Chime’s posturing, PDP fortunes and politics in Enugu
He joined the party in 1999 and got his first political appointment as legal adviser to former governor, Chimaroke Nnamani. It was from there that office that he was appointed attorney general and commissioner for Justice of the state, a position he held until he became governor.
Explaining why he took the decision to quit the party, Chime, who apparently was reacting to the crisis that has factionalized the PDP said: “the party is no longer in existence in the true sense of it. The PDP we used to be members of is dead. The party I joined in 1999 and had the opportunity of leading in the state for eight years is no longer in existence.”
He continued: “We have two groups claiming to be in charge of the party as chairman. These two, none of them can actually lay claim to the chairmanship of the party. There is no provision in PDP’s constitution for interim caretaker committee, led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
“The PDP convention has no power to set up a caretaker committee and did not seek to amend the party’s constitution”, he said, adding that the PDP as originally formed has been cremated, arguing that no serious-minded politician will remain in it.”
The ex-governor’s refusal to disclose his next political moves has of course fuelled speculations that he may be heading for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Although he quickly denied joining the APC or any other political party, his body language indicates that his soul is already with APC. Sources at his home claimed that he now sleeps and wakes up with different officials and groups of the party in the state.
Why is Chime running from the PDP? Could the crisis in PDP be responsible or the desire to achieve his political aspirations? Is he dreaming of toeing the path of his predecessor in office whom after eight years of governance where he produced a successor on the platform that threw him up, jettisoned the party and formed a new political platform?
What exactly does Chime want? Is he still nursing the ambition to occupy the Enugu West senatorial seat, which was denied him in 2015 by the incumbent, Ike Ekweremadu? If that is so, is it possible that he could become a Senator that he could not achieve as governor with all the paraphernalia of the office? Can the APC or any other political platform provide him the latitude to achieve this in 2019 even with his purported dwindling popularity?
Another school of thought averred that the move was due to the strained relationship between him and his successor in office, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Ugwuanyi has assured severally that Chime “remains my leader in and out of office.” However, since he left office, many have observed the deceit in that assurance going his absence in most public functions where other prominent citizens featured.
Sources alleged that he is angry having been sidelined in the several appointments made by the ruling PDP administration, adding that certain officials he handed over to Ugwuanyi are gradually secretly being replaced. Also, he was not given the opportunity to nominate a ward, local government or state official at the last congress of the party.
Recently at Aninri council during a public function, Ekweremadu reportedly made reference to the frosty relationship between them, when he said that his (Aninri) people were greatly marginalized in appointments and projects during the eight years of Chime’s administration.
He had told the gathering which included Ugwuani during the flagging off of nine rural projects funded by the state government that it was the governor that drew his attention to the anomalies and how his area had been marginalized by Chime, stressing that Ugwuanyi was taken steps to address it.
“Eight years ago all development projects in this area were done by the federal and local governments, but we now have a governor that is ready to work for our people. Between 2007 and 2015, no indigene of Aninri was employed in the state civil service and from statistics, we have the least number of civil servants in the state,” he added.
Some observers also contended that Chime might be angling for a soft landing over charges he has before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) currently probing his involvement in the 2015 campaign funds and other petitions.
Chime however maintained that he has no case with the EFCC, explaining that he was only invited by the commission to clear areas of doubt on the campaign funds sent to the state when he was governor. He stated that a committee managed the funds.
But a lawyer and former national auditor of the party, Ray Nnaji, insists that Chime has a case with the Commission. He said in Enugu that his purported movement out of the PDP to the APC or any other political party “cannot save him from being prosecuted for alleged diversion of public fund running into billions of naira while he was governor of Enugu state.”
There are worries however that the crisis-ridden PDP has not responded to Chime’s claim that the party is dead. An official of the state government told The Guardian on conditions of anonymity that the former governor “does not deserve our reaction. His attitude of late leaves much to be desired”.
A former member of the House of Assembly in the state, Nwabueze Ugwu views the alleged silence of the state chapter of the party over the issue as “conspiracy” and called for the resignation of the PDP executives in the state from office. Ugwu, who rode to the state Assembly in 1999 through the PDP perceived their silence as “manifest complicity and anti party activities”, stressing that, it was an indication that they might have agreed with Chime that the PDP is dead.
His words: “My angst and anxiety are fixated on the deafening silence of the PDP apparatus within the state, from the ward, through the Local Government, to the State levels; who has not deemed it fit to respond to that statement, thereby giving the impression that Chime had bespoken their minds and those of other PDP members.
He also decried the silence of the governor, wondering whether in connivance with Chime he has directed the party officials at the different levels not to respond to the allegations.
“I wish to place it on record that the loyalty of the people of Enugu State remains, unwavering and strong, being as it were, that the PDP is still seen as a better option any day given the bungling of the ruling party at the centre and elsewhere under its influence. Enugu State remains in the vanguard of the PDP; what with it producing the highest PDP elected representative in the present government,” he held.
Observers recall this is not the first time Chime would be ditching a platform after allegedly benefitting from it. Soon after he emerged governor in 2007, he summoned a meeting of the PDP at Okpara square, in Enugu, where he supposedly told the gathering that the political structure, ‘ebeano family’ founded by Nnamani, which championed his election, was dead.
He reportedly said he was no longer ready to oil and fund the structure as it “does not exist in the lexicon of the PDP”, and urged those behind it to look for work to do. The pronouncement was the genesis of the fall of the political structure. Will the PDP go the same way in the evolving crisis and what does future hold for Chime in the evolving politics of the country? Indeed, only time will tell.