By Chukwuma Onah
IN an era in which some state governments are yet to organize a single Local Government election with few months to the end of their tenures, Enugu State under Governor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime sets the pace as it conducts her fourth council poll on November 2, this year.
Only last Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Enugu State chapter conducted its chairmanship primaries to elect candidates for the election.
Thus, Governor Chime has scored another first among his colleagues in enthroning democratic system at the grassroots as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
Yet, as usual, he prefers not to make much noise about this uncommon feat that underscores his commitment to deepen democracy and take development to the grassroots.
Today, the talk all over the Coal City revolves around how the primaries were peaceful and transparent, courtesy of the widespread consultations among stakeholders and party members, a practice long introduced by Chime and embraced by other party chieftains and followers.
Those elected to fly PDP’s flag in the forthcoming council polls include 12 chairmen who received the mandate of their people to contest for their second terms in office.
They are Christopher Nwobodo (Aninri), Mathanus Nze (Awgu), Cornelius Nnaji (Enugu East), Emeka Edeh (Enugu North), Emeka Ozoagu (Ezeagu) and Festus Ozoemena (Igbo-Etiti). Bonaventure Onuh (Igbo-Eze North). Others are Festus Ozioko (Igbo-Eze South), Augustine Nnamani (Isi-Uzo), Sam Iyiogwe (Nkanu East), Chinedu Iloeje (Udi) and Cornel Onwubuya (Uzo-Uwani).
The five new entrants in the race are Victor Agbo (Enugu South), Afam Okereke (Nkanu West), Charles Ugwu (Nsukka), Chideofor Onyemechi (Oji River) and Amaechi Nwodo (Udenu). They emerged as PDP candidates to take over the slots to be vacated by outgoing chairmen who are completing their second terms in office.
The remark by Governor Chime after casting his vote at his Udi town last Saturday was quite instructive. “There’s nothing to celebrate about doing what is right and what our law prescribes,” he told journalists. “For us as a Government, there’s no going back on conducting the elections on November 2, this year.
This is in line with our commitment to deepen democracy and enthrone a Local Government system that takes development to our communities. I believe that the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) is prepared to conduct a free and credible poll as an independent body.”
The governor gave a hint as to the reasons for the successes of the past three council elections and why he is confident that this year’s exercise would follow in the same trend.
According to him, “as you know, this will be our fourth council election since we came on board. We’ve always conducted them on schedule and the previous ones were quite peaceful and successful.
The reasons are not far-fetched. One, we usually consulted widely among our people as to the candidates.
Stakeholders from different local government councils were usually brought together to chart a common front as to the kind of candidates each council desired to have. Once the people agreed on the way forward, they would go back to their places to assess the aspirants before them and finally choose one person. In some cases, they narrowed it to one person before the primaries.
“Now, the choice eventually made by the people becomes our party’s (PDP’s) flag bearer. The implication is that we go through an internal mechanism to elect our candidates. The result at the end of the day is that any such candidate(s) so chosen would enjoy the support of the electorate.
“The second reason is that our primary processes and the elections are very transparent to the extent that we don’t experience the kind of agitation you find elsewhere. As I speak to you, some of the chairmanship candidates were returned unopposed to fly the party’s flag.
Also, we campaign vigorously for our candidates once they emerge and the timetable (by ENSIEC) gives the green light.
“The truth is that we don’t take anything for granted. During the last Local Government elections, I was part of our party’s campaigns and we visited all the 17 councils to ask for their votes. No other party did so.
During the 2011 general elections, I led our party’s campaigns also and we campaigned for Mr. President and other elective office seekers across the entire state. That’s our style and we won’t change from it,” said Chime.
*Chukwuma Onah sent in this piece from Nsukka.