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Published On: Sun, Aug 5th, 2018

Enugu 2019: We are wary of APC, APGA despite our popularity – Commissioner, Anikwe

The Enugu State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe has noted that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state is not unconcerned with the presence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state. However, despite its dominance, according to him, both parties will do all they can to wrestle power from the PDP in 2019.

The Commissioner who stated this in this interview with BusinessHallmark’s Obinna Ezugwu however expressed confidence that the people of the state will reward Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi with a second term mandate for serving them well thus far.

Excerpts:

The PDP maintains absolute dominance in the state politics. It’s unlike other states, even in   the South East. What are the reasons behind it?

It’s the governor; it’s as simple as that. He is a man who came with a message, and that message is that we are all brothers regardless of political affiliation. Secondly, he recognizes that there is a difference between a politician and the elected official. The elected official would drop his politician garment as he is going into the government house. And if he does that, he will now begin to see everybody as brothers and sisters, and relate with them as brothers and sisters. It is with that mindset that people find so refreshing.

Number two, he also recognises that people need to be lifted from where they are to another level. So, he started doing it. He understands that development and the so-called dividends of democracy are concentrated mostly in urban areas, while in actual fact, majority of the people who brave the elements to vote are in the rural areas. So there is this focus on making sure that the rural areas are no longer left behind.

In the area of education, what he has done is to ensure that pupils in the rural areas are no longer at a disadvantage. They were at a disadvantage because all those crash programmes that they did; what they did before was that they would go to markets and collect market women, then give them crash training and then put them in schools as teachers. And they bring up half-baked people. What Ugwuanyi has done is to ensure that only graduates, minimum of NCE, would be recruited.

So far, we have recruited over 5000 graduates with minimum qualification of NCE to teach in the rural areas. And the only way you can be appointed is if you sign an undertaking that you will be in the rural areas. Thus, you are appointed and posted to the rural areas. The result will reflect in a very short time. That’s in the area of education.

In the area of health, he recognizes that too many people are dying in the rural areas because they don’t have money to take care of themselves. Today, we have a free mother and child maternal care programme that enables women and children in rural communities to get free medical attention. In addition to what you can get at the primary healthcare centres, all the faith based medical institutions in rural areas now have free medical care for this group of people.

Thirdly, if you are in the rural area and you have an illness that cannot be treated in the primary healthcare centre, there is a secondary health facility; the district hospitals that are being refurbished and equipped so that no matter the complications that you have, you can always get treated in the district hospitals.

The question you would ask is, where are the doctors that will treat all kinds of cases in the district hospitals? There is an arrangement the state government has made with all the consultants working in this state, especially in the tertiary hospitals like University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) and Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu whereby those consultants sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government and they are assigned to those district hospitals to visit once a week.

Just like it is done abroad, if you want to visit a consultant, you go and they give you appointments. So, all those consultants are now going to the district hospitals, in addition to their jobs in UNTH and what have you. Once a week, they will visit and look at all the cases. The ones that they refer to tertiary medical institutions in Enugu would be treated free of charge, based on that reference. That’s in the area of health.

He also recognizes that when you come to the rural community, majority of the people are either traders or farmers. So, through FADAMA 2 and 3, and new FADAMA and all the other programmes in agriculture, a lot of money is going to the rural areas to help them improve on agriculture. Then, for traders, every month 54 markets in this state, government goes there, and take four traders through balloting, each of whom is given N50,000.

The amount doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you have somebody who is selling groundnuts inside the market with N50,000, that person will buy a table and you will be surprised at the kind of impact that will make. It happens every month, more than 200 traders benefit each month. This is what is happening, in addition to finding all those communities that have hitherto been cut off from civilization and they would be connected through roads and bridges.

Money is involved in all these programmes. Enugu is a civil service state, which means there are not much industries and the tax money that come with it. Is the government borrowing to fund them?

That’s where Enugu has been particularly lucky to have someone who is first of all a financial expert as governor. Secondly, he is somebody who was relatively comfortable before he became governor. And thirdly, he is someone who is desperate, if you like, to establish a legacy for himself. Being a financial expert, and coming at a time when the country was almost going into, and eventually went into a recession, he had to sit back and decide what he wanted to do in order to make sure that he doesn’t fall into the embarrassment of, for instance, owing workers. Or not being able to execute his programmes.

So most of the things that governors spend money on, which could be described as frivolities, is not happening here. He is not borrowing money, and he is paying back what was already borrowed before he came.

What he is doing is making sure that whatever comes, they are husbanded and used judiciously. He also introduced the TSA system where all the agencies that are supposed to be contributing put all their money. It’s no longer in different silos where people do secret things and all that. Because of that, Enugu is the 5th state in the federation that is able to sustain itself without federal revenue. Mind you, Enugu is also sitting 5th from the bottom in terms of allocation from the centre.

But what it is collecting internally is today, about 32 percent of all its income. So, when you count the states that are doing the right things, Enugu is number five and we are still pushing steadily to move further up. That’s the reason these things are happening. Enugu civil servants are the first workers in Nigeria, both in private sector and the public sector, to receive salaries, including when there is no FAAC allocation like the previous month. On the 23rd, I can assure you, yesterday was the 23rd, you can go and ask any civil servant, he will tell you that they have been paid.

You mentioned that the government has been able to recruit up to 5000 teachers, but incidentally, the complaint out there is that although he has done roads and other projects, he has not created jobs. People feel that there should be industries set up so that people can be employed…?

No, I told you that we are lucky to have someone who is a financial expert. He understands the economics of this thing. He knows that industries set up by governments are never viable. The 17 industries that Enugu State has, as we speak, non of them is making profit. So, what he has done is to continue the process of privatisation and commercialisation of those enterprises and in a very short time, they would be given out to serious investors. When that is done, you can expect that thousands of jobs would be created by the private sector and those jobs would be secured because the private sector will do things differently.

Secondly, he is doing a lot to bring foreign investors into the state. He has already succeeded in creating a free trade zone for Enugu; two of them, one in Emene, the other in 9th Mile. And the one in 9th Mile has already resulted into a landmark park where Chinese investors are coming with things. The one in Emene also has a number of investors that are coming in. By the time they finish, you will also find that thousands of jobs will be created.

In addition, they are training young people in all kinds of things. The difference between those trainings and the other ones we normally see is that the day you are free from the training programme, as you are there in the ceremony celebrating your freedom, which is organized by government, your phones will start ringing as the seed money to start your business come in.

It’s always a spectacle when it happens. The last time, it was 750 young men and women who were trained in various skills. The governor came during their passing out ceremony. Before the governor spoke, phones started beeping and they started seeing the alerts. People were jumping up and down; they nearly mobbed the governor that day.

For those who may not be aware of these opportunities yet, how can they partake?

I won’t know why anybody will say that he is not aware, because the information is normally passed down, not only through the media, but also through community organisations and all of that. There are all kinds of networks that are in place to ensure that whatever information government wants to pass through across, gets to people within 24 hours. So, unless you don’t want to take advantage of it, or unless you come to your town and they need only persons and there are 50 persons. The five persons will benefit, the next time, another 5 will benefit.

At the end of the day, not everybody will benefit, but the hope is that, like the ones being done by SME centres, people get between N5million and N25million, depending on the proposal you are able to bring. And the expectation is that if you have N5million, you should be able to set up a business that can employ two people. If you get N25million, the expectation is that the minimum number of people that you can employ in the industry where you are using that money to operate is 10 people. So, with that multiplier effect, somebody who is in one sector will now have to draw ten other persons as workers because he is an entrepreneur. He is being trained in the skills that will make him become an employer of labour himself. That’s how he is talking the issue of employment. Remember, the four point agenda of the government, the very first one is employment generation. But that employment is not government based employment. It’s to stimulate the business environment, to stimulate the economic environment, empower entrepreneurs, give direct cash grants to traders and train people properly; give them good foundation in terms of education. The are some of the things happening in the state, and it’s very exciting.

The government had also created more autonomous communities and has given a go ahead for the election of new traditional rulers. But the tussle over who becomes the traditional ruler in many of the communities is causing problems. Is the government aware of this?

Well, I should ask you because it is not government policy to create autonomous communities. The demand for autonomous communities came from the community itself. What government does is to look at each one on a case by case basis and decide on the totality of weight of evidence whether that issue is better resolved in favour of more autonomous communities or not. So, it is not government. Left for government, everything should be the way they are. But the people want their leaders, they want more representation.

We are approaching 2019, and even though PDP is dominant, you saw what happened in Ekiti and how far the ruling party can go in trying to take over states they have interest in. Are you concerned, as a government, that there may be external forces coming to play in 2019 that might take power from the PDP?

As a government no; but as a member of a political party yes. We have to make a distinction between party politics and governance. As I said before, you move from wearing the garb of a politician, to wearing that of the government which means you are now answerable to all. So, if you are asking me as a member of a political party whether we have concerns, I will say yes. Concerns have always been there, from the very beginning because you know elections are the end of politics, and the classic definition of politics is struggle for control of resources or common wealth by groups and individuals.

In this case, Enugu represents a microcosm; a part of the common wealth and it has resources that people want to control through elections, and there would always be struggle. So, even though it looks like PDP is very dominant in this state, you and I know that APC is also there. We also have somebody who is positioning himself as a governorship candidate, and he is not joking about it. So, the point is that it is an election and everybody will go there and show what they have done.

Our duty is to continue to promote what the father of Enugu State today, who is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done for the people, and hope that the people, in appreciation, will say you have done well, and you should continue for another term as stipulated in the constitution. But as for whether there would be somebody who will come and challenge, definitely because I’m not sure that the way the country is configured now, APC would say, let’s have one candidate, or APGA will say they are not interested in Enugu State. They would have to contest. The field is open.

APGA has vowed, as a matter of fact, to take over Enugu State…?

They can vow, but at the end of the day, we are all going to the field. So, when that time comes, we hope that they would be able to present something that will show they are capable of matching even one-third of what the current occupant of that office has done for the people. Or APC will come with their report card at the national level and promote it as something that is worthy of replication in Enugu State, to ask the people to, on that basis, give them the mandate instead of the people they know now. So they are all welcome.

 

 

 

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