By Ehis Osajie
Chuks Ugwoke is Enugu State Commissioner for Information, Tourism and Culture. In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on the alleged frosty relationship between PDP chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo and the state governor, Sullivan Chime and the crisis in the state chapter of the party. Excerpts:
It is alleged by associates of Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo that Governor Chime is fueling the crisis in the party. What do you have to say on this?
Well, if you say “associates”, then it is difficult for me to expose the interests of those making the unfounded allegation. If you don’t unmask the accusers, I’ll tell you their selfish pursuits. But be that as it may, it is cheap blackmail to accuse the governor of fuelling any crisis. In any case, we see no crisis in the state PDP, we see pursuit of personal motives at play.
To the best of my knowledge, Governor Chime and Dr. Nwodo enjoy good rapport. If there are grey areas, I believe that both men can sit down to sort things out.
What does the governor stand to gain by fuelling any crisis in his own state? Even Dr. Nwodo had at different fora before and since becoming the national chairman paid glowing tributes to the governor for ushering in peace in Enugu State.
Ditto for the low and the high in our Coal City State? So, would His Excellency, Governor Sullivan Chime now prefer crisis to peace? Will he prefer to set his state on fire and go on seeking means to extinguish it? It doesn’t make any sense.
Or was he the one who initiated the purported and ill-advised dissolution of the state chapter of the party?
Is it true that the genesis of the conflict is the determination of the governor to return all elected political office holders on the PDP platform?
We must draw a line between reality and propaganda. In Enugu, we don’t play to the gallery and we won’t descend to such low quality rumour by some negligible persons. At a recent well-attended meeting of all stakeholders from the 17 local government councils, the governor made it quite clear that it is up to each constituency to elect its own representatives at the primary elections. He advised current political office holders and other aspirants to consult with their people. He ended by saying that it is, for him, to convince those who would be the delegates to give him another chance to fly the party’s banner if and when he finally declares.
Nwodo, it is equally alleged, wants the governor to concede Enugu North for him and that he wants his wife for the Senate seat?
The national chairman of the party has consistently spoken about the need to encourage internal democracy, about giving democracy a decent image and about allowing the people to pick their flag bearers. What you’ve just said negates this gospel that has won many converts. That’s why I said that those who always allege don’t often reveal to us their selfish agenda.
The national chairman says the people must choose their representatives. Governor Chime had always been an advocate of this process of election, not selection. Ditto for other PDP members. So, where is the problem?
Why are people now talking of conceding certain positions or an entire senatorial district? Nigeria is his turf now, not one out of 109 senatorial districts. Please, we shall do well not to personalize political issues. If Her Excellency, Dr. Nwodo aspires to go to the Senate, she is richly qualified. It will be up to the delegates from Enugu North senatorial district to choose her or their preferred candidate.
Some claim that the Governor does not accommodate other senior party members from the state in the affairs concerning the state and that he does not relate with them, does not call and even probably does not have the phone number of the chairman.
When you make a blanket assumption, then the door to open discourse is limited. If you name any senior party member who alleges that he is not accommodated, then I’ll be in a better position to speak more frankly and autrhoritatively.
There were wide consultations during the last two councillorship and local government elections we’ve had under Governor Chime. In each of them, there were wide consultations where stakeholders from each local government council assembled on a chosen date to pick their candidates.
The governor only sat in as a moderator. Now, let me give you an instance: during the last local government polls, the governor said in the first state-wide forum that it would be desirable if the 17 chairmen were given another opportunity to complete some of the projects they had started but ended by saying that it was still up to the people to choose their leaders. At the end of the polls, six of them did not return. In his own Udi Local Government Area, I was present when the current chairman was brought to be introduced to him after the stakeholders had settled for him.
So, when few people allege that they were not accommodated, then you wonder whether what they wanted was to be asked to nominate a chairmanship candidate and the councillors without the inputs of other stakeholders from their local government councils.
Again, if you talk of “senior party members”, I would love to ask if that categorisation came about because of their ages or standing in the party. If you say that the governor does not relate with them, I ask, how? If the qualification is status or service, then I’ll tell you that all of them are members of the Enugu State Council of Elders which Governor Chime set up.
From Senator Ken Nnamani to Chief Nnia Nwodo, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Prof. Barth Nnaji as well as past military governors of Enugu State origin who served in any state, former ministers of Enugu State origin, retired Justices, past and present chairmen of the state council of traditional rulers, academia among others too numerous here, are all members of this Council.
They meet formally and informally with the governor. Again, I ask: what kind of relationship do you mean or do those alleging want? The season of politics is here and there must be intrigues excited by preferences and other primordial interests. What I believe that no elder of conscience will accuse Governor Chime of is lack of humility and respect for elders. I urge you to carry out your own independent investigation.
On a final note, I would reassure you that Enugu State is calm. Peace reigns. There is ample evidence of delivery of good governance by Gov Chime. He’s at home with the masses and the influential. You must, however, realize that as we approach the homeward curve of the 2011 elections, those who sang your praise yesterday will make one unfounded allegation today to prove to their pay masters that they had retired the I.O.U or to pursue their own political agenda which may be at vairiance with ours. And everyone is entitled to dream dreams and/or to promote any political agenda or candidates.
There are no grudges at all because it is the Enugu State people who will decide at the end of the day. The important thing is that they will all be within the same PDP family because that’s the only party that our people know.them, does not call and even probably does not have the phone number of the Chairman.