•Mixed reactions trail members visit to Ugwuanyi
•Ekweremadu keeps mum
Magnus Eze, Enugu
The major reason for the recent resurgence of the Ebeano political group founded by the former governor of Enugu State, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, while in office, is beginning to come to light.
When it was announced that the senator would lead members of the group on a rare visit to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the Lion Building Government House, Enugu on Saturday, September 19, many had wondered the intent and purpose of the move.
However, by the time Nnamani and the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi finished speaking at the event; the motive was revealed. The duo practically invited Governor Ugwuanyi to just mention his successor come 2023, and the person would be crowned.
Thus the visit, which signalled the beginning of 2023 political realignment in the state, saw the Ebeano political family that had been in limbo over the years, conferring leadership of the structure on Governor Ugwuanyi.
The group, which brought together several serving and former members of the National Assembly, state House of Assembly, former ministers, party leaders and others produced by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state since 1999, pledged to support Ugwuanyi in the role as its new leader. They, therefore, urged him to declare the zone that should produce his successor in line with existing rotational arrangement in the state. Since 1999, Enugu State has been rotating the governorship slot among the three Senatorial Districts of Enugu East, Enugu West and Enugu North. Chimaroke served eight years for Enugu East; Sullivan Chime, eight years for the West while Ugwuanyi is serving out the last lap of the eight years for the North.
Nnamani who led the members of the Ebeano group in the visit to Ugwuanyi told the governor that it was his ‘right’ to produce his successor as done by the governors that served before him, stressing with finality that “whomever you choose will become the next governor.”
His words: “I was governor from 1999 to 2007. When it was time to hand over, I named the zone that will produce my successor and from that zone named my successor in Sullivan Chime, who of course, is a member of Ebeano political family. After eight years that Chime served, he also named his successor to come from Enugu North. That was in 2015, and that is why we have the present governor, who is the leader of the Ebeano as governor. So, after eight years, it is within your right to name the zone that will succeed you. Whether it is Udi, Nsukka or Enugu East and whoever you name will become the governor.”
Ebeano meaning ‘where we are’, a political pressure group founded by Nnamani, has produced more than 95 per cent of elective officials in Enugu State.
But during the period of Chime as governor, the Ebeano group went moribund as he fell out with his godfather Chimaroke, a face off that was only resolved last week prior to the group’s visit to Ugwuanyi. Thus as Chime was leaving office he convened the popular Nike Lake meeting where stakeholders in the state agreed that it was the turn of Enugu North to produce the governor after him. After this followed the meetings of stakeholders from Enugu North in arriving at a consensus candidate from where Ugwuanyi emerged.
But Nnamani stating that the Ebeano family was interested in entrenching democracy for the betterment of the people, stressed that since inception of the group, it has continued to protect and speak for the downtrodden.
“It is equality of leverages to balance interests. It has no major or minor stakeholders, but equal stakeholders. You can become whatever public office can offer in this democracy. But you must continue to demonstrate loyalty and support and that is why, wherever the governor says we should go; we go. In 2023, there is no vacancy, but wherever our leader who is the governor says is vacant, it is vacant,” he said.
“If our leader; Ugwuanyi, says go, you go, if he says wait, you wait. If he says the power is going Enugu East, we go with him, if he says it is Uzo-Uwani, we follow him that is why we say there is no vacancy in the Government House.
“In Ebeano, you are working for yourself, when we stay united, our leader will do well. PDP is intact; we are here to help PDP,” Nnamani declared.
Nnamani’s current disposition in not far-fetched. The former governor has every cause to be eternally grateful to Ugwuanyi, whom he recalled brought him back to political limelight from forced ‘retirement’.
Nnamani said he would always remain grateful for the rare privilege, even as he urged the governor to continue to provide good governance.
Also speaking, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Ubosi, said that it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial zone to produce governor in 2023 and urged the governor to maintain the rotational arrangement.
Ubosi said it was only God that could make what happened possible, adding that the governor as an Ebeano product would be able to handle it.
“It is only a governor that can handle the affairs; it is only a lion that can do it. Chimaroke governed and handed over to his choice – Chime – and Chime also governed for eight years and handed over to you, so it is your right to choose who will succeed you.”
In his remarks, Ugwuanyi described the visit of the group as ‘a great reunion’, stressing that it afforded him the opportunity to see several political friends he had not seen for a while.
Going down memory lane, he recalled how Nnamani brought him to political limelight that made it possible for him to serve at the House of Representatives for 12 years.
The governor stated that he would not take the support and call of the group for granted while pouring encomiums on Nnamani and other leaders that had sustained the group.
Former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under Nnamani, and Coordinator of the Ebeano group; Dr. Dan Shere, who addressed a press conference in Enugu before their visit to Governor Ugwuanyi said that they were now set to reclaim their pride of place in Enugu politics.
He said: “We have quarrelled too much; we don’t want to quarrel again. We have resolved our crisis and everybody is on board now in the effort to move Enugu State to higher height.”
Other notable members who spoke at the Ebeano reunion programme were House of Representatives member, Dr. Pat Asadu; PDP state Chairman, Augustine Nnamani and former Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jnr.
But many in the state had wondered why the group’s visit to Ugwuanyi happened barely 24 hours after Nnamani and the immediate past Governor, Chime, who battled his predecessor (Nnamani) and nearly rendered him politically irrelevant within the state visited the person who ‘made’ him governor and reconciled with him.
Chime paying Nnamani homage and reconciling with him at his Agbani country home, Sunday Sun gathered was one of the many early steps in the direction of constructing a united entrance for the 2023 elections.
But another school of thought in Enugu insisted that it was merely an initiative for peace and Governor Ugwuanyi has usually been known for his trouble-shooting in all sectors and was mentioned to have initiated the peace moves.
However, a close ally of Chime who pleaded anonymity told Sunday Sun that Senator Nnamani had called up the former governor after many years they had parted ways, acquainting him of the planned visit of the Ebeano family to Ugwuanyi and the need for him to be on the entourage, but Chime declined.
These moves, we gathered, are supposed to pave way for one voice on the zone to provide the next governor of the state.
Some people believe that with what happened on September 19 at the Government House; that the stage is set for bipartisan collaboration in the already evolving politics of 2023.
Although a large number of Enugu political leaders attended the programme described by Shere as the most historic political event in the state in recent times, yet Chime, former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Chukwuka Utazi and Senators Ayogu Eze and Gil Nnaji – all products of Ebeano – were conspicuously absent.
Ekweremadu was at the period in Edo State, where as member of the PDP campaign council, they had gone to give solidarity to their party’s candidate, Godwin Obaseki, in the governorship election which held on the same day of the Ebeano group visit.
Remarkably, Sunday Sun observed that some persons had taken to the social media to mock those who assembled at the Enugu Government House for the Ebeano event, pointing out that while “real men were in Edo working for the PDP’s victory, they were dancing to vain glorious songs.”
Thus mixed reactions have continued to trail the political gathering. While some hailed it as most auspicious and in the best interest of the state, others said that it was manifestly designed by the initiators for selfish political gains and to further strengthen their grip on the jugular of Enugu State.
There are some who even believe that the whole thing was a gang up against the rumoured governorship aspiration of Ekweremadu in 2023.
An All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and close ally of Chime, Chief Joel Mammel distanced the former governor from any political romance with his ex-boss, Nnamani and the Ebeano group.
He explained that Chime, who is currently plotting his political future in the APC, merely made peace with his predecessor, but which was not to join forces against anybody or promote the political ‘shenanigans’ of the initiators of the Ebeano arrangement.
Mammel said: “Ebeano is still the mind-set of the man who is driving it; the initiator. It’s a mere slogan of a political group. So, I see it as the shenanigan of the man behind it. He’s trying to resuscitate something that had given him value overtime. There’s nothing wrong with that. I was a ward councillor when the Ebeano thing started about 20 years ago; I grew to become council chairman; played role in ALGON and all that. So, remember that the Ebeano group suffered while its leader was on political exile for some time.
“But in terms of Sullivan, it’s a coincidence; it just happened that they met in Agbani when Ebeano people were regrouping. I can tell you that Sullivan didn’t go there because of Ebeano.
“For him, the Agbani visit was an opportunity to make peace with his friend and mind. It has nothing to do with Sullivan politics; we’re in APC and will remain there. Sullivan is looking ahead in his party. But if Chimaroke and Sullivan have to work together for the good of Enugu State, there’s nothing bad about it.
“But I can assure you that Sullivan’s visit to Chimaroke has nothing to do with the revival of Ebeano political group or family.”
Meanwhile, the call by Nnamani and other speakers on Ugwuanyi to nominate his successor has attracted wide condemnation.
Activist and public affairs analyst, Chukwuma Okenwa described the statement credited to Senator Nnamani, that the Enugu governor reserves the exclusive right to decide who succeeds him, as callous.
Okenwa wondered if such statement was consistent with the core principle of democracy which confers the right of choice to the people and not to one man as recently displayed in Edo State.
He further stressed that entrusting the right of choice to one man was tantamount to monarchy and not democracy, thus subjecting the common will of the people to the vulnerability of one man.
According to him, such kind of gesture would produce the kind of leadership that will be loyal to the Ebeano dynasty and not to the people of Enugu State.
He said: “The Ebeano dynasty should rather be sober that its 21 years of leadership has not distinguished Enugu as the Old Eastern capital of both the Southeast and the South-south.”
Okenwa, therefore, called on Enugu people to be more proactive with a firm resolve to make the issue of governance people-driven and not the prerogative of a few power mongers.
Similarly, Franlyn Okechukwu said that “they are indirectly instituting oligarchy system of government in Enugu State; government of one selfish people.”
In addition, a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Chief Chinedu Eya was more direct as he alluded that the coming together was targeted at Ekweremadu.
He warned against overheating the state’s political atmosphere ahead of 2023 election, asserting that the recent alliance between the state government and defunct ‘Ebeano’ political family will fall like a pack of cards.
The former Enugu North Senatorial aspirant described the state-wide rally of the Ebeano group as a “waste of the state’s meagre resources”; adding that it was “capable of destabilizing the peace in the state.”
Emphasising that the ‘gang up’ was futile, he said: “The rally was not necessary because Senator Ekweremadu has the constitutional right to contest the 2023 election in the state.
“He has both moral and democratic rights to contest the same election at the same time.
“It is heart-breaking that a group of people can come together in this age of civilization to insist that a qualified candidate should wait until next eight years to express his franchise … Politically, what you do with such candidate is negotiation, not political horse-trading.
“Let’s be honest with ourselves. Are we following the constitution or someone’s political interest?
“We must wake up from our slumber before we are consumed by desperation”.
Eya also stated that it was Nnamani’s interference in the administration of his successor Chime that created controversies and political upheaval in the last regime.
He, then, cautioned that Ugwuanyi should be allowed to make every necessary political decision affecting the state’s governance as undue interferences such as the type reportedly coming from Nnamani was capable of causing similar catastrophe in the polity.
Stressing that power belongs to God and only Him can choose who becomes governor of the state in 2023, Eya quipped: “Who even knows who will be alive in 2023? You remember the saying that man proposes, but God disposes”.
Actually, the most topical issue in Enugu State today is where the next governor of the state would come from. Going by an unwritten power sharing pact in the state, Ugwuanyi’s successor is expected to come from Enugu East Senatorial District where Nnamani hails from. Those close to the governor have also said that he is not in a hurry to torpedo the arrangement.
Sunday Sun was told of the permutation that Ugwuanyi might be considering getting a successor from Isi-Uzo Local Government Area where the state PDP Chairman, Augustine Nnamani, Commissioner for Environment, Chijioke Edeoga, former federal lawmaker, Dr. Kingley Ebenyi, and former Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, come from.
But, the dominant Nkanu people in the zone say that the slot should be given to one of their own. In fact, the talk around town was that the revival of the Ebeano group was intended to sway the governor to play Senator Nnamani’s card in the governorship by favouring somebody especially from Nkanu East Local Government Area.
A source that pleaded not to be named said that it could as well be that the purported gang up was actually against Ekweremadu when in the real sense the resurgence of Ebeano was a sad reminder of better forgotten ugly incidences of the past.
He, instead, stated that “a lot of Nkanu people especially the youths, want Nnamani to show them what he has done for them, as he has taken his turn and also wants to take theirs.
“People think that Chimaroke wants Gburugburu to play his game, but the Gburugburu we know won’t play Ebeano game in 2023. So, while Chimaroke is preparing somebody from Nkanu East; those who know said that Ugwuanyi is committed to the Isi-Uzo project. He’s too smart for that, so, that’s where both of them will clash and the whole thing will collapse like a pack of cards.”
When contacted, Ekweremadu’s media office declined to speak on the issue, but a political ally of the senator said that “he has not said anything about his political future for now. So, any form of gang up against him means nothing to him”.
Regardless, Coordinator of the Ebeano political dynasty, Shere, argued that there was nothing wrong if they regrouped to capture power, saying that politics is all about capturing power.
He said: “The conceptualization now, the mind-set written in the typical Ebeano man is about power, it’s about how to do good; and it’s by getting into a symbiotic relationship with the people who will give us power and we give them democratic dividends.
“About those who were not there, they took excuse like Ekweremadu you mentioned, I personally spoke to him, you know he is a very highly placed member of the PDP and PDP had an important election in Benin and he excused himself to be in Benin and, of course, you know the election was scheduled before our event. We know he was busy in Benin and we had his blessing and his excuse to be absent.”
On the criticisms that trailed the statement that Ugwuanyi should choose his successor; Shere explained that “they cut the statement half-way,” noting that their founder, Nnamani stated that it should be after consultations with ward chairmen, local government chairmen, and other stakeholders of the party.
“He (Ugwuanyi) is not imposing anybody on anybody, he is summing up the result, the summation of the result of consultations and he is going to present a candidate who is going to compete with candidates of other political parties that present themselves for the Enugu people to choose and in doing that, you have to bring out your best.
“And the best should come from consultations where the governor is the leader of the party; so, he will be the person to provide the result of the consultations and wherever the result goes, we will follow him. So, that is what essentially our founder, Chimaroke said, that we will follow our leader who is Ugwuanyi. After due consultations and he arrives at a candidate we will support the candidate, he didn’t say Ugwuanyi should singlehandedly go and pick a candidate,” the Ebeano coordinator explained.
All these permutations are still within the PDP family, while watchers of Enugu politics said that 2023 is still far away for anybody to get seriously with the quest for positions, particularly the governorship. As they said, “the dynamics that will change the whole thing is yet to be contemplated”.