Enugu: Cold War Brews Over Succession Plan

ANAYO EZUGWU reports that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State’s support for Isi Uzo Local Government Area of the state to produce his successor may have pitched him against a former governor of the state, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, who prefers someone from Nkanu clan

Politics is in the air and gladiators and power brokers, especially in Enugu State, are already in the field. As it stands, the people of Enugu are going to witness the mother of all elections in 2023.

The gloves of many politicians are already off. For the majority of the players, the end justifies the means. In the Coal City state, the political temperature is rising by the day. It is more so in view of the anxiety over who Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi will back as his successor. The election may possibly set the governor against his political godfather, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani.

The governor and other stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including Senator Nnamani appeared to have agreed that the governorship position would be zoned to Enugu East Senatorial District. This development is in line with the existing zoning arrangement that was introduced in 1999, when Nnamani stepped in as governor.

And given the tradition since the advent of the Fourth Republic that every Enugu State governor usually determined his successor, there is no doubt that Ugwuanyi will definitely determine who takes over the mantle of leadership of the state on May 29, 2023. In keeping with that thinking, the governor, who hails from Enugu North Senatorial District is working with various leaders and stakeholders for his successor to emerge from Enugu East Senatorial District.

Incidentally, Enugu East has a number of prominent leaders and former governors, including Chief Jim Nwobodo, who ruled former Anambra State, and Senator Nnamani, who began the current dispensation in 1999.

Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, who switched from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly after the 2015 general election is also from Enugu East and has joined the chorus of voices insisting that Ugwuanyi’s successor must be from Enugu East.

The issue of Ugwuanyi’s successor became very topical when Senator Nnamani announced that it was the sole responsibility of the incumbent to choose his preferred candidate as the party leader in the state. But many people in the state believed that the senator is going against the initial declaration that the governor has right to anoint his successor from Enugu East.

The former governor is insisting that the next governor of the state must come from Nkanu clan and he has favoured his former Chief of Staff, Chief Peter Mbah to lead the state.

But the popular belief in the state is that given his vociferousness on Ugwuanyi’s prerogative to appoint his successor, he is not just playing to the gallery of Nkanu sentiments, he equally playing to the terms of his political resurrection in 2019 and survival beyond 2023.

But other stakeholders in the state believe that Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of the state, which is part of Enugu East, should be allowed to produce the next governor of the state. Governor Ugwuanyi’s body language seems to be inclined towards the idea that the senatorial district should zone the ticket to Isi-Uzo.

Many political watchers of the state are of the opinion that Nkanu cannot have both the governorship and senatorial seats at the expense Isi-Uzo because Nkanu clan has done eight straight years as governor and almost another eight years as a senator through Chimaroke. But politicians from the Nkanu clan believed that there are other local governments in the zone other than Isi-Uzo, which the governor should also consider in 2023.

A former member of the House of Representatives, Anayo Edeh, said it is the turn of Nkanu East to produce the next governor. He said the movement was yielding positive results as people with diverse political orientations are queuing behind their ambition. According to him, the existing zoning formula in the state would swing in favour of Enugu East Senatorial District which has six local government areas, comprising Enugu East, Nkanu East, Enugu North, Isi Uzo, Enugu South and Nkanu West.

Declaring that Nkanu East council area was the most politically disadvantaged in terms of elective offices, appointments and Infrastructure, he said that equity, justice and fairness are on the side of the council area to produce the next governor. Edeh said: “AS the 2023 general election approach, the people of Enugu State are gearing up to elect a new governor, just like other Nigerians in the other states.

As is the tradition in Enugu, the new governor will be elected in accordance with the Enugu Charter of Equity, which ensures that the governorship of the state is equitably rotated among the three senatorial districts in the state. “Nkanu East is the only local government area in Enugu State that has neither produced a governor nor a senator.

From all indications, the pendulum of power is swinging in the direction of Enugu East Senatorial District, where Nkanu East falls. Our local government was created in 1996 by late General Sani Abacha who was then Nigeria’s military Head of State.

From its inception to date, Nkanu East has remained undeveloped and bereft of all forms of government presence. “Today, there is no Nkanu East son or daughter that is occupying any position of power and influence at the state and federal levels. The under-development and isolation of Nkanu East have become scandalous and worrisome, not only in Enugu State but in other parts of the country.

This explains why almost all the prominent politicians in Enugu State are throwing their weight behind the local government.” While the campaign for the return of Nkanu clan to the government house is going on, stakeholders from Isi-Uzo are also making a case for their council to throw up the next governor.

For instance, Senator Chuka Utazi and Dr, Okwesilieze Nwodo during the February 2022 local government election campaign in Igbo-Etiti, openly declared support for Isi-Uzo to produce the next governor of the state.

Nwodo and Utazi made it clear to Enugu people that 2023 to 2031 belongs to the old Nsukka zone (which includes Isi-Uzo) because of the old Enugu zone (Enugu East and West zones) had done 16 years. Nwodo was even specific on Isi-Uzo. Meanwhile, a former commissioner for Environment, Chijioke Edeoga, who recently resigned his position and picked the PDP governorship nomination form, is generally believed to be the governor’s first choice of a successor.

Edeoga and the governor are maternally related and he is married to Nwodo’s niece. Ugwuanyi may not have openly declared support for Edeoga but as the only governorship aspirant from Isi- Uzo, many political analysts in the state believe that he is the anointed one.

The implication of this development is that the governor would go against Senator Nnamani in choosing Edeoga as the party’s flag bearer because the senator is also depending on the governor to return to the senate in 2023. The political tension is very tense than it looks on the surface because Nnamani wants to use Mbah to fully reclaim Enugu politics. Despite Edeoga’s close relationship with the governor, a pressure group, Concerned Enugu Citizens for Good Governance (CECGG), has thrown its weight behind his ambition.

The group said he is the right candidate to succeed Governor Ugwuanyi in 2023. The group declared that its decision to support Edeoga was after it gauged the quest of Enugu residents who are clamouring for a credible leader to sustain the legacies of the present administration.

A statement signed by the group’s President, Kenneth Ojobor, described Edeoga as an accomplished administrator who has garnered enough experience to pilot the affairs of the state.

The statement read in part: “We have sampled opinions across all the 17 local government areas of the state and we have come to the conclusion that Edeoga fits all the qualities our people are yearning for.

Our mandate is to ensure that the peace and development that the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has worked for is not truncated by unqualified people and political jobbers who would want to succeed him at all cost.

“In the past seven years, Enugu has witnessed a level of peace never experienced in its entire history. We have also seen landmark projects littered all over the state. We have also witnessed an unprecedented influx of people into the state in recent years. These are signs of the human-friendly leadership and the peace brought about in the state by the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

We, therefore, pledge to deploy every necessary material to ensure that Edeoga emerges the candidate of the PDP and subsequently the governor of Enugu State.” The group also backed the zoning arrangement in the state, stating that it was one of the reasons why Enugu has arguably become the most peaceful state in Nigeria.

While the debate over which local government in Enugu East would produce the next governor is on, a former Senate Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, is determined to disrupt the zoning arrangement in the state. However, only time would tell how Governor Ugwuanyi will manage the intrigues with his senatorial ambition in the coming days.

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