By Oguejiofo T. Ujam
The recent irrational claims and attacks on the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, did much to underscore my belief that Enugu is not like any other state in Nigeria. Enugu people know how to ignore the ranting of selfish politicians who harbour no useful intentions for the state.
That could explain why, right from the outset of the Fourth Republic, the state has always distanced itself from self-seeking politicians. It is indeed very curious that the same characters have continued to line up as leaders of opposition political parties in the state.
Students of political science should indeed dig in to investigate the superciliousness that has continued to define political opposition in Enugu State. Right from my days as a post-graduate student in New Zealand, I did not lose interest in the camouflage intentions of opposition politicians in the state.
It was that interest and understanding of the mannerism of the average Enugu State opposition politician that prompted me to author as many as 13 newspaper articles in mainstream national newspapers since the beginning of political manoeuvers towards the current election cycles.
The summary of my understanding of the opposition elements is their self-serving, but incoherent arguments and narrow-minded interests disguised as alternative strategies for the socio-economic development of the state. And, to prove my postulation right, as the build-up to next month’s general election gathered momentum, I raised concerns about the shenanigans of opposition politics in the state.
In a piece published in The SUN newspaper on October 4, 2020, I saw the attempt to introduce a jaundiced argument into the zoning arrangement in the state. See https://www.sunnewsonline.com/enugu-2023-between-zoning-politics-and-ethnic-revisionism.
Captioned, “Enugu 2023: Managing zoning politics and ethnic revisionism,” the essay delved into the bitter politics that gave rise to the power rotation arrangement in the state. Part of that article stated: “It is settled that by 2023, the incumbent, His Excellency, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from Enugu North or Nsukka cultural zone, would round off his second and final term in office as governor. Going by the zoning and power rotation arrangement, which has been observed religiously in the state since 1999, 2023 would be another opportunity for Enugu East or Nkanu cultural zone to produce the next governor.”
No sooner than The SUN newspaper of October 4, 2020, hit the newsstands than a flurry of attacks on the article started raining, particularly on the social media platforms. While some hailed the postulations, others, perhaps worried by internal pangs of guilt, descended on the author as if he was a demigod that exposed their inner fears and roguish intentions.
It was interesting that the article succeeded in waking the entirety of Enugu people into consciousness and vigilance over the machinations of partisan political actors. Yet, amid the responses, I found the rejoinder by one Godfrey Nnaji worthy of attention, not only because of his courage to engage, but also to give his perspective or that of his interest group on the matter.
Nnaji’s piece was published in SUN newspaper issue of October 7, 2020. See https://www.sunnewsonline.com/re-enugu-2023-between-zoning-politics-and-ethnic-revisionism/
In the rejoinder, he narrated: “Reading through the article published in The Sun newspaper on October 4, 2020, by one Prof. Oguejiofo T. Ujam, titled “Enugu 2023: Between zoning politics and ethnic revisionism” was a delight of sort. It was because of Prof. Ujam’s intellectual and logical chronicle of the genesis of the zoning of the governorship seat among the three senatorial zones in Enugu State namely Enugu East, Enugu West, and Enugu North since 1999.
“The sequence of his accounts and line of thoughts showed that he has a grasp of the political events and developments that have shaped the state since its creation. Even though there are some minor missing links and distortions in his narrative.”
The rejoinder, however, castigated the writer for pointing out the plot to introduce cultural zones as the basis of the new power-sharing arrangement as if it was Ujam’s creation. According to Nnaji, “It could be observed that from the beginning of the article to its middle, Prof. Ujam cleverly and politically lumped the three senatorial zones in the state together, alternating and pairing each with its cultural affiliation, all in a bid to achieve his predetermined agenda, which is that cultural affiliations should take precedence over senatorial zones that are recognized by the constitution.”
Nnaji forgot that he unwittingly exonerated the author of the article, when he clearly stated, “It was obvious that Prof. Ujam was supportive of the clamour for the retention of the zoning principle in the state in 2023, which invariably will favour the Enugu East Senatorial zone to produce Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s successor.
“His position on the issue is in sync with that of the majority, sincere and patriotic Enugu people, who believed strongly in equity and fairness for all.”
Curiously, it did not take long after that publication for some ambitious politicians, both within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and outside the party to start setting up structures for their eventual interrogation of the political power-sharing model.
The behind the scene plots instigated my further interventions on the subject matter of political struggles in Enugu State. Shortly after the governorship primary of the PDP, when it was believed that the internal opposition and their outside collaborators would allow Enugu people to x-ray the qualities of their next governor, new irritations emerged.
The distractions culminated in the recent attempt to smear Dr. Mbah by discounting his internationally recognized business acumen and entrepreneurial ingenuity in the founding of Pinnacle Oil as a major player in the downstream petroleum industry in Nigeria.
Part of the pernicious behaviours of political opposition in Enugu State is the failure to separate emotions from socio-economic enquiry. Perhaps, those arrayed against the governorship aspiration of the Pinnacle Oil chief think that successful management of private business does not suggest expertise in governance. Needless to say that that thought frame did not help them to aim accurately before pulling the trigger to shoot.
Having failed to shoot the man down, an attempt was made to tackle the political leaders of the state, especially Senator Chimaroke Nnamani and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. It is disheartening that the tiny cliques of opposition in Enugu State have not found their voice in credible alternative governance schemes to displace the current line-up. One is disposed to predict that these erratic steps and strategies built on false premises would yield devastating losses for the protagonists at the polls.
Perhaps, it was in recognition of that failure that in one of my write-ups, I argued: “For the governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, what remains for him to declare, like Paul the Apostle, “I have fought a good fight,” is next year’s general election. Ugwuanyi had come into the governorship of the state like a bird bearing an olive branch to proclaim the primacy of peace and brotherly love within and among the people of the three distinct senatorial zones of Enugu State.”
Yet, few weeks to the general elections, instead of looking into the various governance propositions of the candidates or even dissecting Dr. Mbah’s manifesto, the so-called opposition is busying itself with old wives’ tales.
Although the distraction denies the people the opportunity for a deeper and greater understanding of the programmes of the forthcoming administration, it is obvious that the other political parties have surrendered the mandate to PDP’s Mbah/Ossai governorship ticket.
This also shows that the opposition political pretenders understand the voting preferences of Enugu people. When the voters in Enugu State make up their minds on their choice of leaders, they remain adamant as a ram in their resolve. Every attempt to sway them usually meet with the legendary chorus, Wawa, Anyi Ewoho ya (No, we cannot take that).
•Prof. Ujam, Director, Quality Assurance Unit, writes from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka