By Godwin Udeh
The dark clouds are gathering over Enugu State and very soon, they will come down, a raging rainstorm wrecking unimaginable havoc on the famed political harmony nurtured by the time-honored zoning of the governorship seat. A political conspiracy threatens to jeopardize the peace of the state and all men and women of goodwill must be on the watch.
In 2007, Chimaroke Nnamani from the Enugu East handed over to Sullivan Chime from the West, who handed over to Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from the North in 2015, who is expected to hand over to the East in 2023 in the next round of power rotation. But Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who has repeatedly expressed fidelity to the equitability of zoning, has come under contrived pressure, blackmail and chicanery, to do a last minute recant and instead install his cousin-brother, Chijioke Edeoga, a self-identifying Nsukka man from Isi Uzo, as his successor, and there are unsettling signals that the governor is complicit in the conspiracy. Isi Uzo is Nsukka by consanguinity, cultural ties and worldview, though politically yoked with Enugu East Zone. This much has been affirmed in recent times by Nsukka leaders, notably Dr. Okwy Nwodo and his swashbuckling younger brother, Chief Nnia Nwodo, in their sinister gubernatorial campaign for Edeoga, who is their son-in-law.
In the past few days, the trio of Senator Chukwuka Utazi, Chris Ofor and Okey Ezea has been frantically chaperoning Chijioke Edeoga round political circles in Nsukka, selling the narrative that they have a sacrosanct agreement with Ugwuanyi to hand over to Edeoga and that Utazi stepped down from the senate for the governor as part of the deal, which will see him compensated as Deputy Governor to Edeoga. Chris Ofor and Okey Ezea are penciled down for Secretary to the State Government and Chief of Staff, respectively, in the said arrangement. Ofor comes from a notorious history of treachery and dishonor and his political ascension was a product of betrayal. Here was a man who was picked by sheer magnanimity as deputy chairman to Hon. Okey Agu when he was elected as chairman of Igboetiti LGA under the SDP. No sooner did he become the deputy chairman than he plotted and executed the most fraudulent impeachment ever in the history of South-East against his benefactor with the active connivance of Utazi who as the then deputy speaker of the House of Assembly was the leader of the SDP in the state. Utazi and Ofor, who are shepherding Edeoga today, are old war horses in the art of political hustle, subterfuge and perfidy.
Utazi, curiously a sitting senator and lawyer, openly denounces and repudiates the constitutional reality of 3 senatorial zones in the state. To him, the political equation in the state must be viewed from the obsolete lens of the Second Republic (1979-1983) when the old Anambra State had five senatorial zones with two of them constituting the present Enugu State, namely Nsukka Senatorial Zone (Isi Uzo inclusive), and the rest of the state then known as Enugu Senatorial Zone. Senator Utazi vigorously campaigned for Nsukka to produce Ugwuanyi’s successor for another 8 years to balance the 16 years of governorship by the East and West zones (which he reduces to ONE zone), leading a delegation of traditional rulers to mount pressure on the governor to endorse him for 2023. When he failed, he saw Edeoga as the perfect Isi Uzo man that can wear Nsukka shoes as the governor to take the turn of Enugu East Zone. He calls this political formula of his “IRI N’ISUU – IRI N’ISUU (16 vs 16), mounting gigantic billboards across Nsukka zone to promote his incendiary agenda. But masking this grandstanding as the new champion of Nsukka nationalism is Utazi’s immersion in narcissistic self-interest. Thus, 16 vs 16 with Edeoga as governor can only work with himself and no one else as deputy governor.
Chijioke Edeoga is marketed round Nsukka with the catchphrase that he is an Nsukka man in the
Nsukka part of Enugu East Zone. Since Isi Uzo is indeed Nsukka as Chief Nnia Nwodo, Utazi and others trumpet as the battle cry to galvanize support, an Edeoga governorship is Nsukka succeeding Nsukka, simpliciter. A spade must be called by its name. If one may ask, why is it now that Nwodo is suddenly realizing that Isi Uzo is Nsukka? As a powerful minister in the transitional regime of General Abdulsalam Abubakar, why did he not stop Isi Uzo from being gerrymandered into Enugu East Zone, or did he look the other way in some sleazy political quid pro quo characteristic of his usual power schemes? But it gets messier than this, as a blatant political knavery unfolds before our eyes! What is being packaged and sold as the primacy of Nsukka interest in 2023 is actually an egregious and venal grab for power by the Nwodos and Utazi, while on the other hand, Governor Ugwuanyi foists a dynasty on the state with his blood cousin as his anointed successor. The Edeoga governorship project is driven by personal relationships, with 3 key beneficiaries – the Nwodos, Ugwuanyi and Utazi – the latter being a political lightweight who I can defeat in an election in his Nkpologu locality, even from my distant town in Awgu. It is evident that Nsukka interest is a mere ruse. Lest the conspirators forget that Igbo revulsion for nepotism in governorship succession is particularly strong, judging from the popular revolt against Rochas Okorocha’s power elongation manoeuver involving his son-in-law. The former governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, on account of this mass disdain for the governorship dynasty, carefully distanced himself from the governorship ambition of his uncle, Mr Jeff Nnamani, which forced him to defect from PDP to APGA.
Meanwhile, with Edeoga as Governor and Utazi as Deputy, the Nkanu cultural bloc, comprising 5 of the 6 local governments in Enugu East Zone (Isi Uzo being the sixth), 3 of them straddling the densely populated Enugu metropolitan area, will be completely sidelined from the offices of both the governor and deputy governor for yet another 8 years, totaling 24 years since they yielded power in 2007. Such a heavy price to pay for respecting the gentleman’s agreement and abstaining from vying for the PDP governorship ticket for 16 years! For us in Enugu West Zone, the certainty of producing the governor in another eight years is starkly bleak as Nkanu tribe, with their bullish electoral strength fired by righteous indignation, cannot be suppressed and skipped while the West takes precedence over them. Herein lies my grouse in this unfolding theatre of the absurd, possibly enabled by an official sleight of hand. Doubtless, an authentic Enugu East governorship in 2023 is a shorter and surer route of 8 years to Enugu West’s turn in 2031, than the circuitous and precarious Isi Uzo path laden with unpredictable political landmines.
The devious schemes are being executed using the governor’s name to hoodwink and intimidate people. In their naivety, myopia and clannishness, Edeoga’s mediocre handlers have concentrated their consultations and monetary inducements on Nsukka zone. They hijacked and manipulated the Adada General Assembly and the Nsukka Journalists Foundation to adopt unprecedented partisanship that borders on clannish chauvinism and bigotry.
The political jobbers claim to be championing the governor’s prerogative to determine his successor, and to dictate to party delegates who to vote for. If they actually believe that Governor Ugwuanyi should choose his successor, why are they not waiting for the governor to make his decision known? Why are they distributing money, while boasting about their agreement with the governor? Indeed they tell anyone that cares to listen that the governor is the one sponsoring the campaign. Even if it is true, is this an information that should be taken to the public domain? Only yesterday, they circulated a press release and an audio message on social media claiming that they had secured the support of Nsukka delegates for Chijioke Edeoga and hinting at his anointing by the Government House. That should tell Ugwuanyi the character deficits of those he is dealing with.
It is worrisome that Edeoga’s campaign activities bear the imprimatur and trappings of connivance with the highest level of authority in the state. Questions are being asked on the unexplainable sudden affluence of Edeoga, who now moves about in a long motorcade of flashy Toyota Prado jeeps and other SUVs. His campaign billboards are springing up all over the state capital and across the 17 local governments of the state. His radio jingles have literally seized the airwaves, while his well-staffed media team operates from plum office suites at the highbrow Golf Estate. His full blown campaign has been prosecuted with little or no effort at disguising the injection of stupendous funds from unfathomable sources. This is a man whose cumulative salaries as Commissioner for the past 7 years cannot afford a brand new Prado jeep.
The people of Enugu State want the governor to clear the air on the shenanigans in play. A clear and unambiguous statement from the governor’s office has become apposite at this point debunking the alleged sponsorship if untrue. We demand to know if Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is truly planning to create an ignoble precedent of governorship dynasty in our beloved state by handing over to his cousin. We demand to know if his pronouncements on zoning were mere ploys to distract us from the political machinations of the Nwodos and their cohorts, as they desperately seek to railroad their favourite son-in-law as governor with Utazi as deputy. We don’t want to believe that the governor has been taking Ndi Enugu for a ride. We don’t want to believe that all the efforts and resources on Enugu West Ifemelumma rally, as well as the Enugu East Oganiru rally, were all orchestrated in service of his maternal cousin’s governorship ambition. We know the governor as a man of peace, a man of conscience, a man of equity and fairness who is guided in his everyday decisions by the fear of God and his avowals to the people of the state. We also know that he can have his way as governor but he must remember that there is an Almighty God in Heaven watching who will reward everyone according to their deeds.
What the good people of Nsukka and the state in general seem to have forgotten is the height of impunity and instinctive covetousness that motivate the political calculations of the Nwodos, Utazi and Ofor. The plain truth is that when it comes to recruitment to political offices and strategic positioning, nepotism, cronyism and family business supersede and override any pretension to Nsukka interests. If the Nwodos loved Nsukka so much, why did they choose cronyism and family business over Nsukka’s collective aspiration when they backed their close associate Nduka Agu of Ngwo in Udi LGA for governor in 1999, while Chief Jim Nwobodo supported a fellow Nkanu man who was not his business associate or political hanger-on? Does it mean that they looked round and did not find any competent Nsukka man to be governor in 1999? Nsukka people did not even know what was in store for them in the entire transaction.
When this government came in 2015 along with opportunities for leadership positions, the first thing Senator Utazi did was to push his longtime ally Chris Ofor forward for Secretary to the State Government and when it failed, they recommended Ofor’s wife for Commissioner for Finance. After 4 years as Commissioner, they sponsored her for the House of Representatives seat against Martin Oke and when the bid failed, they again lobbied the governor to appoint her into the Civil Service Commissioner. In all of these, it was all about intimate friendship, family business and political alliance between Ofor and Utazi. Where were Nsukka and Isi Uzo interests when they were positioning themselves for political appointments?
Governor Ugwuanyi must be mindful of the streak of bad luck that has haunted the political careers of the Nwodos. There must be something ominous about the mystical forces that propel them to dizzying heights of power, only to crash-land in utter humiliation. Dr. Joe Nwodo was at the cusp of governorship election victory when he was disqualified by the Babangida regime. Replaced by Dr. Okwy Nwodo who emerged as governor, his tenure was truncated in less than 2 years by the Abacha coup of November 1993. In 1999, Dr. Okwy Nwodo again emerged as the founding National Secretary of the PDP. But his brother, Chief Nnia Nwodo, entered the opposition ANPP to challenge the PDP president in the 2003 presidential election in a misguided overreach, sowing the seed for Okwy’s abrupt removal as the ruling party scribe. Fast forward to 2011 when fortune smiled on Okwy again, this time as the National Chairman of PDP. Chief Nnia Nwodo immediately crossed over to the PDP where he launched a needless and avoidable war against Governor Sullivan Chime, which eventually cost Okwy his office.
In the heat of the battle when the entire Enugu North Zone was ceded to the Nwodos to produce all the party candidates, while Chime produced for the other 2 zones, they left their ardent Nsukka followers in rude shock when Nnia Nwodo lobbied Chime for the swap of 2 particular candidates. In the proposed swap, Nwodo was willing to sacrifice an Nsukka candidate for the Igbo-Eze North/Udenu federal constituency seat, then occupied by Ugwuanyi, for Chime’s nominee, in exchange for the Enugu East/Isi Uzo federal constituency seat, exclusively reserved for their beloved son-in-law Edeoga. Ugwuanyi called their bluff and gallantly fought his way back to the green chamber. Today, Ugwuanyi seems to have forgotten this sordid backstabbing and betrayal from the Nwodos which he survived by divine munificence that has been his staying power. Should Edeoga and his in-laws continue to reap where they did not sow?
It is a known fact that the Nwodos have always wanted their surrogate son-in-law to be governor and their plan this time is to usurp the Ugwuanyi succession plan in service of their family interest. But Ugwuanyi should be smarter than building his exit plan and legacy on the quicksand of a family that is politically jinxed and fated to fatal tumble, in what folks often construe as a curse.
The Nwodos are not yet done with their excessive and utterly selfish acquisitiveness because the hideous odour from the shrew permeates its bones. Their son Ikenna was far away from the country and neither contributed to the campaigns nor voted in the elections that produced Governor Ugwuanyi. Yet, he was brought back to the state and imposed on the governor first as Special Adviser, then the Transition Chairman of Igboetiti LGA and now the elected Council Chairman. We shall be watching vigilantly as he arm-twists Igboetiti delegates to vote for his cousin-in-law.
Edeoga has pursued his campaign with surprising divisiveness, brutality, belligerence and acerbity quite at odds with the popular reputation of Ugwuanyi as a warm, gracious and compassionate leader, a bridge builder and pacifist. His media operatives portray him as the only saint amongst the motley crowd of aspirants numbering about 20, while demonizing and savaging others as tainted and blemished politicians, either immersed in all kinds of debauchery or perennial guests of anti-graft agencies. None of the frontrunners has been spared of calumnious diatribes and tags of corruption from the Edeoga camp, including the respected former minister, Prof. Barth Nnaji, former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Prof Ike Ekweremadu, former Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, Prof. Hillary Odo-Edeoga, aviation mogul, Chief Evarest Nnaji, retired federal Permanent Secretary, Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa, oil magnate, Barr. Peter Mbah; and for reportedly backing Mbah, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. While other aspirants are conducting clean campaigns devoid of invectives, Edeoga and his hatchet men are more adept at bullying, disgracing and seeking to hound rivals out of the race.
The expectation that the campaign discourses will centre on serious issues of concern to the people such as competence, track records of achievements and implementable visions and programmes that will attract investments to the state, create jobs and address social exclusion and insecurity, have been drowned by the toxicity of Edeoga’s vociferous smear campaign. His media operatives continue to wave his London University law degree at our faces, with nothing to show for his personal accomplishments. This is hardly surprising. Edeoga has been around government practically all his life, beginning from press secretary, incidentally to his in-law, then Governor Okwy Nwodo in 1992, to local government chairman, to the House of Representatives, legislative aide to the same Senator Ekweremadu he now vilifies, Jonathan’s presidential assistant and finally to being a commissioner. He is not known to have done anything else other than being perpetually in government and holding one political appointment after another.
Ultimately, Governor Ugwuanyi will be the sole recipient of this evil debris that sure will come if this surreptitious attempt to impose his cousin on Ndi Enugu comes full circle. It will destroy precedents, dismantle honour, proclaim the ascendance of evil and showcase leadership as nothing more than a cult of dishonor.