Chief Uchenna Sunday A. Igwesi, popularly known as USA Igwesi, is a politician who between 1999 and 2003 represented Nkanu West State Constituency in Enugu State House of Assembly on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and also served as the Majority Leader. Igwesi was later elected to represent Nkanu East and West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, where he was Chairman, House Committee on Banking and Currency. He speaks on the future of Nigeria’s democracy, role of opposition, alleged drift towards one party state in 2023, agitation for power shift to the South-East in 2023, among other issues.
What can you say about the future of Nigeria’s democracy when you consider all that is happening in the polity?
There will be light at the end of the tunnel. But for now what we have is not really democracy; it is just a return to civil rule. There are indices that are instrumental to democratic structures in a society or a country, once the indices are missing then the true ingredients of democracy will be lost.
The factors are rule of law, equality before the law, supremacy of the law, returning the democratic trust to the populace who are the major stakeholders and massive civil participation in democratic governance, like participating in formulating the policies that affect them. I sincerely believe that with continued pressure on the government and the opposition political parties and the general public doing their part, there will definitely be light at the end of the tunnel.
How do you rate or assess the role of opposition in the present dispensation?
Opposition in government depends on the ability of the government in power to accept the views of the opposition political parties. If the government in power is an intolerant type, then the work of the opposition will definitely be meaningless.
The role of the opposition in today’s Nigerian government is very effective and impressive but you should remember that you cannot oppose for the sake of opposition. The masses expect that opposition political parties should act as a constant check on the ruling party and put the party in power on their toes, come up with suggestions that will be capable of sending positive signals that the opposition is about taking up the loyalty of the civilian populace. Such constant surveillance on the party in power will always put them on the right track.
Many Nigerians have expressed fear that Nigeria is drifting towards one party system in 2023. What’s your reaction?
I don’t think so and I completely disagree to such postulation. The All Progressives Congress (APC) has not done enough to envelope Nigeria into one party system. Before a country drifts into one party state, the party in power must be above board in achievements. It is definitely not easy for a country to drift to one party system. There must be success stories in and around the corner.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors across the country are doing well and are strategizing and re-strategising on how to take over from APC and with the impressive developments being spotlighted in PDP-controlled states, then it will be difficult for the party in power to continue unchallenged.
So with the present scenario the issue of one party state in 2023 will not be possible, unless the country is muzzled or forced into such undemocratic arrangement; but with votes counting and INEC discharging its duties objectively such scenario will never play out in 2023.
Do you support the idea that pension payment for former governors across Nigeria should be stopped?
‘A labourer is worth his pay’ is a popular saying but a labourer receiving double pay for the same job is fraudulent. For a governor who has received his pension based on the law enacted by the various state assemblies to move ahead to receive another pension in the same country based on the fact that he was elected into National Assembly or elsewhere should not be encouraged. That is over withdrawal of public fund. I personally do not subscribe to the idea of double payment of pension to former governors. They should be entitled to a pension at a time regardless of their new political offices. I therefore urge the National Assembly to enact a law to that effect or amend the constitution to reflect this to avoid constant depletion of our national economy.
The pension payment to former governors should not be stopped but a situation in which a former governor will receive pension payment as a former governor and still goes ahead to receive another payment as a Senator if elected should rather be stopped because the Governor is entitled to pension at the end of his career or service as a Governor.
There has been agitation for power to move to the South-East zone of Nigeria in 2023. What is your view?
The agitation is good and in order. It is simply fair and just to allow South-East zone to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023. Equity and justice demand that a President of South-East extraction should be encouraged in 2023 to assuage the years in some quarters that the Igbo Nation just escorted other ethnic groups to the Nigerian project.
The entire country needs to show magnanimity and enhance their confidence on the easterners that they are part of this country, Nigeria. The Igbos are in a position to salvage Nigeria from the inept leadership role the past and present governments have given the country. The South-East region is endowed with human and natural resources to lead this country to greatness, unite and return the country to proper leadership roles that will guarantee rule of law and robust economy. Nigeria’s President of Igbo origin in 2023 will also ameliorate the restiveness in the region and the endless call for restructuring and secession of the region – that will indeed serve as restitution to the long period of marginalization and injustice.
May we know how you rate the current House of Representatives generally?
The 9th House of Representatives under the Femi Gbajabiamila is a work in progress. They have shown character and readiness to come up with quality legislative interventions to salvage this country from bad governance. But the issue is whether the House of Reps will have the political will to carry out all they have set out for themselves. With the ruling party, APC controlling the House, it will be extremely difficult for the House to check and balance their relationship with the Executive. I believe that the force of the opposition in the House can douse zeal to rubber stamping all that the Executive has done. I, therefore, encourage the opposition political parties to always research properly and storm the plenary with facts and statistics that cannot be faulted.