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Enugu 2023: Ekweremadu and looming godfather confrontations

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Ekweremadu

Come May 29, 2023, the governorship position in Enugu State has gone full circle, traversing the three Senatorial Districts. By then the 24 years of current unbroken democratic experience must have been among the zones eight years apiece.

Within that period, the power-sharing arrangement put together by the state’s founding fathers had produced Dr. Chimaroke Ogbonna Nnamani, Mr. Sullivan Iheanacho Chime and the incumbent, Governor Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi.

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At the conclusion of the present four-year term of Ugwuanyi, it would mean that Enugu East, Enugu West and Enugu North Senatorial zone have each had its turn at the Lion Building, the seat of Enugu State Executive arm of government.

One issue that has begun to engage political stakeholders in the state is whether the next cycle would begin afresh from Enugu North, where Ugwuanyi hails or restart from Enugu East that last had it during the Chimaroke dispensation of 1999 through 2007?

In the entire 24 years of the unbroken democratic governance in Nigeria, one stakeholder from Enugu State that has remained in elective position in Senator Ike Ekweremadu. From being appointed Chief of Staff to the governor and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), by Governor Nnamani in his first term, Ekweremadu journeyed to the Senate, where has sojourned ever since.

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By June 2023, the former Deputy President of Senate would have spent 21 years in the upper chamber of the National Assembly (NASS). The Mpu, Aninri Local Government Council-born politician says he owes his standing to the Grace of God, but to great extent, the internal undercurrents of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also enabled his staying power in the polity.

In the entire 24 years of the unbroken democratic governance in Nigeria, one stakeholder from Enugu State that has remained in elective position in Senator Ike Ekweremadu. From being appointed Chief of Staff to the governor and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), by Governor Nnamani in his first term, Ekweremadu journeyed to the Senate, where has sojourned ever since.

By June 2023, the former Deputy President of Senate would have spent 21 years in the upper chamber of the National Assembly (NASS). The Mpu, Aninri Local Government Council-born politician owes his standing to the Grace of God and internal dynamics of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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In the buzz making the rounds in Enugu State about the 2023 governorship, Ekweremadu’s aspiration to join the fray, in addition to the issue of whether the zoning arrangement would begin anew from Enugu North, are raising apprehensions in the state.

Ekweremadu’s political allies have been championing the idea of jettisoning zoning, claiming that the time has come for Enugu State to focus on experience and merit in selecting its governors.

In the normal run of the power rotation arrangement, Enugu East Senatorial District is supposed to produce Ugwuanyi’s successor. However, some of Ekweremadu’s close aides allege that pressure was being mounted on the Senator to contest the 2023 governorship due to the quality of aspirants from Enugu East Senatorial District.

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Zonal Bickering

STAKEHLDERS from Enugu East District take it for granted that their zone would throw up credible candidates for the 2023 governorship contest. Despite that quiet confidence, some politicians from Enugu North, where the incumbent hails, feel that given the long years of marginalization their zone suffered both in old Anambra State and old Enugu State that comprised part of the present Ebonyi State, they should be allowed to kick start the next round of rotating the governorship.

Those who argue in favour of Enugu North taking the 2023 slot, like Senator Chuka Utazi, recall how the first governor from the zone, Dr. Okwy Nwodo’s tenure was truncated by General Sani Abacha, when his junta dismantled all democratic structures in November 1993.

Speaking at an Nsuakka Unity Rally last year, Senator Utazi said Nwodo could not deliver on his developmental agenda because his mandate was cut short. Commending Governor Ugwuanyi for his milestones, Utazi expressed the hope that zone should be allowed to continue in office to make up for what it lost during Nwodo’s era.

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“You are the governor, we all support you. Whatever you can do please do it. I will ask other zones to support us now because we have suffered marginalization in the hands of previous governments,” the Senator stated.

At the rally, even the 2019 governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ayogu Eze, also declared support for Governor Ugwuanyi, stressing that his presence at the occasion showed that “everybody is behind you in what you are doing.”

“We need unity, it is God that gives power, you have been doing well, all of us are with you,” Eze declared, pointing out that the government should show direction he wants to go and “all of us will follow.”

While the stakeholders of Enugu North District demonstrated their support for Governor Ugwuanyi during the Unity Rally, their colleagues in Enugu West believe that attempts to negate the zoning format were not only directed at distracting the governor but also corrupt the political peace and harmony in the state.

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At a meeting, various groups from Enugu West under the auspices of Enugu West General Assembly (EWGA), last July, stakeholders from Ekweremadu’s Senatorial District, pleaded with Governor Ugwaunyi to ensure that the zoning arrangement was not truncated under his watch.

Describing the governor as Enugu State’s equivalent of Mahatma Ghandi, the stakeholders declared: “In keeping with Ghandi’s politics of non-violence and positive action, we look forward to the climax of and unanimously accept and stand with Ugwuanyi’s legacy in keeping faith with the zoning of 2023 governorship slot to Enugu East Senatorial zone.”

In a communiqué titled “Enugu State 2023: Separating Enugu West Senatorial Zone and Greater Awgu Cultural Zone: Let The Truth be Told,” the groups regretted the attempt by a prominent politician from Enugu West Senatorial District to breach the zoning arrangement through the artificial delineation of the Senatorial district into cultural zones.

Some of the signatories to the resolution include Humphrey Onyima, (DG. EWGA); Comrade Bugebe Chidi, (Secretary General, EWGA); Comrade Sampson Obiora Onyia, (Publicity Secretary II, EWGA); Okwudili Aneke, (Coordinator, EWGA) and Anochili Emeka Gerald,(Coordinator EWGA) among others.

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Part of the five-point resolution read: “The leadership of Enugu West General Assembly (EWGA), Awgu Progressive Forum (APF) and Awgu Youth General Assembly, comprising notable sons and daughters of Enugu West Senatorial Zone of Enugu State met at Isuawa Town Hall in Awgu LGA and deliberated inter alia, on the “misguided position of some politicians from a certain section of Enugu West Senatorial zone, who are bent on disrupting the peace, which the present zoning formula has brought to Enugu State.

“Arising from the meeting, we state as follows, From a broad historical perspective, it may not be wide off the mark to say that our founding fathers, upon the advent of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, were not mistaken when they decided that the panacea to the intractable political squabbles of determining who occupies the Lion Building is best rooted in ensuring that each of the three senatorial zones of the state, that is, Enugu East (isiuzo, Enugu East, Enugu South, Nkanu West, Nkanu East), Enugu West (Awgu, Oji River, Aninri, Udi, Ezeagu), Enugu North(Nsukka, Uzo Uwani, Igboeze North, Igboeze South, Igboetiti) has a say at one time o the other.”

EWGA noted that the philosophy of zoning “has propelled the different sections of the state to produce their best as Governor of Enugu State, whenever it is their turn.” They added: “The people of Aninri, Awgu, Oji River, belong to one homogenous Enugu West Senatorial zone with their kit and kin in Udi and Ezeagu, and not Greater Awgu Cultural zone as presented by some disgruntled politicians for their 2023 selfish political interest against the zoning arrangement in Enugu State.

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“Those who seek to introduce a dichotomy between Awgu Aninri Oji River as Awgu cultural zone on one hand, and Ezeagu, Udi as Agbaja cultural zone, on the other hand, are misguided politicians who want to, politically approbate and reprobate. They are clever by half.

“We call on His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Ndi Enugu to note this correction and disregard the fantasies and nonsensical effusions being bandied about by the impish minority working for a politically inordinate ambitious fellow, hiding behind his singe finger and scheming to derail the peace of Enugu come 2023.”

Prior to the spurt of rallies and solidarity for Ugwuanyi, it would be recalled that the Ebeano Political grouping of which the incumbent is a member, held a unification rally in Enugu. The programme, which was preceded by a fence-mending meeting between the chief promoter, Senator Nnamani and other leaders of the state, including Chief Jim Nwobodo and former Governor Chime, saw the coming together of all political tendencies connected with the Ebeano uniting for the battle ahead.

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Although they belong to different political platforms, the meeting between Senator Nnamani and his successor, Chime, set tongues wagging as to how the coming together of Ebeano people would shape the 2023 politics in Enugu State.

It would be recalled that in 2015, Chime, who hails from the same Enugu West Senatorial District with Ekweremadu, expressed dismay at the insistence of some politicians on perpetuating themselves in elective offices at the expense of younger ones. Chime had tried to limit the tenure of elected officials to two terms, even as most commentators argued that the move was targeted at Ekweremadu, who was gunning for a fourth term in the Senate.

It took the intervention of then-President Goodluck Jonathan to douse the political battle between Chime and Ekweremadu At a meeting with Enugu State stakeholders in the Presidency, the Deputy Senate President was said to have blackmailed Governor Chime, saying that apart from working to replace him in the Senate, the outgoing governor derides Jonathan as a weak President.

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Amid the contentious issues, Governor Chime was reportedly asked to choose between taking the PDP Senate ticket and allowing Ekweremadu to succeed him. Noting the mischievous imputation of supporting a person from Enugu West to succeed him from the same Senatorial District, Chime stood by the zoning arrangement that was the turn of Enugu North, Ugwuanyi’s Senatorial District.

It was against that background that no sooner had the idea of Ekweremadu’s fresh aspiration for the governorship filtered into Enugu than stakeholders started making plans to arrest his schemes.

Stonewalls
PART of the stonewalls being raised against the former DSP’s antics is the plan by Governor Ugwuanyi to allow Enugu East Senatorial District occupy the driving seat in the search for the next governor. And as things stand in the zone, Senator Nnamani, who is the founder of Ebeano political movement, is also the highest public office holder elected from the zone.

The implication of this is that with Chimaroke Nnamani on the saddle, debates and discussions about who occupies the governorship seat would have his active crucial input, even as that sounds like a dead-end for a possible Ekweremadu’s candidacy.

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Penultimate weekend when the immediate past Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MSD), Chief Chinyeaka Oha, buried his mother, some political interests opposed to Nnamani’s leadership of the zone, rallied round the former Minister as a possible governorship contender from the zone.

Sources confided in The Guardian that the former Permanent Secretary is prepared to cross over to APC in the event that Senator Nnamani stonewalls his getting the PDP governorship ticket.

But, while crossing to APC is seen as a possible plan B for supporters of Oha, some stakeholders from Oji River argue that instead of supporting Ekweremadu for the 2023 governorship, the area would prefer that Chief Alex Obiechina, who beat Governor Chime during the 2011 PDP governorship primary, should be fielded.

In a statement in Enugu, Obiechian’s supporters declared: “Now that the Enugu State governorship rotation has gone round, it is most proper that PDP should give its ticket to Dr. Obiechina Alexander Chukwuemeka to contest considering that he (Obiechina) had earlier won the gubernatorial ticket.

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“The then PDP leadership fraudulently handed this ticket to Barrister Sullivan Chime, who Obiechina defeated. Worse still, Obiechina went to court seeking to be declared governor, but the Supreme Court delayed the trial through strange distant adjournments and eventually refused to hear the case, claiming that it is time barred despite that Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN) leading Chief Udechukwu (SAN), Prof Iloegbune Charles (SAN), Aliyu (SAN) on behalf of Obiechina insisted that pre election gubernatorial cases are not time-barred by Nigeria 1999 constitution.”

Insisting that Ekweremadu should not be the focus of governorship conversations in the state, Ogbonna reminded PDP that since there was no extent law barring Obiechina from being sworn in any time his case was finished and the Supreme Court pronounced him the rightful candidate of the party, the party could do restitution and redress the injustice done to Obiechina.

On the issue of amendments to the Electoral Act 2010, Obiechian’s supporters noted that the National Assembly sent the proposed amendment to the 1999 constitution to the President for assent, stressing that the Presidency working in synergy with Ministry of Justice saw no contradictions with our existing laws.

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“The President signed this amendment into law. This immediately exposed the miscarriage of justice by the Supreme Court, which struck out Obiechina’s pre-election case in 2010 on grounds that it was time-barred when there was no law before, this 2017 making governorship pre-election case time-barred by that date.

“Again governor’s term of office is only activated after he is sworn in unlike that of senators, who shall only serve within the life span of the Senate session during which they are elected as the term of the year was constitutionally donated to the House of Senate and not to individual senators.

“Justice is like a living wound and this injustice shall never settle until it is rectified. Obiechina’s case is a man-made injustice and still, its nemesis as visited on Justice Onnoghen may still visit us,” the observed.

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