*More questions than answers on Ife-Emelumma Rally and Enugu 2023 Guber race

Although the Ife-Emelumma political rally was planned as the “end of discussion” in the debate of whom or at least which zone occupies Enugu Government House come 2023, it missed the target as the organisers appear to have gotten more than they bargained for, writes, Arthur Okolie.

The Ife-Emelumma Political Rally organised by some political stakeholders in Enugu West Senatorial zone to persuade Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to anoint his successor from Enugu East zone (not Enugu West) has come and gone, but beside proving a huge misadventure, the many questions it raised are still circulating in the air.

To start with, the name Ife-Emelumma (something orderly, duly, and beautifully done) is of questionable paternity. Anyone that has lived in or had anything to do with Enugu knows that “Ife” is strange to Enugu’s dialectal DNA. Waawa people say “Ihe”, not “Ife”. The first question is: How did the promoters arrive at the nomenclature?

Equally raising dusts is the purported “minutes of meeting” flaunted by the Chairman of the Organising Committee and Chief Convener of Ife-Emelumma, Senator Ben Collins Ndu.

The Senator, who represented Enugu West between 1999 and 2003, did not give account stand before the people to point at any development project he attracted as their senator, but to inform them that the Enugu State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoned the 2023 governorship to Enugu East in 2013.

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Ndu claimed: “What we are saying in Enugu West Senatorial District is that in Enugu State, governorship position rotates among the three senatorial districts. You (Ugwuanyi) are a beneficiary of the motion I seconded that the governorship seat should rotate to Enugu North Senatorial District.

The motion was amended by Dr. Charles Egumgbe that after Enugu North Senatorial District, it would be the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District. The amendment was adopted by the Caucus at that meeting”.

The questions are: How come that only people from the same Federal Constituency – Senator Ndu (Ezeagu) and Egumgbe (Udi) – proposed, amended, and seconded the said motion? Where were the stakeholders of the other senatorial zones? Besides, any attempt to trace zoning arrangement in Enugu should be comprehensive, starting from 1998/1999 when they initially claimed that the founding fathers of Enugu initiated the zoning arrangement.

They should name the participants, venue, and date of the said zoning meeting. They should name those who moved and seconded the motion that zoned governorship to Enugu East in 1999. They equally need to do the same for purported zoning of governorship to Enugu West in 2007.

The mistreatment of the 76-year old Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi at the rally is also raising questions. Meetings leading up to the rallies were hosted in Onuagulichi’s house. The elder statesman also contributed N2 million to the pool of about N150 million donated for the rally and therefore deserved a say? How does humiliation of elders translate to orderliness and due process that the term “Ife-Emelumma” should ordinarily espouse?

Speakers at the rally, including former House of Representatives member, Rt. Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi; former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo; former Minister of Aviation, Amb. Fidelia Njeze; and former governorship aspirant, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu, joined Senator Ndu in calling on Ugwuanyi to anoint his successor from Enugu East based on a “zoning arrangement”. But Onuaguluchi’s offence was that he differed by calling a spade by its name.

Turning to Ugwuanyi, the titan said: “Don’t mind those after their own pockets trying to mislead by claiming that there is zoning in Enugu State. It has never been so.

“In 1990/1991, when I contested for governorship, there was no zoning. In 1999, when Chimaroke Nnamani from Enugu East, Victor Nduka Agu from Enugu West and Gbazueagu, also from Enugu West contested there was no zoning. In 2003, Hon. Fidel Ayogu from Enugu North, Ugochukwu Agballah, Anayo Onwuegbu and Alex Obiechina, all from Enugu West contested against then incumbent, Chimaroke Nnamani.

There was no zoning. In 2007, it was Okey Ezea from Enugu North versus Sullivan Chime and Ugochukwu Agballah from Enugu West. In 2011, it was Okey Ezea from Enugu North and then incumbent, Sullivan Chime from Enugu West. It has always been so.

“My father was a major political player and he was not aware of such. Myself, I have been involved in Enugu Governorship politics before any of you here.”

Turning to the conveners, he said: “Ben Collins Ndu, I was the one that made it possible for you to go to the Senate. Ozomgbachi, but for me you would not have become even a Councillor in your Ward.

Reverting to Ugwuanyi again, Onuaguluchi asked, “Your Excellency, are you a product of zoning?”

Unable to stomach the octogenarian’s hard truths again, as he continued to receive thunderous ovations from the crowd, the organisers muted his microphone and started blaring music to drown his voice. When he refused to be intimidated, they employed other antics; and all these played out in the presence of the peace-loving governor, who has much respect for elders and statesmen of his state.

It is unfortunate that the organisers were not keen to observe the governor’s changed countenance, especially when a young state lawmaker from Ezeagu, who hopes to become a Speaker someday, carried the matter too far. But Odenigbo, as he is popularly known, refused to yield the stage until Ugwuanyi, in his natural humanness and wisdom, directed that they allow him to complete his speech.

In any case, the elder statesman had sent his message. An experienced and dogged politician, he apparently played along with the organisers, goaded them to the big stage, and twisted the mood of the rally by pushing a pin into the balloon of lies and exposed their double speaks.

It is instructive, for instance, that one of the financiers and conveners of the rally, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu, in a 5th November 2014 interview in Vanguard Newspaper, had avowed that there was never any governorship zoning/rotational arrangement in Enugu State.

His explained: “We have not had zoning in Enugu State. There had never been any zoning. It is on record that in 1979, in the old Anambra State, the key elements that were contesting for governorship – Chief Jim Nwobodo, late C.C. Onoh, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Chief Austin Ezenwa; these were the principal characters that contested the election. It was not on the basis of any zoning arrangement.

“In 1999, the contest was between Chief Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu, Chimaroke Nnamani and Nduka Agu. Three of them contested vigorously for the ticket of PDP and finally Chimaroke won. In 2003, it was keenly contested by over 12 people, including my humble self.

“From Nkanu then was Chimaroke; from the Greater Awgu was myself, Chief Alex Obiechina and two others. There was no zoning. Then 2007 again, the scenario repeated itself. In 2010/11, it was the same issue”.

On Enugu North’s agitation to produce the next governor, being the only zone yet to occupy the office since 1999 (at the time), Onwuegbu responded: “The concept is hinged on the fact that some time ago, it was strongly rumoured that the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu was interested in becoming the governor of the state (in 2015) and his no-love-lost relationship with the sitting governor (Chime) is a well known fact.

“To put a stop to that ambition, the governor started announcing that he had zoned the ticket of the party to Nsukka zone. It is a deliberate effort to steer up a sectional consciousness to be used against an envisaged enemy. I stand to be corrected. Let him (Chime) tell us any gathering in Enugu State that says we are going to start zoning. He was not a beneficiary of any zoning arrangement either; he was handpicked by former Governor Chimaroke”.

So, when did Onwuegbu and his co-travellers partake of this road-to-Damascus encounter? What has changed between November 2013 and August 2021? Can people who swing like London weather be trusted to lead or speak for Enugu West?

There is also the opportunity cost of the rally. Couldn’t the about N150 million pooled for the rally been enough to fix at least one primary health centre in each of the five LGAS, which are in disrepair? Since only an estimated 2% of Nigerians have received covid-19 vaccine, it means that only about 40 of the about 2,000 villagers imported from all over Enugu for the rally have been inoculated.

Could it not have made more sense expending such enormous sum on vaccine than spreading the virus through a crowded rally? What of the man-hours expended by 2,000 people on the rally?

Imagine that this number invested just eight hours of that day in their farms and other economic ventures. Add these to Odimma Nsukka and Oganiru Enugu East rallies and the fact that they always dragged the peace-loving and workaholic governor to their rallies when he would have preferred to busy himself with matters of state. Only then will the real costs of Enugu’s endless rallies become clearer.

Again, each of the organisers has one political ambition or the other. Furthermore, the company of one of the Conveners, was allegedly awarded contract by the Sullivan Chime administration to make water surplus in Enugu. Unfortunately, the Ugwuanyi administration won’t pay the inherited N1.5 billion contract debt, as water remains the single scarcest commodity in Enugu city and the government is still working with international development agencies to find a solution.

Where do personal political and economic interests dressed in the garbs of altruism end and where does the call on Ugwuanyi to anoint his successor outside Enugu West start?

Furthermore, when Ife-Emelumma conveners claimed to have spoken for the entire Enugu West, does it mean that the three federal lawmakers from Enugu West, including Senator Ike Ekweremadu, their supporters and the larger population of  Enugu who were conspicuously absent don’t matter?

Lastly, when they mouth justice, who actually deserves justice more, when the 3-2-1 factor is taken into account? Is it Enugu East, which has produced three governors (Senator Jim Nwobodo, Chief C.C Onoh, and Dr. Nnamani) or Enugu North that has produced two governors (Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and Ugwuanyi) or Enugu West has that produced only one (Sullivan Chime)?

Until justice and truth totally prevail, more questions and answers will continue to blow in the air over the ill-fated Awgu rally and the 2023 guber race in Enugu.

Okolie writes from Enugu.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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