The other day, a few misguided persons shouted down the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, when he offered an opinion on the governor that Enugu State needs in 2023. It was a sad spectacle, reminiscent of the way we dealt with Father Ejike Mbaka whenever he offered his alternative viewpoints. Men and women of God are not infallible, otherwise they would no longer be human. They can make mistakes. But, quite like ordinary men, they are also known to publicly report matters from deep reflection or things they overheard in the hours of solitude, otherwise called vision.
At this moment, I sit on the fence on the matter of who succeeds Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as governor of my home state, Enugu. But I made up my mind to be fully involved now that the electoral umpire has blown the whistle for electioneering to commence. And herein I set forth the nature of the intervention that I shall make. They are in alignment with the three ideas in the so-called “controversial” message that the archbishop encapsulated.
What were the central messages that Bishop Chukwuma, as he is popularly known, tried to pass on about who should govern Enugu State, come May 2023? According to Enugu Metro, he made no direct reference to Mr. Peter Obi when he declared that he is “not Obidient in Enugu State.” On the contrary, he devoted a good part of his speech to dissect the qualities expected of those aspiring to rule Enugu State. We can interpret “I’m not Obidient in Enugu State” in two ways. The archbishop could be saying that he will be Obidient during the presidential election but vote democrat (PDP) in subsequent elections. Or he could be saying that he is not interested in voting Labour altogether. He later clarified the message to show that he meant the former.
More to the point, his first message was to the political parties more than it addressed the candidates. The parties had not concluded the issue of who is the governorship flagbearers at the point he made his statement. Of the four state party front runners, the Democrats (PDP), the Progressives (APC) and the Alliance (APGA) concluded their primaries and presented candidates. But not Labour, which, from all indications, continues to belabour the point about who should fly its flag. Chukwuma pointedly asked the parties to refine themselves so that they could present good and saleable candidates to the electorate. “I’m not saying that others are no good but the parties in Nigeria must go and refine themselves and the personalities that are coming in.”
Who wants to argue with this position?
The second message from the cleric was also on the mark. He acknowledged that, apart from Mr. Peter Mbah, he is yet to see the manifestos of other candidates. He was also right. This was the exact same point I made ad nauseam at the primaries’ selection stage. I mentioned at the time that Senator Ike Ekweremadu was the sole exception as he launched a clear agenda of what he wanted to do to transform Enugu and how he wanted to do it. Anytime that other candidates opened their mouths, or their acolytes spoke on their behalf, the messages we heard were that our governor is no good, it is our turn (a la Bola Tinubu), EFCC has never invited us, and all such nonsense. Bishop Chukwuma peeled off the deception in these messages: “I pray that when all of you come out (when campaigns begin), you will tell us your manifestos. Then we shall know who is who.”
Who wants to argue with his point?
His third message compared what he knows about Mbah with his expectations from the other candidates: “I know you (Mbah) and I know what you do. You have legitimate source of income, and you have resources to vie for governorship without stressing anybody. So, carry on! When others come, we shall ask them what they do. We shall then appraise everything to know where we are going…We want those who will come to make Nigeria better, Enugu State to be better. The time has gone that people will turn to opposition (merely) to ‘come and grab.’ I have not become partisan, but I am telling you the truth about life.”
To paraphrase from the holy book, what the prelate said is the truth and it is about our life. Without a manifesto to analyze and judge our candidates, my heart will be with Chijioke Edeoga. This is because he is the one that I have had encounters with. He was a professional (journalism) colleague and someone that I sat and approved policies with at Enugu State Executive Committee meetings. He was also the lone colleague that openly showed concern for the plight of those whom the state unceremoniously shoved aside, without appreciation for their service, yours truly included.
However, when the candidates eventually publish their manifestos, if ever, my head will take over. I shall be voting for a candidate that satisfies me that he will deliver on the mandate to bring Enugu out of the terrible economic mess that Nigeria finds itself. This means that, for my favorite professional colleague, I shall be asking challenging questions and expecting credible responses to how his stewardship as commissioner transformed Enugu from his portfolio, the same as I shall pose to the Democratic, the Progressive and the Alliance candidates. For instance, how was Edeoga able to transform the local government system as commissioner? If anyone challenges me today, I shall tell them how I transformed the Ministry of Information during my tenure as commissioner and ask them to go and verify from the staff of that ministry.
Secondly, I will also ask how my friend’s headship of the Ministry of Environment transformed Enugu and other urban spaces into clean livable cities during his tenure as commissioner. This will be one of three ways that I will judge and vote for a candidate in February 2023.
A second way to judge who I shall vote for is, like the archbishop said, to examine the policies that they are advertising to transform Enugu State. We return to the issue of manifestos. I shall vote for their policies, not their personalities.
A third way is to examine the individuals themselves as persons, including interrogating their personality makeup and their emotional quotient. A good leader is one with discipline garnished with trustworthiness, courage, humaneness, and intelligence. It behooves the media to interrogate the frontrunners and present them in an intelligent and unbiased manner so that voters will judge their capacities and choose wisely.
It is for these reasons that I fully subscribe to the ideas promoted by Archbishop Chukwuma in his so-called controversial statement. Come to think of it, these are the very same ideas for which the Labour Party presidential candidate wants Nigerians to adjudge his candidacy. The joke is, therefore, on those hacks who launched scurrilous abuses on the person of an archbishop, and others who wondered aloud whether he has discarded his cassock to don the agbada of those in search of agbado. The archbishop’s message resonated with me because he made the same point that I promoted during the heady days of party primaries. The hacks also abused me for those points. But no hack shall deter our message and obfuscate the truth. Those who love the country – and citizens who love our state showed concern about the process of choosing candidates. Zoning remains the greatest disincentive to a viable choice. To be fair to him, Governor Ugwuanyi kept a studied silence all through it all and thereafter made his decision. I judged at the time that he had three options to choose from. There was the Ike Ekweremadu option, represented by the anti-zoning league that trumpeted competence and capacity over zoning. There was the Nsukka irredentist option, sponsored by an ingroup that wanted a winner-takes-all situation by promoting Isi-Uzor as surrogates to the governorship. And there were the zoning apostles who wanted us to respect the turn of Nkanu (in contradistinction to Enugu East) in choosing the candidate.
Whenever Labour determines who its candidate is, it shall be time to examine and promote capacity and competence for the choice of who becomes governor. And, again, those of us who care about the future of the rest shall make our voices heard so that generations to come will judge us by what each did at a crucial point in history to build or destroy our dear Enugu State during the leadership selection process for Enugu 2023.