By Charles Okonkwo
Recent choreographed gang up and attacks on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State by some Enugu North Senatorial District (Nsukka Zone) elements says everything bad about the hypocrisy that underlines Nigerian politics.
It can also be likened to the opposition’s demonisation and de-marketing of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the run up to the 2015 general elections. Reacting to the attacks sometime in March 2015, Jonathan said: “Anytime you listen to them (APC), you will see bitterness in their hearts. Bitterness, venom, anger, as if somebody has taken their properties”.
Today, hardly any day passes since the emergence of Dr. Peter Mbah as PDP governorship candidate without one reading one diatribe or the other sponsored to run down Ugwuanyi and Mbah. Whether it is express attacks or innuendos by one Enugu North politician or the other; whether it is hate-filled publications by known and faceless writers, one thing runs through them all: palpable indignation and bitterness – as if someone has taken their properties (apologies Jonathan).
If it is not the perennial governorship contestant-turned 2023 senatorial ‘candidate’ of the Labour Party, Chief Okey Ezea alleging that Ugwuanyi has not done well for his Nsukka Zone or empowered them individually with contracts, it is the incumbent Senator representing the zone, Chuka Utazi, claiming that Ugwuanyi is incapable of quality representation at the Senate. If it is not Nnia Nwodo weaving perfidy and whipping up Nsukka sentiments behind the scene to make his brother-in-law, Chijioke Edeoga, governor, it is Edeoga and his hatchet writers pouring allegations of misgovernance on Ugwuanyi and also claiming he didn’t allow his Commissioners to take initiatives; or Prince Emeka Mamah circulating malicious articles alleging that Ugwuanyi merchandised the Enugu PDP governorship ticket to Dr. Mbah. The list goes on. Yet Edeoga served as Commissioner in Ugwuanyi’s two terms and didn’t resign in protest until he threw his hat in the ring for PDP governorship ticket. Also, Mamah, who served as Commissioner in Ugwuanyi’s second term didn’t resign in protest until he went into the contest for PDP’s House of Representatives ticket for Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency.
During a recent public lecture at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Utazi told Nsukka people: “The Senate is not just for anybody; it is not a job for anybody, who has been a former governor, councillor or commissioner. Nsukka people must not elect somebody simply because he is leaving office as governor”.
Although he did not mention Ugwuanyi, everyone knew he took a dig at the governor, who is the senatorial candidate of the PDP in Enugu North. Ironically, Ugwuanyi already had many years of experience in the National Assembly long before Utazi, whose representation of Enugu North District cannot be cited anywhere as an example of quality representation. It will at best be remembered for his scrotum analysis on live television and the hoarded 228 motorcycles, 51 tricycles, 203 grinding machines and five transformers, etc. worth over N117 million by him, which the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) uncovered while his constituents pined away in penury.
The hypocrisy in all these attacks is that only yesterday, these men praised Ugwuanyi to high heavens, while the likes of Edeoga and Mamah groveled before him. Addressing a meeting of Enugu North Senatorial District PDP delegates and stakeholders on 1st May 2022, this same Utazi announced that he did not purchase PDP nomination form in order to give maximum support and allow Ugwuanyi a hitch-free passage to the Senate as a reward for the great work he said the Governor was doing for Nsukka people and Enugu State. He equally vowed that Enugu North Senatorial District would stand with Ugwuanyi or whoever he endorsed as his preferred governorship candidate.
In his words: “We will follow our brother and leader (Ugwuanyi); we are going to be behind you; and pray that God will guide you to take these decisions. We are here to give you reassurance that it is ordained by God that you do the things you are supposed to do. We are here to also reassure that you have our backing. Our case is not just political. The followership and backing are also spiritual. And you have our spiritual backing too. We are going to continue this support at the voting level during the general elections”.
Utazi was not alone. The member representing Nsukka/Igbo-Eze South Federal Constituency, Hon. Pat Asadu; the member representing Nsukka East Constituency, council chairmen, women and youth groups, and virtually all the who is who in Nsukka Zone were unanimous in their endorsement of Ugwuanyi, reassuring him of their “resolute support and loyalty.”
Chief Nnia Nwodo, on his part, has always been effusive with admiration and encomiums for Ugwuanyi. During the 29th anniversary of Enugu State in August 2020, for example, Nnia Nwodo emphatically stated: “There is no other state in the country that has paid December salary two times except Enugu State. We have noticed with admiration the emphasis of your capital development. I noticed the number of primary and secondary schools, in all the local government areas of the state, renovated every year under your administration. I went to spy at what your administration did at Ekulu Primary School, GRA, Enugu. It is amazing. What progresses the world today is education. I noticed the number of general hospitals and health centres springing up in the rural areas.”
From the foregoing and more, it is clear that the sudden bitterness, antagonism, anger, and demonisation have absolutely nothing to do with Ugwuanyi’s performance in office. It is not borne out of principled, altruistic, honest and honourable values and opposition. It is also not inspired by equity and justice. Instead, it is about people who felt entitled in their political ambitions, but were rejected by the delegates. Importantly, it is about Ugwuanyi’s refusal to act the greedy script of some Nsukka elites who feel that Nsukka should continue in power after him and possibly till eternity.
Ezea, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Nnia Nwodo, Utazi, and a host of others have openly canvassed it. For instance, during the PDP’s campaign at Igbo Etiti and Nsukka LGAs ahead of the local council elections in February, Nwodo and Utazi canvassed the emergence of Ugwuanyi’s successor from the old Nsukka Zone, which includes Isi-Uzo LGA from which Udenu (Ugwuanyi’s LGA) was created in 1981.
Utazi claimed that old Enugu State comprised Enugu, Nsukka, and Abakaliki Senatorial Zones. He said that but for Isi-Uzo, the present Enugu East and Enugu West Senatorial Districts were initially part of the old Enugu Senatorial District. He consequently argued that since the old Enugu Zone had done 16 consecutive years through Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu East Zone) and Barr. Sullivan Chime (Enugu West Zone), the old Nsukka Zone (which comprises the present Enugu North Zone and Isi-Uzo LGA) was entitled to another eight years after Ugwuanyi.
This explains why Chijioke Edeoga anchored his candidature on the strength of old Nsukka Zone and only aligned with Enugu East Senatorial Zone to the extent of the zoning principle. It is also an open secret that Utazi hoped to deputise Edeoga, to balance what they claim was a marginalisation between 2007 and 2015 when Sullivan Chime (Enugu West Zone) and Sunday Onyebuchi (Enugu East Zone) occupied the offices of the Governor and Deputy Governor, respectively because they see both senatorial zones as one old Enugu Senatorial Zone. That is the jaundiced and reprobate mentality driving the war against Ugwuanyi. For refusing to succumb to their clannish agenda, these desperate politicians from his senatorial zone, who had praised his leadership citing his numerous achievements, have now set out to demonize him.
In other words, had Ugwuanyi succumbed to the dysfunctional imagination of these latter day saviours of Nsukka against the well known three senatorial districts structure; had he endorsed his Commissioner and maternal relation, Chijioke Edeoga as his successor; had Utazi been picked as deputy governorship candidate; had Ugwuanyi facilitated Prince Emeka Mamah as PDP House of Representatives candidate for Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency; had he kowtowed to the selfish whims and caprices of some Enugu North principalities, he would have become the best governor Enugu State has ever produced.
All said, all the gang up is not about the ordinary people of Nsukka or Enugu State. It is evidently about the selfish interest of a few. Let no one be deceived.
• Okonkwo writes from Enugu