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By Dr. Chimezie Ugwu

Nigeria politics is inextricably bugged down by greed that is often expressed in the proclivity by which the elites are wont to manipulate and fleece the undiscerning public. This tendency has heightened especially in this age of social media where the unscrupulous employ propaganda and manipulate even the otherwise enlightened folks. I read a piece recently where Chijioke Edeoga, the defeated governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State, made strenuous attempts at validating a patently insidious creation named the “Edeoga Mandate Recovery Project”. He was reacting to the story that he, in connivance with Nnia Nwodo, had set up a fund christened “EDEOGA MANDATE RECOVERY FUND”, which according to Edeoga, is exclusively managed by Nnia Nwodo, and whose donors are exclusively individuals and groups from the Enugu North Senatorial zone, otherwise known as the Nsukka cultural zone. In the said report published in Enugumonitor.com, a news blog linked to his media operatives, Edeoga pretended to be flabbergasted that members of the public were outraged by the existence of such Ponzi scheme which, according to him, was set up primarily, to solicit funds from the public towards the “recovery” of his so-called mandate.

For someone with a background in law and journalism, Edeoga’s rationalizing of what is, more or less, a political Ponzi scheme is a distressing window into the mind of a man who aspires to govern a state, barring the fittingly insightful verdict of the Enugu electorate. Indeed, the reason funds raised for electoral purposes are so scrupulously regulated in all truly democratic states globally is because, left unchecked, donations could unwittingly become instruments through which elected public servants could be unduly influenced. Raising money from the public, without any regulatory cap, to fund a politician’s litigation costs at the election tribunal is not excluded from such consideration, as the possible quid pro quo scenario it creates could imperil democracy no less. Edeoga ought to know this. But he clearly doesn’t – or lacks the capacity for insightful thought process.

Few things are indeed as galling as an insight-deficient politician, or one so impervious to political sensitivity as to gush unabashedly about their ethno-cultural base in a manner that breeds exclusion and stokes divisive sentiments. In the story referenced earlier, Edeoga spoke of how most donors to the so-called Mandate Recovery Project “are from the Nsukka cultural zone”, and noted that they “have been willfully doing this without any compulsion”. He also revealed that the Nsukka Traders Association had given him immense support in both the election and have contributed as well to the Mandate recovery pool to fund his legal fees at the tribunal. “The reason our party did exceedingly well in the Nsukka cultural zone was that the traders and artisans were in total support of my candidacy,” he was quoted as saying.

The question really is this: did such support flow from the belief that Edeoga was the best candidate or influenced by the twisted notion that the election was a contest between Nsukka and Nkanuland, of which sons and daughters from the former were bound to ensure the seat was retained in the Nsukka cultural zone? The overt threat to voters who would rather not be constrained by such provincialism, coupled with Senator-elect Okey Ezea’s pronouncement that the election was a “do-or-die affair” have both made the answer quite obvious. Such mindset is in sync with the divisive rhetoric that had characterized Edeoga’s campaign from the outset, buoyed by the dubious hope that the division thus sown could rally the entire Nsukka zone’s votes in his favour.

Even more galling is the role of Chief Nnia Nwodo, a former President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo whose age-long hatred for the Nkanu clan is barely veiled. He has carried on with this dubious project of “destroy Nkanuland” with utmost fervor such that even the death of one of Nkanu’s brightest sons, the late Hon. Justice Augustine Nnamani, in his hands, and in a most inexplicable circumstance has not attenuated this negative resolve against the clan. He has employed the likes of Prof. Barth Nnaji, as a willing tool, to stoke an issue that is otherwise not peculiar to Nkanuland, to polarize the clan in order to have his way. The vexed issue of the Ohu and Amadu debacle, as despicable as it is, is by no means peculiar to Nkanuland. Even Nnia Nwodo, whose forebears were banished from Ojebe Ogene, and had to settle in Ukehe, in spite of all manipulations, is still essentially an Obia in Nsukka cultural zone. The age-long chasm between the Itanyis and the Nwodos is defined in that fact, and the Duke, the late Hon. Chief Edmond Itanyi never failed to remind the Nwodo oracle the very tree it was carved from. Even then, such a fact was never employed to tear down the fabric of the Nsukka cultural zone in the manner that Nnia seeks to employ the likes of Barth Nnaji to do in Nkanuland.

It is perhaps this flawed projection that Nsukka, as a group must vote for the continuation of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s tenure through a surrogate that soon fostered in Edeoga a sickening sense of entitlement, the most prominent evidence of which were his halfhearted campaign and the contemptible fact he barely had any manifesto or governance action plan. It was sheer hubris. How else can one make sense of Edeoga’s polarizing conducts and statements that play out in public with a stunning indifference as though he owes his loyalty only to the Nsukka cultural zone?

The admission that the so-called “Mandate Recovery Fund” was the brainchild of the former president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo, is just as problematic. Nnia’s life history revolves around bromidic demagoguery and unbridled fleecing, either of governmental institutions or the hapless uniformed public. He has never lived without government patronages and is so determined it would remain so, either dispensed by himself or through a surrogate. It reinforces the belief that Edeoga is simply the battle axe of Nnia Nwodo, a man who has always hidden his bigotry under a sheen of Nsukka cause. Yet, it is not a hidden fact that beyond all such pretensions, Nnia Nwodo is on a personal pursuit and would never have supported any other candidate from Isi-Uzo with the same fervor as he has campaigned for his brother-in-law, Chijioke Edeoga. Despite his pretensions, Nwodo’s politics is still coloured by the warped view that sees Enugu State as simply comprising two senatorial zones – Nsukka and Enugu. So, in Nwodo’s distorted lens, Enugu East and Enugu West Senatorial zones ought to be seen as one.

The cynical attempt to rally the Nsukka cultural zone behind Edeoga does tremendous harm to the spirit of inclusion, which the idea of rotational governorship seeks to enthrone. It is instructive that while the likes of Nnia had consistently railed against the possible emergence of a president of northern extraction as successor to another president from the north, he ironically, never considered the prospect of an Nsukka man acceding the governorship seat after a fellow kinsman has just held the office for eight years as an aberration. It is, in fact, obvious that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s failed senatorial bid is in large part a consequence of his refusal to dance to the jingoistic drums sounded by Nnia Nwodo and his ilk before the Enugu State PDP governorship primaries.

It is clear now that stoking ethno-cultural sentiments was Edeoga’s only major plank to the governorship. Fortunately, the Enugu State electorate saw through the veil of deceit. But jingoists don’t quit easily, especially when a Ponzi scheme is already yielding humongous fortune. They keep on milking hapless victims hoodwinked by the false dream they peddle. People are “investing” their life savings in a project that has long been settled by the Enugu electorate. The so-called fund is managed exclusively by Nnia Nwodo and Chijioke Edeoga, and the proceeds are reflecting in Nnia’s heightened debauchery and in the 3 brand new Lexus SUV vehicles which were recently procured for Edeoga so that he could “look truly gubernatorial.” Unfortunately, the major victims still remain the traders and sundry groups on the lower rungs of the society silly enough to “invest” in a vanquished dream.

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