Ahead of the 2015 general elections, the polity is already simmering with build-up activities towards the polls. The amalgamation of the fragmented opposition parties poses a threat to the dominant PDP. Also, the entrant of two more political parties, PDM , ID , seems to have jolted the polity further. In this interview with vintage Chief Silas Ilo, former Minister for State for Health, he bares his mind on the series of unfolding drama dotting the polity. IFEANYI EZUGWU anchored. Excerpts….
Sir, what does the registration of All Progressives Congress (APC), potent for the country?
I definitely believe that the registration of APC is a good development for Nigeria ’s democracy. There would be dominant party and there will be opposition party sufficiently flung to keep the dominant party on its toes and to stand ready as an alternative government. I think what has happened in the past is that there was one dominant party and the opposition was so fragmented that there were no competition even in terms of ideas and actions. But with the registration of APC, if they stand together as an opposition party, it will be good for our democracy because APC will now keep PDP on its toes. They (PDP) will not take victory for granted. It will make them (PDP) work harder. The Nigerian people will now have a credible alternative. I think it’s a good development.
What would be your reaction as to the seven PDP governors who have factionalized the party to form a ‘New PDP’?
Well, quiet frankly, in a democracy, everybody has a right to leave his camp and go to the other camp and vice-verse. It’s nothing new in a democratic set-up. I do not see anything in what they are doing. You are championing the cause of ‘re-build Nigeria initiative’, I reckon all these are geared towards 2015.
What peculiar reason prompted this move?
In today’s politics, taken into consideration of the personas involved in politics in our country, I believe strongly that President Goodluck Jonathan has done very well to merit re-election. I am not looking at zonal or sectional politics.
The president has done so well within two years of his presidency that in all sectors of Nigeria ’s economy now, there is a consciousness for change and change is actually beginning to take place. Like I have said somewhere, given the development of the country since the civil war, things continued to go down until this president assumed office. With his assumption of office, he declared an agenda which is aims at restoring Nigeria to its glorious days. Every sector of the economy is experiencing that change. The political reforms, name them. I served in INEC, I know I what the pervious INEC administration did. Current INEC has done very well. They have not reached the end of the road yet and I am not saying that they are now perfect. But change is obvious. It is because the head of government is interested that there should be a virile democratic process. In the past, a governor from Edo , Osun and all other south-east states could not have emerged. This is because the president allowed the people’s will to prevail. That’s why you have a governor in Ondo, from Labour party. In 2015, you may well find that some other parties will produce some governors. Democracy is at work. If you look at our economy, there is no doubt that the Nigeria economic environment is improving.
Look at transport, the Railway that died long ago is now up and running. Today, the Jonathan administration has demonstrated that the railway can come back and improve our transportation and it will continue to improve. Look at our air transport, the Enugu airport has undergone tremendous transformation. The international operation of that airport has commenced in earnest. In every sector of the economy in the country, there is a strong indication that transformation is going on. If you look at youth empowerment, they have taken it seriously. This is a country with too many universities chunning out graduates every year. This is the first time a government is making a conscious effort to engage our youths to provide them jobs temporally and permanent. They are trying all kinds of things to empower our youths to become useful to themselves. I believe strongly that with that kind of development in all facets of our national life, you do not change a winning team. If President Jonathan does another four years, I think we will have the opportunity to realize most of his programme which will become irreversible. If talk of the south-east, I think that this country is large. I think that anybody who has traveled round the country will make a fair comparative assessment. I equally think that our people are industrious. What our people need most is an economical and qualitative environment to achieve our innate potentials. One cannot deny the fact that the second Niger-bridge that has been a sore point which has remained in the drawing board for a long time has now come into fruition. Our youths are making gradual and continuous progress while there are kinds of confusion in the north. We should avail ourselves of the opportunity of a quiet and dedicated president to achieve that which we want to achieve because government cannot do everything for the citizenry.
What efforts are you putting in place to ensure that people from the south-east identify with ‘re-build Nigeria initiative’?
Thank you. We intend to take the initiative to all the local government areas of Enugu state and down the 216 wards in Enugu state. We will establish machinery that will recruit the rural people into the organization. It is only when you do that, people will now become conscious of their rights, of their privileges and responsibilities. Ignorance is a disease. Misinformation in politics can produce totally negative results. We intend to educate our people and to convince them that the administration of President Jonathan has provided the environment for us to realize our potential and we can catch-up with the rest of Nigeria . We do not have an alternative to that.
Judging from your quest to ensure President Jonathan’s re-election bid, what benefits has accrued to the people to justify your stance?
Principally in the area of education, although we recognize that the standard of education is falling, the president has done very well to establish nine universities spread all over the country to cover for where there where no existing university.
For instance, Ebonyi state does not have any federal university and now has one. The import of that particular action is that most youths who are coming out from secondary schools will seek admission into these universities were they can improve on their education. So, with the establishment of additional nine universities, it means that the intakes of youths into the universities will radically increase. I also know that the ministry of education is trying hard to re-invent the syllabus so that skills will be impacted into the students in addition to normal education. In the health sector, the president has released some considerable funds for the rehabilitation of some of the teaching hospitals. Sometime ago, our health system and hospitals were described as mere consulting clinics.
Today they are no longer consulting clinics. Today, we are having teaching hospitals that can compare favourably with other teaching hospitals in other common wealth countries if not the whole world. UTH Ibadan is one of those that has been completely rehabilitated. UNTH Enugu is also in the process of modernization. Ife too and so on has been equipped and modernized to take care of special diseases and aliments. I also want to mention of course the effort of the president in the area of zero tolerance for HIV/AIDs which is savaging our youths. The rate of infection has dropped drastically. With increased government attention, the disease will be under control. The point am making is that these are areas which in the past, people have taken for granted. I also want to mention the area of agriculture particularly domestic agriculture. The president has opened-up foreign markets for our agricultural produces. His latest trip to China, opened-up credible possibilities for us to export our Cassava, Yam and other agricultural produces which we have comparative advantage in Nigeria. The determination, resolve of the government to improve the lives of the ordinary people should not only be commended but it should be sustained and like I said before, some of those positive changes would have become irreversible and will be consolidated upon. I do not think we are in doubt when we wish the president to seek a second term.
On the recent peace-pact in APGA, what’s your reaction to that?
APGA has been a party in troubled waters for a long time. I do not think that the party has met the expectations of the founders of the party. The protracted court cases which has just ended in favour of Chief Umeh, one can say is healthy for the party. They need peace, dialogue for the development of the party. A party that does not win at the national level can be a regional party or even a state party provided that they have an ideology which people can buy into. And if people buy into that ideology, the party’s chance of growth is high. The party could merge with other political parties to realize its ambitions.
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