2023: Edeoga dumps agreement with PDP, picks LP guber ticket
Ezekiel: He will liberate the state from power hawks
The dynamics in Enugu governorship race have changed since the immediate past Commissioner for Environment, Chijioke Edeoga picked the ticket of the Labour Party (LP) for the 2023 general elections. What ordinarily had gone as a predictable win for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now changing with the possibility of a tight race between the two parties.
Before the latest development, it was almost a concluded matter that the 2023 general elections would be easy win for the PDP, going by the strength of the candidates from other parties. The PDP is fieling Dr. Peter Mba, a former commissioner of Finance.
While the PDP’s closest rival, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had produced Chief Uche Nnaji as governorship candidate; the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), gave its ticket to Mr Frank Nweke jr, a former Minister of Information.
Nnaji who hails from Nkanu West with Nweke is not reckoned in the state as a serious contender. He was said to have been picked because the party could not find any other aspirant. That was why he did not contest primary with any other aspirant. Apart from APC being deeply enmeshed in leadership crisis in the state, his younger brother is the serving House of Reps member for PDP for Nkanu East and West and also won the return ticket. The feeling is that he is relatively unknown, except for the news that once upon a time, he had relinquished his senatorial ticket to Chief Jim Nwobodo.
Nweke, on the other hand ran for the senatorial ticket of the PDP in 2015 and lost in the primary. That is the much he had done since leaving office as Minister. Although he contested the primary of the APGA with Dr Jeff Nnamani, his aspiration does not attract discussion in the state.
Edeoga is versed in politics. He was local government chairman. He was a House of Reps member for four years. He was a Presidential Adviser and returned in 2015 to become commissioner until May 2022. A Journalist/Lawyer, he contested the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and lost to the eventual winner, Mba. Prior to the governorship primary, Edeoga, who served as commissioner under the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from 2015 was primed to give Mba a run for his money following his reach and acceptability.
However, intense campaigns by few stakeholders of the party against his candidature in preference for Mba, who was drafted late into the race, robbed him of the ticket. For instance, part of the campaign against him was that he is a distant cousin of Governor Ugwuanyi and that giving him the ticket was like elongating the tenure of Ugwuanyi, as well as empowering him to cover the tracks of the governor. Thus, the groundswell of opposition went to town with the story that Ugwuanyi did not want to hand over power.
Despite the opposition, Edeoga refused to bulge. Although various meetings were held, where agreements were reached that the governorship seat would go to Nkanu East Council and not Edeoga’s Isiuzo local government, Edeoga still refused and decided to run to the end.
Since the primary ended, he had remained calm and refused to comment on the candidate of the PDP that picked the ticket. The much he had done since then was the congratulatory note he was allegedly persuaded to send.
Last Sunday, however, a new scenario was added when the State Publicity Secretary of the LP, Ibuchukwu Ezike, issued a statement after their meeting, saying that Edeoga had picked the governorship ticket of the party.
Many had doubted the development based on the relationship Edeoga shared with the PDP, as well as an earlier agreement he signed to support any candidate of the PDP that emerged at the primary.
The raging debate on whether the movement was true or not was, however, put to rest when Edeoga himself confirmed that, “Yes, I am now the LP governorship candidate”. Since then, there has been a flurry of interpretations on possible reasons that led to his movement and its implication on the state’s polity.
Indeed, following the crowded governorship race that threw up no fewer than 20 aspirants in the PDP, leaders of the party and opinion leaders had met severally with the aspirants to find ways of narrowing the contests, so as to avoid rancor.
During one of their meetings at the residence of His Royal Highness, Igwe Edward Nnaji, on May 22, 2022, they had agreed to work together and that those not favoured in the race would be carried along in the new government to be formed in 2023. The agreement they added was to sustain the peaceful political environment fostered by the consultative administrative style of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
However, anybody who had followed the governorship primary of the PDP and probably the factors that propelled the emergence of Mba, would readily agree that has happened to elicit interest in LP may have been fuelled by feelings of imposition and a desperation on the part of Edeoga to contest at all costs.
At the PDP governorship primary election he was asked to step down and he refused. In the end, he secured only 9 votes against 790 votes by Mba.
While the votes were being collated, Edeoga walked out of the venue. He never congratulated the winner of that exercise when others were doing so. Sources stated that it took the intervention of stakeholders for him to write a congratulatory note to Mba, weeks after the exercise.
Beyond the intrigues that played out in the primary of the PDP, however, it was gathered that part of the reasons Edeoga abandoned agreement was the fear that his Isiuzo council might lose opportunity to be represented in any elective position in 2023.
For instance, a source stated that during the process of negotiations on who gets what in the 2023 arrangement, it was resolved that the position of governor should go to Enugu East Senatorial zone in line with the rotation being practiced by the party in the state.
The source further indicated that while Nkanu East local government should be encouraged to produce the next governor, other elective offices accruing to the zone should be distributed to accommodate the disadvantaged areas of the zone.
In this regard, efforts were made to no avail to have Nkanu West that produced the current Senator representing Enugu East senatorial, as well as the House of Reps member for Nkanu East and West, to retain the Reps slot and relinquish the senatorial slot to Isiuzo. The arrangement left Isiuzo without any portfolio, hence the need to seek opportunity elsewhere.
The source disclosed that the LP governorship candidate did not understand how an arrangement could leave Nkanu West with a senator and House of Representatives positions, while Isiuzo had none, despite the support of the people to the party and the infrastructural gaps that exist in the area. A plot was therefore hatched for Edeoga to leverage the goodwill he was already riding on to advance the political course of his people.
According to a source, “It is an attempt to break the stereotype that has sustained power in the hands of few individuals in the state. It is a movement being piloted by those who have become tired of the system that has held us down. We want to interrogate the PDP’s oligarchy and dominance in the state. It is sad that even the governor who claims there is power rotation in the state usurped the turn of another local government in acquiring the senatorial ticket of the party for himself and went further to impose his townsman as deputy governorship candidate of the party. Yet in the same area, there is a local government that was denied senate and any other elective office in 2023 and you think such will stand. This is the selfishness of our so-called political leaders.”
A Chieftain of the PDP in the state, Jude Nnamani, told The Guardian that it was “betrayal” on the part of Edeoga to have accepted to fly the flag of the LP against the governorship candidate of the PDP, when “he has benefitted so much from the PDP since 1999 and has been part of the kitchen cabinet of Governor Ugwuanyi.
“It shows he does not have regard for Ugwuanyi who has gone out of his way to ensure that he was comfortable. He has served this government as commissioner for Local government and after four years he was moved to Environment. He is close to the governor and knows that the party has its way of doing things. What he is displaying now is arrogance and to show that he never welcomed the peace overtures that the PDP candidate initiated after the governorship primary. It is a contest and I believe the PDP is equal to the task. This is someone who signed an agreement to support the outcome of the governorship primary of the PDP. He has eaten his own words. It is unfortunate,” he said.
But the State Publicity Secretary of the LP, Ibuchukwu Ezike, insisted that the state was going to witness a political contest for the first time since the current democracy. Ezike stated that Edeoga has not betrayed any trust, stressing rather that the people should be happy that he decided to make sacrifices to liberate the state from power hawks that have held it down.
He said, “These power hawks have amassed power and resources to themselves and are not ready to quit the scene. This is what I think made Edeoga embrace the Labour Party. Edeoga has an ambition to become the governor of Enugu State one day. May be he thinks that the occasion has come but couldn’t find that opportunity in the PDP and may be because of the acceptance of the LP; may be because of the prominence of the presidential flag bearer of the party, Mr Peter Obi, he decided to pitch tent with the LP.”
On the challenges the aspiration could face going forward, he said: “God gives power. The other thing we do as humans is to encourage and pray that the wish of the almighty be done. Edeoga is an able bodied young man. He is a Journalist/Lawyer and has served various governments. He served as local government chairman, was in the House of Reps for four years and commissioner for over seven years. He has learnt a lot that he can put to work as governor of Enugu State. All we know is that it is no longer going to be business as usual where one party will think that power belongs to it.
“What it will portray in Enugu State is that we have strong candidates for 2023. It will not be business as usual. The PDP has to guard its loins if it will win the election in the state. Nigerians are going to witness a political contest in Enugu State in 2023”.