By Tony Edike
ENUGU—The silent war between Senator Gilbert Nnaji representing Enugu East senatorial district at the National Assembly and Mrs Ifeoma Nwobodo, Chief of Staff to Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, was blown open, yesterday, when the public hearing on the review of the 1999 constitution organised by the senator was stopped.
The Chairman of Nkanu West Local Government, Mr. Ekene Okenwa, directed the Divisional Police Officer in his council, DSP Sampson Ihuabuenyi, to stop the public hearing after the people of the senatorial zone, including traditional rulers and stakeholders, had converged for the event.
The DPO, who was accompanied by dozens of armed policemen, approached Senator Nnaji at the Nkanu West secretariat venue of the public hearing and told him that they were instructed by the council chairman to stop him from holding the public hearing at Agbani.
Although he did not give any reason for halting the public hearing, Ihuabuenyi told the senator in the presence of journalists and participants that they were instructed by the council to stop the gathering.
When the senator attempted to address his constituents to inform them of the disruption of the programme, the DPO and his men rushed forward and snatched the microphone, saying “my friend we have tolerated you enough.”
Indications that the event would be disrupted emerged Tuesday night when the canopy set for the event was dismantled by some staff of the council allegedly on the orders of the council chairman. The organisers re-erected the canopy Wednesday morning but the venue was taken over by secondary school students for sporting activities even after the dignitaries had seated.
Addressing newsmen after the public hearing was aborted, Senator Nnaji wondered why the exercise which is holding nationwide should be halted in his constituency due to power-play and pettiness of a government official who is eyeing his seat in 2015.
Nnaji who accused Mrs Nwobodo of conniving with Okenwa to disrupt the forum, said that he had made necessary contacts with the council chairmen in his senatorial zone and all the stakeholders on the scheduled public hearing but unknown to him some people had hatched plans to scuttle it.
“What is happening in Enugu is very disturbing. I see no reason why anybody should play politics with such a national exercise. If anybody is interested in taking over my seat in 2015 this is not the way to go about it, let the person wait for our people to decide because time is not ripe for this kind of petty politicking. I will take up this matter when we get back to the Senate,’ Nnaji said.
The members representing Enugu North/South federal constituency, Mr. Ofor Chukwuegbo and his Enugu East/Isiuzo counterpart, Mr. Kingsley Ebenyi, were among dignitaries at the aborted forum which was shunned by all the council chairmen in the senatorial zone.
The absence of the council chairmen at the forum, Vanguard learnt, was not unconnected with the directive from the state government which was said to be uncomfortable with the federal lawmakers’ unanimous support for the autonomy of the local governments.
Efforts to speak with the Chief of Staff and the Nkanu West council boss on the issue proved abortive as they did not pick their calls.