Enugu 2015: Understanding the acrimonious gubernatorial consensus
Time was in Enugu State when all politicians belonged to one political family – Ebeano. It was a close-knit political family built by Chimaroke Nnamani, a trained medical doctor, who bestrode the state like a colossus from 1999-2007 when he was the governor. Whoever is whatever in today’s politics in Enugu State benefitted from that organisation in one or the other.
But it is now a sad story. Ebeano has died a natural death as many of those who were suckled and nourished by the milk of the movement have since bade goodbye to it. The father-figure himself, Nnamani, has since been relegated to the backwaters of politics in the state. He is hardly heard of only that he is struggling to make his way back to the Senate which he lost in 2011. He is from Enugu East Senatorial District.
Currently, Ike Ekweremadu, deputy Senate president and senator representing Enugu West senatorial district, is said to be nursing a strained relationship with Sullivan Chime, the state governor. The PDP in the state has been torn along different factions. While some parts are under the thumbs of Ekweremadu and Ayogu Eze, a senator representing Enugu North at the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly, a major plank of the faction is firmly under the control of the governor.
It is noteworthy that the struggle for power has continued to cause serious divisions, not only in Enugu, but in all the states across the country.
Today, the heat is in Enugu North Senatorial District following the zoning of the governorship slot in 2015 to the area. What ordinarily should be a source of joy to a people, who had not tasted leadership at that level since the return of the country to civil rule in 1999, appears to have engendered acrimony and is threatening their unity.
In a country where the yesterday’s men are still fully in charge, any attempt to alter the status quo is usually met with stiff resistance. This may have accounted for the brouhaha that greeted the recent consensus endorsement of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, a member of the House of Representatives, as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate for Enugu State next year.
The development did not go down well with some power brokers in the senatorial district, who felt it was a slight on them to have lost the slot to a political tyro of Ugwuanyi’s status.
Leading the pack of agitators is Ayogu Eze, a ranking senator from Nuskka region. The senator has been screaming foul over the consensus arrangement he described as an “ambush” against him.
By ranking, Eze is about the most active senior politician in the senatorial district, little wonder he finds it difficult to comprehend how a slot zoned to his area where he towers like a colossus, could be given to a far-less experienced politician.
BD SUNDAY also gathered that Eugene Odo, speaker of the state House of Assembly, who was nursing a gubernatorial ambition, was among those who felt hard-done-by, by the consensus option of the leadership of the party in the state. Odo is said to have since been brow-beaten and whipped into line by an alleged impeachment threat dangled before him by fellow members of the House who are on the side of the governor.
But while the senator and those in his camp are kicking, Chime, the state governor, is being commended across the state for what many people see as one of the boldest political steps the governor has made since he took over the reins of power in 2007.
Okwesilieze Nwodo, former governor of the state and erstwhile national chairman of the PDP, had described the endorsement as “political master stroke”.
Nwodo commended the leaders for successfully warding off “political invaders” keen on taking away the position zoned to them by the state PDP.
He explained that the political leaders of the zone knew it was only such a mature approach that could make them manage the situation without upheavals in view of the various vested interests. He particularly appreciated the role played by Governor Chime.
By the same token, a group of professionals from Enugu North Senatorial District of Enugu State under the aegis of Nsukka Professionals Group (NPG) commended the governor and PDP over the emergence of Ugwuanyi as the consensus candidate for the gubernatorial election in the state.
According to the group, Ugwuanyi emerged as the consensus candidate because of his sterling qualities that earned him the confidence, trust and respect of both the stakeholders and his fellow aspirants.
An Abuja-based female indigene of Enugu State, who spoke with BD SUNDAY on condition of anonymity, expressed the optimism that the endorsement would bring the desired change in the state.
“I live in Abuja and have had occasions to visit Ugwuanyi, our representative at the National Assembly. He does not hide from anybody coming from his constituency to see him unlike some of his other colleagues. If he does not have the chance to see you, he will politely tell you to reschedule the appointment. He’s got a listening ear. My assessment of him is that he is the kind of person that means well for the people. And I don’t think becoming a governor can steal away from him that virtue over night,” she said.
Ekechi Ozor, a legal practitioner, rationalised the pockets of misgivings trailing the endorsement.
“You know, change is very difficult to accept. It appears that the big Abuja-based politicians are not carrying their constituents along, or they are ‘chopping alone.’ So, the endorsement of a junior person may be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in them. We must try to understand the level of frustration and why the big senators are reacting the way they are doing,” Ozor said.
Ozor also expressed doubt over the workability of the directive by the national working committee of PDP against endorsement from any other quarters other than the national secretariat.
“What I see from that directive is that those who felt aggrieved at the state level, like what is happening in Enugu, may have run to Abuja to ‘ambush’ the governors and those who anointed some candidates. I am not sure if that directive will work in the case of Enugu, because the endorsement was not unilaterally done by Governor Chime. It was a decision by major stakeholders in the state,” he said.
“I consider what Abuja PDP is doing as hypocritical. Was it not the same governors that endorsed President Jonathan? What is sauce for the goose is (and should) also be sauce for the gander. There is hierarchy of power; the governor should enjoy a measure of free hand to take some decisions. Even though party is supreme, the national secretariat should concern itself with other matters, not what happens at state level. By the way it is those in the state that know who will serve the people well and who should represent them. Any imposition from the national secretariat of the party will end up destroying the party. I think such directive is petty.
A pundit likened the development in Enugu to the Biblical David and Goliath debacle.
“What I can read from the entire thing is that surprises have a way of jolting people. When David came to the scene where the war between Israel and the Philistines was going on, his brothers derided and scolded him. Who had ever imagined that David, an unknown entity, a shepherd boy for that matter, could remove a reproach of so many years from his country? But he was chosen to lead the onslaught against the worst enemy of Israel. So, it is not easy to see the big names in Enugu North politics who may have considered their candidature as a forgone issue, come to terms with the emergence of an underling so to speak. But again, that is the beauty of the game of politics,” the pundit said.
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