By: Dr. Edeh Abonyi
Make no mistake about it. Edeoga was and is still my candidate even before I knew him. I had sworn to an oath to work for whoever emerged Labour Party governorship candidate in Enugu State because of my love for Peter Obi, Labour Party’s presidential candidate.
I understood the hullaballoo and rancour that accompanied Edeoga’s ticket in the Labour Party after he lost out in PDP. Whether he swindled Chief Evarest Nnaji (Odengene), his trusted political ally of many years, of thousands or millions of dollars with promise to stand for him as a placeholder, or his political godfathers; the Nwodos and Prof. Barth Nnaji, manipulated Mr. Casmir Agbo, the original and certified Labour Party gubernatorial flagbearer, and foisted him on the party, is immaterial to me.
The most burning issue to us then was Peter Obi’s involvement in Labour Party. We wanted to swim and sink with him. Then, Edeoga picked up the ticket from the rubble of betrayal and influence of the Nwodo’s political dynasty. Odengene and others who were aggrieved could go to court. Judgment was given to the highest bidder, and Odengene came back home to leak the wound inflicted on him by his surrogate and friend. It was the case of Julius Caesar and Brutus who delivered the last blow on the king. We were convinced to meet with him. I became a member of his strategy team even though some of us were skeptical about his chances of winning for various factors.
First, it was difficult for us to interrogate his background and sell same to members of the public just like we did for Peter Obi. Obi’s background check was clearly spelt out with the marker, “Go and verify” becoming the new mantra in town.
It was, however, difficult to say the same about Edeoga because of those dirty and criminal records hanging on his neck. His Mgbuji people of Eha-Amufu and Isi Uzo council area became the big elephant in the room standing monstrously as his stumbling block. They had rejected him. We spoke to them. We promised them Edeoga had repented and had already been tutored by Obi’s school of leadership. This too was also the case of a repented terrorist truly repenting. It’s unheard before that a leopard had ever changed its spot. But like a leopard gecko we told Edeoga to play the chameleonic game until we struck the jackpot.
The non performance of Edeoga’s over 33 years in power and influential leadership positions especially for his people was a depressing headache we had to tackle headlong as time was dispelling in the wind with the general elections running after us. It was against the runs of time. Swimming against the tide and survive the bruises, many believed, could still happen since our converging motivation was the interest of displacing the political order and taking over for our own bite of the cake.
Second, Enugu people were disgruntled with Edeoga’s abysmal performances both in the Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources as commissioner. Streets were littered with avalanche of heaps of rubbish. It was the festival of garbage, Enugu ranking next to Abia State. Offensive odors from the stinking and stenching dregs and waste literally competing angry residents with pathways and their homes became synonymous with Chijioke Edeoga. We were angry with the media urchins from PDP and Peter Mbah; eventual winner of the governorship election. The media was awash with Edeoga’s incompetence and his inability to explain the flop.
We devised means of laundering Edeoga’s image and shifted the blame. We propagated the theory of Governor Ugwuanyi’s liability as the governor. His chief of staff and the Managing Director of waste management under Edeoga’s Ministry of Environment were called out as responsible. It was a dangerous bend of vicariously liability by his employer. If we were to win, Edeoga must be absorbed of his sins. It was almost a successful media outing until pictures of Edeoga decking ingloriously side-by-side with those foul smelling rubbish and nuisance started trending.
We didn’t give up anyways. We resorted to fire media shelling from all cylinders against Peter Mbah. Fake news and propaganda were virile tool to displace whatever good record and claim Peter Mbah had built. His goodwill before the public was a weapon to decimate. Mbah was linked to Ebeano family, and it was a pound of flesh that savaged our camp.
Third, we suffered a fatal political blow weeks before the election arising from undue comparison between Edeoga’s public records which were very poor, and Mbah’s towering entrepreneurial exploits in the private sector. Again, Edeoga became the face of incompetence, cluelessness, leadership failure and never-do-well. It was a brand that gained traction among voters. Our media team, headed by Edeoga himself, put up a quick counter borrowing from one of the opposition parties. It was the fake news of “Ego Ndi Enugu”, “Plea Bargain” and “NYSC discharge certificate” allegedly forged. Our saving grace in the throe of darkness. Billions were borrowed and spent to propagate this propaganda. We triumphed.
While all these struggles were going on, Edeoga, and a good number of supporters, never believed in victory for the Labour Party, at least in Enugu State. All we came out for was Obi and the fact that PDP must be taught some lessons by putting up a good fight, at least, on the media.
Then, the presidential election came on February 25. It was a tsunami. The Obi’s effect saw everything swept. Churches were involved. Traditionalists were engaged. Atheists gave their approval. Youths led the movement. PDP advocates became Obidients. Anything but Tinubu and Atiku. With the feverish sympathy for Peter Obi, 25 February became Labour Party all the way instead of being in error as to which ballot paper is for the president. Obi swept up to heaven. PDP, APC, APGA, ADC, YPP, etcetera, supporters celebrated voting against their political parties in the state.
The mantra was, “We are voting for individuals and not political parties.’ End of discussion. With the miracle of 25 February, Enugu Obidients and other party faithful became increasingly divided. They didn’t believe in Edeoga’s capacity, character, competence and credibility. Sadly, Peter Obi turned down all entreaties to campaign for Edeoga for fear of backlash and having his integrity and “Go and verify image” being tainted with iniquities and leprosy associated with his party-man. One could hear Obi saying, “Obidients Movement is not the same thing as Labour Party. Vote for only candidates that are competent irrespective of political parties” after the presidential election. This statement was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Nonetheless, we kept on with the hope that miracle and magic would happen. We had hundreds of millions of donations from people that came to invest in the windfall. Serving commissioners, special advisers, local government chairmen, etc, donated for fear of being sanctioned by Edeoga once he won. I personally called that it’s not yet uhuru as we had political landmines all laid for us. Edeoga and his ill-fated eye service advisers dismissed the warning with levity. “It’s going to be a repeat of February 25 presidential election in Enugu State,” were the boastful words from them.
Smart Peter Mbah! Who hath adviseth thee! With about two or three weeks to go, the strategist broke into the rank and file of the Obidients Movement. He went back to the drawing board. He visited all markets, enclaves, hinterlands, beckoning on voters with the soothing message of hope. He renewed his 180 days water project. He spoke to the business community. His appeal got me weird. A man whose business has been designated as a unicorn—having the value of his company worth over one billion US dollars—would be seen in the market telling voters, “I started like you. I understand what it means to start small. I understand your pain. I will create a thriving environment for you to grow your business and create more wealth.” The message radically altered voter’s perception about who to vote for.
Edeoga was, however, gallivanting around, basking in euphoric delusion that a repeat of February 25 would play out. He was eating, drinking and farting in the spirit of celebration. His minions would not let him think straight. He boasted he needed no manifesto to govern the state. He suddenly became Albert Einstein even when was struggling with words resulting from cognitive dissonance and lack of cohesive intellectual organisation. He destroyed whatever goodwill he had when he launched prideful attacks on Obi being a neophyte when he was something of Chief Press Secretary to his in-law in 1991. But he would soon meet his Waterloo at the battle of March 18. Predictably, he did despite the heavily and condemnable compromise by security agencies, aiding and abetting our party to rig out PDP.
After the election, I had, in all honesty, expected Labour Party to score below 50,000 votes. Thanks for the Nsukka sentiment and the rewriting of results in favour of Edeoga in some local government areas where soldiers were used to carry the broad day rigging. Regardless of that, Peter Mbah won as predicted. But the battle is not over yet as many political parties have headed for the tribunal. Edeoga, has, however, headed both for the tribunal and the media laying claim to victory and organizing a swindling club called Mandate Recovery Project or MMM, a kind of organised political ponzi scheme, to buy judgment through the black market, and to also maintain his stomach and high libido.
In our next edition, I will be exploring the nucleus of Edeoga’s claim and what he based his argument on.