Enugu 2023: Appeal For Peace And Order – By Ogbonna Casmir

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As the 2023 Enugu State governorship election draws near by the day, the Enugu State political atmosphere has increasingly been charged, almost to a breaking point, by a clash of two or more political interest groups, each group having its eye on the Enugu Lion building.
In the midst of the political tension that is almost reaching the level open physical combat by opposing political party zealots and foot soldiers, an Enugu-based non-government and non-political organization, the Equity and Integrity Assembly, has initiated a third force movement to restore peace, order and germane political climate in the 2023 political campaign session which will ensure that crisis is averted during electioneering and election process.

In a press statement signed by the coordinator of the Equity and Integrity Assembly, Hon. Gary Ene, and the secretary, Mr. Justus Opah, the objective of the Assembly was to reach out to the people, including political party stakeholders and the general public on the danger of truncating the conventional or traditional formula of electing the State governor, which has had positive and salutary results so far, as any attempt to jettison this formula was bound to cause disharmony and hardship to the people, more so to youths, the ignorant and the weak who would suffer most. “We cannot stop talking about Zoning in Enugu state”, he maintained, adding that “due to the level of political development in my dear state we are looking for a situation that will accommodate everybody”.

Commenting specifically on the effort by Senator Ike Ekeremadu to rubbish the idea of zoning in Enugu State, the Equity and Integrity Assembly said it is embarrassing that a supposed Leader could lie without shame because of his ambition on the issue of zoning in Enugu state.

The group recalled that Rt.Hon Dubem Onyia had in a full PDP caucus meeting moved a motion for zoning when H.E. Sullivian Chime was the governor of Enugu state. Senator Ekweremadu was at the meeting. The motion was that the governorship of Enugu state should be by zoning. At this point , Enugu West was in the saddle as governor. Before then Enugu East had finished as governor by H.E. Chimaroke Nnamani. The caucus decision was that the next governor should go to Enugu North after which the zoning will start from Enugu East.

In a personal statement, the group coordinator, Hon. Gary Ene, disclosed that after Senator Collins Ndu seconded that motion, it was put to vote in which Even Senator Ekweremadu voted.

“I was there as a member of the state caucus and still one. H.E Okwy Nwodo confirmed the position among other elder statesmen. The former governor Chime equally confirmed the position. Our worry as a group is that someone who has benefited more than any other person wants to bring crisis and bloodshed into Enugu politics. We as elders will stand against that. Enugu state has been a center of peace not only in Enugu state but the whole of Nigeria. We must thank the Executive governor of Enugu state who has been managing all manner of abuse he is getting from agents of confusion. We therefore advice Senator Ekweremadu to let reason prevail. Let him wait for the turn of Enugu West”.

He regretted that Senator Ike Ekweremadu, at a recent press briefing in Enugu where he formally declared to contest the 2023 governorship election in Enugu state, was asked to make a clarification on zoning understanding in the state claimed that and he responded that “…if there is going to be any discussion on zoning and going forward I believe that the leaders of Enugu would be happy to have that conversation but before now it never took place. And I challenge any person who say there was zoning to tell us at what point, in whose house and who and who were there. People have asked this question, up till today nobody have answered it.”

According to the group, “it is unfortunate that the inordinate ambition of Senator Ike Ekweremadu to become the governor of Enugu state could lead him to lie even at a period of Lent when Christians are enjoined to speak truth as followers of Christ”, adding that it is highly regrettable that Senator Ekweremadu, while throwing a challenge to those advocating zoning to tell him at what point, in whose house and those at the meeting where zoning was agreed, failed to make any reference to the statements made by some leaders like Sullivan Chime, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Ben Collins Ndu and others who have stated unequivocally that the leaders of Enugu state met in 2013, and agreed on zoning.

This position was equally confirmed by Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, an elder statesman and former governor of old Enugu state at a PDP campaign rally in Igbo-etiti LGA on February 18, 2021, where he disclosed that the PDP leadership in Enugu had zoned the 2023 governorship position of the state to Enugu East senatorial zone.

Dr. Nwodo who is also a former National Chairman of PDP said that he was in the party meeting alongside other leaders, such as the then Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the then State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Vita Abba, and others where the decision was taken.

The former Governor recalled that it was Chief Dubem Onyia who moved the motion at the meeting, which was seconded by Senator Ben Collins Ndu, with an amendment by Dr. Charles Egumgbe that the governorship position should go to Enugu East Senatorial District in 2023 after the turn of Enugu North Senatorial District, which is presently occupied by Gov. Ugwuanyi.

Senator Ben Collins Ndu who was at the said meeting of the State Caucus of the PDP in 2013 collaborated the statement made by Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo at a solidarity rally at Awgu LGA secretariat on August 7, 2021 to draw support for the rotation of the governorship seat in the state tagged: “Ife-Emelumma Enugu West Unity Rally”, attended by leaders of the zone. At that rally, Senator Ndu told the audience that he was at a meeting of PDP leaders in 2013 where the decision to zone the 2015 governorship of position to Enugu north senatorial zone was agreed upon.

He also confirmed that it was Chief Duben Onyia who moved the motion in the presence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Sullivan Chime, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Vita Abba and others which was seconded by himself. He went further to state that Dr. Charles Egumgbe brought in an amendment that the governorship position should go to Enugu East Senatorial District in 2023 and it was supported by all.

Another former governor, Barr Sullivan Chime at a meeting with leaders of Nkanu East LGA told his visitors what transpired at a town hall meeting at Nike Lake hotel in 2013 where a journalist wanted to know the zone that would succeed him.

In Chime’s own words, “in 2013, while we were at Nike Lake holding a town hall meeting, one journalist raised his hand and I asked him, what is it? He asked that since my administration has gone half way, which zone will produce my successor at the end of my tenure. I told him it will go to North.

“It was only reasonable that I insisted that ndi Nsukka will produce the next governor after me with the hope that after Nsukka zone, it will be a kind of circle, so that it will go to Enugu East Senatorial Zone after which it will come to Enugu west.. “

“In the light of the foregoing therefore, Senator Ekweremadu was only being economical with the truth while addressing the issue of zoning at his press briefing’, Hon. Ene said.

On Senator Ekweremadu’s challenge to us to name who and who were at the meeting where the issue of zoning was agreed in Enugu, I urge him to speak or refute the statements by these prominent leaders who said that he (Ekweremadu) was at the meeting of PDP state Caucus with them in 2013 where the decision on zoning was made.

“He should tell us whether he was or was not in the said PDP state Caucus meeting with Chief Duben Onyia, a former Minister; Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, a former PDP National Chairman; Chief Vita Abba, the then PDP state chairman; Barr Sullivan Chime, the then state governor; Ben Collins Ndu, a former senator and Dr Charles Egwumgbe among others when the zoning understanding in the state was reached.

“It is good that it was Ekweremadu who threw up this challenge and I am glad that those at the meeting have spoken. I would want him to be specific on their statements and either confirm or deny them”.

Also, Senator Gilbert Nnaji , in his reply to the March 11 challenge thrown by Senator Ike Ekweremadu on the ongoing conversation on zoning in Enugu state during his formal declaration, to the effect that there was no time and place when the leaders of the state sat down to agree on zoning of the governorship of the state and challenged the proponents of zoning in the state to show proof of such an arrangement, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, who represented Enugu East Senatorial zone in the Senate shamed Senator Ekweremadu.

While speaking on the ongoing zoning controversy in Enugu State, Senator Nnaji said it is the turn of Enugu East Senatorial zone to produce the next Governor. When asked whether there was actually any form of zoning arrangement in the State, he replied: “I know there is zoning in Enugu State, because I was there at the State caucus meeting in 2013, we as NASS members were all there”.

“The issue of zoning was raised and Hon. Dubem Onyia, former Minister, moved a motion for the rotation of the governorship seat and it was seconded by Chief Ben Collins Ndu.”

“Egumgbe made some amendments that after it has gone to Nsukka, Enugu North Senatorial zone, it will now come to Enugu East, so that it will be going round, every zone will know when it is their turn, in that way we stop all these political acrimonies.”

Senator Nnaji did not only say he was at the meeting of the PDP state Caucus meeting in 2013 where zoning was agreed, he also stated that Senator Ike Ekweremadu and other National Assembly Members from Enugu state were there.

Other leaders in the state who were at the meeting in 2013 like Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Ben Collins Ndu, Sullivan Chime and others have all come out to state that zoning was agreed in 2013 at a state Caucus meeting. These leaders cannot be wrong and only Ekweremadu would be right. Senator Nnaji must be commended for speaking out.

“The truth has been established. There is zoning understanding in Enugu State, and Ekweremadu was at the meeting where it was agreed. He has no choice than to respect it”.

“It should therefore be embarrassing to Ekweremadu for these respected leaders to be reminding Ekweremadu that he was in a meeting where they all agreed on zoning. This shows that what’s driving Ekweremadu’s ambition is greed, selfishness and ego and not for the good of ndi Enugu”.

“His ambition is therefore dead on arrival. If he has any integrity left, he should apologize for this distraction and retrace his steps”, the group advised Ekweremadu.

Expatiating on the objectives of Equity and Integrity Assembly, the Secretary of the Assembly, Mr. Justus Opah explained that the group is consulting widely and appealed to the people, particularly political parties to adopt and imbibe zoning principle as it had helped to reduce tension and ensured justice and fair play.

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