By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor and Tony Edike
Ike Ekweremadu was Chief of Staff when Sullivan Chime was a special adviser. When Ekweremadu became Secretary to the State Government Chime became a commissioner. That there was a secret rivalry between both men is only something that is now beginning to unfold before friends and acquaintances of the two men who incidentally are from the same Enugu West Senatorial District.
When Ekweremadu relocated from Enugu to Abuja as senator in 2003, Chime remained in Enugu and eventually was favoured by Governor Nnamani as his successor in 2007. It was following the succession that Chime unfolded and became a force to be fully reckoned with. Ekweremadu somewhat once in a while deferred to the new governor despite being once his political superior.
In the run up to the 2011 gubernatorial election and despite serious temptations from the camp of Okwesileze Nwodo, Ekweremadu stuck to the governor and was believed to have contributed immensely to the political calculations that saw Chime overwhelm Nwodo as national chairman.
Purpose of the meeting
But soon after that election what had been a cordial even if distant tolerance for one another turned into open warfare.
Governor Chime was alleged to have called a meeting of National Assembly members from Enugu where he was alleged to have told them that those who had done two terms should step down. Ekweremadu, who at that time had believably been equivocal about going for another term even as the number two man in the Senate was reported to have openly stopped the governor in his tracts and immediately called for an adjournment of the meeting if that was the purpose of the meeting. Another senator whose seat is alleged to be under threat by a powerful woman in the Chime government was said to have immediately seconded Ekweremadu’s motion, bringing the meeting to an abrupt end.
Following that meeting some few months ago, Ekweremadu was said to have made up his mind to contest for another term in the Senate. Governor Chime who in his first term was praised for his development projects particularly in Enugu city is also said to have taken up the gauntlet. Initially it was believed that the governor would support another person for Ekweremadu’s seat, but Ekweremadu’s boldness is now believed to be forcing the governor into the contest.
Should the governor enter the contest it would be a strong contest where the governor would come in with the advantages of being the state’s governor to match what has been severally reported as Ekweremadu’s good representation on ground.
Constituents who had in the past benefited from federal appointments and projects facilitated by Ekweremadu would be put up to serious task in the unfolding contest.
Concerned stakeholders from Enugu West senatorial constituency are also intervening into the dispute that would inevitably be one of the strongest senatorial match-ups in the coming elections. Interestingly groups supportive of Ekweremadu and Chime are diving into the fray.
Apparently satisfied with what it claimed to be the good representation it has received from Ekweremadu, the Umuneke Progressive Front last weekend insisted that it was not willing to change the deputy Senate President for Chime in the Senate in 2015.
The Umuneke Progressive Front’s support for Ekweremadu was matched by a punch against Ekweremadu by the Enugu State Stakeholders Advisory Group (ESSAG), which on its part expressed dismay over reports that the Deputy Senate President had facilitated a meeting of some persons in Abuja where they were alleged to have adopted an unnamed individual from Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area of the state as their favoured candidate for the Enugu State 2015 governorship election.
The UPF in a statement where it claimed not to have ill-feelings against Chime as he hails from their clan and has performed creditably well in developing the state, nevertheless said that their senatorial representative must be one with experience.
According to President of the group, Mr. Emeka Aneke, the experience of Ekweremadu and his sterling performance in the delivering democracy dividends made him an asset that could not be easily dispensed with.
Aneke further explained that the Senate should be a place for people with experience in lawmaking, “and not a dumping ground for former governors and ministers.”
He said: “The vision, courage and determination with which Senator Ekweremadu has pursued his rural transformation agenda as exemplified in his numerous constituency projects and the appointment of a good number of indigenes of Enugu West senatorial zone to positions of service in federal agencies and parastatals is a clear testimony of his purposeful and resourceful representation. “The distinguished senator has kept faith with his commitments and promises to the people of Enugu West and has shown in clear terms that his compassion for the people is genuine.”
The communique was signed by Aneke and Chibuzo Onyia, who is the General Secretary of the group. It also read, “Consequent upon the foregoing, we, the Umuneke Progressive Front, have passed a vote of confidence on Senator Ike Ekweremadu and urge him to re-contest the senatorial seat of Enugu West for sustained service to the people of Enugu West, Enugu State, South-East and Nigeria at large.
“We will continue to support Senator Ekweremadu in his political endeavour and wish him good health and God’s guidance in his service to humanity.”
The Enugu State Stakeholders Advisory Group (ESSAG), on its part faulted Ekweremadu for purportedly concerning himself in choosing the next governor of the state and absenting himself from the party’s campaigns ahead of the recent local government election.
The group also called upon Governor Chime to yield to the demands of the people of Enugu State and assume the Enugu West Senatorial seat after he might have completed his term as governor in 2015.
The group stated that considering Governor Chime’s exceptional performance in Enugu State, it would be most appropriate to have him continue serving Enugu people, this time in the Senate where we are sure he will again register another exceptional performance.
The group said, “It is our position that “since some national
legislators from Enugu State have developed a “sit tight” mentality in the senate and appear to be regarding their senatorial seats as their personal property, it would be a great favour for. Enugu State, if Governor Chime were to agree to take the seat and use that as an opportunity to show the example in Enugu State that it is indeed possible for a senator to serve two terms and quit honourably afterwards”.