Magnus Eze, Enugu
All is not well with the three leading political parties in Enugu State-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Labour Party (LP).
The trio is currently embroiled in one crisis or another, such that it would take much persuasion and creative conciliation efforts for them to regain their grounds ahead next year’s general elections.
For the PDP, many who were disenchanted with the manner the primary elections in the state were conducted have since dumped the party; ostensibly for the Labour Party.
So, majority of those in the Labour Party in the state today, were before this period in the PDP. The situation in the PDP stemmed from the allegations of irregularities and manipulations of the Governorship and National and State Assemblies primary elections.
Aside the camp of former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, consisting of Deputy Leader of House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu, member representing Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituency; Dennis Oguerinwa and others, several chieftains of the party like governorship aspirants Chijioke Edeoga, Chief Everest Nnaji (Odengene), Prof. Barth Nnaji, have all dumped the party.
Some others who left the party include, former Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njeze, and Chief Oscar Egwuonwu.
Though some of those who vied for the PDP governorship ticket in the state later declared their support for the winner, Peter Mbah, Daily Sun learnt that aggrieved people heap their blames on the doorstep of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, whom they accused of not being transparent in the whole process.
Others also claim that Mbah’s governorship would be as good as third tenure for former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani. The PDP flag bearer was Commissioner for Finance under Nnamani; and one of his protégés.
Dispassionate observation showed that not a few aggrieved persons are keeping mute, waiting for payback time during the elections.
Even at that, what happened at the Enugu West zonal meeting of the PDP at the weekend was another indication that all was not well with the party in Enugu State.
The party’s monthly zonal meeting holding at Awgu, headquarters of the Senatorial District was disrupted by persons against the leadership style of the zonal Vice Chairman, Chief Okey Ozoani.
The people accused Ozoani of highhandedness and not sharing some money raised for the party; hence, they passed vote of no confidence on him.
The intruders also fired sporadic gunshots from the surrounding, leading party members to scamper for safety while the meeting came to an abrupt end.
Political watchers said that the allegation of highhandedness and meddling with party funds were mere smokescreen. According to them, the attempt was a prelude to kicking out Ozoani, a very close political ally of the embattled Ekweremadu; whose teeming supporters had fallen out of favour with the PDP.
Notwithstanding these developments, Governor Ugwuanyi and the party’s governorship candidate, Mbah, have been working assiduously to mend fences with aggrieved party members.
The party has also adopted corporate endorsements for its candidates by interest groups, communities, and traditional institutions among others.
So far, the traditional rulers from the three senatorial zones of the state have endorsed Mbah, starting from Enugu East, Enugu North and lastly; Enugu West.
At the palace of the Chairman, Enugu West senatorial zone traditional rulers’ council, Igwe Godwin Madu of Enugu Achi, Mbaogu Kingdom, in Oji River local government area, the monarchs said they settled for Mbah’s candidacy because of his excellent background in the private and public sectors.
He stated that the PDP standard bearer came out tops as the most qualified after their objective assessment of the various governorship candidates, stressing that Mbah did not lobby to be endorsed.
Igwe Madu said: “Peter Mbah has a rich antecedent. He worked as a Chief of Staff, Commissioner of Finance, and went back to his business-Pinnacle Oil and Gas Ltd – which he climbed to be at the zenith of the industry. So, we are settling for him not because he is a member of the PDP. We are apolitical as traditional rulers. If Mbah belongs to another political party, we could have still supported him.
“After our thorough assessment of all the candidates vying for the office of governor in Enugu State, we decided as a matter of facts and objectivity to settle for Dr. Peter Mbah. He is the best and most outstanding among all the candidates.
“Today, all our blessings have been exhausted on Peter Mbah. There’s no more room for other candidates in Enugu State. We will not endorse or give any other candidate our blessings, support or ófó because we have settled for the best of them all.”
Chairman of the Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Lawrence Agubu-uzu, on behalf of other monarchs said through the ófó staff, the people of the zone were promising the PDP governorship flag bearer their support.
“Our people, through this ófó, are promising you their support till the end. This is a symbol of truth, so when we told Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in Enugu that we would support anyone he settled for, and that we were for zoning, that’s the outcome of the decision,” he said.
Mbah who described himself as a product of equity, justice and fairness, enjoined the traditional rulers not to rest on their oars but to continue to prevail on their wards and subjects to make use of the opportunity the PDP has afforded by voting the right candidate with the experiences to transform the state.
In the APC, the intractable crises rocking the party recently took a new dimension as some notable stakeholders stormed the national secretariat of the party, demanding the removal of its state chairman, Ugochukwu Agballah and his executives.
The group led by former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani accused Agballah of appropriating the party in the state as a personal possession alongside his executives. They said that they did not know candidates of the party for the various positions in next year’s election, declaring that the APC was doomed in the state if it continued with the current leadership.
Some other aggrieved party chieftains include Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; immediate past governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, and Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu.
But in a swift reaction, Governorship candidate of the APC, Chief Uchenna Nnaji fired at the Nnamani-led group describing them as ‘urban gorillas’ who are merely interested in controlling the campaign funds of the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Nnaji urged the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee to disregard the call for dissolution of the state working committee.
Speaking at an expanded stakeholders’ meeting of the party in Enugu last Sunday, he praised Agballah for reviving the spirit of the party in the state since he came on board.
He maintained that the APC had never been a political party in Enugu State till Agballah came on board as chairman, adding that leaders were not even paying for their ward offices across communities.
“This Tinubu’s money they are looking for is why they are causing trouble in Enugu State. I will visit Tinubu and tell him not to bring his money to Enugu State, because it will cause more trouble.
“Let me tell you; we will use Enugu’s APC money to deliver Enugu, and maybe after election, we will ask for a refund,” Nnaji stated.
He further alleged that those causing crisis in APC in the state are going after the national leadership of the party with the promise to deliver 25 percent in the 2023 general elections.
He said with the incumbent leadership of the party in the state, they will deliver over 75 percent votes.
From the unfolding developments in the APC, the party has not shown itself as one that is keen about contesting the 2023 general elections in Enugu State.
As for the new kid on the block, the emergence of Chijioke Edeoga, immediate past Commissioner for Environment as the Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate came with a bang. Before he joined the LP, he earlier contested the PDP guber primaries but lost to Mbah.
Edeoga had been widely predicted to win the PDP ticket before some political dynamics gave it to Mbah.
Edeoga who hails from Isi-Uzo local government area in the same Enugu East Senatorial District like Mbah, is touted to have sympathy in Enugu North because he shares cultural affinity with Nsukka zone.
Aside sharing the craze of the Obidients Movement of the Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi, the former House of Representatives member is said to be pulling the support of Ekweremadu’s followers across the state.
In fact, the Enugu West Senatorial District where his running mate comes from will be a fair ground for the LP candidate.
But ahead of the campaign flag off, the unresolved battle between Edeoga and Chief Everest Nnaji over the party’s ticket is a big snag for the party.
Their issue became public during the ‘Charity Begins at Home conference’ organised recently by the Odengene Peoples Movement (OPM), led by Everest Nnaji to shore up support for Peter Obi.
Supporters of the two politicians almost exchanged blows before Edeoga’s people staged a walkout at the venue.
Daily Sun gathered that tempers were high when a national officer of the party allegedly addressed Chief Everest Nnaji as the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State.
What happened at that event was later countered by the state chapter of the party at a press conference where it insisted that Edeoga is its authentic gubernatorial candidate in the state.
The party said the clarification became necessary following the claim by Chief Everest Nnaji, that he was the candidate of the party during an event in Enugu.
Chairman of the party in the state, Casmir Agbo, said that Nnaji was not even a member of the party, noting that he did not even know where the party is located in the state.
According to Agbo, he was yet to be aware that Nnaji purchased the party’s governorship ticket not to talk of participating in its primary.
“Chief Everest Nnaji cannot tell the name of his ward or local government chairmen of our great party. I, therefore, wonder why he is just trying to lay claim to what he does not have. I want to make it clear to the general public that chief Everest Nnaji is not even a member of our great party.
“The PDP is jittery and afraid of the rising voice of Labour Party and Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga and that is why they are sponsoring Chief Nnaji to cause confusion in the party.
“We want to allay the fear of the public by stating that there is no way PDP or APC can cause confusion because we have resolved to take Enugu from the ruling PDP which has failed the people.
“I, therefore tell the good people of Enugu State to disregard those noises and focus on voting for our party and Chief Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga to restore the dignity of our state,” the party chairman stated.
The implication of all these is that the battle ahead would be tough, with horse trading, alignments and realignments also on the card.