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South East elite afraid of change, says Ezea

08 April 2015   |   7:17 am
Enugu State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Okey Ezea, spoke with KODILINYE OBIAGWU, South East Bureau Chief shortly before the March 28 elections. He said while the masses in the South East are ready to embrace change, the elite are scared. Excerpts:

Enugu State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Okey Ezea.

The APC campaign in Enugu
We have had a good campaign that has taken us through the wards and councils, and the people are yearning for change. In the last 16 years, the people have been under the jackboot of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Life has not been good to them; if anything, it has become worse. The people are eager for change.

We have presented to them our manifesto, which is our social contract with the people of Enugu. The focus of the manifesto is wealth creation and reduction of poverty, seeing that our people are faced with debilitating poverty and lack of economic wherewithal. We are looking towards agriculture as a wealth base, which will put food on the table and earn income while also creating jobs for our teeming unemployed youths.

Enugu is an agricultural society with about 60 per cent of the population as subsistence farmers. We are blessed with good rainfall statewide, about 15 perennial rivers, hectares of arable land, which has positioned the state to lead in the cultivation of cash and food crops.

Because the incidence of poverty is rubbing off on education, we are advocating free and compulsory education up to the secondary school level to take the burden off the shoulders of parents who can’t send their wards to school. It is imperative that every child has the benefit of the best education.

In the health sector, Enugu has 350 communities serviced by 35 health institutions of various grades, and most of them in terrible conditions. The ration of a person to doctor in Enugu is 1: 1,000 against the United Nation ratio of 1 doctor to 10 patients.  We want to revamp the existing health institutions, improve them and install highly motivated medical staff. Again, because of poverty in the state, we will provide free medical attention for pregnant women and children, the aged and handicapped.

In infrastructural development, Enugu is still afflicted with bad roads in many rural communities. Infrastructural development should not concentrated in Enugu City, because there are other big towns and semi urban centers. An APC government will uplift these areas to full urban centers and provide appropriate infrastructure to sustain them.

Most industries in Enugu are not functioning. For example, there is the abandoned Nachi Vegetable Oil Company, the aluminum smelting plant, the cashew industries, the flour mills at Emene and many others. We plan to revamp these industries to enhance job opportunities and improve the wealth creation base.

The South East survives on commerce and the challenge is how to build a commercial base for Enugu. Virtually all the markets in Enugu have not changed over the years. We need to expand these markets to create opportunity for other people to own shops. With that situation in mind, we intend to establish three international markets, along the corridors of Obollo Afor, Ninth Mile and Four Corner.

These will create thousands of locked up shops so that the people who graduate from Ogbete market, and the other markets as apprentice, will have their own shops. Today, no young trader is capable of owning a shop because of cost and unavailability. The new markets could be built through private sector driven initiatives where government will only provide the land while the private sector provides the funds.

Government is all about service, good governance and accountability. I know that the people don’t know how much that comes into the coffers of the government today in Enugu. We will change that.

Issues in the elections
We have people who understand the problems of the citizenry and those who do not understand; people who have the solutions and those who do not. In the last 16 years, the PDP has shown that it doesn’t understand the problems of the people and does not have the solutions. Without knowing the problems or promising anything to the people, they are promising continuity. Are they promising to continue poverty or the high incidence of school fees in the state? Are they going to continue with the unavailability of medical facilities? Are they are promising that corruption and leakages in the system will continue? Are they promising that mismanagement of the resources of the state will continue? The issues are alleviating poverty, finding employment for our youths and good governance.

Why the current optimism
The truth is that between 2003 election and the 2011 election; there has not been any free and fair election in Enugu. We are therefore relying on the promises and undertaking from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Prof. Attahiru Jega that things will be different. We are relying on the sanctity of the card reading machines and that the vote of people will count.

I have seen that the people are not crazy about the PDP, which in 16 years has been imposing itself on the people. The PDP has not won any election in Enugu. It has been rigging, and rigging and rigging. I have learnt that the fact that the PDP has been there for 16 years doesn’t give them any edge over the electoral fortunes of the Enugu. The only edge that they have is the publics funds at their disposal. They have not done anything in the last 16 years that should make them feel that they can’t be beaten. With a level level playing field, where votes are cast and counted, the opposition will win.

The philosophy, vision and mission
The vision of making Enugu one of the best states in Nigeria. The vision of reducing the poverty that is prevalent in our society. This is the philosophy that underlined the agitation for the creation of a Wawa State. Our people are very poor, unlike our brothers in Imo or Anambra and so we wanted our own state where we will develop at our own pace and governance brought closer to the people. But since the creation of Enugu State, that vision is far from being fulfilled. And that is what we are fighting to be fulfilled. I always ask, whether the life style of the average man in Aninri, Oji River, Ngwo, Enugu Ezike, Ezeagu changed since the state was created? Of course not, because that problem has not being tackled by subsequent regimes?

Any gain of the PDP in the last years?
It is difficult to say. Is it in employment, provision of health care system for the people, intervention in agriculture? They have built good roads with street lights, buying generators to power those streetlights when other states are talking of using independent power plants then I will agree they have achieved something.

Sincerely, I believe that the state government has done well in the provision of security. But the kudos have to go to the incumbent governor, Sullivan Chime and not necessarily the PDP. It is good to give credit to where credit is due. There was a time in Enugu when there was no night live, people were dying all over the place. But the incumbent governor has done well by providing needed equipment for the police to run things. I dare say that more that could be done to improve security in terms of providing the security agencies with more sophisticated means of communication, improving the welfare of the individual security agents.
Effect of change on Nidigbo

Everyone is talking about change in Nigeria. Every zone is talking about change. Suffice it to say that Ndigbo, especially elite, are reluctant to embrace change. I know that the masses are very happy to embrace change. I saw the look on their faces when we campaign. Everyone is embracing change and I hope that the change will engulf all of us soon.

Is that why you believe you could win the election?
Yes, because we are embracing change. That is one of the reasons we strongly believe we have every chance to succeed in this venture in Enugu and in the national sphere.