There are indicators that the real test for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s leadership acumen would unfold in two years’ time. By 2023, the Enugu State governor would be rounding off his second term in office as the state chief executive.
Recent events in the state showed that Ugwuanyi’s succession plan would be a subject of great contestation between his Enugu North Senatorial District kinsmen and the people of Enugu East Senatorial District.
The informal power rotation arrangement among the three Senatorial districts has run a full circle, with the incumbent taking the slot of Enugu North or Nsukka zone for the final relay. Having begun from Enugu East or Nkanu zone, the power rotation scheme moved through Enugu West or Agbaja/Oji River zone to the current holders, Nsukka.
There had recently been talks about a likely breach of the zoning system in the belief that it has gone round. Supporters of former Deputy President of State, Ike Ekweremadu, initiated arguments on the imperatives of jettisoning zoning as the basis of selecting governors of the state.
Ekweremadu’s allies contend that the Enugu State electorate should be allowed to choose Ugwuanyi’s successor as was done at the beginning of the relay when Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu slugged it out in 1999. Political allies of the former deputy president also state that since there was no written agreement about zoning in the state, all aspirants should be allowed to contest the 2023 governorship race in the belief that the next cycle would begin from whichever zone that produces Ugwuanyi’s successor.
But, members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, which has been the dominant party in the state, complain that Ekweremadu was planning to reintroduce his claims that state governors that tried to set term limits for lawmakers should not aspire to seek election to the National Assembly.
It would be recalled that towards the tail end of his second term, former Governor Sullivan Chime said it was not healthy under the nation’s democratic experience for some lawmakers to enjoy several tenures in the legislature instead of yielding space for others to gain experience.
In a bid to ensure that he succeeds in expanding access to elective offices for the citizens of Enugu State, Chime reduced the tenure of Local Government Council executives to two years and two maximum terms for council bosses, as well as a maximum of two terms of four years each for National Assembly.
Feeling that the revised political arrangement was targeted at him, Senator Ekweremadu set up structures across the state, preparatory to contesting the 2015 governorship. Piqued by Ekweremadu’s attempt to breach the zoning arrangement, Chime threatened to seek the Enugu West Senatorial ticket of PDP. And the cold war began.
PDP National Working Committee (NWC), realizing that the ensuing political supremacy between Governor Chime and Senator Ekweremadu could rob them of the Enugu State governorship, waded in. In the end, with the help of the then President Goodluck Jonathan, Chime, who was fuming that it was improper for a person from his zone to be angling to succeed him, associated himself with the turn of Enugu North to produce his successor. Ugwuanyi, who was the consensus choice of Nsukka people, thereby became PDP’s compromise candidate.
It was that 2015 antics that Ugwuanyi’s supporters alluded to when reports of Ekweremadu’s interest in contesting the 2023 governorship started making the rounds in Enugu State. Multiple sources told The Guardian that governor Ugwuanyi has not made up his mind about contesting the Enugu North Senatorial seat.
But, those who are rooting for Ekweremadu’s governorship aspiration maintain that if the governor should be dreaming of going to the Senate in 2023, nothing will stop their principal’s quest to be in the Lion Building.
IT was gathered that after Ekweremadu began making inroads into Enugu North and other sections of the state for his governorship ambition, some PDP leaders from Enugu North, Ugwuanyi’s Senatorial District, especially Hon. Pat Asadu, mooted the idea of uniting their zone against political destabilization infiltration of ‘overambitious governorship aspirants’.
Asadu and other PDP faithful from his constituency were allegedly taken aback by Ekweremadu’s audacity to sponsor a youth football tournament in Ovoko. With time, other Nsukka political actors took interest and started mobilizing support of the people to ensure that Governor Ugwuanyi finishes strong.
However, instead of focusing on support for the incumbent, some politicians from the zone used the opportunity of an interparty unity rally to advance a different agenda. For instance, at a Unity Rally organized under the aegis of Odimma Nsukka, Senator Chuka Utazi and the 2015 governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Okey Ezea (Ideke), alluded to the possibility of canvassing for their zone (Enugu North Senatorial District) to begin the next round of power rotation in 2023.
While Ezea declared that a Nsukka man should succeed Ugwuanyi, Senator Utazi, in tacit support, formulated the idea that since there were two major political blocs in the state, Nsukka zone should be entitled to 16 straight years in office to make up for the 16 years the Enugu bloc occupied the governorship.
Utazi was also said to have explained in his remarks at the rally that the economic downturn in the country, made worse by the fall in the international price of petroleum and COVID-19 pandemic, did not allow Governor Ugwuanyi to optimize his mandate through developmental projects.
The Senator, therefore, disclosed that the people of Nsukka would rise up together and in one voice demand from Governor Ugwuanyi that a person from their area succeeds him in 2023.
The Guardian gathered that the Nsukka zone had at an earlier meeting, shortlisted Dr. Dan Shere and Ikeje Asogwa as potential gubernatorial candidates to be supported in any political platform to realize the lofty ambition of ensuring that “an Nsukka man takes over from Governor Ugwuanyi in 2023.”
But, no sooner than Senator Utazi and Ezea’s depositions were made public than tongues began to wag about the likely implication of Nsukka rallies on the zoning of the 2023 governorship slot in Enugu State. While some stakeholders alleged that Governor Ugwuanyi was working in cahoots with his kinsmen to alter the zoning arrangement, others claimed that the plot to situate the 2023 governorship reality was the making of political jobbers, particularly those on the APC platform and supporters of the former Deputy President of Senate, Ekweremadu.
However, Governor Ugwuanyi had on several fora disclosed his intention to hand over to a person from Nkanu land in line with the zoning arrangement in the state.
PERHAPS, not prepared to leave the impression of faintheartedness or indifference towards the zoning debate, leaders of Enugu East Senatorial District convened a meeting at the Palace of His Royal Highness, Igwe Julius Nnaji, OdezuluigboIII of Nike.
Prior to the meeting on April 18, 2021, there were some underground arguments about the venue of the meeting, which was convened ostensibly to pick holes on some of the avowals at a similar meeting by Odimma Nsukka.
When the idea of convening the interparty stakeholders’ meeting was mooted, The Guardian gathered that some delegates suggested that since former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, has become the highest political office holder in the zone, his country home at Agbani should be used.
But, others, majorly those serving in the administration of Governor Ugwuanyi allegedly kicked; stressing that allowing the Senator representing Enugu East at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly to host the meeting might leave the impression that he would determine the consensus candidate of the zone.
Those, who opposed the use of Senator Nnamani’s place as a venue of the all-important meeting, were also said to have alleged that some former allies of the Senator were going around extorting from prospective governorship aspirants from the zone in the name of sourcing for logistics to host the meeting.
Swayed by the claim of underhand political plots and fraud, the Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Edward Ubosi, was mandated to serve as a convener, while the Igwe’s palace should serve as the venue.
A notable Nkanu politician denied that the choice of the Palace for a political meeting was a subtle plan to draw the Igwe into partisan politics. He said: “Nkanu has resolved to go ahead without stubborn political leaders. Leadership cannot be on basis of office, we are holding the meeting at Chief Edward Nnaji’s Palace, which is the melting pot of Nkanu socio-political activities, where major decisions concerning their future are taken. The rallying point is the venue.”
Resolved that no individual was taking undue advantage of the Nkanu stakeholders’ meeting, all serving and former political office holders, agreed to attend.
The who-is-who in Nkanuland attended. Those who could not make it, including Chief Jim Nwobodo and Prof. Barth Nnaji, sent their regrets or representations.
Prominent speakers at the meeting, particularly former President of Senate, Dr. Ken Nnamani and Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, spoke robustly against the unguarded utterances of people like Senator Utazi.
The former Senate President reminded those urging Governor Ugwuanyi to hand over to a Nsukka man Nkanu people was magnanimous when they occupied the office. He stated: “Nkanu people have the capacity to fight for their rights, but in the event, we are pushed to fight for the position zoned for us, then nobody should talk about zoning anymore.”
In his delivery, the incumbent Senator and former governor, Nnamani, began by regaling the delegates with anecdotes of Nkanu’s greatness and exploits in wrestling, through farming, war, and “when men were recognized by their antecedents and their greatness.”
In his characteristic singsong voice, Nnamani stated: “All members of Enugu State Executive Council, both serving and former, I beg for your forgiveness and forbearance. All the great members of PDP here, the Local Government party chairmen, the ward chairmen, and executives, and of all other political parties.
“Ladies and gentlemen, he who cares for his own is on the right track. I welcome this opportunity to be back home, I welcome this opportunity to be back to be clan head, to commune and felicitate with my governor in the homeland. We cannot rewrite and revise history.
“That which is ordained is ordained and God fulfills His manifest destiny in his own time. Little man cannot change it and little man in his vanity cannot change the destiny preordained by God.”
Rephrasing a song by Obiwuruotu Women Dance Group from Okigwe, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, reminded all those working for the reversal of the zoning arrangement, which places Enugu East as the next port of call, not to destroy the peaceful political heritage of Enugu State.
“We are here today because it is our time. We are not here to say that we have the greatest political warriors; we are here to say, remember our agreement. We are not going to boast. We are begging, please remember our peace, because, at 61, I have seen it all,” he added.
The delegates at the meeting resolved to hold a mega rally of all Enugu East people to drive home the point that they are not going to treat the attempt to usurp their right to Lion Building, Enugu State seat of government, come 2023 with kid gloves.
In a four-point communiqué after the meeting, the stakeholders passed a resounding vote of confidence on the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, noting the governor’s giant developmental strides, sustained peaceful climate, and relentless efforts to maintain the safety of lives and property of all residents of Enugu State, even as they reiterated their unalloyed and unmitigated support to his selfless leadership.