many feel that he is turning himself to be a moral compass of the country…
You see, God creates some people in special ways and Obasanjo is one of those in this class. When other people are quiet, Obasanjo will always talk; some people are born like that. We must learn to take the message and sometimes ignore the messenger.
Are you satisfied with the preparations of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies ahead of the 2019 general elections?
By the grace of God, I have been observing elections since 2003, I was a member of INEC’s delegation to the United States (U.S.) in 2009. I served in INEC as a board member in 2009-2010; I was one of the two Nigerians invited for the first time by the government of the United Kingdom to observe election in 2010; I was also the only Nigerian invited to monitor the Brexit election. I said all these for Nigerians to know that I have ample knowledge when it comes to election process and management.
You can quote me, this INEC will not conduct the general elections in February 2019, and they will postpone it. There is a likelihood of crisis because the political temperature is getting high on a daily basis.
Also, the security is always overwhelmed on the day of the election. Those in INEC are human beings and they are vulnerable to corruption. I have not seen anything different from what the current INEC is doing from what others did. I was surprised the other time when the INEC chairman said there are no underage voters in the North.
I know that those who have been in INEC for a while won’t agree with the chairman’s assertion because there are child voters in the North. In my Observer’s report after the 2015 elections, we saw it on the field and it is there in our report. When INEC say things like this, politicians will just be laughing at our electoral process. The underage voters are everywhere in the North and some INEC officials even agreed that these people were registered because INEC officials were overwhelmed.
INEC should carry people along on the consequences of this dangerous trend. The issue of underage voters is a serious menace to our electoral process and by extension, our nascent democracy. Most of these underage voters are even very violent because they are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The trend makes a mess of the very of democracy which is about choices. How can a minor be able to reason and takes a decision? The politicians are the beneficiaries and they are across all the parties. That is the reason why they are not talking and move against INEC, they are benefitting from it. You will see them in the 2019 elections, especially in the North.
What is your take on the usage of Electronic Voting machine during the Kaduna State local government election?
I think it is a very good innovation and we are compiling a report on that to the United Nations political department. It shows that electronic voting can happen in Nigeria, especially in an area where you have high literacy level. Secondly, regardless of what the other parties say, it is a shift from the old system of winner-takes-all. I think Governor Nasri el-Rufai has made a good stride with it. Even if there are some irregularities, I think the device has limited it.
Are you worried about the killings in the Middle Belt and some other northern states?
The killings in the Middle Belt are neither tribal nor ethnic. What we are seeing is the implication of climate change. I am a representative of my NGO and the United Nations. If you have been to Lake Chad, the water is gone. So, that area that is twice the size of Ibadan is one of the reasons for the problem.
When people talk about the Fulani that carry stick in the 90’s, I tell them that the population is not the same, but the land is not expanding. If we don’t tackle this, it will stay with us for long. These people need green environment and they have to move. I think ranching is the solution. These cattle don’t belong to the herdsmen. Can the owners afford ranching? Yes they can.
What is the best way to fight corruption?
I think the best way to fight corruption is we the people. When you say a system is transparent, it is the people. That is why I love what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is doing by being proactive. The consciousness of EFCC everywhere is a big strategy as well.
It is just like when a dog barks; it scares thieves away. The truth is that Nigerians now know that though President Buhari may be slow, he is not corrupt. But EFCC under Buhari is barking and biting. Can’t you see how much they have recovered under three years and compare it to what was realized under former President Jonathan. Don’t also forget that the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, is also getting jabs from the Senate, but he is still doing his job. It is better to be late than never.
Buhari promoting violence in Nigeria, PDP tells UN, ICC
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has attributed the spate of violence in the country to inflammatory and anti-democratic comments by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The party told the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to condemn the statement attributed to President Buhari allegedly boasting of his human rights violation of Nigerians when he was military head of state.
In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the main opposition party said Nigerians were shocked when the president boasted: “When I was in uniform, younger and rather ruthless, I got from president downward, I locked them up in Kirikiri. I said, you’re guilty except you prove yourself innocent.”
PDP said such statement promotes state involved violence, sectional bloodletting, resentment and exacerbates hatred, abuse of rights and brazen violation of the constitution and democratic order.
“Whereas our constitution and all tenets of democracy and justice across the world hold all citizens innocent until proven guilty in court of competent jurisdiction, President Buhari promotes the otherwise and feels favourably disposed to acts that suspends our constitution and imposition of military diktat,” the party stated.
It noted that such hate speech has confirmed the impetus behind “the prevailing executive highhandedness, the trumped-up charges against the opposition, persecution of political opponents, flagrant disobedience to court orders, brazen harassment, arrests, molestations, illegal detention and extra-judicial execution of innocent Nigerians.”
PDP wondered why appointees of the president have continued to hold the institution of democracy, particularly the National Assembly and the courts, in utter disdain.
“Nigeria has not been more divided than it is today under President Buhari and unguarded comments, which have continued to overheat the polity and set citizens against one another.
“The PDP, therefore, calls on the United Nations, the ICC, all lovers of democracy, as well as all compatriots to join hands in condemning this trend that is now obviously threatening to truncate our hard-earned democracy and erode the freedom our people,” the statement added.
The party promised to continue to stand with the people and work for the unity, cohesion and protection of all Nigerians irrespective of creed, ethnicity and political affiliations.
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