2019 elections, Enugu PDP and return of Ebeano
The news filtered out last week that former governor of Enugu State, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani has returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a platform he left six years ago. He was said to have registered at his Oji-agu Agbani ward, Nkanu West local council, thus boosting the membership of the party in the state.
Although the former governor has declined to respond to inquiries on why he took the decision to return to a party he abandoned in 2011 for the People for Democratic Change (PDC), his return is already eliciting reactions from within the PDP, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as well as non-politicians.
For instance, a chieftain of APGA, Jude Uwaoma said, “Former governor Nnamani is not new in the politics of the state. He is also not new in the politics of the PDP. He met his political fortunes being a member of the PDP and if he has decided to retrace his steps, I see it as a healthy development. You must bear in mind that in all these years, he has kept his political family, ‘Ebeano’ intact.”
He said he was however worried that with the conflict of leadership in the party, “it will be a big blow on his political career should the PDP be consumed in the crisis and he will now start running around to look for another political party to join. I would have asked him to tarry awhile and watch the events in the party unfold. He could make his decisions known after this.”
Former National Auditor of the PDP, Raymond Nnaji, a lawyer, said that Nnamani has returned to his “rightful party,” stressing that the Enugu East Senatorial zone is now formidable and complete and ready to do battle with any political party in 2019.
He said, “Nnamani’s return is the tonic that PDP requires to win elections in Enugu State. He has returned to the party, which he helped to institutionalize in the state. He actually returned to the PDP a long time, but we decided to make it a secret. Sullivan Chime, the immediate past governor, realized that Nnamani had returned and decided to quit the PDP. This is because; he cannot face Nnamani in the party.”
Nnamani seems to be enjoying the interest being shown by people of the state over his decision and while speaking through his Media Adviser, Dan Nwomeh, he had said he was appreciative of the huge interest of the people of the state in his current political affiliation.
He however said politics is far from his mind for now as he is in his village, Agbani, awaiting recuperation for him to plan his next move.Nnamani’s return to the PDP has again raised the ante. This is because while there is excitement in the party, especially in his Enugu East Senatorial zone, the APC members on the other hand appear to be losing sleep despite the presence of big names in the state that had made PDP strong in the past joining its fold.
In the last few months, the APC in Enugu has captured from the PDP, former governor of Old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, ex-Senate President Ken Nnamani, ex-Speaker Eugene Odoh, versatile politician, Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, former Military Administrator, Joe Orji and Chime. They moved into the party with their supporters.
Propelled by their presence, the APC had served the “quit” order on the incumbent PDP government to prepare to vacate office in 2019, saying the party which has maintained an unbroken political dominance since 1999 was no more. Their expectations however appeared to have been challenged by the return of Nnamani as the APC would have to return to the drawing board to rework the political calculations.
State Chairman of APC, Ben Nwoye said, “I think it is part of the freedom to exercise his right, but he has continued in the path of mistake; a path of mistake when he founded a one-man party, (PDC) and that mistake took him out of the senate seat.
“And now, when everyone is sounding the alarm warning that PDP is gone, is decimated, at least in Enugu State, he is taking the other path. So where people are coming out from is where he is rushing into. I say it is his political decision but it is absolutely no threat.
“If the former governor wants to go on and join a political party clearly not in existence, it is his own business, but again our doors are widely open if he changes his mind.”
Apparently to tie every loose end early and ensure all hands on deck to prevent political developments like Nnamani’s capitulate its quest to entrench the party in the state, the APC last weekend inaugurated a 37-man caucus made up of old and new members to work out modalities of ensuring victory for the party in 2019.
The committee chaired by Nwoye has Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Foreign Affairs Minister, Jeffery Onyeama and immediate past governor, Chime. Others Orji, Odoh, former Secretary to State Government (SSG), Onyemuche Nnamani, Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, former governorship candidate, Okechukwu Ezea, business moguls, Sam Onyishi, Baywood Ibeh and Rex Onyeabo among others.
Nwoye had said that the inauguration of the committee was part of efforts to reposition the party towards winning the 2019 general elections in the state, adding, “we now want to constitute the conscience of the party because we have a date with the Lion Building, Enugu’s Government House in 2019.”
But what is Nnamani bringing on board to the PDP, especially now that the party is factionalized between two leaders at the national level? Many believe that he ran out of steam politically when he left the party that brought him to limelight and embraced the unknown PDC, where he ran two unsuccessful elections.
In 2011 and 2015, he vied for the seat of Enugu East Senatorial District on the platform of PDC and lost in all. One of his political godsons Gilbert Nnaji of the PDP, who occupies the seat currently, beat him in all the elections. Also his PDC has not won even a local government position in the state since the party came on board.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu had recently alluded to the futility of running from one party to another when he chided Chime for leaving the PDP for APC. He had said, “Chime’s problem is inexperience. He has failed to learn from the experience of former governors from the state who abandoned the political party that gave them prominence for other smaller parties and are regretting it till today, because they cannot recover from the mistake.”
Chimaroke Nnamani, who was governor from 1999 to 2007 and was in the Senate between 2007 and 2011 on the platform of the PDP, formed a support group called “Ebeano family” that comprised his supporters who professed his ideals. The group became so powerful during the time that getting dividends of governance and other accruals depended on ones support for and membership of the group.
Ray Nnaji, who is also an apostle of the group said the “Ebeano structure is intact.” He said the movement out of PDP some years ago has not dwarfed the political relevance of Nnamani in the scheme of things in the state.
It was gathered that the structure formed the nucleus of the PDC membership in the state who are ready to go any length with their leader. Nnaji said: “Nnamani left the PDP in anger because of the way he was treated by the former administration. But realizing the level of respect the incumbent governor has for him, he decided to return to his roots so as to help build a stronger PDP.”
On what the PDP would benefit from his return, he said, “We are very comfortable with his return. It has really lifted Enugu East senatorial zone for the PDP. Now with him in Enugu East and Deputy Senate President in charge of Enugu West and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in charge of Enugu North, how will the APC win election in 2019 in Enugu State? There is indeed no shaking for the PDP.”
Analysts share in the sentiments of Nnaji that the presence of Nnamani will check incursions of ex-Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Nwobodo and APC Chairman, Ben Nwoye, in the senatorial zone.
One of his greatest strengths outside the support from his “Ebeano family” is his large following in the state, especially the downtrodden, majority of whom were lifted when he was governor. These are equally the people that voted for him in every election he had so far run in the state.With this development, it is inevitable that the 2019 election will be keenly contested in Enugu State.