Mr. Ifeanyi Onwe is a former Special Adviser to Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State on Inter-Party Affairs, but now Special Adviser on Student Matters. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on the appointment of 191 new aides to the governor made up of members of opposition parties, as well as other issues affecting the state
Governor Dave Umahi recently appointed chieftains of All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as Senior Technical Assistants (STAs) and Technical Assistants (TAs)? Do you think it is aimed silencing the opposition ahead of the 2019 elections as being speculated in some quarters?
I don’t believe that the appointments are connected to 2019. It is too early for anybody to talk about 2019 and the appointments by our dear governor was done in good faith. It is for the good of all Ebonyians.
The governor had earlier on assumption of office said he will be governor for all and he has displayed that in both appointments and distribution of social amenities in all parts of the state. He has been preaching that Ebonyians are one and he has taught us how to play politics by carrying everybody along; both members of his own party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition parties.
Before now, if you are in opposition or opposed to government in power, you don’t come close to the government. But Governor Umahi has changed that phenomenon and extended hand of fellowship to all the opposition parties in the state. Those who worked against the emergence of this government are today members of the state executive council.
To me, it is a good development. It is like the reunion of people of Ezza-Ezillo/Ezza communities in our dear state, following the peace brokered by the governor. We all knew what happened in the two communities and it was as if peace will not return to the area. It was as if the people will no longer do things together but you saw how the governor united them as a man of peace.
He brought everyone irrespective of political affiliations into the government. He said that for the fact that they worked for another candidate during the last election and against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not mean that they are not Ebonyi people. Despite the economic challenges facing the country and the state, he has appointed these 191 new aides made up of members of the opposition parties and his own party.
He wants everyone to have something doing and contribute to the development of the state. This type of appointment has never happened in the history of the state and people should be happy that it has happened and it is not connected to 2019.
Do you think that members of the opposition parties are happy with their appointments and will not challenge the governor and the PDP in 2019?
I think they are really comfortable with the governance of our dear governor and have joined to move the state forward. This is to show you acceptance of the policies of the governor. They believe that this is our state and we should all collaborate to develop it. Our presence in politics today is to evolve polices that would alleviate poverty facing the people and get Ebonyi State developed. Members of the opposition parties are not self-seeking because they have not identified with the state government for material gains.
They have only offered themselves for service to the state. This is because of the transformation drive of the state government, which is manifested daily in the form of new roads, street lights, pipe borne water and provision of other social amenities for Ebonyi people. The opposition parties are happy with the state governor.
What we are seeing in Ebonyi State is unprecedented, which has surpassed other south eastern states. They have the belief that this is a government they can partner with; a government with selfless intention. We have no other place to call our state than Ebonyi, so all hands must be on deck to rapidly develop the state.
You can attest to the fact that since the inception of the present administration, nobody has said anything negative about it, not that we do not welcome constructive criticisms because we listen to correction. To me, 2019 is like a bridge so when we get to the bridge, we will cross it. The interest of the governor now is to concentrate and develop all sectors; empower the people which he has started doing and build a united and peaceful state.
You talked about theEzillo-Ezza/ Ezillo war which claimed over 100 lives. As a stakeholder from the community, do you think peace has actually returned to the area?
Peace is a cardinal point of this administration and we came on the platform of Divine Mandate. This is to tell you that whatever we are doing is under the inspiration of God Almighty. God is a God of peace and whoever is serving Him should also emulate Him and that is what our governor has done.
He has brokered peace among the two communities; he has brought the people together and a lasting peace has actually returned to the area because the governor has handled the nagging issues among the two communities maturely. The people are happy with the way the matter was handled and I tell you that there can never be any problem in the area again.
Ebonyi State came 10 out of 36 states in this year’s West African Senior School Examination Council (WASSEC). To many people in the state, it is a good development, while to some, the state is still far in education. What is your take on that?
It is only in the present administration that the state took this position. That we are 10th in the entire country in WASSEC is a great feat because before now, we were nowhere. The governor is just a year and some months in office and he has turned things around in the education sector. Are you not happy that Ebonyi State’s name is coming up in the WASSEC? In a country of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, we are among the best 10.
It shows we are doing well andin the next examination, we will move up to the best three, and we have put everything in place to achieve this. There is effective monitoring and supervision of all the schools in the state to ensure proper teaching and learning.
Funds have also been mapped out in the education sector for total transformation of the sector. Modern desks have been acquired for students and pupils to ensure they feel comfortable and receive their studies. A lot of good things have happened in the education sector since the present administration came on board and we believe that in the next WASSEC, we will come top.
Governor Umahi promised during the campaigns to reduce fees in the tertiary institutions but that has not been done. Is that promise still sacrosanct?
The government actually promised to look into students’ tuition fees during the electioneering campaign and it has not reneged on that promise. The only thing is that you cannot just reduce fees without putting necessary things in place for the betterment of the students, which is what the governor is doing. If you go to the state university, you will see light, water and other amenities built by the governor for the students. He is also paying N200 million monthly subvention to the university and doing other things for the upliftment of the institution. There is no way school fees can just be reduced without first of all putting necessary things on ground. There has to be laid down procedure in reducing the school fees and I think that is what the governor is doing.
As the special adviser to the governor on student matters, what is the relationship between the government and the students like?
The relationship between the students and the government has been a cordial one because the government is an open one. It is a government you can channel your complaints to and receive immediate attention. So, all the tertiary institutions in the state are enjoying the administration and it had never happened in the history of the state.
They are included in whatever the government is doing. To demonstrate they are happy with this government, the students gave recently honoured the governor, his deputy and even myself with awards. They said they decided to thank him on the road he built for them. The governor completed a vital section of the Afikpo/Abakaliki federal road that was abandoned and the students out of joy said they must appreciate the governor and later gave him the award.
They said it used to take them two hours from Afikpo to Abakaliki but that now they spend less than an hour to get to the capital city. Working as special adviser to the governor on student affairs has been so interesting because it has really exposed me to young men and women, who are coming up.