By Sylvester Illoh
Hon. Chijioke Edeoga is one of the former aspirants for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who have deservedly come under harsh criticisms for reneging on the pacts they signed before the 25th May 2022 PDP primary election.
For those not in the know, in order not to dissipate their votes among a retinue of aspirants and lose out in the contest of a position they said it was their turn to fill, the Enugu East Traditional Rulers Council convened the 19th May 2022 meeting at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel. There, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, Dr. Peter Mbah, Prof. Bart Nnaji, Senator Gil Nnaji, Rev. Ifeanyi Nwoye, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa, Dr. Gabriel Ajah, Dr. Kingsley Udeh, Prof. Hilary Edeoga, Chief Evarest Nnaji, Chief Godwin Ogenyi, Pastor Beloved Dan Anike, Hon. Nwabueze Ugwu, Dr. Josef Onoh, Engr. Erasmus Anike, Prof. Jehu Nnaji, and Dr. Chukwudi Nnaji signed an MoU to support anyone among them endorsed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as his successor. The Chairman of the Enugu East Senatorial Zone Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Julius Nnaji and prominent traditional rulers from the zone also signed as witnesses.
In Clause 5 of the MoU, they committed to “Respect for the Governor of Enugu State and acceptance of his choice of a candidate from this group in the best interest of Enugu East Senatorial Zone and Enugu State at large”.
In Clause 6, they committed to “The avoidance of litigation as a result of primaries conducted regardless of who ultimately wins”.
And in Clause 7, they agreed to “The eventual integration and accommodation of all aspirants‘ interests in any government led by the victorious aspirant from the Enugu East Senatorial Zone”.
Under the zone too, Nkanu East LGA aspirants, namely, Captain Evarest Nnaji, Dr. Peter Mbah, Rev. Ifeanyi Nwoye, Dr. Gabriel Ajah, and Prof. Bart Nnaji and their elders equally signed such an accord during a meeting at Senator Jim Nwobodo’s residence on 20th May 2022.
Peter Mbah, who was endorsed by Ugwuanyi ultimately won the primary by a wide margin.
To be fair to Edeoga, he was not the only one that has dishonoured the accord. Captain Nnaji (Odengene) also ditched the pact for the Labour Party even after addressing his supporters post-primary election, urging them to support Mbah. Captain Nnaji, Edeoga and their supporters are currently embroiled in a mother of all ‘wars’ over the Labour Party ticket.
Also, although Prof. Bart Nnaji denied earlier reports that he sought the Labour Party ticket, the allegation persists that he is Labour Party’s Man Friday and has his men as the party’s candidates for various elective positions. Ironically, he initially headed the lobby group that begged Ugwuanyi and Enugu PDP to endorse an Nkanu East son as the next governor.
However, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga has been the loudest in justifying the U-turns from the pacts. Citing insecurity and the need for transparency the management of local government funds etc, he insists that he represents the battle to “save” Enugu.
In one breath he complains of late about the primary election that threw up Mbah. In another breath, he claims he didn’t dump the PDP because he lost the governorship ticket, but because the party failed to give the presidential ticket to Ndigbo. But can he look Ndi Enugu in the face and tell us that he could have dumped PDP had he secured the party’s gubernatorial ticket?
Defending his flip-flops, he said: “When you say I’m not being a man of my own words and you talk about an MoU that you have not seen you are being judgmental.
“The MoU speaks specifically about not going to court. So, nowhere in the MoU did it intend to circumscribe anyone’s democratic rights to aspire.
“There are (also) other people following me whose insistence was that I should adopt a platform and that any platform I adopted, they will follow me so that the battle to save Enugu State can begin. There is no desperation and there is no human being in the world that cannot change his mind. So, I have no apology for stepping out again on another platform. Changing one’s mind is not a sin and I will change again if occasion demands for the good reason and the right direction”.
Truth is that many of our politicians take the rest of us for fools. Clauses 5, 6, and 7 of the pact speak for themselves.
Besides, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was the only aspirant that complained about the three-man delegates and later pulled out from the primary election before he eventually congratulated and endorsed Dr. Peter Mbah. The rest of other aspirants, including Edeoga, upheld the delegates’ list en block and participated in the primary. No one, not even the media complained about the conduct of the actual primary election. Edeoga participated and garnered nine votes, a far cry from 790 votes gathered by Mbah out of the 804 valid votes cast.
Apart from the pact, Edeoga expressly accepted the outcome of the primary election and endorsed Peter Mbah in a statement he personally issued on 8th June.
He stated: “Although we were deeply disappointed with the outcome of the primary election, we have accepted the results in the interest of peace and stability of our beloved state.
“In the heat of the moment, numerous concerned persons suggested we take our message and members to a different party.
“However, after giving it a careful and pragmatic thought, we decided to remain in PDP and support the flag bearer Barr. Peter Mbah.
“Peter has reached out to us and stretched out a hand of fellowship; we are disposed to support him. I hereby urge all my supporters and the people of Enugu State at large to rally behind Mr. Peter Mbah for the tasks ahead”.
So, Edeoga cannot claim the right to change his mind like the wind and also expropriate our rights to see him as a promise breaker who is unlikely to keep his campaign promises and as a man dancing to the drumbeats from bush parts of Ukehe. Retuning months after to complain about the primary or claim that his supporters insisted is disingenuous and unintelligent of him.
Edeoga needs to be reminded that “Man of his words”, an English expression first recorded way back in 1542, is only used to describe people who keep to their promises or one who can be trusted.
If he is still confused, he and others like him should pay attention to the London Stock Exchange’s coat of arm. On it is the inscription, “Dictum Meum Pactum”, a Latin expression, which means, “My word is my bond”. Although the expression is used to encourage adherence to the highest standards of integrity in financial markets, it is generally a timeless expression that underscores adherence to the fine principles and ethos of honour, integrity, and trustworthiness whether in business, politics or human relations in general. As a lawyer also, Edeoga should know better that a lot of business and political deals are transacted on the basis of a gentleman agreement, let alone in his case where he signed documents.
It is good that he stressed that he is a good Christian. So, let him be reminded that in Matthew 5:37, even Christ instructed his followers “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.
The Igbo are also a people, who place high premium on character (agwa), which includes steadfastness, honesty, and integrity. Writing on the “Dynamics of Moral Formation in the Modern Igbo Society”, Emmanuel Ajakor and Immaculate Ojukwu, say this is largely so because the Igbo socio-cultural system is dominated by many supernatural forces and a social structure that expects all to cultivate a good ‘agwa’ to be able to live a good life in perfect harmony with the members of his society and the forces that govern the universe.
Even Edeoga must have once treasured these values when he chose the chieftaincy title “Okaome” (A promise/pact keeper). So, for the same man to look the rest of us in the face to say he could make and break pacts/promises at will is most hypocritical and puts him across as a man who does not have his own mind and who should never be trusted by the electorate because integrity and honour lie in keeping your words, not only when it is convenient.
It is also amusing when someone, who served as a Commissioner and an insider in the two terms of the Ugwuanyi administration, is now badmouthing the same government and governor he praised to high heavens until he lost out in the contest for Enugu PDP governorship ticket?
Edeoga was the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs in Ugwuanyi’s first term and Commissioner for Environment throughout this second term until he joined the governorship race. He directly supervised the local governments, including the utilisation of their funds. The principle of collective responsibility clearly dictates that every member of a cabinet takes the full responsibility, glory, and blame for any actions or inactions of the government he/she is part of. Why did he not, for instance, fix whatever was wrong with the local government system or resign?
Lastly, Ndigbo treasure justice and equity (symbolised by ofo na ogu). The current Enugu State Governor was born an indigene of Isi-Uzo until Udenu was carved out of Isi-Uzo LGA. His birth certificate bears Isi-Uzo. Worse still, Edeoga is Ugwuanyi’s maternal relative from Obollo. What else, except desperation, would push a man to insist that the governorship returns to the same local government by extension for another eight years?
Therefore, the questions are: Has Enugu State become a fiefdom? And above all, can Enugu trust people, who cannot keep their promises?
• Iloh writes from Enugu