By Lawrence Madu

As a supposed lawyer, one would expect that having canvassed his case against the victory of Governor Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, the Labour Party (LP) candidate in the 18th March 2023 governorship election, Chijioke Edeoga, would naturally wait for the verdict of the court. But he has, in clear contempt of court, been granting interviews, issuing incendiary statements, maligning Mbah, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others, while also trying to railroad the tribunal.

Edeoga and his attack dogs – Amanze Obi, Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu, Dan Onwukwe, Chuks Akunna, Aniebo Nwamu, and Ikem Okuhu, among others – have also been on rampage, befuddling clear facts and categorically ruling on a matter before the court. To them, justice is only served if Edeoga wins at the tribunal.

Apart from their worn out fallacious claims about Mbah’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate, which fell flat at the tribunal, Edeoga and his recruits have been peddling some illogicality to confuse non-Enugu indigenes or residents, who do not understand the dynamics that informed the electoral choices of Ndi Enugu in the 2023 election.

One of such beer parlour arguments is that since LP won seven out of the eight House of Representatives seats and two out of the three senatorial seats during the 25th February Presidential and National Assembly elections, Edeoga could not have lost in the governorship polls. This is a lazy and desperate man’s logic. Dynamics that inform voters’ choices vary from one election to the other.

Despite winning in Katsina State in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential elections, Muhammadu Buhari’s wide cult followership in the North could not help the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) win the governorship seat in those election cycles.

The PDP lost the three senatorial seats and eight House of Representative seats in Adamawa State in 2019, but Ahmadu Fintiri still won the governorship election. In the same 2019, PDP won just one out of the 14 House of Representatives seats and lost the three senatorial seats in Oyo State. Yet Seyi Makinde won the governorship election. And he was re-elected in 2023 despite PDP securing only three of the 14 House of Representatives seats and losing the three senatorial seats again.

Way back in 1992, Sir Michael Otedola won the Lagos governorship election on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC) despite having no Member in the Lagos State House of Assembly. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has occupied the Anambra State Government House since the years of Peter Obi, but always struggles to win National Assembly seats.

It is hypocritical to ascribe the electoral tsunami that happened in Enugu State and other South Eastern states on 25th February to the popularity of the LP candidates, who, by the way, were mostly PDP members who lost out in the PDP primaries and ported to the LP. Truth is that Peter Obi was the single most important factor that swayed votes in favour of the LP in 25th February election. Ndigbo, across party lines, decided to make a statement by supporting Obi and LP candidates naturally benefitted immensely from that tsunami on that day. The Church, particularly the Catholic Church, and almost every group were in it and people were vouched to vote LP all the way to reduce mistakes that could arise in handling three ballots on the same day. That was how some perennial political never-do-wells like Chief Okey Ezea (Ideke) won an election after 20 years of trying since 2003. I will shortly revisit an additional reason former governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi lost to him.

The governorship election was however a different kettle of fish. First, in an election in which voters had grown weary of perennial politicians, who have built nothing else and have only political offices and patronages to their names, Peter Mbah was in a class of his own. His antecedents and pedigree as an entrepreneur, who would bring private sector mentality to governance stood him out. For instance, you cannot reasonably have a relatively young man, who founded and built Pinnacle Oil and Gas from nothing to the numero uno in the Nigerian downstream petroleum subsector and go for an Edeoga, who has lived-off government as Council Chairman, House of Representatives Member, Special Adviser to Deputy Senate President and President Goodluck Jonathan as well as Commissioner for Local Government and Commissioner for Environment in the Ugwuanyi administration, but has no legacy of development to show for it. It is a fact that Enugu was in its dirtiest state during Edeoga’s years as Commissioner for Environment. Why would Ndi Enugu reinforce failure by rewarding him with the governorship seat?

Furthermore, no one, who watched Mbah’s and Edeoga’s interviews ahead of the election would have chosen Edeoga over Mbah. Edeoga was flat, bereft of ideas on how to turn the state around.

In fact, whereas Mbah launched an ambitious manifesto with clearly stated promises such as taking Enugu economy from the current $4.4bn to $30bn, total eradication of poverty, restoring water in Enugu city within 180 after over 20 years of acute water scarcity, Edeoga repeatedly said that he had no manifesto and did not need one to lead the state well. Who would want to fly with a pilot, who tells them that he has no need of navigational equipment or a defined destination in mind?

Also, although denomination has played no significant role in the emergence of governors of Enugu State, Edeoga, who is an Anglican shot himself in the foot by introducing religion, berating Anglican leaders like Bishops Emmanuel Chukwuma, Onyeka Onyia, etc. for betraying the Anglican faith by supporting Mbah, who is a Catholic. For instance, on 4th March, an online medium quoted him as saying, “Be it known unto us today that an Anglican has never been governor of Enugu State; all the past governors were either Catholic or Methodist adherents, who conspired with Pentecostal churches to marginalize Anglicans”. Therefore, virtually everything, including the Catholic Church, that worked for Obi and LP’s victories on 25th February, made a U-turn and worked against Edeoga on 18th March.

Furthermore, Edeoga and Ugwuanyi’s mother are from the same family in Obolo Eke. Whereas Edeoga’s mother was married to an Eha-Amufu man in Isi-Uzo LGA, Ugwuanyi’s mother was married to an Orba man in present Udenu LGA. Udenu was part of Isi-Uzo LGA until 1981. Yet the likes of Amanze, Ukegbu, and Onwukwe, who resisted Rochas Okorocha’s attempt to handover to his son-in-law in their state, Imo, feel it does not matter if cousin succeeds another cousin in Enugu. Hypocrisy!

It is noteworthy that although Isi-Uzo was carved into Enugu East senatorial zone from the old Nsukka zone during the transition to civilian rule, Edeoga did not pretend about the fact that he was a candidate for his Nsukka cultural zone rather than his new geopolitical zone, Enugu East. He concentrated his campaign in the old Nsukka zone and capped it up by picking a running mate from Enugu West zone instead of Nsukka zone as Chimaroke did in 1999 and 2003.

It is equally a fact that long before the primaries, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Dr. Okwy Nwodo, Chief Okey Ezea, etc. openly campaigned that Ugwuanyi’s successor must come from the old Nsukka zone, giving it a straight 16 years against the existing zoning principle. For instance, addressing Nsukka people after his 25th February victory, Senator Ezea said on camera: “The March 11th (governorship) election is a straight fight between Nsukka and Nkanu…. So, you must prepare very well. You must make sure the directive goes round. This is about Nsukka. Young men, please, you must prepare yourselves very well. We are going into a war on March 11th and it is a do or die affair”.

This singular comment, which went viral was not also condemned by Edeoga and became an eye-opener to the rest of the state, who thought they were doing Obidient Movement with Edeoga on the platform of the LP. It became clear that it was about political hegemony and perpetual subjugation of the rest of the state by Edeoga and some Nsukka irredentists. What an effrontery, even after the last administration literally concentrated over 80 per cent of the development projects and appointments in the old Nsukka zone!

Nevertheless, Edeoga and his few Nsukka irredentists made sure that Ugwuanyi lost his senate bid. But contrary to claims by Edeoga’s hatchet writers and analysts, Ugwuanyi’s electoral defeat was not about LP’s popularity. It was about the Peter Obi factor and Ugwuanyi’s “capital sin” of refusing to truncate the zoning arrangement by handing power to a fellow Nsukka man and cousin. Indeed, Ugwuanyi’s loss was an act of ingratitude and wickedness for which Edeoga and his cohorts should be ashamed of after benefitting so much from Ugwuanyi. Edeoga served as Commissioner for the entire eight years of Ugwuanyi.

Lastly Edeoga is married to Nkechi, daughter of Grace Obayi, elder sister of Chief Nnia Nwodo and former governor Okwesilieze Nwodo. Every rational person an Edeoga governorship was tantamount to letting the Nwodo dynasty into the Lion Building through the back door. God forbid that Enugu State should produce a governor who has Nnia Nwodo as his political godfather.

Edeoga’s writers and analysts should understand that the 2023 governorship battle has been lost and won and no amount of propaganda and desperation can change it. Tomorrow is already here and Ndi Enugu can see the difference Mbah is making in a few months.

Madu writes from Oji River, Enugu

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