Governor Sullivan Chime
The 2015 governorship election may be about three years away, but politicians in Enugu State have begun to position themselves for the electoral battle, which promises to be a tough one. Christopher Isiguzo writes
Though the next general elections are still over two years away, the battle over who would occupy the number one position in Enugu State by 2015 is already gathering momentum, especially among politicians from the Enugu North senatorial zone. The zone, also known as the Nsukka zone, is widely believed to be where the governorship position would rotate to.
Since the advent of the current democratic governance, the other two zones have occupied the topmost position in the state, while the Nsukka zone has only either occupied the speakership of the state House of Assembly or the deputy governorship position. For instance, between 1999 and 2007, while the then governor, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, hailed from Nkanu in the Enugu East senatorial zone, his then deputy, Okechukwu Itanyi, hailed from Enugu North and they maintained that working relationship for the eight years of Nnamani’s rule. During the same period, the position of Speaker of the Assembly remained within the Enugu West senatorial zone, even though it was variously occupied by persons from different local governments in the zone.
At present, while the number one position is occupied by Governor Sullivan Chime who hails from Udi Local Government Area of Enugu West, the deputy governor, Sunday Onyebuchi, is from Nkanu in Enugu East senatorial zone. Expectedly, the position of the head of the legislative arm has shifted to Nsukka zone and is being held by Hon. Eugene Odoh from Igboetiti state constituency.
Politicians have started behind-the-scenes moves in apparent show of intentions to seek the governorship office. So far, those whose body languages tend to indicate an interest in the post are all from Nsukka zone.
Pursued alongside the governorship of Enugu State in 2015 by the people of Nsukka zone is their long-standing dream of having a state of their own. The battle for Adada State dream has remained a unifying factor for politicians and indigenes of the senatorial district. Their argument is hinged on the fact that Nsukka zone remains the only one that has not been divided since the old Anambra State. Whereas an appreciable proportion of Ebonyi State, as presently constituted, as well as Enugu East and West senatorial zones have been split into senatorial zones, Nsukka remains as one. Nsukka zone is yet to be divided, making it the single largest senatorial zone in the entire South-east zone, possibly after Imo West senatorial zone of Imo State, which has 12 Local Government Areas.
In other words, to the people of Nsukka, two major issues are on the front-burner: actualising the dream for Adada State and having the governorship seat zoned to the area. But the immediate focus of the people is, apparently, the governorship contest in 2015.
Expectedly, notable political actors in the state are involved in various subterranean moves aimed at out-witting one another ahead of the governorship contest. Though no one has openly indicated interest in the race, all the signs are that it is going to be a fierce battle.
THISDAY checks revealed that Governor Sullivan Chime had during the campaign for his second term last year indicated that he would help Enugu North senatorial zone realise their governorship ambition in 2015 if they gave massive support to his second term bid. Going by the result of the last governorship election in the state, PDP on whose platform Chime had contested won over 60 per cent of the total votes cast in the Nsukka zone. This was despite the fact that two of Chime’s major opponents in the election – Dr Dan Shere of the People for Democratic Change and Barrister Okey Ezea of the Labour Party – hailed from the zone. Shere was sponsored by the immediate past governor and leader of the Ebeano political family, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. Neither of the two candidates from the North senatorial zone received the support of people from their zone.
As at the last count, some of those believed to be interested in the governorship position included two-term senator and Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Ayogu Eze; Ambassador Fidel Ayogu; member representing Igboeze North-Udenu federal constituency and chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; PDP state chairman and Pro-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Chief Vita Abba; Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh; and two-time Commissioner for Information, Chuks Ugwuoke.
Others that may also join the race include former governorship aspirant in the state, Dr Okey Ezea and former governorship candidate of Nnamani’s PDC, Shere. These two political gladiators who were formerly in PDP, according to sources, may not want to return to the party, as they are said to be strategising on which political platform to use in pursuing their governorship ambitions.
While some of the aspirants are relying on their political connections, especially at the federal level, others are banking on their experience in politics, closeness to the state governor and achievements in their various offices.
Despite the seeming tilt of the power shift arguments in favour of Enugu North senatorial zone, there appears to be moves by some political office holders in the state to encourage an influential government official from Enugu East senatorial zone to join the governorship race. The alleged official is believed to be nursing the ambition of contesting the Enugu East senatorial seat in 2015, when the incumbent, Senator Gil Nnaji, is expected to bow out in compliance with a “gentleman’s agreement.”
A source close to Government House confided to THISDAY that efforts were also being made by the governor’s wife to sponsor a candidate for the governorship position.
Apart from that secret plan, there is also another worry that Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who hails from Aninri, in Enugu West senatorial zone, may sponsor a candidate from his zone. The worry stems from the fact that Ekeremadu had during the 2011 electioneering campaign advised Nsukka leaders to caution their sons and daughters against contesting the election against Chime since it was still the turn of Enugu West to complete their second term or risk losing their possible bid by 2015.
Though, the deputy senate president has consistently noted that he would not be interested in the governorship of the state in 2015, political actors are not leaving anything to chance. Many think Ekweremadu’s comment made is filled with implications.
“If he eventually decides to run, of course, he would be qualified but we are trying to let them know that in the 2011 elections, no Nsukka person contested the election on Nsukka banner. Those who decided to test their individual strengths, expectedly, were defeated.
“We now expect both Ekweremadu and the governor to also keep their side of the bargain, otherwise, any action that is taken at variance with this postulation would, no doubt, culminate in an unimaginable crisis in Enugu State,” a source noted.
As interest in the governorship race continues to grow, there have been attempts to highlight features that stand some of the hopefuls apart, apparently, to make their candidacies more acceptable to political stakeholders.
Recently, a group, under the aegis of “Good governance in Nsukka,” tended to give an insight into what might play out in the zone in 2015 when it lamented the delay in the completion of projects brought to the area in the past four years. One of the projects mentioned was the Adada River Dam project, said to have been attracted by Eze last year and billed for completion by next year.
The group, in a statement signed by its national coordinator Simeon Ugwueze, observed that since June last year when the project was started, and after the payment of an undisclosed amount of money, the contractor was yet to commence work on the project. They pointed out that funds for the dam, awarded for about N2.57 billion by the federal government, was yet to be accounted for, especially in terms of work done.
“It should not be treated like political promises made to our people. Nsukka people made this representation to the government that damming the Adada River was a priority to them and channelled it through their senator, Ayogu Eze,” the group stated.
Apparently, responding to the complaint, Eze recently petitioned the Federal Ministry of Water Resources over the project. He asked anybody in doubt of his determination to deliver on his electoral promises to crosscheck from available records.
“They should look at the number of people we have offered job so far. We have renovated several schools, offered scholarships. The NTA station was attracted by me and it has been completed. One is sited at Udi and the other one at Nsukka, the projects have been completed and will soon take off. They are there for all to see,” the senator said.
“For the Adada dam project, this arose out of a town hall meeting that I summoned to interface with my people. There they raised their problems, including the creation of Adada State. As their senator, I have carried these requests to my colleagues and have pursued them vigorously. If I am not interested in the dam project, I don’t think the project would have been awarded, in the first place. I am taking it up with the Ministry of Water Resources. I am convinced that the project will be delivered.”
Ugwuoke, too, has been trying to emphasise qualities that separate him from the crowd. He was said to be one of the most important defenders of the governor during his faceoff with erstwhile national chairman of PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo. Upon resumption for his second term, Chime wasted no time in reappointing Ugwuoke, perhaps, in deference to the role he had played.
As for Abba, support for Chime and successful management of the affairs of PDP in the state seem to be obvious advantages. Though he was alleged to have manipulated the last congresses of the party to favour his supporters, especially in Enugu North senatorial zone, an allegation his aides have been trying to debunk.
Abba was also alleged to have used his recent tour of local government chapters of the party, where he inaugurated the new executives, for subtle campaigns for the 2015 governorship. His aides have denied this, insisting Abba should rather be commended for delivering PDP candidates in virtually all the elections conducted in the state since he assumed the leadership of the party.
“You would recall that under Abba, the PDP has won all the elections conducted in the state. The party has remained peaceful, in spite of the challenges. Those fanning the embers of crisis don’t really know how party administration works and we are not going to join issues with them,” a source close to Abba told THISDAY.
The Enugu House of Assembly Speaker also seems to have a lot going for him in the build up to the next governorship election. Apart from heading one of the most peaceful legislative houses in the country, Odoh has maintained a smooth working relationship with the governor.
Under Odoh, a third term legislator, the Assembly has passed several people-oriented bills, resolutions and motions. His experience is also one of the things that stand him in good stead.
The various hopefuls ahead of the Enugu State governorship race have their advantages and disadvantages. Only time will tell how the various qualities would combine to bring out Chime’s successor.