Mr Okey Ezea is the senatorial candidate of the Labour Party for the Enugu North senatorial district in the 2023 general election. In this interview with RAPHAEL EDE, he speaks on the legal tussle within his party in Enugu, among other salient national issues
there is a rumour going around that you secured the LP senatorial ticket for Enugu North senatorial district by forging someone’s signature. Can you clarify that?
In politics, you suffer all manner of insults. That Ike Ugwu, who shouts my name and says all sorts of things about me, is clearly committing criminal defamation. But if one begins to prosecute him now, they will say it’s because he is in court with me. Ernest Ike Ugwu did not join me, and my name was not mentioned. He is in court. If he knows I forged his signature, why didn’t he join me in my suit?
In any case, I heard that the judgment is in my favour, though I have not read it. As a candidate, you go to the party, fill out your form with certificates, and go away. There is no interface between the candidate and the Independent National Electoral Commission. This is someone who cannot contest the council election in Obukpa in Nsukka. Go there and ask who Ernest Ike Ugwu is; people don’t know him. But that is the same Ernest now that stays at NICON in Abuja and has two senior advocates on his list of lawyers, including one that stays in Enugu and must fly to Abuja to attend court sittings.
As a candidate that will be facing the incumbent governor as your opponent, are you confident of squaring up with him in the 2023 senatorial election?
The result of the polls will not be determined by whether you are an incumbent senator, governor, or president. The public’s acceptance of you and your candidacy will determine the outcome.
So, if Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi feels he is very confident of his performance because we’re facing our people, who have given him the mandate he has had in his life, let us campaign and wait for election day to see who the people will vote for. It’s not all about sponsoring a legal battle against my candidacy.
People will think it is intra-party; my opponent in this contest is Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and he is afraid of meeting me in the field. That is the truth of the matter. Ifeanyi does not want to run in an election against me. He wants to push me away. Ifeanyi is now parcelling land in Enugu State and issuing certificates of occupancy to judicial officers in Abuja. Quote me. Otherwise, under the Freedom of Information Act, let him tell you about the parcel of land between the Nigerian Television Authority and the Institute of Management and Technology and who was assigned to it. His ministry of land is busy fencing some of those plots and parking the allocation papers with people we know. So, that is what is happening?
What is your take on general insecurity in Nigeria?
Insecurity in Nigeria has become an existential problem. There is insecurity everywhere in Nigeria, and it’s getting worse by the day. So, it requires a very serious legislative solution in terms of coming up with laws that allow the police to have better personnel and better equipment to discharge their duties. But when you bring in the state police, it is a different kettle of fish. It must not be allowed to be controlled by state governors.
Insecurity will be worse if state police remain in the hands of state governors. It will be worse than when we started. You can just see what the state governments are doing with the vigilantes. You see how people who are not trained and who know next to nothing about firearms being given automatic rifles. They recruit cultists into those vigilante groups, people whose greatest satisfaction is that they have their private arms and can kill. The issue of insecurity and state police needs critical analysis to find a middle course that satisfies the people’s yearnings.
What is your take on a part-time legislature in Nigeria as a way to reduce the cost of governance in the country?
Let me say that Nigeria requires a total overhaul. If the allegations about the money being spent by the national assembly are anything to go by, then we are in big trouble. There’s no reason why somebody would go to Abuja and spend 365 days of the year there. If you are running a legislative function, what are they legislating?
These are issues that can be presented to the law reform commission, and they will make proposals, and perhaps every six months they will spend three months out of six considering all of these bills and passing them into law. I support part-time legislative activity. It will cut costs provided that they are cutting costs in the executive arm, but that is the problem. They feel like if you rub my shoulder, I will rub yours. Somebody like me is not going into politics because I want to build a house I have never built, ride a car I have never ridden, or travel to any part of the world I have never travelled to before. My idea of politics is service to the people, and once I am outside that circle, I am not part of it.
You were a founding member of the All Progressives Congress; why did you leave the party for the Labour Party?
I was the person that brought the Labour Party to Enugu in 2006. The fact is that the electoral system in Enugu State has been under immense manipulation but for this time we hope that the votes of the people will count because of the use of the Bimodular Verification and Accreditation System; otherwise, a lot of people have given up wasting their time. Because the state government will use the resources of the people — the money meant to repair our schools and hospitals — they will use it to renegotiate their mandate, and once the mandate is given again, they will now begin to recoup what they think they invested while the initial investment was from the state’s resources and not from their pockets.
Now, after our election in 2007, anybody who was in Enugu knows that the Labour Party was the party to beat.
In 2013, the Action Congress of Nigeria, Tinubu, and others wanted me to take over the Action Congress of Nigeria in Enugu State, and then, of course, they woke up; it was from the report they got that they learned that my opposition group was strong in Enugu State, and just as we were about to finish the process of acquiring ACN, the All Progressives Congress emerged, and that is how we moved into APC, and I contested the governorship position in 2015, and I told the people of Enugu State that this idea of food is ready politics is something they should not do in Enugu.
Nobody wants to fight; everyone wants to go where the government and the Peoples Democratic Party have said they will regret it. I said it several times, and that is what they are doing now — they are regretting it. I believe that if someone had told the people of Enugu State in 2014 and 2015 that Mgburugburu would be the disaster he is today, they would have thought and reacted differently.
Of course, even with APC, there’s nothing; they did not beg me to fly their ticket, and I said I will not try the ticket of APC any longer because I know the sacrifice and what I put in to make sure APC wins the presidency. By the time we won the presidential election, one thought that President Buhari would come and assist those of us in Enugu but he never did. We had no idea Buhari had a different agenda for the Igbo people.
As time went on, we discovered that Buhari never wanted any Igbo man to be anything. We discovered that even Tinubu did not want any Igbo man to be anything in APC, even though APC was deliberately planted in Igboland with the help of people like former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and others.
So this one I am contesting, it is my people — the Nsukka people — that insisted I be on this ticket; otherwise, I didn’t want to do anything. I have tried my best; I have given politics my best.