By Willy Eya
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently won the 17 chairmanship seats and 258 out of the 260 councillorship positions in Enugu State. Barely a week after the election, the Coal city state is already calm and everybody is back to business.
The development has put to rest earlier permutations on the possible outcome of the poll. In the build up to the exercise, some critical observers had predicted that PDP, the ruling party in the state was not going to have a smooth run against the opposition considering that some highly placed indigenes of the state had defected to the All Progressives Congress(APC) which controls the centre. Some of the prominent names bandied then were the former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s predecessor, Chief Sullivan Chime. The calculation of some observers was that with the APC at the centre, the defectors would use their influence to make a bold statement in the election. But with the eventual outcome of the exercise, all those in that school of thought have been proved wrong.
For those conversant with the politics of Enugu State since the reintroduction of democracy in 1999, the outcome of the November 4 poll did not come as a surprise. Even though many argue that incumbent political parties would always sweep local government elections in their respective states because the state electoral commissions are under them, followers of events in Enugu however argue that the victory of the PDP was based on merit because of so many factors.
Some analysts insist that the first of the reasons PDP won landslide at the poll was not unconnected with the uncommon leadership attributes of Governor Ugwuanyi. Many believe that the governor’s humility, transparency and disposition to carry everybody along have made it impossible for the opposition parties to challenge his administration. Even though some prominent indigenes of the state have joined the APC which is the main opposition party in the state, they still maintain a cordial relationship with the governor who believes that the interest of Enugu people should not be limited by party affiliations. For instance, at the palace of Chief Anthony O. Okorie during the electioneering, former governor of old Anambra State and chieftain of the APC, Senator Jim Nwobodo, had praised Governor Ugwuanyi for uniting leaders in the state irrespective of their political affiliations.
Nwobodo who described Ugwuanyi as a leader with a conscience and fear of God explained that he was at the event to welcome the governor because he is ‘the governor of all political parties in Enugu State, who has a conscience, and has done so well in office and united everyone.”
The former lawmaker added that he was glad that the era of hate speeches and bickering was gone in the state, stating that “Enugu State is safe because it is in the hands of God.
“I’m here because Governor Ugwuanyi is the governor of all the political parties. I don’t talk about the governor when it comes to politics because he has surprised everybody. He has done so well and has united everyone. He has conscience.”
Also, not too long ago, members and leaders of the APC converged on the Convention Hall of Nike Lake Resort, Enugu, in solidarity with one of their staunch members from Enugu State, the Nigerian Ambassador to Republic of India with Concurrent Accreditation to Bangladesh and Nepal, Major General Chris Sunday Eze (retd), who was accorded a reception by Enugu State Government following his new appointment. At the event, the National Vice Chairman of the APC in the South East region, Emma Eneukwu in his goodwill message commended Ugwuanyi for his bi-partisan approach to governance, saying that such an exceptional disposition has united leaders of the state, irrespective of their political differences.
He said the governor has created a peaceful atmosphere that has made it possible for everybody to be one when it comes to issues concerning the state. “I want to thank God for today, because this thanksgiving signifies the fact that whatever we do in this state, we are one whether you’re PDP, you’re APC. It is worthy of note that the kind of governor we have is one who appreciates your talent irrespective of your party”, he said.
At the same event, the former President of the Senate and a chieftain of the APC, Ken Nnamani said Ugwuanyi has demonstrated political maturity in the state by creating an ambience of peace and tranquility where everybody is accorded his or her due respect irrespective of political divide.
Enugu as core PDP state
Many also were not surprised with the result of the last local government election because Enugu is considered a core PDP state. Despite defections of few prominent politicians of Enugu extraction to the APC, critical observers agree that the PDP has remained a party to beat in the state.
Since 1999 when Dr Chimaroke Nnamani emerged the governor of the state on the platform of the PDP, the story has not changed even till 2015 when Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi swept the polls on the platform of the same party.
Based on the history of the state, many had predicted even before the council poll that the ruling PDP would triumph over the opposition political parties. Analysts argue that despite pockets of complaints from the APC on the outcome of the election, it was a consensus among other opposition parties that the PDP won the election purely based on merit from hard work.
After the declaration of results, a group of 35 registered political parties in the state had urged losers in the election to express their grievances in accordance with the electoral law of the state by approaching the local government election tribunal to ventilate their dissatisfaction, if any.
Leader of the parties and chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. John Nwobodo said that even though there were late arrivals of electoral materials in some places, the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission, ENSIEC, took immediate steps to remedy the challenge.
Nwobodo said: “There were few skirmishes, yet these incidents were too infinitesimal and not widespread or substantial to affect the outcome of the election.”
The group commended ENSIEC for its neutrality and impartiality throughout the period beginning with the issuance of notice of election on August 1, 2017. They said Governor Ugwuanyi gave all the needed support and funding to the ENSIEC to discharge its constitutional mandate without any interference and commended him for the magnanimity.
On their part, the civil societies group that observed the election gave commendation to ENSIEC for what it said was a “wonderful preparation in providing all the needed logistics and materials on time which actually encouraged the success of the election.”
In its report after the election, the observers said the exercise was calm, peaceful, orderly and of course transparent without any unlawful interference.
Test for 2019
One of the permutations that trailed the council elections is the fact that the governor wanted to use the exercise to test the ground ahead of the governorship election in 2019. Many had used the elaborate preparation of the PDP for the election to corroborate the argument. Their position is that never in the history of the state, had the PDP ever prepared like it did in the last local government election.
Ahead of the poll, the party had flagged off the campaign and went from one local government to the other to woo the voters. In each of the rallies, a mammoth crowd always turned out as if it was another period of general elections in Nigeria.
Speaking on the exercise, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, congratulated the people and government of Enugu State on the successful conduct of the November 4, 2017 local government elections in the state, describing it as the best council election in Nigeria’s recent history.
Ekweremadu, who commended the state government for its policy of non-interference in the electoral process, also congratulated the PDP on its outstanding victory, noting that it was just the beginning of payback to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for his developmental strides in the state in the time of financial crunch and the political peace he restored to the state.
He said: “The poor conduct of local government elections has been of grave concern to Nigerians in the constitution amendment process, but the Saturday council election conducted by ENSIEC is unarguably the best in recent years.”
He added: “It is one of those rare occasions state electoral umpires have inspired confidence in the nation’s electoral process and it adds to the democratic credentials of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and the PDP.
“I commend the Ugwuanyi-led administration for ensuring that ENSIEC enjoyed total independence and the necessary resources, while also making it possible for the people to troop out en masse to exercise their franchise in a secure, free, fair, and credible democratic process.”
On PDP’s landslide victory, Ekweremadu said: “This is just a prelude to 2019 when the people of Enugu will fully appreciate the Ugwuanyi administration for the equitable socio-economic development in the state, workers welfare, and political peace in the state.”