Ebeano/Tinubu hookup: Presaging Coal City’s streetwise politics
Given the unfolding political recalibration in Southeast, particularly Enugu State, there was little doubt that Senator Chimaroke Nnamani accepted the inclusion of his name on the membership of All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) with his full chest.
Although the ranking Senator and former governor eulogised the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, when a derogatory song, jests and expletives were hauled at the APC presidential candidate, not many expected that both elite members of the class ’99 governors had revived their political collaboration.
Therefore, it took the release of the contentious 422-member strong PCC for public attention to be drawn to the new camaraderie of the two tested political maestros across their different political platforms. Capturing national interest on account of the surprise element, listing Nnamani among those campaigning for the APC presidential candidate’s presidential run, Tinubu’s inner men unwittingly touched on the simmering political cataclysm in the Coal City State.
Festus Keyamo’s courtroom attempt to dismiss Senator Nnamani’s listing as an apparent mistaken identity with the former President of Senate, Ken Nnamani did not catch. Before the campaign spokesman could orchaestrate the defence, former governor Nnamani’s close allies had already established the credible nexus between his inclusion and the political conversations within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Prior to the full-blown political hostilities between the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and the first runner-up, Governor Nyesom Wike, Senator Nnamani and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, had toed different paths. While the incumbent Ugwuanyi lined up with his Abia State counterpart, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, behind Wike, Senator Nnamani identified with Atiku.
While Nnamani anticipated that wise counsel would prevail to have a united front to rally around the presidential candidate, Ugwuanyi and others stuck to Wike’s corner. They believed that the proper thing would have been to harmonise interests on a joint presidential ticket, but Atiku’s decision to settle for the Delta State governor, Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, put a tinder to the flame of further division.
Having come to that evident point of no return, the Atiku versus Wike tiff, which revolves around whether the PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, stays or quits, exacerbated the dwindling political understanding between Governor Ugwuanyi and Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. Although the two Enugu politicians applied maturity to manage their differing political worldviews, signs that the once buxom relationship was going south started showing in the let-up to the nomination process in PDP.
Governor Ugwuanyi had disclosed his intention to support Enugu East Senatorial District, from where Nnamani hails, to produce his (Ugwuanyi’s) successor. No sooner did the governor make that promise than stakeholders from Enugu North Senatorial District, from where the incumbent governor hails, approached him to consider ensuring that the power rotation arrangement begins anew from their zone.
The governor’s kinsmen, under the aegis of Odimma Nsukka, also pleaded with him to consider supporting a person from Isi-uzo local government council in Enugu East Senatorial zone to clinch the PDP governorship ticket. In Enugu State, the people of Isi-Uzo enjoy close socio-cultural and political affinity with the Nsukka people.
Consequently, the greater majority of Enugu East Senatorial District, comprising the core Nkanu people, reflects Isi-Uzo’s attachment to Nsukka in political considerations in the zone. Faced with the Isi-use people’s agitation to throw up Ugwuanyi’s successor, stakeholders from Nkanu East within the Senatorial District mounted a counter-campaign through the leadership of former Minister for Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, contending that the local government should be supported to ensure smooth rotation among the councils in Enugu East Senatorial District.
As the two contending forces mounted pressures on Governor Ugwuanyi, the immediate past Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, threw his hat in the ring, contending that his part of Enugu West Senatorial District, has always been side-lined in the distribution of political favours. He, therefore, declared that 2023 presents the best opportunity for his Greater Awgu people to produce the state governor for the first time.
Faced with these three powerful contending forces, Ugwuanyi decided to stick to his original promise that power should return to Enugu East, insisting that that was the right thing to do in the light of the template set by the state’s founding fathers for unity, stability and progress of Enugu State.
In an apparent move to strengthen their governorship bid, the Isi-Uzo people debarred any of their sons and daughters from picking the Senatorial ticket. The stakeholders expressed the hope that since the former governor, Senator Nnamani, was seeking another term at the Senate and enjoys the popular support of the electorate, it would be unfair for the core Nkanu to retain the Senate seat and governorship.
However, when PDP delegates nominated the Managing Director of Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited, Dr. Peter Mbah as the governorship candidate, the Isi-Uzo people in conjunction with some opposition tendencies in Enugu North Senatorial District prevailed on a former Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, to move over to the Labour Party (LP) and sustain his gubernatorial ambition.
They accused Ugwuanyi of handing everything back to Senator Nnamani, stressing that voters would have the last say in the matter of who becomes the next governor of Enugu State, even as they raised opponents against the incumbent governor’s senatorial aspiration.
But, while the opposition against Ugwuanyi was being mounted in Enugu North (Nsukka) Senatorial District, some former political appointees during Senator Nnamani’s administration accused the incumbent of instigating an attempt to disgrace Senator Nnamani during the PDP Senatorial primary for Enugu East.
Those who maintained that Ugwuanyi wanted to stop Senator Nnamani from contesting for the Senate alleged that the governor propelled the former Chief of Staff to Governor Sullivan Chime, Mrs Ifeoma Nwobodo, to purchase the PDP nomination forms for the same Enugu East.
Recall that though married to Justice Afam Nwobodo, the former Chief of Staff hails from Amokwe in Udi local government council of Enugu West Senatorial District of the state. Hence, riled by the implication of an Agbaja woman coming to wrestle the Senate ticket from a leading Nkanu political figure in the stature of former governor Chimaroke Nnamani, PDP delegates insisted on returning Nnamani during the primary election.
Not that alone, while the general impression in the state was that it was Senator Nnamani that recommended Dr. Peter Mbah for Ugwuanyi to support, those close to Ugwuanyi maintain that no such thing happened, insisting that Mbah, the PDP governorship candidate and his running mate, Ifeanyi Ossai, were the product of the governor’s calculations.
While the scene schemes that played out during the PDP primaries in Enugu State were making the rounds in Enugu State, some insiders claim that Governor Ugwuanyi was working on a covert plan to ensure the election of Chijioke Edeoga as governor.
Yet, as the issue of who actually brought Mbah into the contention for governor continues, Ugwuanyi galvanised the support of the Enugu State traditional rulers’ council behind the PDP candidate. That gallant show of support culminated in the handing of the traditional instrument of native authority (Ofo) to Mbah last week.
However, coming at a time the traditional rulers were endorsing Mbah’s gubernatorial contest, the listing of Senator Nnamani as one of the campaigners for Tinubu threw up new concerns. Part of the worry among PDP stakeholders in the state is that by identifying with the APC presidential candidate, the former governor could be covertly working for the APC governorship candidate, Chief Uche Nnaji.
The unfolding political drama in Enugu State was therefore accentuated by the sudden appearance of Senator Nnamani at the Tinubu corner. Thus Enugu voters are waiting to see whether Governor Ugwuanyi would canvass for votes for LP’s Peter Obi or PDP’s Atiku, knowing that tending towards LP invariably favours Edeoga.
Also, it would be seen how far Senator Nnamani enthusiasm about a Tinubu presidency would go lock Enugu East votes for APC without having a telling effect on Uche Nnaji’s governorship election. Knowing that Nnaji’s younger brother, Hon Nnoli, netted the chairmanship of the Aviation Committee though being a PDP lawmaker, tightens the knot further.
“Confuse ga du ma,” is a popular political speak in Enugu State. The confusion would be more apparent from October 17, when the governorship campaigns kick off. Already, major players are computing the quixotic political arithmetic in the state: Is it possible for the bulk of about 52 per cent Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) holding in Enugu North to go to Labour Party (LP) during the governorship? Would either APC and PDP garner the bloc ballot from Enugu East, given that their two governorship contenders-Nnaji and Mbah- hail from there?
Such calculations prompted the uproar that attended the annexation of Senator Nnamani, the Ebeano apostle by the Emilokan presidential gendarmes. Is Nnamani reading his Orange Movement for eventual cross-over to APC in anticipation of post-2023 election politics?
Ever since his name made it on the list of those appointed into the expanded APC PCC, Nigerians had been reacting from diverse perspectives. For instance, a PDP chieftain from Enugu North Senatorial District, Mr. Ephraim Odoh, said the inclusion of Nnamani on the APC presidential campaign council did not come as a surprise.
According to Odoh, “Here is someone who was touted as a possible pick by Atiku as a running mate, but all of a sudden, he now turned back and begins to support an opponent of Atiku. We see the development as a repudiation of the leadership of Gburugburu.
“So, all the ranting he was making before that Gburugburu is my leader has been proved by this singular act because I am sure they sought his attention and his clarification before they published his name.
“Secondly, it is an incoherent arrangement for him to be in PDP, claiming to be the godfather of the candidate of PDP in Enugu State and then he is supporting APC, that is political syncretism, you cannot worship God and mammon at the same time.”
While expressing dismay that the development could widen the silent rivalry between the Senator and Governor Ugwuanyi, Odoh said he was not surprised, stressing that it would have been disaster foretold. You don’t dine with a demon. When Ugwuanyi went and brought him from isolation.
“We knew that Chimaroke is incapable of changing, he is incapable of submitting to anybody’s leadership, but that will not also take away the humanity in Ugwuanyi, who displayed humanity and compassion in accommodating him in the scheme of things again.
“It is therefore believed that the Governor of Enugu, who has been so mature even in his partnership with Wike, would not have allowed somebody who is under his own purview to take to this kind of double standards,” he added.
But, in a tweet, Senator Nnamani said PDP has not been fair and frank with Southeast after many years of huge electoral support. He dismissed the belated offer of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) chairmanship as a token, the equivalence of throwing a bone to a starving dog.
Short of alluding to the power rotation arrangement between North and South, Nnamani explained that he owes an apology to anyone for expressing his political preferences.