ANALYSIS – Enugu-East Senatorial District And Its GladiatorsFeatured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News, Politics Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
FROM IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu
As the 2015 general election draws near, Our South – East Correspondent, IGNATIUS OKPARA, takes a critical look at the chances of the political gladiators in Enugu east senatorial district race of Enugu state, believed to be one of the most volatile zone during elections.
Since the inception of the ongoing democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999 till date, Enugu east senatorial district of Enugu state had remained one of the most volatile and highly politically conscious zone on electoral issues, this is due to the calibre of politicians in the area.
Some of the notable political giants from the zone include, former governor of old Anambra state, and one time senator and minister of sports, senator Ifeanyichukwu Jim Nwobodo, ex- senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani, immediate past governor of the state, and leader of Ebeano political dynasty, Dr. Chimaroke Ogbonnaya Nnamani.
Others are, erstwhile minster of power, professor Barth Nnaji, former minister of information, Mr. Frank Nweke (jnr), recently ousted Deputy governor of Enugu state, chief Sunday Onyebuchi, the incumbent senator representing the district, Gilbert Nnaji, former secretary to Enugu state government, chief Onyemuche Nnamani, business mogul, chief Everest Nnaji amongst others.
Due to the high number of influential political juggernauts in the area, the zone had always been synonymous with political war among its gladiators during electioneering periods.
Besides, the district had always be a beehive of political activities during every political dispensation, a development many analysts have attributed to the high level of political consciousness and awareness among the people of the zone.
In fact, in the district, every Dick and Harry is a politician, including women, because the only language they understand is politics, which is also the major industry and lucrative business in the area.
It is also a well-known fact that none of the senators that represented Enugu East senatorial zone between 1999 till 2011, got a second term in office.
Because of the peculiar political awareness of the people, all elective positions are always the cynosure of all eyes during elections, as they are keenly contested for.
However, as the 2015 clock ticks, political watchers in Enugu, which pride its self as the “coal city state” are watching with keen interest to see if the incumbent senator representing the zone and chairman of senate committee on communication, Prince Gilbert Nnaji can do any magic to break the jinx of going for a second term in office.
As at today, several Aspirants including the popular and unpopular ones, have indicated their interest to represent the zone in the green chambers of the National Assembly NASS in 2015, as their campaign posters and bill boards have continued to flood every nook and crannies of the state.
Those whose ambition have been made public includes the incumbent senator, Gilbert Nnaji, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Frank Nweke, and the most powerful chief of Staff to governor Sullivan Chime, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo, amongst others.
Between 1999 and 2003, Senator Nwobodo, represented the District, he was succeeded by fellow member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Amechi Awkunanaw kinsman, Senator Ken Nnamani, who occupied the seat from 2003 to 2007.
Midway into his stay in the Senate, Nnamani was elevated to the position of Senate President. In 2007, another former governor, Dr. Nnamani, also of the PDP, family succeeded the ex- Senate President as Senator representing the zone.
Nnamani who later dumped PDP for his own party, the People for Democratic Change (PDC), contested for a second tenure in 2011 but lost to Gilbert Nnaji who was then a member of the House of Representatives and, obviously, the person of the lowest pedigree to represent the popular senatorial district.
Based on the foregoing, one could see that none of the senators that represented Enugu East from 1999 till date got a second tenure.
As usual, with the 2015 general polls gathering momentum, all eyes are now on the district
Only recently, Nweke (Jnr)the immediate past Director General of Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) declared his interest to represent the zone in the Senate. Nweke made his declaration in an interaction with newsmen at his G.R.A. Enugu palatial home.
The ex- Minister had assured the people of Enugu East of effective and quality representation if given the mandate.
Nweke, said he is eminently qualified for the senate job, going by his educational background, intellect, exposure and resilience. Hear him: “I believe I will be an effective senator, if elected. Enugu East has a history of very quality representation.
“I believe I will be reinforcing that history. That is why I brought myself forward,” he told newsmen.
Nweke noted that he had great respect for others who have put themselves forward to serve Enugu East, as it is the beauty of democracy, adding that the people would choose the best candidate at the appropriate time.
He made it clear that his expression of interest was well considered, stressing that he possesses the capacity to realise his ambition.
Nweke said his records are there to speak for him, adding that some of his colleagues while in government can no longer come out in public while he goes about freely.
But a former senatorial aspirant from Nkanuland in the zone who craved anonymity had, described Nweke’s declaration as “a mockery of ambition and a joke taken too far”.
According to him, “It is a mockery of ambition because his master, Chimaroke Nnamani, has also indicated interest. As a matter of fact, I do not see him competing against him.
“He is only being used as a lightening rod to test the waters. Frank has no gravitas before the Nkanu people. How many Nkanumen did he empower while he was in power as a minister? He asked.
“He chose to go to places like Plateau state to pick his aides and abandoned his people in Ozalla community and Nkanuland.
“He also demonstrated his lack of respect for our elders and our culture by the denigrating manner he addressed Chief Ken Nnamani, one of the foremost Nkanu sons of our time. He described Ken’s comment on the political thuggery and reign of terror inflicted on the state by his master Chimaroke as ‘the ranting of an ant.”
If Chief Ken Nnamani, could be regarded as ant, who else will he have regards for in Nkanuland? Yet the Senate chamber is not meant for the representation of a colony of ants. He is an upstart and we should not take this joke too far” the source said.
While Nweke’s ambition may be haunted by his past, the incumbent, Nnaji’s ambition may be haunted by present realities at home in Enugu State where Governor Sullivan Chime has given indication that he was not in support of members of National Assembly who has stayed for too long in Abuja, seeking re-election.
Chime gave this indication in a meeting he held with the Enugu State caucus of the National Assembly sometime last year.
Nnaji is serving his first tenure as a Senator, but his two earlier tenures in the House of Representatives may have ruled him out, in the calculation of the Governor.
Contrary to rumours that Nnaji, agreed in 2011 to serve for only one tenure, the incumbent Senator has severally stated before journalists that there was no such agreement and challenged those who claimed that such an agreement existed to come forward with such a document.
Reacting to the opposition mounted by Chime against the return of members of the National Assembly who have stayed for long, Senator Nnaji made it clear that Chime could not decide their fate.
According to him, if the governor says that the lawmakers are not going back for their second or third tenure, it is left for the masses to decide.
Senator Nnaji noted that only God giveth power and not man and, so, the governor cannot decide for them and for either the senatorial district or for the masses.
He said “It is the masses who will say that you will not go back and they will vote against you. But once the masses say that we will go back, nobody can stop us,” Nnaji insisted.
On the other hand, though, Mrs. Nwobodo has not publicly made any her intention public, but going by her body language and number of bill boards with her intimidating photographs scartered in all parts of the state, one needs no prophet to know that the Enugu powerful ion lady, is in the race just waiting for the INEC official whistle to be blown.
Sources say Mrs. Nwodo, is relying on governor Chime, and all the local government chairmen in Enugu east zone, which she was instrumental to install.
Besides, her speculated ambition has also been receiving massive support from the womenfolk in Enugu East Senatorial zone who do not hesitate to use every available opportunity at any public fora to chant the slogan “Ifeoma di niru” and “Nwanyi bu ife”, meaning “good things are ahead ” and “a woman is an asset”,.
Just like Mrs. Nwobodo, the senatorial ambition of ex-Governor, Chimaroke Nnamani has also remained in the realm of speculation, as he has not made it public himself
Enugu State chapter of the ruling peoples Democratic party, PDP had recently rejected Nnamani’s return to the party which he dumped to form his own PDC, following irreconcilable differences with his erstwhile political godson, and incumbent Governor of the state, Chime.
However, the hurdles and obstacle placed before the ex- Enugu governor, Nnamani by the leadership of the Enugu PDP sources say, may not stop him from pursuing his senatorial ambition in All Progressives Congress (APC) where his loyalists, like former Commissioner for Local Government, Sam Ejiofor and others have already pitched tent with.
Going by the intimidating credentials of the Aspirant, one would say that they are all eminently qualified to occupy the Enugu east seat in the upper chambers of the National Assembly NASS.
But suffice it to say that as an incumbent governor, Chime,s preferred aspirant, believed to be Mrs. Nwobodo, may be the candidate to beat in the election, since the government controls the entire PDP structure in the state.
Although, some may say it is too early to predict who occupies the Enugu East senatorial seat in the next election, but one thing is certain and clear, the election is not going to be a ‘tea party.
But based on the political structures on ground, especially at the local government Areas, one would say without sounding immodest, that Chime,s candidate holds the ace, and may carry the day, bearing in mind that she has will have easy access to all the apparatus for electoral manipulation, including law enforcement agents.
As the 2015 general polls gathers steam however, only time will tell if senator Nnaji, can muster the political weight in braking the Enugu east traditional second term jinx.
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