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Enugu 2019 and return of Ebeano

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Chimaroke Nnamani


Since leaving office in 2007, former Enugu state governor, Chimaroke Nnamani has not been missing in the politics of the state. He has become a regular contestant in every election conducted since then for the seat of Enugu East Senatorial zone. He won on one (that was in 2007) and lost on two other occasions (2011 and 2015).  Nnamani is back on the fray in 2019 with the Enugu East senatorial seat as his target.

The man, who has carved a niche for himself with the sobriquet ebeano (where we are), is a notable name in Enugu State. He means different things to different persons in the state. As governor, many, including politicians quaked anytime he was mentioned, while at other places he earned some honour.

One thing that is not in short supply anywhere he goes and where ever he is found is the large crowd that goes with him. Freely, Enugu residents would throng the streets to catch a glimpse of him anytime there was news of presence.

As the 2019 general elections draw near, Nnamani is back to the ring in a bid to return to the upper legislative house, which he left in 2011. As it is the case with most politicians who would junket from one party to another and eventually return to their original political party, the former governor has returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a political platform he left in 2011 to form the People for Democratic Change (PDC).

He had left the PDP in 2011 following a protracted disagreement between him and the immediate past governor of the state, who was his political godson, Sullivan Chime. Chime had on assumption of office in 2007 addressed stakeholders and members of the party, where he seriously rejected the idea of “ebeano group” in the party. He followed it up at another gathering in Michael Okpara square, where he pronounced the political subgroup “dead”, saying it does not exist in the lexicon of the PDP.

And not minding that the leader of the group Chimaroke Nnamani was at the Senate, Chime began to clip the wings of its members by ensuring their removal from his cabinet, as well as denying them appointments. He bluntly told Nnamani at a point during his efforts to decimate ebeano that it was a mistake to have allowed him to go the Senate. Nnamani was rarely seen nor heard, as he was always away during plenary. Chime, who could no longer bear his method of representation described him as a “truant” and while apologising to Enugu East senatorial zone for the “mistake” promised never to allow him return to the senate. PDP subsequently denied him the party’s ticket in 2011.

Nnamani, in reaction formed the PDC with the nucleus of the ebeano group and some aggrieved members of the PDP in the state. He used the platform to contest his return to the seat of Enugu east in 2011 and failed. In 2015, he contested the position on the platform of the PDC and still lost to the incumbent, Senator Gilbert Nnaji of the PDP.

His Return To PDP
WITH the unsuccessful elections he contested and the inability of his new political platform, PDC to win any seat in the state, Nnamani’s political empire began to crumble. A sign that his PDC’s underbelly was troubled was when some of its members began to find their way back into the PDP, especially with Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s election as governor. Nnamani soon joined them, when he registered at his Ojiagu-Agbani ward.

A year ago, he had attempted to return to political relevance when he put up a candidate in the last local government election in his Nkanu West council for the PDP. His candidate was stoutly rejected by Governor Ugwuanyi based on the advice of stakeholders of the area. The development did not go down well between the former governor and Ugwuanyi. Nnamani had reportedly out of anger left the state for overseas where he had been since then.

When activities for the 2019 general elections commenced, Nnamani was said to have directed the remnants of his PDC to join the All Progressives Congress (APC), apparently to get back at Ugwuanyi and the PDP for refusing his candidate at the council election.The development prompted the APC into procuring the senatorial form for Enugu East for him, even when he did not formerly register with the party, as they awaited his return.

It was this development that changed the political narrative of the Enugu East senatorial zone, as the PDP, which had positioned Chief Lawrence Eze to fly the party’s flag in the area retreated. Funds were immediately organised to obtain the party’s (PDP) Expression of Interest and Nomination forms and sent to Nnamani. The emissary that conveyed it also brought them back and submitted at the appropriate quarters, after they were filled based on some agreements reached with the PDP in the state.

It was reported that relying on the same agreement, the former governor was protected from the screening of the party for the senatorial election. This explained his absence on October 3, last year, when the hierarchy of the party in the state shrugged off threats from incumbent senator, Gilbert Nnaji to return him as its senatorial candidate for Enugu East.

And His “Thank You’ Visits
WITH the victory of Nnamani at the conclusion of PDP’s senatorial primary for Enugu East, many had expected him back to the state to begin preparation for his campaigns and subsequent election; that did not come to fruition until last week of December 2019. But while his absence lasted, rumour mills went all over the state that he was indisposed health-wise and may not feature in the campaigns of the party.

Rumour of his incapacitation was so thick that his opponent in APC, Chief Lawrence Eze alluded to it during his campaign flag off, that Nnamani was “on the run and nowhere to be seen.” He announced that he was running unchallenged and dared the PDP to produce him (Nnamani) to face the election.Thus, when news filtered in that Chimaroke had returned to the state, residents wanted to catch a glimpse of him, apparently to confirm if he was too sick to contest the election.

It was perhaps in the bid to refute the health story and reassure residents that he was fit to contest in the election that Nnamani penultimate Monday, took to the streets of Enugu on foot, exchanging pleasantries with residents.Many residents came out to have a glimpse of the Ebeano godfather. The train went through Garki to Mayor, Kenyetta and Obiagu Roundabout and continued through Onu Asata, Ogui Road, Ogui junction, 82 Army Division, Abakpa Nike Road to Umuchigbo Nike, where he paid a visit to the Speaker of Enugu State Assembly, Edward Ubosi. They were also at Ugwogo-Nike, Ikem and Neke in Isi-Uzo Local Government Council and later at the residence of Chief Augustine Nnamani, the state chairman of the PDP.

He said to the state chairman: “I am here to pay respect to the chairman of our party (PDP) and in doing so, we thank him for the role he played that I am here today as the senatorial candidate for Enugu East zone. This is because the state chairman guaranteed it before people began to know. I am very grateful for the opportunity you gave me, opportunity to be part of the system all over again because it is not everybody that has that kind of opportunity.  There are people that were coming to say you deserve it, but it is not everything someone deserves that he gets. I took it as a gift and I am very grateful. It is a ray opportunity; it is the second, third, fourth and fifth chance you are giving me and I appreciate it and I thank all of you. It is not everybody that will have this kind of opportunity in their life time.”

Nnamani was last week treated to a heroic reception at the Enugu Government House by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. It came about twelve years after he left the Government House. Nnamani, thanked Ugwuanyi for “giving me a second chance,” explaining that the governor had “wiped my tears.”

He added that Ugwuanyi “ is a great man, a man of inestimable greatness and tremendous humility. He is a man of grace, a man of honour, a man of uncommon valour, a man of uncommon humility and a man of God. I am very grateful. I am thanking all of you and the governor who made this possible. I am very surprised with level of reception I am getting. The reason why I said I was surprised is that this is the 12th year since I last stepped into this Government House.”

Nnamani And The PDP Challenge
A source said that with the exit of major political gladiators including former Senate president, Ken Nnamani, former governors Jim Nwobodo and Sullivan Chime, who campaigned and supported the emergence of Ugwuanyi in 2015, abandoning the PDP for the opposition APC, a lot of attention is now focused on Nnamani to lead the PDP campaigns and deliver the state to the party.
 
This is due to his “popularity” and “acceptance” in the state. The source stated also that it was not the first time Nnamani was delivering in elections, stressing that he single-handedly produced his successor in 2007. He added that though Nnamani did not win in the two elections he contested using his newly formed PDC, that it was however on record that the political party became PDP’s major challenger in the state in 2011 and 2015 elections.

“Such a man who can turn a helpless situation into something of hope should not be left in the lurch. He knows the terrain and has become a voice in the state. One thing that you will not remove from him is the fact that the downtrodden will always align with him and this is something none of the governors that have come after him have been able to achieve,” he stated.

Chief Ray Nnaji, ex-National Auditor of the PDP told The Guardian that the period Nnamani stayed out of the PDP, his political relevance did not diminish, adding that, he remained the darling of the masses.But a Chieftain of the PDP in the state who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Guardian that the success of the party in the 2019 general elections was not about Chimaroke Nnamani but the “PDP and Governor Ugwuanyi.”

He said: “My brother, anybody that PDP puts up in any election in Enugu State is sure of victory. It is not about the name of the person but what the party has achieved so far that has made it the toast of the masses.”

Stakeholders React
FOR the Enugu APC, which happens to be the major challenger of the PDP in the coming elections in the state, nothing would serve as a soothing balm than to hand down defeat on the party, at least to check the over 16 years of uninterrupted reign of the party.

The APC stated that it was not perturbed that Nnamani is a candidate in the election, insisting that he has only one vote like any other contender.  Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani said at the flag off of campaigns for the party’s senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Lawrence Eze, that it was a disservice on the people to have asked Chimaroke Nnamani to contest the senatorial seat, insisting that there was nothing to show for the first four years he served earlier.He insisted that the zone was tired of an “absentee senator”, stressing that the PDP was afraid of defeat in the elections in the state. Eze also approached the court to ask for Nnamani’s disqualification on the ground that the affidavit procured on his behalf by the party was against the law.

Also, the KOWA party senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Prof Jehu Onyekwere, said there was nothing new in Nnamani featuring in the election that would mark his fourth attempt, stressing that he had become “a serial looser.”

Not Yet Uhuru Even In PDP
THE claim by the state hierarchy of party that the decision to draft Chimaroke Nnamani into the race was taken in the interest of the party appears not to be so for the entire Enugu PDP. In fact, the attempt to foist him on the party, especially in his Enugu East senatorial zone is causing ripples, which is now a subject of litigation in court.Two senatorial aspirants in the area, the incumbent Senator Gil Nnaji and Prof Gab Agu have approached different courts seeking the disqualification of Nnamani as the candidate of the PDP in the election.

While Nnaji, who faulted the conduct of the primary that produced Nnamani had gone further to ask the court to disqualify him on the ground that the “plea bargain” he entered over his alleged corruption case with the EFCC did not grant him waiver or authority to contest an elective position. To Nnaji, agreeing to the “plea bargain is an acceptance of guilt.”In the same vein, Prof Agu is claiming that he was the actual winner of the primary election.In a statement of claim dated November 29, 2018, he asked INEC to replace Nnamani’s name with his because he (plaintiff) was the winner of the election.

To authenticate his claim, Agu called for the recounting of the ballot papers, which he said would not be “so cumbersome,” having been cast by less than 1000 delegates. According to his statement, he wants a “declaration that that having secured 601 votes to the first defendant’s 108 votes in the primary election held on October 3, 2018, he is the candidate of the party.These are hurdles the ex-governor has to surmount in his quest to return to the Senate and help the PDP win the coming elections.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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Chimaroke Nnamani
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