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Enugu 2015: Gathering storm, intrigues as the clock chimes towards general elections

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IFEANYI EZUGWU,ENUGU.

There appears to be a long list of perceived aspirants eyeing the Enugu governorship position ahead of the 2015 elections, but only two candidates have so far declared their ambitions. They have also gone into consultations with relevant bodies and individuals in an attempt to garner support across the state.

Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Eugene Odo and former Deputy Governor, Chief Okechukwu Itanyi have set the pace for the governorship race, being the first set of aspirants to declare their interest in the position.

Both men who incidentally hail from the same Ukehe in Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area of the State seized the opportunity provided by the Enugu Unity Forum to declare their intentions  at a time several others are either undecided or keeping their ambitions to themselves.

Enugu Unity Forum, a body of professionals, former legislators, ex-commissioners and former local government chairmen has positioned itself to ensure the actualization of the proposed power shift to Nsukka zone.

The decision has been threatened by perceived interest of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in the race.
The group with the objective of engendering good governance in the state by actively participating in the process of choosing leaders as well as positive interventions in governance has started reaching out to ensure that power shifts to Nsukka is not truncated.

It was during a meeting with the Forum on December 29th, 2013 that Governor Sullivan Chime made public his intention to present himself for election into the Senate. Since then, the Speaker of the state Assembly and the former Deputy to Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani have followed the footsteps of the governor to also declare interest in the guber position.

Two term speaker, Rt. Hon Eugene Odo has seen his profile continue to rise having become the first speaker to hold onto that position for this length of time since 1999. Before now, the leadership of the state assembly was being changed regularly.
His ability to bring stability to the Assembly as well as ensure a harmonious relationship between the executive and the legislature is another factor counting in his favour as he embarks on the Enugu guber race.

The confidence and trust which Chime has in him over the years was also strengthened during the long period when the governor was out of the state on health reasons. Odo properly positioned himself and soaked all the pressures until the governor resurfaced. It was a period where his loyalty was put to test and he was able to show the governor once again that he could be trusted.

On the other hand, Chief Itanyi, the deputy governor during the administration of former governor of the state, Chimaroke Nnamani who lost to Chime in the 2007 guber tussle seems to have forgotten the past and has remained supportive of the present administration in the state
The former deputy governor is also relying on President Goodluck Jonathan, his former colleague and confidant when both were deputy governors between 1999 and 2007. That affection with Jonathan continued till he became the president of the Federal Republic and he wasted no time in appointing him into the NCC Board.

Itanyi who declared his guber aspiration when he received members of the Enugu Unity Forum led by its national chairman, Hon. Tahill Ochi at his Enugu residence on January 31st this year, praised the forum for their interest and commitment to the emergence of a credible guber candidate from the Nsukka zone.
He reaffirmed his confidence in the forum insisting that it accounts for the reason why he decided to first make public his intention before them, describing the forum as a well organized body which has shown enough interest in the well being and growth of the state.
Tahill Ochi who praised the courage of the former deputy governor noted that anyone preparing to take over as governor must be ready to follow the footprints of Governor Chime or forget the ambition.

He expressed support to the governor’s directive that all the members of the National Assembly who have spent two terms should forget about the idea of re-election and allow new breeds take a shot at such positions.

Said he: “The forum is concerned on who takes over from Governor Chime to follow in his footprints; this is why we are documenting his achievements to serve as a benchmark for whoever takes over to ensure that the development stride in place is maintained.
Ochi who recently inaugurated the Abuja chapter of the Forum where Barr. Emeka Ugwu emerged as coordinator said that the primary objective of the forum is to foster and engender good governance for the state, adding that the forum and the people of Enugu state are happy with Chime’s performance in road network, health, education, prompt payment of salary and human development.

He requested the guber aspirants not to see the race as a do-or-die affair but to always put the interest of the people and state first and also to abide by whatever decisions the party may take in the cause of the contest.
He also commended the recent visit of the Enugu State PDP stakeholders to the new party National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu in Abuja and called for unity and more loyalty among party members as the 2015 general elections approache.

Just as the governorship race continues to gather steam in the state so also is the growing apprehension over the next line of action for Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who is believed to be nursing a guber ambition.

Though the senator has severally denied any interest in the governorship position, the speculation linking him to the race has just refused to fizzle out as observers see him as the only threat to the actualization of the power shift to the Nsukka zone.

With Governor Chime’s decision to go for the senatorial seat, Ekweremadu is left with the options of either squaring up against Chime for the Enugu West senatorial ticket or joining the guber race and calling the bluff of the zoning arrangement which he insists was a unilateral creation of Governor Chime.
The only option would be to abstain from contesting the 2015 elections, an option which appears completely out of the way considering his age, position, and rising profile which has become a threat in the Enugu political circle.

Ekweremadu’s relationship with Chime has continued to nosedive since the governor tried to foreclose his return to the Senate by the pronouncement that those who have spent two tenures in any position will not be given nomination by the party.
The decision to zone the governorship position to the disadvantage of the deputy senate president at a time he has also been told he cannot return to the Senate is being viewed by Ekweremadu’s loyalists as a deliberate attempt to retire the senator politically.

The current struggle over the leadership of the PDP in the governor’s Udi local Government where the party chairman announced the suspension of the Secretary to the Enugu State Government and some commissioners from the PDP are part of the build up to the final showdown between the two political leaders.
In the battle ahead, Ekweremadu is believed to have the backing of majority of members of the National Assembly from the state. Most of them have served up to two terms. There is also the Ebeano group led by Governor Chimaroke Nnamani who is on his way back to the PDP and who can easily team up against the governor.

Worried by the gathering storm, former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani reportedly arranged a reconciliatory meeting for Chime and Ekweremadu where the governor was said to have been told to make room for the deputy senate president.
At the meeting, the governor was reportedly made to see reason why he cannot at this point in time deny Ekweremadu of both the Senate and the governorship position.
Nobody knows which way the reconciliatory efforts would go and how successful it could be, but one fact remains that the guber race in Enugu State will not be well defined until the deputy senate president opens up or declares interest in a particular position.

Ekweremadu has always said that he cannot be distracted by the political gimmicks coming from the governor’s camp just as he insists that nobody can stop him if the people decide to give him their mandate. Various groups from across the state have continued to take their turns to urge the deputy senate president to present himself for the governorship position.

The senator himself has encouraged speculations that he may finally settle for the guber position through his recent tour of projects outside his senatorial zone.

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