Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, is a first class traditional ruler. The CNPP, as led by Alhaji Balarabe Musa, is the umbrella body of all the registered political parties and political associations in the country.
The Convener of Save Enugu Group (SEG) and National Coordinator of the South East Revival Group (SERG), in this interview, speaks on the restructuring debate, the presidential ambition of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, preparations ahead of the 2019 general elections among other national issues.
One of the issues that will shape the 2019 political campaign is the restructuring debate. Recently, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which initially rejected restructuring, came up with their own version of restructuring. What do you have to say on this issue?
It is quite interesting that the APC returned to restructuring though their idea of restructuring is far from that of the rest of us. But it means that restructuring is the way to go to keep Nigeria united. At least, the grand advocate of restructuring in recent time, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will heave a sigh of relief. He was the one who brought back restructuring to the discussion table ahead of 2019 elections. Without mincing words, Nigeria, as it is today, is not working and we can only get it to work by going back to true federalism. The unitary presidential system we are running will continue to create distrust among Nigerians because of growing sense of injustice. Like Alhaji Atiku said in Nsukka in 2017, the rising tension and agitations in the country can only be checked with a restructured country that engages her people on productive activities instead of all these killings going on. So, we need to restructure if we are serious about making progress as a country.
You mentioned Atiku Abubakar and though you are not a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), as a CNPP leader, whose membership cuts across all political parties, how do you assess the quality of those who have expressed interest to contest for president on the PDP platform?
I’m a Board of Trustees member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and I can tell you that my party will do everything possible to field a credible presidential candidate in 2019. However, to answer your question, I can tell you that the PDP has only two presidential aspirants: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and others. If you are talking of a candidate that is sellable across the country on the platform of the PDP, in the North and the South, Atiku is the man.
Nigeria needs a successful business man to run. We have tested military generals like Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari. We have tried politicians like the late Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. It is time to try business men. Nigeria needs to be restructured and reorganised for greatness. Nigeria needs to achieve its full potentials and a business-minded person is needed at this time that our economy is at the lowest ebb.
It is believed in some quarters that Atiku is corrupt. His sources of income have been questioned. He has come out several times to challenge anyone that has evidence of corruption against him to come forward…?
(Cuts in) Today, we have a man assumed to be Mr Integrity as President. How has that brought about better life for the people? When political cabals don’t like any one’s face, they will tag you as corrupt because they know that Nigerians are suffering and they will see anyone with the tag of corruption as an enemy of the people. Today, Nigerians are suffering. With 100 per cent increment in the pump price of petroleum products, we still experience fuel scarcity. It means that there is more to it than shouting Mr Integrity. What Nigeria needs at the moment is leadership. In the world today, business men are taking over political leadership. American President, Donald Trump, is a businessman, and in Africa, we are following the trend. The new South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is a business man. We cannot afford as a country to flow against the trend. If we are the giant of Africa, we must get our leadership right ahead of other African countries. From the little I know about Atiku, all the allegations against him are the imaginations of people who don’t wish Nigeria well. They are the same people who packaged a lie and sold it to us as change. Has any government taken Atiku to court, let alone convict him? This means all the allegations are made in order to make sure that Nigeria is denied good leaders. Now, let’s look at Atiku’s businesses: he started transport business in 1971. He has told the story of how he was posted to Idi-Iroko border as a young Customs officer and how he became a distributor of SCOA, and bought four pick-up Peugeot cars and gave them to drivers who made daily returns.
He grew his businesses cutting across education, maritime, manufacturing among others. He has shown leadership in business and politics. He has remained the most outstanding Vice President Nigeria has ever had.
According to research, one of the major problems of under-development in Africa is poor leadership and Nigeria has few good and selfless leaders. What is your perspective?
When we talk of leadership, we are talking of a call to service, a call to put others first in decision making. It will be an expensive mistake at this stage of our political life if we do not look for men of impeccable character, a strong-willed Nigerian who has succeeded in many sectors, who is also a nationalist that can unite Nigeria. Atiku is a bridge-builder who is at home in the six geographical zones of the country. Today, there is obvious leadership vacuum as a result of the lack of purposeful leadership by the President Buhari administration, with its fruitless policies. And the country has continued to go round a vicious cycle of stagnation, poverty and hopelessness. This is because of lack of leadership. There is corruption in other parts of the world, yet they are making progress. So, we need a leader who has succeeded in business like Atiku has.
The National Assembly just reordered the 2019 general elections’ schedule. What is your take on the matter?
The truth of the 2019 general elections is that the presidential election should come last to save Nigerian democracy and the country from nose-diving into a one-party state and, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should cooperate with the National Assembly because, if the elections were not reordered, the party that wins the Presidential election will sweep the polls at all level. This is dangerous for democracy.
I have heard some civil society organizations (CSOs) who kick against the presidential election coming last and I will advise them to retrace their steps because they are unwittingly trying to aide a rigging formula that will turn the country into a one-party state.
If INEC wants to conduct elections devoid of rigging, the Commission should listen to the voice of the representatives of the people, who are working hard to reduce bandwagon effect in voting. The members of the National Assembly should remain united in reordering the elections as experienced politicians and major stakeholders in the outcome of elections.
We should not be deceived; the issue is not about President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid. It is about Nigeria after President Buhari. INEC must do everything to ensure free, fair and very credible 2019 elections