Enugu 2015: Chime, Ekweremadu In Power Tussle
Even with the next governorship election still over 20 months away, the picture of what to expect is getting clearer by the day. The political gladiators in Enugu State are plotting their strategies on how to produce the next occupant of the Lion Building, the state Government House in Enugu.
Since the creation of the state in 1991 from the old Anambra State, Enugu State has had eight governors. Of this number, five, namely, Herbert Eze, Temi Ejoor, Mike Torey, Sule Ahman, and Adewunmi Agbaje, were military administrators. The remaining three – Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Chimaroke Nnamani, and, currently, Sullivan Chime, were democratically elected.
Besides having three senatorial zones, like all other states in the country, Enugu State has eight House of Representatives seats, 24 House of Assembly seats, and 17 local government areas. Politicians from the various zones usually try to outwit one another each time there is an election.
Enugu North Senatorial district, dominated by the people of Nsukka Cultural zone, produced the first civilian governor of the state, Nwodo, in 1992. Though, Nwodo did not serve out his four-year term following the truncation of that process in 1993, when the June 12 presidential election that the late Moshood Abiola was poised to win was annulled by then military president Ibrahim Babangida.
Enugu-East zone, dominated by Nkanu people, produced the second elected governor in 1999, in the person of Nnamani, when the country returned to civil rule. In 2007, the position moved to the third leg of the tripod, Enugu-West zone, with Chime emerging governor in what appeared like a rotational arrangement, even though, nobody has been able to produce a document wherein such arrangement was reached.
With the next general election around the corner, many in the Nsukka zone are beginning to revisit the question of their unfinished tenure that had been abridged by the military. The people feel one of their own should be the next governor of the state for the sake of equity, justice and fair play. They hinge their demand on several grounds.
Apart from the fact that Enugu North is the only zone that is yet to hold the governorship position for at least four years, the zone also claims that it has over 40 per cent of the state’s voting population, going by the last national census figures. They have equally noted that Nsukka zone is the only area among the present three zones that has remained intact since the old Anambra State. The other two, which used to accommodate parts of Ebonyi State, have been split into four zones, with two of the zones located in the present Enugu and Ebonyi states.
“You can now see that before Enugu was created out of old Anambra State, we had Nsukka zone, while the present-day Enugu East and West Senatorial zones were just a single zone. But today, that one zone has been split into two zones and each of them has produced a governor that stayed for eight years each. Of course, Chime would have served for eight years by 2015 and yet Nsukka zone is still there.
“In other words, no matter how one tries to look at it, Nsukka zone is best positioned to clinch the governorship by 2015 if, indeed, we are ready to tell ourselves the truth,” a political analyst, Dr Okey Uzoho, told THISDAY.
Uzoho dismissed insinuations in some quarters that since the people of Nsukka zone had continued to contest the position even during the period other zones clinched it, everybody should be allowed to join the fray and let the best candidate emerge. He said nobody from Nsukka zone had contested the position under the ruling party in the past. According to him, there is nothing wrong with other candidates trying their luck in opposition parties but, definitely, not in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
At the moment, most of the people said to be nursing the ambition of succeeding Chime are from Nsukka zone. They include Senator Ayogu Eze, who represents Enugu North in the Senate; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Eugene Odoh; Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, representing Igboeze-North/Udenu Federal Constituency; former deputy governor of the state, Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi; Barrister Okey Ezea, who had contested governorship position about twice; Mr. Emeka Mammah of the Ifesinachi dynasty; Managing Director of Peace Mass Transit, Dr. Sam Maduka Onyeishi; Mr. Ikeje Asogwa of the state Housing Corporation; the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Mr. Okey Ani; Commissioner for Information Chuks Ugwoke; and chairman of PDP in the state, Chief Vita Abba. All the named persons are said to be making frantic efforts to realise their ambitions.
In what appeared like a direct endorsement of the Nsukka zone’s bid for the Government House come 2015, while addressing a town hall meeting to mark this year’s Democracy Day in the state, Chime said PDP already had an understanding to zone the governorship post to Enugu North. He advised politicians with governorship ambition from other zones to bury their aspirations.
It would also be recalled that Chime had during his re-election campaign assured stakeholders from the zone that he would support their aspiration in 2015, should they help him realise his return bid. He had in making the promise taken into account the fact that his major opponents in the election were from Nsukka zone, as well as their voting strength, which cannot be equalled by any other zone in the state. There was also the question of anger in the zone over their alleged marginalisation in the scheme of things in the state.
The leaders of the zone at the time agreed to support Chime, while appealing to the many contestants to the number one office to bury their aspirations. Although Chime won and has, allegedly, not gone back to thank the people for the support, the greatest appreciation that would compensate their effort will be the governor living up to his promise and PDP, agreeing to it.
But while the issue was still being contemplated, campaign posters of Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu recently appeared in Enugu, the state capital, and parts of the Nsukka zone, raising concern among the people. Since these posters, which dotted every nook and cranny of Enugu and Nsukka, emerged, tension has tended to brew in political circles.
The tension is not because Ekweremadu is not qualified to contest the governorship position, it is because having him in the race could, in view of his elevated position, alter what is emerging as the zoning arrangement.
Ekweremadu hails from Enugu West, the same zone with Chime. But his area, Aninri local government, has also complained that they are marginalised in the scheme of things in the state.
Chime’s Insistence on Enugu North
However, as if unperturbed by the posters of Ekweremadu, the governor had at the town hall meeting, which took place at the expansive Nike Lake Resort, vowed that his successor will come from Enugu North Senatorial zone in line with what he called the rotation agreement of PDP in the state.
The governor told those angling for the position from other senatorial zones to shelve such ambition, as his government and the party were not ready to breach the agreement.
“It is in the hands of our people but within, we have an understanding that our candidate will come from Enugu North Senatorial zone. It is an agreement within the PDP because since 1999, we had always had the people contest and all things being equal, we hope to have a candidate from there and whoever emerges will become the governor,” Chime said.
He urged the people of the state to continue to support his administration to continue to deliver on its mandate, stressing that only one of those currently working with him can emerge as governor after him. “This is because we want to continue to build on the foundation we have already laid. The foundation that will transform our state for better, and provide for the welfare of our people is what we are putting in place. There is no better way to do it than to give support to one of those who will emerge from the structure we are setting up to continue from where we will stop, because government is a continuum,” the governor noted.
Ekweremadu Spurns Rotation Deal
Less than one week after the governor’s open declaration, the deputy senate president not only dismissed the purported zoning arrangement but urged everybody interested in the governorship of the state, irrespective of their zones, to feel free to contest the election.
He was, however, quick to note that he had no governorship ambition in 2015. Ekweremadu made it clear that there had not been any zoning arrangement to produce a governor for the state. He said there had never been any restriction on whoever had the ambition to govern the state.
Ekweremadu said, “There is no zoning in Enugu. I am not aware and nobody is aware. I have been in politics in Enugu since the beginning of this particular dispensation. People from every part of the state have vied but somehow somebody would win. So, I am sure that our brothers from Nsukka understand that clearly.
“I stand to be challenged; I want anybody to tell me a document or a meeting where the governorship of Enugu has been zoned since 1999.”
Ekweremadu, however, ruled himself out of the race, saying he would be glad if a candidate from the northern senatorial district in the state got the slot but not on the basis of zoning.
“Probably, they are the only zone that has not produced a governor of the state in this dispensation. But like I said, it has nothing to do with zoning. There is nothing like zoning in Enugu as at today. Until zoning is done, I don’t think anybody who wants to run from other parts of the state can be stopped. But for me, I am not running for governorship,” he said.
Undaunted by Ekweremadu’s position, a group, Enugu State Roots Initiative (ESRI), has commended both Chime for accepting that the next governor should come from Nsukka. ESRI also commended Ekweremadu for openly shelving his rumoured governorship ambition.
In a statement by Barrister Joni Icheka, its chairman; Chief Uche Nwegbo, the secretary, and Barrister Emma Nwodo, treasurer, ESRI commended Chime for his integrity.
According to the group, “For the avoidance of doubt, the governor stated that there was an understanding among the Enugu State PDP stakeholders and chieftains that his successor in office should come from Enugu North Senatorial zone, since both Enugu East and Enugu West Senatorial zones have produced governors in the state, the East senatorial zone having produced the former governor who served out two terms of eight years, while the West senatorial zone produced the incumbent governor.
“After deliberating on the positive implications of the statement, especially coming from the governor, ESRI is compelled to commend him for this forthright and honest statement which portrayed him once again, as a man of honour and integrity.
“His Excellency has by this statement deflated unnecessary tension and acrimony which would have bugged the Enugu State polity and by implication, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, if any political permutations to the contrary is allowed. ESRI calls on all the politicians and interest groups in Enugu State to take a cue from Governor Chime by not engaging in any activity that could bring back tension and uncertainty which have been pushed to the back burner since His Excellency assumed office in 2007.”
In addition, the PDP caucus in the state met penultimate Sunday at the Government House wherein it formally ratified the zoning of the governorship to Nsukka zone. This has tended to put to rest sundry speculations regarding aspirations by some persons and groups from Enugu West Senatorial district where the incumbent governor hails from.
Though, some respected leaders of the state, including former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Nwobodo, and Nnamani, were absent from the meeting, the unanimous endorsement of zoning followed a motion to zone the position to Enugu North Senatorial district, which was moved by former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia, and seconded by Senator Ben-Collins Ndu.
However, all the National Assembly members from the state (except Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who was bereaved), former deputy governor and Commissioner with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Ezenwata Okechukwu Itanyi, Ambassador Fidel Ayogu, Ambassador (Mrs.) Justina Eze, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh, and other principal officers, PDP Board of Trustees member, Mrs. Sally Egbogu, former National Chairman of PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, and former federal lawmakers, among others, were present.
At the meeting, Chime called for sacrifice and understanding, especially from most of the elected representatives, saying, “We have to respect agreements based on zoning in order to make transition easier and smoother.”
In his own contribution before the endorsement was put to vote, Ekweremadu said he had always maintained that he had no problem with the governorship position going to Nsukka zone, but, “If we want it (zoning it to Enugu North Senatorial zone), let us discuss it. I’m all for it.”
Nwodo commended Chime’s leadership style and wide consultation prior to elections, adding “Some of us initially did not understand the governor’s style but he was convinced and pushed it through. What has been said by the governor (the need to respect agreements) is true because it has saved us from unnecessary rancour and bickering. I want to congratulate the caucus on the decision taken today.”
With the latest position of the PDP caucus, there is, certainly, going to be increased activities in the political arena in the state. Tension is already building, as there are indications that some high profile politicians who do not seem to be comfortable with the zoning of the governorship to Nsukka are trying to unite under the emerging All Progressives Congress to try to wrest power from the PDP. But how far they can go, only time will tell.