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2023: Issues before Ugwuanyi ‘anoints’ successor

“The weak are always anxious for justice and equality. The strong pay no heed to either.” —Aristotle

One of the reasons Enugu today is the most politically stable state in Nigeria is that it’s in the hand of God. People put things in the hand of the Almighty in exchange for unspeakable peace and joy beyond human understanding. Trouble comes when people try to play God and want to do things their way, often forgetting the divine source of genuine power. From the Lion Building, Independence Layout, Enugu, a governor once operated like Hercules, the Greek demigod, finished his tenure, and almost died of isolation. No condition is permanent, Zik once reminded Asika.

You wouldn’t know this if you didn’t know about the East Central State. Isolation is a deadly post-service disease. It kills slowly but steadily and infects ex-political officeholders who had abused power and were unable to create the goodwill needed for life after office. Yes, officeholders who squandered their goodwill face desertion by the people when they leave power or power leaves them. In the Enugu case, earlier cited, it took another governor, eight years later, to remember and rehabilitate the dying ex-governor. That case and several others across the nation should be a huge lesson in the use of the power of office.

Don’t play God with what God has graciously given you; he is omnipotent and omnipresent, Alpha and Omega. No human shares these titles with the Almighty. Ahead of 2023 when political power is expected to change hands in Enugu State, we must beam our searchlights there this week. Especially with the declaration of gubernatorial interest by the former deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu that has heated the environment.

Not because of the political weight of the great legislator but more for his flagrant attempt to selfishly disrupt the smooth running of zoning enjoyed in the state since 1999. If history is anything to go, Senator Ekweremadu has technically disqualified himself. No front runner has ever made it to the Lion Building. Here is what we mean: The first elected governor of Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, was the most apolitical of the great Nwodos when he emerged as the state chief executive of Enugu. He was drafted to take his brother’s place who was disqualified by the military.

Ditto, the second elected governor, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, was not at all in the equation; he was residing in the United States when he was chosen. The then political godfathers were cruising home with Chief Silas Ilo when Nnamani arrived like a hurricane and took the show. The third governor, Barr. Sullivan Chime, was indeed the most apolitical of all the members of Chimaroke’s cabinet; he never dreamt of governorship, was wishing for the tenure to end for him to return to his law practice, the paddies of the then governor were crisscrossing each other to be recognized and anointed by him but all of them were sidetracked for Chime. The tradition continued with the fourth governor, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who was not in any limelight for the position when he emerged.

Therefore, unless the tradition is being jettisoned, Ekweremadu is already out of the race for the Lion Building. One had expected that as one of the most experienced politicians in the state in this dispensation he should have known better. After all, he had contested this governorship several times and always hit the dike. What the Enugu State pattern has shown, over time, is that “it is not he willeth,” to borrow the popular biblical expression. This conversation is actually to alert Governor Ugwuanyi of the enormous responsibility before him. Already the elders of the state have made the job easy by agreeing to align with whoever the governor chooses. That is an open cheque to the governor although these elders have not done Governor Ugwuanyi any special favour.

Rather, they are merely maintaining the tradition that has worked well so far. As they say, don’t fix what is not broken In carrying out this assignment, therefore, the incumbent should not be oblivious of history and the norm. He should also not fail to consult widely. Gov Ugwuanyi’s case is not exceptional; Chimaroke did it and got away with it, Sullivan did it even more smoothly than Chimaroke, Ugwuanyi is expected to follow the tradition and move on. Political Musing this week is therefore to draw Ugwuanyi’s attention to some salient issues he needs to put into consideration before making his very critical decision.

Critical because the future and continued stability of Enugu and its citizens are hinged on who takes his place in 2023. Enugu State is politically incongruous and structurally defective. At creation out of the old Anambra State, it had three Senatorial zones of Abakaliki, Nsukka, and Enugu. When Ebonyi State was taken away, one zone, Enugu, was divided into two, Enugu East and Enugu West while Nsukka remained one with only Isi Uzo Local Government Area taken away to create a semblance of balance. In creating local government areas, Nsukka, indisputably half of the state in numbers, was given seven LGAs while Enugu has 10. Notwithstanding its electoral advan-tage, Nsukka has been a political underdog in the state since it was created. Despite its number, it had to wait for 16 years before exercising executive power.

Even when it got it, it continued to suffer bullying from the other zones. Senator Ekweremadu who is the current bully-in-chief has an insignificant electoral advantage compared to Nsukka. He is just relying on the structural defect already pointed out foisted on Nsukka. In this dispensation, while Nsukka, the toothless majority, had to wait for 16 years to seize the chief executive officer position at the Lion Building, top positions meant for the state were being shared within the Enugu zone. For example, Senate President Ken Nnamani, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Ministers – Jim Nwobodo, Frank Nweke, Fidelia Njeze, Chinedu Nebo, and Osita Okechukwu (head of a federal agency) … all from the Enugu zone. Since 1999, no Nsukka person has been found worthy to occupy any top executive position at the federal level. Anybody who knows the benefit that accrues from these positions will know what Nsukka has missed despite its immense electoral value.

Ostensibly, it’s for the same reason that no Nsukka person has had access to the Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, three decades after its establishment in 1960. Yet, Nsukka has a large concentration of distinguished professors. Yes! Nsukka people may be blamed for their docility over time but shouldn’t that end at some point? Gov Ugwuanyi seems to be the history boy who will halt this abnormality in his political interest anyway. In some of my previous writings on the lopsidedness in Enugu, I have been confronted with the reasoning that Ugwuanyi cannot stand the pressure and that at the last minute he will chicken out or make mistakes.

This warped school of thought is not entirely correct; it may just be misconstruing humility and modesty for timidity and cowardice. There is always this thinking that when you are a political leader, toeing the line of peace and stability in your style of governance is a weakness, even if you are backed by reason. But the truth remains that if you want to confront injustice in society and expect results, you must embrace Martin Luther’s statement: “The movement for equality and justice can only be a success if it has both a mass and militant character; the barriers to be overcome require both.” With over three decades in journalism practice, I have devoted many of those years to fighting injustice and inequality as it relates to Ndigbo and Nigeria. Strangely, what I fight against nationally is being practised in my home state.

The advantage the Fulani and Yoruba, the other two of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria have for lording it over Ndigbo is more voting power because of apparent Igbo apathy to elections, but back in Enugu state, the reverse is the case, Nsukka with their undisputed voting number are underdog whose patience and humility are either rarely appreciated or being exploited. In Enugu State instead of the macro zoning being between Enugu and Nsukka the two senatorial zones left after Abakaliki Senatorial zone was taken away and made a state capital the way it is done nationally between North and South, they settled for micro zoning just to give Enugu zone undue advantage.

Instead of Enugu and Nsukka you now hear of Nkanu, Udi and Nsukka zones. As a result, Senator Ekweremadu is adding greater Awgu, equating it with Nsukka and bullying everybody to accept it because it suits his present interest. Given all this obvious lopsidedness against, Governor Ugwuanyi in choosing his successor should be properly guided. He should be incredibly and ruthlessly selfish on his stand on equity and fair play. Any pick that is not Nsukka (whether from Enugu North or East) is a perpetuation and preservation of injustice against Nsukka. Such a move may not be appreciated by some but the focus should be on what posterity holds ahead of you, not the drums of praise singers and sycophants. What makes for enduring stability of any political environment is that justice and equity is its modus operandi.

Fairness may not mean everybody getting the same thing because that is utopian but it means that everyone gets what they need. Emperor Marcus Aurelius whose reign brought peace and stability to Rome has this to say on the secret of peacebuilding, “That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee. God, bless Enugu State.




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