Intrigues in Ebonyi political crisis
SINCE the return to democratic governance, Ebonyi State, the youngest and least populous state in the South East geo-political zone of Nigeria, has not been known for political violence except for a mild one it witnessed during the administration of the first civilian governor, Dr. Sam Egwu, at the dawn of the current dispensation between 1999 and 2003.
In 2002, the then Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, who was representing the southern senatorial district, was embroiled in a political tussle with Egwu, over the control of the state structure of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The party had held nationwide state congresses but because the results from the state was allegedly not in Anyim’s favour, he was said to have taken his complaints to President Olusegun Obasanjo and the national chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh.
Ogbeh was said to have told Anyim that the only way to resolve the intra-party crisis was to invite a battalion of soldiers to conduct fresh primaries.
Few weeks later, Anyim allegedly petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices (and other related offences) Commission (ICPC) accusing Ogbeh of demanding for bribe.
In the ensuing battle, Egwu aligned with the presidency to deal with Anyim politically in a battle the former Senate President lost, as the governor strongly held the party structure with the support of the leadership of the PDP and the presidency.
The development soured the relationship between the Senate leadership under Anyim and the presidency, despite the fact that Obasanjo was instrumental in Anyim’s emergence as Senate President.
After the 2003 general elections, Egwu won his second term alongside Obasanjo and Anyim who did not seek reelection stayed away from the political scene throughout Egwu’s and Obasanjo’s second term in office.
With Obasanjo’s exit from power in 2007, Anyim staged a comeback in 2008 when he contested for the position of the national chairman of the PDP against Egwu and others. Anyim and Egwu lost out in the contest following the sudden endorsement of Chief Vincent Ogbulafor for the position by the South East PDP governors including Egwu’s successor, Martin Elechi.
It was alleged that Ogbulafor was adopted as a result of Elechi’s opposition to the emergence of Egwu or Anyim. This according to a source was to avoid a situation where the national chairman and his state governor would engage in a battle of supremacy at the home front.
Many political observers believed that the incident marked the beginning of political animosity between Egwu and Anyim on one hand and governor Elechi on the other.
President Umaru Yar Adua later compensated the former governor with a ministerial appointment. He was however among the first set of ministers to be dropped by the new President Goodluck Jonathan after Yar’Adua’s death. That was how Egwu lost out in the power struggle.
The 2011 General Elections
With Jonathan’s emergence as the president, Anyim quickly aligned with the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by late Ambassador Ralph Uwechue to launch himself back into political relevance. It was on Ohanaeze leadership platform that Anyim and other prominent Igbo leaders worked assiduously for Jonathan’s victory in 2011 election.
Elechi on the other hand worked for Jonathan on the party platform having established himself as the party leader with total control of the party structure in the state.
Surprisingly and without the support or approval of Elechi, Anyim was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by Jonathan; a development that didn’t go down well with the governor’s camp but which they had to live with anyway.
It was at this point that Anyim with his influence in the presidency started courting political stakeholders in the state including Elechi’s deputy, Dave Umahi.
Egwu who has been in political oblivion for sometime also used the opportunity to mend fences with Anyim and aligned with his camp to stage a comeback. As a result of this, Anyim influenced Egwu’s appointment as a member of Supervisory Board of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
But the likes of the then Minister of Health and Elechi’s supporter kept Anyim and his camp at arms length, hoping that the governor will have his way all the time as the party leader in the state.
With Egwu, Anyim, Umahi and others in the same camp and with the tactical support of the Presidency in their tussle against Elechi, it was obvious to many that it was just a matter of time for the bubble to burst in the state chapter of the PDP. Party faithful, elected and appointed, pitched their tents with either of the two different camps.
House of Assembly members
As Anyim’s influence continues to grow in the presidency, many party stakeholders in the state joined his camp. His camp infiltrated the State legislature and this led to a sour relationship between the Speaker, Chukwuma Nwazunku and Elechi.
Attempt by Elechi’s loyalists to remove Nwazunku from office was rebuffed by Anyim and Egwu’s loyalists.
Since the failed attempt to oust the Speaker, the House has been divided into pro and anti-Elechi camps with the Speaker leading the anti-Elechi camp, while Blaise Orji is leading pro-Elechi camp.
2015 PDP primaries in Ebonyi
THE outcome of the party primaries was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Ahead of the exercise, it was alleged that the governor, without the consultation of other stakeholders, penciled down the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, from Ebonyi South, as his likely successor.
Elechi also positioned himself as the senatorial candidate for Ebonyi Central and his allies for other elective positions. The deputy-governor, who is from the same Senatorial District with Chukwu, had also been nursing the ambition to succeed Elechi to the discomfort of his principal. This made Umahi to pitch tent with Anyim’s camp with the assurance that he would be picked as the party governorship candidate.
With the backing of the party national leadership and the Presidency, all the delegates that emerged at the November 1 state congress, comprising three members from each of the 217 were loyalists of Anyim camp.
Before the primaries, it was alleged that the president, following Elechi’s complaint that his faction of the PDP was not involved in the exercise, directed that no primaries should take place in Ebonyi until “the lingering issues were resolved” but the national leadership of the party went ahead to conduct the primaries, contrary to the president’s directive.
During the governorship primaries conducted by a team from the PDP national secretariat led by the governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, Umahi emerged as the candidate.
The Umahi camp, goaded by the national leadership of the party, produced all the PDP candidates to fly the party’s flag in the State and National Assembly elections thus leaving aspirants in Elechi’s camp in the cold. The governor himself lost the contest for the Central Senatorial District to Obinna Ogba, former PDP chairman in the state.
Thus the national leadership took the structure of the party in the state from Elechi and handed it over to Umahi.
Elechi’s alleged political move
Exasperated by the development and the role of Abuja in his loss of party control,
Elechi’s supporters openly defected to the Labour Party (LP) while the governor, who seems to be covertly supporting them, has not left the PDP.
The LP’s governorship candidate, Edward Nkwegu from Ebonyi North is Elechi’s in-law and a big time contractor with his government.
With the involvement of government officials in the campaign activities of the LP, the party is gaining ground ahead of the rescheduled polls. Elechi has neither declared his support publicly for Nkwegu nor denied it; rather he has chosen to remain mute as events unfold.
Many had argued that if the governor were truly sincere of power rotation in the state among the three zones, he would have supported another candidate from the South on the LP platform instead of a candidate from the North that produced Egwu as governor for eight years.
The governorship election will determine how far the LP candidate will go especially considering the fact many politicians in his Izzi community are members of the PDP. Besides, it was learnt that the Izzi people such as the immediate past Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Fidelis Mbam, former Speaker, Augustine Nwankeagu, Ogbaga and others kicked against the candidature of Nkwegu, their kinsman. They said it was only fair that they stick to the standards of natural justice since they had, in advance, agreed with Elechi that the governorship slot of the PDP should rotate to the southern zone since their own area, the north had governed the state for eight years during Egwu’s government.
This threw up the question: what if the LP fails to get the support of the Izzi clan, home of Nkwegu, said to have been torn apart by sentiment and emotion of Unweara and Igbojima kindred, wouldn’t it be a herculean task, getting the followership of the Ezzas, and the Ikwo people, two highly populous areas in the state?
But then how much support can the LP get from the southern zone, which has maintained that it is their turn? Besides, some other Izzis, notable politicians in their own rights, are in the camp of Nkwegu. Such politicians include Senator Chris Nwankwo, elder brother to wife of the state governor and Peter Ogali, a member of the House of Representatives.
Following this development, news had been making round since last year, of moves to impeach Elechi by forces loyal to Anyim and Egwu before the rescheduled polls. Alleged to be bankrolling the move is an Anambra-born business mogul who is very influential in the Presidency.
As part of the plot to humiliate or intimidate Elechi, the anti-graft agencies have been called in to investigate some alleged shady deals in his government involving some of his family and cabinet members. His son Nnanna Elechi alongside the Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Works, Cornelius Onwe, the state’s Accountant General, Edwin Igbele, Commissioner for Finance, Timothy Ogbonnaya Odaa and Commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy Matters, Cele Nwali, has been quizzed by the EFCC in Abuja.
Inferno at House of Assembly complex
The recent inferno at the State House of Assembly complex may not be unconnected with the unfolding political tussle in the state. Many believe that the incident may be a sign of what might befall the state in the days ahead as the plot to impeach Elechi thickens ahead of the general elections.
According to a source that pleaded anonymity, “Events in recent days in the state clearly indicate that there is serious plot to impeach Elechi before the elections.
“Look at the speed and manner the Speaker, has been piloting the affairs of the House in recent times. It shows that he is acting a written script. But what they and their paymasters did not know is how the whole episode will end. If they think it will be an easy ride for them, they may be kidding because Elechi and his loyalists will fight back.”
Before the fire incident, the House had during its last plenary, summoned Elechi, his son and the other accused persons to answer questions over their alleged role in misappropriation of public funds.
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