By Christopher Isiguzo
Christopher Isiguzo writes that the two major political parties in the Enugu State, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party appear set for the mother of all battles
Ahead of the 2019 General elections, many political gladiators have started devising strategies on how to outwit each other as indications continue to point to the fact that the elections will be keenly contested in many states of the federation.
Enugu, though generally regarded as a PDP state, the battle for political supremacy will not be different in Enugu as the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) appears ready for an epic battle. With the way things are going, it’s becoming crystal clear that this, perhaps, will be the first time a major political contest will take place in the Coal City since 1999.
That perhaps explained the fund-raising dinner organized last weekend by the people of Enugu West senatorial district in support of Enugu West Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates ahead of the 2019 general elections. It was the first of its kind since the nations return to democracy in 1999. That also explains the symbolism of the event- which is that it’s not going to be business as usual.
The leading light in the zone and candidate of PDP for Enugu West senatorial seat in the coming election is no less a personality than the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, four-time senator and three-time deputy senate president, the longest serving deputy senate president in Nigeria’s history. Ekweremadu could be said to be politically lucky. Though his meteoric rise did not come without dint of hard work; it was a typical rise from grass to grace.
He started his political journey as local government chairman. But before then, his first attempt at becoming local government chairman was meted with baptism of fire. He said to have been abducted and put in a car boot and taken on a merry-go round journey before he was freed. And of course he lost the election. He succeeded in second attempt.
Then he was picked by former Governor of the State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani in 1999 and made Chief of Staff and later Secretary to the State Government (SSG). He went to the senate in 2003.
In the 2019 general elections, Sen Ekeweremadu will face his major opponent from the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the person of Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, former Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Judicial Reforms and former deputy governorship candidate of APC in the 2015 general elections. Other candidates of PDP will similarly be facing formidable opponents from the APC, with a former two-term senator, Senator Ayogu Eze set to slug it out with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for the state’s topmost position.
Meanwhile the fund-raising event was in support of Ekweremadu and others, including the member representing Awgu-Anninri and Oji River Federal Constituency, Hon Toby Okechukwu and member representing Udi-Ezeagu Federal Constituency, Hon. Dennis Amadi; Hon. Chima Obieze (Ezeagu state constituency) and Hon Chuka Eneh (Udi South state constituency), who are second term cvandidates.
Others are fresh state assembly candidates including; Engr. Okwu Chinedu Otaka, for Aninri; Mrs. Jane Eneh, for Awgu North; Mr. Chukwuobasi Johnson, for Awgu South; Mr. Geoff Mba, for Oji-River and Engr. Uche Callistus Ugwu, for Udi North.
Speaking at the event, Ekweremadu assured his constituents, the people of Enugu West senatorial district; that they will never regret investing in him and others.
The lawmaker told his audience at the Base Event Centre, Enugu, venue of the fund-raising dinner, Ekweremadu said that the people invested in good cause and would reap bountiful returns in terms of good governance and democratic dividends.
“We believe that whatever investment you made for us today will be a testament for development of good governance not only in Enugu but also Nigeria.
“We are committed to good governance and making returns on investment in terms of qualitative representation. We believe that working together we can make Nigeria better and we can make our various states better.
“You are investing in a good cause and we want to pledge that we will never disappoint you”.
The vice chairman of PDP in Enugu West senatorial district, Ozo Okey Ozoani appreciated those who made donations for the re-election campaigns of the candidates from the zone.
“Today is a great day for us. You are gathered here because you have seen things done by our political representatives including the state governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Deputy Senate President, Prof. Ike Ekweremadu; and our state and national assembly representatives; in terms of human capital and infrastructural development,” he said.
Ozoani boasted that his party, the PDP, would win all the positions in 2019 general elections in Enugu state and Nigeria.
“By what you have done today, by coming to donate funds, you have encouraged us to go into the field to mobilize the people for votes. We assure you that the money donated will be judiciously utilized”
He said that the people leading the campaigns at the state and zonal levels in the state are goal-getters, while the products they are marketing are good ones.
The zonal vice chairman stated that while Governor Ugwuanyi had done excellently well in infrastructural development and workers welfare in terms of regularly payment of salaries, Sen Ekweremadu was also impressive in human capital development and infrastructural development.
He said that there is hardly any local government area in the state that did not benefit from amenities attracted to the state by Ekweremadu.
Ozoani said both men had given governance a human face and praised them for being youth and sport-friendly.
“I will not end this speech without mentioning the Governor’s impact in sports development, which has earned the Rangers International both the league title and the AITEO Cup in the last three years.
“In the same vein, Senator Ekweremadu has also committed himself to sponsoring of the annual youth sports competition, which has also contributed immensely in enriching the Rangers International feeder team and development of various sports talents”.
The chairman of the occasion, and CEO Rico Group of Companies, Sir Eric Chime said that the occasion was not only to raise funds but to give honour to whom it is due.
“Sen Ekweremadu, the House of Representatives and House of Assembly members are representing us well; we want them to go back.
“We shall all go back to our wards and make sure we have your PVCs. We want all our candidates in Enugu West to be winning with 96 percent, while we will give Governor Ugwuanyi 98 percent of our votes. We don’t want to take chances.
“This night we have to support them financially, and then during the voting proper, we do proper mobilization to ensure we cast our votes for them,” Chime who donated N10 million with a pledge to supply all the water during campaigns said.
The chairman extolled the existing cooperation between Governor Ugwuanyi and Ekweremadu, which he said was responsible for the political peace and development strides in the State. According to him, in the past, Enugu was heading into a major election without crisis.
He described both leaders as agents of peace, political stability, and good governance in Enugu State. He observed that the synergy between the state government and the state’s federal lawmakers had translated to massive grassroots development in Enugu State.
He said: “The synergy and sincere brotherhood shared by Governor Ugwuanyi and Senator Ekweremadu has brought peace, unity, political stability and good governance to our State. Enugu State has witnessed purposeful, responsive leadership and massive infrastructural development, which have uplifted the living conditions of our people.
This is exemplified in all sectors- economy; road infrastructures, water projects, health, education, among others. Our choice is to support them to continue the good work because we cannot change a winning team.”
More than N150 million was raised during the fund raising dinner witnessed by business moguls and politicians from within and outside the state including the state Governor, Ugwuanyi, who was represented at the occasion by the Speaker of the State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi.
Also present were; the Director General of PDP campaign in the state, who is also the Commissioner for Water Resources, Dr. Charles Egumgbe, the former Speaker of the State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Abel Chukwu and the chairmen of the five local government areas that that make up Enugu West senatorial zones- Awgu, Aninri, Oji-River, Udi and Ezeagu.
Enugu, though generally regarded as a PDP state, the battle for political supremacy will not be different in Enugu as the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) appears ready for an epic battle. With the way things are going, it’s becoming crystal clear that this, perhaps, will be the first time a major political contest will take place in the Coal City since 1999