BY JUDE OSSAI / ENUGU
That Enugu is predominantly a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state, going by political events since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999 is no longer news.
What perhaps news is when an opposition party candidate ascends the mantle of political leadership in Enugu State.
Indeed, no other political party has been able to displace the PDP in the Lion Building (Government House). The reason may not be far-fetched. Enugu is strategic to policy makers, hence the party appears not ready to give political space to opposition leaders to control the structures of the Coal City State, irrespective of the cult following of the individual.
The theory is that whichever party that governs Enugu, the administrative headquarters of the defunct Eastern Region, is expected to have more following in the entire Southeast geo-political zone.
It is against the aforementioned backdrop that the battle for supremacy among current political actors in the state ahead of the 2023 general elections is becoming fierce and contentious making the politics of Enugu a hot bed in the zone nay the country.
It could be recalled that at the threshold of the exit of the military from political power in 1999, the PDP clinched almost all the elective positions; local, state and federal levels.
Records show that the PDP has been in the saddle in all levels of government except in 2003 when the Alliance for Democracy (AD) won the Enugu North Senatorial seat and in 1999, when old Igbo-Eze Local Government and Oji-River representative at the Enugu State House of Assembly, as well as the Aninri Local Government Area fell into the hands of the then All Peoples Party (APP).
Curiously, the beneficiary, Chief Fidelis Okoro (now late) shortly after being sworn-in as a senator, hurriedly returned to the PDP umbrella while old Igbo-Eze, Oji-River and Aninri Council areas came under the control of the ruling party (PDP) in the state in subsequent elections.
The emergence of Dr Chimaroke Nnamani as the governor of the state ended the incursion of the opposition as he used his Ebeano, a political platform, to silence dissenting voices throughout his eight-year reign as governor in the state.
Despite the hard-line posture of Ebeano, the current APC state chairman and Nnamani’s founding Chief Campaign Manager as well as former state Commissioner for Works, Chief Ugochukwu Agballa, of the old Accord Party (AP) almost snatched power from the PDP in 2003 but for the power of incumbency and federal might which favoured Nnamani.
The era of Sullivan Chime was characterised by stiff opposition, coupled with internal squabbles in the PDP in the state. For instance, Chief Okey Ezea tried twice vying through different parties, including the Labour Party (LP) to upturn the table against the PDP. The efforts of Ezea, a business mogul, which would have truncated the governorship zoning arrangement, almost yielded fruits; it was the Court of Appeal in Enugu that saved the re-election of Chime.
Ezea, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, had to give way to Senator Ayogu Eze in the 2019 governorship election who the incumbent, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, defeated in a landslide at the poll.
While Dr Nnamani’s faithful were protesting the alleged betrayal by his erstwhile political godson (Chime), the rift between Chime and Senator Ike Ekweremadu, then deputy president of the Senate also raged, further heightening political tension in the state.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, apparently learning from history, had to shift from the old ways of his predecessors, adopting a tactical approach of making stakeholders more visible in his government.
How the then leading opposition party – APC due to an unending internal crisis lost its steam in local government elections and subsequently governorship polls to PDP is now in dust-bin of history.
Today, the opposition in the state still seems to be in more dilemma especially as its arrow head and Candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Hon. Chijioke Edeoga is expected to spend more time to explain to the electorate why he left PDP after deeply involved in fashioning out policies and programmes of the PDP administration in the state.
Already, controversy is trailing his candidacy pushing the Publicity Secretary of the LP, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, to come out on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, to dispel reports of a section of the media that he (Edeoga) is not the flag-bearer of the party.
The statement reads:
“The attention of the Labour Party, Enugu State Chapter, has been called to fictitious rumours doing their rounds and alleging that Rt. Hon. Barr. Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga is either no longer the Candidate of our party for the 2023 general elections in Enugu State, or that his candidature has not been approved by the party.
“Labour Party wants to confirm to our teeming members and supporters that Rt. Hon. Edeoga is the Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State for the 2023 general elections.
“We are neither discussing with any other aspirants for this position nor is his candidature having any hitches at all.
“We are well aware that since the announcement of Barr. Edeoga as the Party’s Flag Bearer for the 2023 Governorship elections in the state, efforts have béen on gear by different entities and groups who are rattled by his emergence to cause confusion among our members and supporters and deceive them.
“Labour Party, Enugu State, is issuing this press statement to clarify this issue and to urge our members, supporters and the critical public to completely disregard the rumours and such untrue publications about our party and its genuine and non contentious Candidate for the 2023 general elections in the State.
Political checks reveal that PDP has solid structures in the state having been on the saddle for a long time and perhaps it informed the reason its flag-bearer, Mbah, did not blink an eye before forwarding his dream for the state to members of the public.
Mbah stated, “My mission is to deliver quality, people focused governance by making Enugu the preferred destination for investment, business, tourism and living.
On his mission, he said, “To make Enugu one of the top 3 states in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product, and achieve a zero percent rate in the poverty headcount index.
According to him, “My mission and vision will entail moving our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) frm Its current position of about $4.4 Billion to atleast $30 Billion in the next 4-8 Years.
“Our broad governance objective is to grow the economy of Enugu State by making it a leading destination for business investment and leisure. This far-reaching objective would be achieved by applying a governance philosophy based on the following main principles.
Further checks show that between now and the elections proper, the leadership of the PDP is expected to have assuaged fraying nerves as reconciliation has since begun with visits to aggrieved members of the party.
Many Enugu residents interviewed said that although the opposition will make impact in the 2023 general elections due to the new electoral act but the ruling party will still retain power in the state.