NANA Ogbodo, Director of Communications of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Council in Enugu State, knows how deep the goodwill of the governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, is. After four national newspapers, The Sun, The Daily Independent, Vanguard, and Leadership, in January, named him the ‘Governor of the Year 2019,’ in recognition of his performances, Ogbodo says, “there are no arguments on Ugwuanyi’s achievements since 2015. His focus now is on the next four years.” He spoke with KODILINYE OBIAGWU. Excerpts.
What is the scenario like going into the March governorship polls?
THE scenario is a call for Enugu people to come out en mass and cast their votes. They have to do better than in the February 23 polls. If voters can still turn out in huge numbers in war torn states like Yobe, what excuse will we have in Enugu not to troop out and vote. Barely 500,000 people voted in the last election in Enugu while we were the highest with PVCs in the South East. The voters should know that they made the choice in 2015, and 2019 will only be the affirmation of that choice.
The election is only a referendum for Governor Ugwuanyi. The questions are has he lived up to his 2015 promises? Yes. Has he sustained the confidence of the people? Yes. Does he have the vision to finish the good job he is doing? Yes. And we have seen how his rating has soared. So the scenario is such that the governor is eager to present himself before the electorate. He knows that the it will be a clear cut victory for him. He has kept his promises. The road map for the next four years is ready. The governor knows where he is taking his people to. He is passionate about the development of Enugu as he takes the people along. The scenario is that the people of Enugu know they have a leader who shuns guiles, intrigues and keeps his promises. He promised peace and today, Enugu is the most peaceful state in the country. He promised rural development and today, Enugu landscape is being altered, significantly.
Enugu could be seen as a one party state, with the absence of a robust opposition. How is PDP responding to the challenge of the APC, the ruling party in the center?
Our democratic culture cannot yield itself to that allusion that Enugu is a one party state. The PDP has remained the ruling party but that has never stopped other parties from standing for elections. I agree though that a lot has changed in the last four years. Ahead of the March polls, the state has remained a safe enclave for the opposition and the ruling party. A far cry from what prevailed in the past where there was a rather unhealthy display of power, and opponents of the government were lucky to escape from the state to save their lives. Then, being in opposition meant being somebody else’s enemy. All that have changed. The conviviality is recognizably high between members of the ruling PDP and other parties. We are first human beings, friends, kit and kin from Enugu, before becoming politicians. This is unique and all the credit should go to Governor Ugwuanyi.
The APC challenge is understandable but it is overrated. Being the power in the center doesn’t guarantee victory in every polling booth. I know that the hard work of the governor will not go unrewarded by the electorate.
How has the governor lived up to his 2015 promise to enhance the welfare of workers?
The governor promised civil servants good fortune. And he has kept faith with that. For example, workers in Enugu, get their salaries regularly and they can check the date on that. Every worker knows that on the 24th day of the month, salaries will be paid. That date is sacrosanct. Even if the federal allocation is delayed, workers’ salaries are not delayed. And in every December, they get their productivity pay, known as the 13th month pay. That same treatment has been meted to pensioners. He has kept the pledge he made to them that he would look into their plight. The backlog of pensions and gratuity for Local Council pensioners from 2001 to 2006 was paid. In the meantime every month, N100 million is deployed to erase the backlog of gratuities.
What singular factor will guarantee victory to Governor Ugwuanyi?
It will be difficult picking out that singular factor, because they are all linked. I will say that the governor has showed the people that democracy works in terms of the tangible things it throws up. He has created the proper climate for peace, he has institutionalised internally-generated revenue collection system to ensure accountability and transparency. Not being an oil producing state and relying solely on funds from the federation account has its challenges. The governor has put Enugu in such a good stead that, there is no panic when there is no allocation coming from Abuja. It has taken a lot to achieve that.
The question is will Enugu citizens want things done differently now? Would the workers prefer late payment of salaries rather than what prevails now? What about the communities with N10 million grants to execute any project of their choice? How many people would say they don’t like the peaceful state of Enugu? Today, Enugu is home to many. Which party or candidate can offer anything better. I believe the people know on which side their bread is buttered.
In rural development, can you be specific on what is going on in terms of projects?
Presently, about 480 communities are constructing projects of their choice, and fully backed financially. The governor slated N10 million for each community. He has released the first tranche of N5 million and those who have prudently deployed theirs have received the second tranche.
How do you score the opposition generally, going into the election?
Everyone talks of APC because it is the ruling party in the country. Beyond that, it is a party in confusion in Enugu at least. Going into the election, APC is it’s own enemy. It has bigwigs who are perpetually at war with one another. They have to put their house in order before they can think of winning a election. There are more organized parties than APC, such as the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The other parties are cohesive and have good candidates too.
Going by what happened in Ekiti and Osun states, are you not worried that Enugu might be up for grabs or are you confident that the electoral commission will deliver impartially?
I do not feel it is justified to begin to complain about the electoral commission given the caliber of people there. It is given that the institution should be fair to all. If indeed they choose not to be fair, it won’t be because we did not prepare well, it would be that some individuals failed in their own national duties.
“The APC challenge is understandable but it is overrated. Being the power in the center doesn’t guarantee victory in every polling booth. I know that the hard work of the governor will not go unrewarded by the electorate.”
There is no doubt that INEC is not a perfect institution. It is definitely battling with various challenges. But it can only grow from strength to strength, tweaking on its operations to get the best. I want to hypothetically, that if there were some lapses, they might have been identified and plugged ahead of the March polls? INEC will not have any reason not to show up in this election.