Nnaji Versus Nnamani: The Battle For Enugu East Senatorial Seat
They were the best of friends. They enjoyed good relationship. In fact their relationship blossomed to the point where they became each other’s confidant. Today, it seems that all these have given way to a sour relationship that may take long time to heal.
No thanks to politics especially the National Assembly election that was held throughout the country last Saturday. In the exercise, the
one-time friends, former governor of Enugu state, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani and Senator Gilbert Nnaji contested the Enugu east senatorial position.
While Nnamani ran on the platform of the People for Democratic Change (PDC), one of the newly registered political parties, Nnaji ran under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In the end, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Nnaji winner. Nnamani cried foul, describing it as daylight
robbery. In fact, Nnamani has declared himself “winner” of the election and has vowed to recover his “stolen mandate”.
According to the result released by INEC, Nnamani won in two local government areas of Enugu south, and Nkanu West, while Nnaji won in Isi-Uzo, Nkanu East, Enugu East and Enugu North council areas.
Since the election ended on Saturday, Enugu has been literally turned into a Mecca of protests as the former governor and his supporters are seriously kicking against the result declared by the INEC.
On Tuesday, supporters of the former governor trooped to the streets protesting the result of the election. From Agbani road, the supporters marched through the streets to INEC headquarters where they were tear-gassed by stern looking policemen who occupied the premises of the commission.
Undaunted, the protesters returned the next day in what was known as mother of all protests that held throughout the state. This time, they became more violent, destroying anything at sight and forcing closure of business activities.
Led by Nnamani, the street protests tagged “Occupy Enugu”, took the supporters through various parts of the state. They later clashed with soldiers from the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army Enugu on their way to Obiagu road, where majority of the members had gathered. In the melee that ensued, many of them sustained injuries.
Nnamani, who will not be deterred by the attitude of security men told journalists that the result as announced by INEC was not acceptable to him, declaring self, “winner” of the election.
He said: “We condemn and reject in entirety the results of the National Assembly election in Enugu East senatorial district as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Documented and provable evidences indeed abound on the magnitude of the charade and fraud that characterised the process. The PDP has once again subverted the will of our people by brazen inducement of INEC officials and security agents, outright rigging, open vote buying at polling units, intimidation and violence”.
“Election materials were moved directly from the various polling booths to the local government headquarters with some of them arriving as late as 10pm before collation commenced and continued till the next day.
Thus the collation of results from the polling booths that should have been preceded with the ward collation centres under the watchful eyes of the party agents was held in crowded halls at the council headquarters where most of our party agents were not allowed in by compromised security agents.”
Nnamani alleged that in desperation to rig him out, the commission in connivance with Nnaji posted ridiculous figures that baffled the
voters. He said that Isi-uzo, which is the least populated with 35603 registered voters turned in 21,005 votes representing 58.99% of registered voters.
Nnamani alleged that the PDP candidate supervised the rigging that was recorded in parts of the zone, adding that his agents held INEC officials hostage at the Enugu east council.
Reacting to the allegation, Nnaji told The Guardian that his victory over Nnamani in the Enugu East senatorial contest was not in
doubt. He stated that there was no way the former governor could have won the election, because while Nnamani concentrated on radio jingles, he, Nnaji was doing open and underground campaign.
He said: “If Nnamani is claiming that he won the election, let him come and prove how he did it. You people can check the ballot
boxes and see if there is any evidence of falsification. All he is doing is to try and misinform the public.
“If the election was actually rigged by me, I would have given him a wider margin. From the figures released by the INEC, you can see it was a keenly contested election.”
According to the senator, it was his opponent who is the actual rigger, and having worked under him in the past, I know his tactics and I went and blocked all his jokers before he could do ‘his magic’.”
On the street protests that had trailed his declaration as winner of the Enugu East senatorial seat by INEC, Nnaji said he was
not bothered by such sponsored protests, which, he said was a clear signal that his opponent was not ready to accept defeat.
“He should not forget that he contested against a candidate who knows him very well. The way I blocked him in 2011 is also the way I blocked him in 2015. There is no way Nnamani can beat me in any election, because I know his tactics,” Nnaji said.
If the outcome of the election is sustained, it will mean that Nnaji has beaten Nnamani twice in an electoral contest. In 2011, Nnaji had relied on the support of the state government to snatch the position from Nnamani, who was then the incumbent senator representing the zone.
Nnamani and Nnaji have come a long way. In fact, after serving as chairman of the Enugu east local government in 1999, Nnamani as governor had in 2003 picked him up and retrieved the Enugu east/Isiuzo House of Reps ticket from the then occupant, Chijioke Edoga and gave it to Nnaji.
It was from then onwards that Nnaji went to the House of Reps, where he served until 2011, when Governor Sullivan Chime insisted that Nnamani who was then a Senator of the PDP will not be given a return ticket to the Senate. In his stead, Chime gave the ticket to Nnaji and he won the election.
Those who have watched the unfolding developments insisted that the battle for the soul of Enugu east is like that between the father and the son. They maintained that it was an irony for the former governor to cry foul having been allegedly part and parcel of electoral irregularities in the state before now.
To them, Nnaji, has been well-thought and may have become “a master over his master”. The impression people have over Nnaji is that he had never won in an election that has no bearing with manipulation.
It would be recall that Nnamani went to the senate in 2007 after he had pressured the initial winner of the PDP senatorial ticket for Enugu east Barrister Ray Nnaji to relinquish the ticket.