By Emmanuel Jonathan
In what could be likened to the biblical story of the 10 lepers that Jesus Christ encountered and healed while on his way to Jerusalem; and only one of the lepers had the thought to come back to say ‘thank you’ to the Messiah, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has again demonstrated a character which further describes him as a man of inestimable goodwill and valour who does not forget his benefactors and friends of his days of little beginning.
To show that he was elated by the gratitude of the only leper who came back to thank him for healing him, Jesus Christ demanded to know about the remaining lepers that he healed. And his disciples told him that it was only the leper lying in front of him that came back to show gratitude. Overwhelmed by that unique act of gratitude and humility showcased by ‘one leper’, Jesus prayed for him again, and told him that his faith has made him ‘whole’.
This was the case of His Excellency Senator Chimaroke Nnamani and all those who worked with him on the return of democracy in 1999 while he served as the governor of Enugu State. Nnamani as a governor founded and nurtured over 95 per cent of the political stalwarts we have in Enugu State today, including the immediate past Governor, Sullivan Chime, whom he – Chimaroke – handed over the mantle of leadership in 2007. But like the remaining nine lepers who were healed by Jesus Christ and did not see the need to come back and say ‘thank you’, a majority of those whom Senator Nnamani brought into political limelight in different stratums of the state have at one time or the other exhibited same attitudes of the nine lepers in the Bible.
The person whose sin became more prominent is Chime whom Chimaroke handed over the mantle of leadership of the state at the expiration of his eight years’ rule. Chime, before he was sworn-in as governor, had a disagreement with Chimaroke, and the matter lingered throughout Chime’s eight years’ rule as governor in the state. The disagreement was so intense that Chimaroke almost lost all he got as governor, including the destruction of his Ebeano political structure.
At some points in Chimaroke’s life, due to the level of disappointment he was experiencing from his political godsons and foes, he wondered where the other beneficiaries of his benevolence were. Many people deserted him and moved on with Chime forgetting Chimaroke their foundational benefactor.
As a result of this and many other challenges, Nnamani took ill to the extent that there was a time that he was rumoured to have died. But God kept him alive to see today so that, like Jesus Christ who was appreciated by only ‘one leper’ out of the 10 he healed, Nnamani will also receive his ‘thank you’ from one of his political godsons, in the person of Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Ugwuanyi, who was an insurance expert and manager before venturing into politics in 2002, decided to serve his people in Udenu Local Government Area as Executive Chairman. He campaigned and spent a lot of funds while running for the office of the chairman, but was asked by the then Governor Chimaroke Nnamani to step down for another preferred candidate. Ugwuanyi in exhibition of his inborn humility and respect did not only step down, he handed over his political structure to the preferred candidate and even supported him financially. Ugwuanyi went on to still support the re-election bid of the Nnamani with donation of campaign vehicles and effective mobilization of people to support Chimaroke for his second term re-election in the 2003 general elections.
Chimaroke was amazed at such level of humility. Fortunately for Ugwuanyi, the position of Igbo-Eze North/Udenu Federal Constituency became vacant as the then occupant of the seat, Hon. Fidel Ayogu, who was a member of the All Peoples Party (APP), had declared his interest in the APP to contest the governorship position of the state against Chimaroke who was seeking a re-election for his second term in the 2003 general elections.
Chimaroke saw an opportunity to reward Ugwuanyi for his humility and respect by asking him to run for Igbo-Eze North/Udenu Federal Constituency seat. Ugwuanyi eventually won the primaries for the PDP, and equally won at the general elections. Ugwuanyi like the ‘one leper’ in the Bible remained grateful to Chimaroke for his gesture and benevolence.
While Ugwuanyi kept his relationship intact with the then Governor Nnamani, he also remained loyal to the authorities of Gov. Chime who took over from Chimaroke, unlike others who deserted Chimaroke along with Chime. However, destiny paid off as Ugwaunyi was still returned to the House of Reps in 2011 for a third tenure; a position he held until 2015 when he emerged the standard bearer of the PDP for the 2015 governorship elections in the state which he overwhelmingly won. It is on record that no governorship candidate in the history of Enugu has gathered the amount of support Ugwuanyi had in the 2015 general elections. The three senatorial districts of the state unanimously endorsed and supported him in spite of their political affiliations.
The singular reason for their overwhelming support for Ugwuanyi, according to them, was anchored on Ugwuanyi’s humility, respect and performance while in the House of Reps. They said that his representation at the House of Reps transcended beyond the people of Igbo-Eze North/Udenu Federal Constituency to the state at large.
Shortly after the 2015 general elections, Ugwuanyi threw Ndi-Enugu to a surprise when he reached out to Chimaroke to return to the PDP from Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC), the party he – Chimaroke – decamped to when he parted ways with Chime who was then in PDP and the leader of the party in the state. The next shocker was when Ugwuanyi supported Chimaroke’s ambition to return for the Senate, a seat Chime denied him support in 2011 and 2015 elections respectively. Chimaroke eventually emerged victorious in the 2019 PDP primary election for his Enugu East Senatorial District.
Moved by Governor Ugwuanyi’s humility, respect and accommodation, the people of Enugu East Senatorial District unanimously embarked on a carnival-like trip to the Lion Building, Enugu, to thank Ugwuanyi for reviving their hero and political godfather, Chimaroke.
Chimaroke’s joy knew no bounds as he marched into Enugu Government House 12 years after he left as governor. He marched into the Lion Building, Enugu’s seat of power, in company of an unprecedented crowd who walked with him as he waved at passersby, government officials and residents who equally trooped out to welcome him.
By the time the drums and different cultural troupes had finished entertaining the audience at the Government House on Wednesday 16th January, 2019, Chimaroke, in an emotional laden voice, told the people that his regrets, pains, persecution and tears caused by his successor, Sullivan Chime, had been wiped out by Ugwuanyi. He went on to describe Ugwuanyi as a man of grace, honour, uncommon valour, humility and Godly.
According to Chimaroke, “Ugwuanyi has planted a seed in my life for giving me a second chance. He has re-invigorated me. He is a man of inestimable greatness. He is a man that is gifted. His name is Ifeanyi and nothing is impossible with God. I am very grateful. I am thanking all of you and the governor who made this possible. I am very surprised with the level of reception I am getting. The reason I said I was surprised is that this is the 12th year since I last stepped into this Government House.
“Who can explain this? Who can decipher? Nobody can explain this. If it were to be written, nobody can write it; if we were to draw it, nobody can draw it very well. It is only God who can explain this. I am telling you people that I never expected what you have done for me. When I look around, I begin to wonder if I really deserve this honour. I am saying to the governor, let that benevolence which God has given me through you; let a bigger measure of benevolence be shown also to you in Jesus’ name.”
Also speaking, Ugwuanyi said, “The people of Enugu East said that they came here today to thank me for reviving His Excellency, Sen. Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, politically. But if I should place things the way it should be, I don’t know who should thank each other. The only thing I will do here today is to give all due thanks to God. Let all we do be likened to a spring that never fails. We shall grow from strength to strength. I don’t want to talk about His Excellency, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani today.
“In 2015 you people gave me massive support and elected me as your governor. In 2019, I know that I will also receive the same level of support from you. I thank everyone here and I say that it is well with all of us in Jesus’ name.”
Earlier, the Speaker Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi; Enugu State PDP Chairman Hon. Auustine Nnamani, PDP House of Reps Candidate for Nkanu West/East Federal Constituency, Hon. Nnoli Nnaji and the Executive Chairman, Enugu South LGA, had commended Governor Ugwuanyi for his political ecumenism and accommodation showcased towards Chimaroke Nnamani.
► Jonathan is a public affairs analyst and Special Assistant to the Governor of Enugu State on New Media Matters