Ken Nnamani, PDP And Politics Of Consistent Inconsistency
When penultimate week the press became awash of the decision of the former senate president Ken Nnamani to quit the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, many minds were agitated. Among the litany of questions that cried for sincere answers were: what else could have happened aside the humiliating defeat suffered by PDP at the polls that warranted a man of his status to leave, particularly after a very long time since the fall of the party?, does it mean that PDP has suddenly become irredeemable? And then, why did this great man choose to momentarily quit partisan politics? This list arguably was inexhaustible. This was made more intriguing when he stated that “Without any iota of bitterness in my heart, I have decided to disengage from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and consequently step aside from partisan politics in the interim. ……..I do not believe I should continue to be a member of the PDP as it is defined today. This is certainly not the party I joined years ago to help change my country. I do not also believe that the PDP as it is managed today will provide an opportunity for me to continue to play the politics of principles and values….”.
Challenged therefore by my calling as a veteran of the fourth estate of the realm, I accepted the onerous task of unravelling the mysteries. In the course of my inquest, I became rather inundated with details about the man at the epicentre even at the risk of tinkering with my hypotheses midway. I found myself dealing with secondary data as major source. Juxtaposing Nnamani with PDP offered a captivating insight that in its wake threw up numerous frontiers of information that would subsequently be explored.
During the General Ibrahim Babangida transition programme of the 90s Ken Nnamani vied for the position of National Treasurer of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, but lost to the late Chief Okey Odunze. Also, his ward, local government and state fell to the rival National Republican Convention, NRC. He apparently withdrew. Then came the General Sani Abacha’s era during-which Nnamani pitched his tent with the United National Congress Party, UNCP. Again, his ward and local government fell to National Centre Party of Nigeria, NCPN, as Abacha passed away before the gubernatorial elections. When General Abdusalam Abubakar initiated his transition programmes Nnamani joined the All People’s Party, APP. Traditionally, his ward, local government and state were all captured by the PDP! This time Nnamani expediently jumped ship to PDP and railroaded the party into empowering him to flying the flag for the senatorial elections which was imminent. Despite that Enugu was a full-blooded PDP state, Nnamani lost to an under-aged candidate of the somewhat then obscure Alliance for Democracy, AD. Confronted with the implications of his records, the senator-elect Uchenna Nnaji declined taking oath of office. Arrangements were then made for a re-run and Nnamani lost the party’s ticket to Jim Nwobodo who eventually won in 1999.
At the climax of Nwobodo’s political tussle with Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, Ken Nnamani was recruited to take the battle to his kinsman Jim’s homestead. He no doubt, effectively proved a veritable willing tool in the hands of those that wanted Nwobodo out of the senate dead or alive. And as a due compensation he was made a senator in 2003. Against the preferred candidature of Ike Ekeweremadu, Nnamani declared interest to run for senate presidency being rumoured to have been reserved for Enugu or Abia state since the other three south-east states had had their stints. This infuriated his governor who lamented his political magnanimity in making Nnamani a senator. Consequently, the two nnamanis were at daggers drawn even before national assembly inauguration. Then following the untimely exit of Senator Adolfos Wabara in 2005 Nnamani was elected the president of the senate on the platform of PDP. His choice was suspected to have been influenced largely by the northern senators who viewed him as being relatively independent in the face of the third-term bid of Obasanjo which incidentally had the collective support of the south-east governors at that time.
From my sources, aside presiding over the debate as he neither contributed nor voted, there was no record of practical steps or actions taken by Nnamani against the tenure elongation which was the defining moment of that Assembly. Perhaps that accounted for the reason former president Olusegun Obasanjo dismissed Nnamani in his book as a liar.
For example, during the tail moments of his reign as the senate president in 2007 when Sullivan Chime was nominated as the gubernatorial candidate by Chimaorke it was only Ken Nnamani that was not pleased with his choice. He discreetly fought to the extent that it was his claim of irregularities that led to cancellation of his Enugu-south local government governorship election results. Even after the rerun two weeks after, he was still bitter with the outcome. Chime’s election was then being challenged by his co-contestants in the persons of Ugo Agbala of APGA, Dubem Onyia of ACN, Okey Ezea of LP and Fidel Ayogu of ANPP yet Nnamani of PDP was giving them tacit support until the Election Tribunal sitting in Enugu upturned Chime’s victory. By implication, he lost his ward and local government. Chime then quickly appealed against the judgement. Throughout those periods of trial, Ken Nnamani was not in any way seen around Chime let alone showing any form of known support or sympathy. In the end, Sullivan Chime coasted home with victory even though by that time he had fallen out with his predecessor and benefactor, Chimaroke Nnamani.
Ken Nnamani only resurfaced when he was enlisted as a mercenary to take on Ike Ekweremadu and National Assembly members from the state when Chime declared war on them. As usual, Nnamani mismanaged the political battle which was the basis of his quarrel with Jim Nwobodo till date.
Because he has a way of attaining shallow relevance in most political situations many may still remember his launched attacks on Goodluck Jonathan while rooting aggressively for General Ibrahim Babangida. When IBB candidature could not fly, he switched to Jonathan and openly disparaged his erstwhile comrades. He was very visible in Jonathan’s government and was even appointed the Chairman of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission as well as becoming a major beneficiary in the sale of PHCN for-which he played active roles in the re-election bid yet he lost his ward and local government to other parties.
Anyway in order to remain confined within the scope of this work, Ken Nnamani it was who shortly after the inauguration of APC government at a press briefing retorted that “I am still in PDP but you may have noticed that I didn’t feature so prominently in the last campaign……….What I did (at the Eagle Square) was that I spoke on behalf of the South-East at the declaration. There were six of us, each person spoke for his zone and I spoke for the South-East and ….I did mention also that it would be necessary for President Jonathan to come back to complete the second Niger bridge so that it will not become another abandoned project. I did also mention that the Enugu-Onitsha Road was in a terrible state; that the people would not be happy with us should we pass through the area on campaign. I reiterated that the Enugu-Port Harcourt Road was in the same bad shape as Enugu-Onitsha Road. Some people didn’t like what I said but I didn’t bother. As I said earlier, I wasn’t as active as I should have been in the campaign. You can’t recall seeing me at any of our campaign rallies.
What happened was that at a point, after the special national convention, where I was the vice chairman of the planning committee, I noticed an attempt to ridicule some of us. When we came back from the Christmas holidays, I saw in the newspaper that they had put up the Presidential Campaign Organisation. But before then, we had been invited to constitute the Presidential Campaign Council. The Presidential Campaign Council was to be the highest campaign organ of the party for the purpose of that election. The Presidential Campaign Organisation was supposed to be reporting to the Presidential Campaign Council. The only meeting we held as a council was on the day we were inaugurated. I wasn’t particularly happy with the mood, the language and the face of the campaign. The only time I participated was when the campaign train came to Enugu, but I didn’t say much, if at all………..that I, Senator Ken Nnamani, was not happy with the mood and language of the campaign. We outsourced our campaign to what I may call NGOs.
We were so lucky that other parties did not take us to the cleaners under section 221 of the Nigerian Constitution which states that it is only registered political parties that are authorised to canvass for votes. But we had all kinds of organisations; non- registered political parties speaking for the PDP and canvassing for votes ……..I am answering this question based on your insistence that it looks like I distanced myself from my party. Yes, I did. Even at the presidential campaign flag-off in Lagos, I was absent. The language wasn’t the type of thing that I expected…… We allowed splinter groups to speak for the party. ….. We should not have spent time talking about certificate or no certificate. It was the responsibility of INEC and perhaps political parties to check the certificates of candidates. We should not have played the role of doctors about anybody being healthy or not. That was not our business. So many things went wrong with our campaign utterances and unguarded adverts”.
On his intentions of likely leaving the party anytime soon, he averred:
I am still weighing and balancing my options. …As a matter of principle, I have a lot of respect for the PDP, but a number of people with whom I share the same views are in the APC and well as in the PDP. If you have been following my political comments, some people think that I have been very harsh on the PDP. ..
It is evidently not a difficult task inferring the remote and immediate causes of Nnamani’s course of action, although he could not speak up when it mattered most. Nonetheless, Uche Ekwunife cannot wear the toga of “fair-weather politician” alone. Inherently, Nnamani does not maintain a record of a good party man who understands the place of sacrifice in party building. He is not firm character relative to partisanship. He is not well-rooted as his is a direct case of a prophet without honour in his domain. Otherwise how can a juggernaut of his standing be religiously losing his immediate constituency at every electoral outing. His claim also of “no iota of bitterness” smacks off speaking with two sides of the mouth given that he had expressed ill-feelings for not being totally in-charge of the campaign.
It is also instructive that because PDP has eventually lost out, Nnamani rather travelled to PMB’s Katsina State to witness the assumption of office of Aminu Masari of APC ignoring his Enugu State, and also was later to attend the 2-day official visit of PMB to Ibikunle Amosun of APC-led Ogun State. Justifiably perhaps, both governors were governors were his colleagues at the National Assembly. But feelers had it that they part of overtures targeted at Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo preparatory to defection. Remember that his friends now “are in APC”.
Furthermore, for a man who made frantic-but-futile efforts to become his party’s BOT chairman and suddenly ceases “to be a member of the PDP as it is defined today” on the ground that “the PDP as it is managed today” will not allow him “to play the politics of principles and values” there are avalanche of contradictions surrounding his style of politics and the ideals he promotes. He had an ample opportunity of quitting when the party derailed in the course of electioneering campaigns but because he apparently does not believe in “politics of principles and values” he hung on hoping that the honey moon would continue. Although he played a fast one on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi before leaving such that for the very first time, he nominated a commissioner, council caretaker committee chairman and secured board membership for his wife.
In conclusion therefore, describing his leaving as a good riddance would be stating the obvious because PDP as a party is certainly not going to miss anything productive about him.
FRED IDOKO, [email protected]