BY TONY EDIKE
THE re-election of Governor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime of Enugu State for fresh four-year tenure did not come as a surprise to many as the achievements of his government in the first term paved the way for him. Many residents of the Coal City of Enugu, the state capital, who had felt the impact of the administration in the past four years readily attest to his good performance.
The urban renewal programme of the government, which facilitated the rehabilitation, construction and reconstruction of many urban and rural roads with the provision of walkways and streetlights on some of them in the cities, the provision of pipe-borne water, and huge investment in security equipment including patrol vans for security agencies, were highly applauded. These projects were part of the regime’s re-branding, reclaiming, recreating and renewal of Enugu State, through a massive and aggressive focus on infrastructure, human resource development and security of lives and property.
These and other popular programmes endeared Governor Chime to Enugu citizenry. Indeed, shortly before the April 2011 elections, political analysts ruled out the challenge of opposition parties in the state. And as predicted by many, Chime and all the PDP candidates for the National and State Assembly elections sailed through as none of the opposition parties could win even a seat in all the elections held in the state even though some contestants alleged massive irregularities that are already being challenged before the Election Tribunal.
The People for Democratic Change, PDC led by former governor Chimaroke Nnamani and the Labour Party under which Bar. Okey Ezea contested the governorship seat, all failed to win any seat in spite of their vigorous electioneering campaigns across the length and breadth of the state.
Although, Chime and his strong supporters like Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu and Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Chief Ayogu Eze secured their new mandates without much difficulty at the polls, what appears to be giving the victors sleepless night is the endless litigations by their fellow PDP members challenging the legality of the process that threw them up as candidates. There are several cases pending in various courts over the party’s contentious primaries and there are fears that some may find merit and change the political tide in the state.
Engr. Anayo Onwuegbu, who was elected governorship candidate by the Caesar Alex Ogbonna_led PDP faction that was loyal to the former National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo as well as several other candidates for the governorship, National and State Assembly positions have continued to press their cases against the victorious governor and his men. One of the pre_election cases was instituted by Alex Obiechina, a governorship aspirant from the same senatorial zone with Chime. These cases are pending at Federal High Courts in Abuja and Enugu and at the Court of Appeal.
Both parties have stuck to their guns with each believing that the final judgment, whenever it comes, would be favourable to their cause. The crux of the matter before the courts is the determination of which of the two factions has the legal right to produce authentic candidates of PDP for the just concluded elections. There is no doubt that the determination of the pending matters would go a long way in determining the future of Enugu State. But Governor Chime and his men have repeatedly said with confidence that “nothing will change”.
The renewed regime in Enugu State just like what was experienced from 2007 to date, will no doubt, be devoid of godfatherism and interference because Chime has succeeded in creating a political class and structure that have given stakeholders in his camp a strong sense of belonging. The stakeholders approach adopted by the governor’s political camp from the inception of the administration is responsible for the successes, stability and political peace witnessed before the last-minute imbroglio that arose shortly after Nwodo’s emergence as the PDP chief.
The stakeholders’ consultative approach could also account for the less friction witnessed in Chime’s political camp during the party primaries as selection of candidates for various offices were carried out without much brouhaha among the members. It is also expected that the same measure would be adopted in the formation of the new government in the state.
The 51-year-old Governor Chime from Udi town in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu West Senatorial zone, served as the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the Chimaroke Nnamani administration for about seven years before he was elected governor in 2007. In constituting his own cabinet, the governor retained majority of the Commissioners that served with him in the previous administration and appointed a handful of new ones.
Some PDP bigwigs in the state criticised him for “recycling” the former commissioners yet he carried them along. Even when it was discovered at a point that the loyalty of some of the appointees to the regime was in doubt, he did not show them the way out rather he reshuffled the cabinet and redeployed such commissioners to the Ministry of Special Duties. In fact, it was only one commissioner that the governor dropped on account of alleged mishandling of fertilizer distribution. With that comradeship posture, the governor was able to drive along with members of his cabinet throughout his first tenure. But there are high expectations that the incoming government might no longer be “business as usual” as Chime from all indications, would inject new blood into the new cabinet to drive the vision and programme of his government.
Besides, there are expectations that the government will take measures to de-congest Enugu city by creating new layouts while basic infrastructure like road, water and electricity would be extended to the new residential layouts like the De-zoned Industrial/Residential Layout, Emene along Abakaliki Highway as well as the second phase of the Independence Layout to encourage development of the layouts.
However, baring the outcome of election petitions, Chime’s abilityto re-strategise and mend fences with those in opposition especially within the PDP would go a long way to determine whether or not his team can successfully build a new political bloc in the state.
Members of Okwesilieze Nwodo group which comprises some PDP elders like Dr. Silas Iloh, Dr. Hyde Onuaguluchi, Senator Fidelis Okoro, Chief Mike Ajogu, SAN, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu, Hon. Frank Ugwu and Eng. Nick Eze, are at daggers_drawn with Chime and his group. There has not been any clear move towards reconciliation and the warring parties are leaving nothing to chance in their determination to assert themselves, a situation that has been described as very unhealthy politically.
On their part, Chime and members of his political camp made up of the elected National Assembly members like Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu, Senator Eze and with strong support from PDP stalwarts like Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Ken Nnamani, Engr. Vita Abba, Chairman of PDP, Ambassador Justina Eze, and royal fathers like Igwe Charles Abangwu of Ehalumona, Igwe Chris Ogakwu and Igwe Justice Eze Ozobu, enjoy tremendous grassroots support principally because of their achievements in office.