Rattled by the outcome of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections which saw the opposition Labour Party (LP) sweep the polls in the state, the Enugu branch of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has raised two billion naira to bribe the Christian church in the state so as to support its candidates in the gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections on Saturday, March 11.
While N1bn is for the Catholic Church, which is by far the biggest sect in the state, N500m is for the Anglican Communion and the remaining N500m is for other churches.
Much of the money is coming from the PDP governorship candidate, Peter Mbah, a former Commissioner for Finance who owns Pinnacle Oil and Gas Company in Lagos, and outgoing Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who lost the Enugu North senatorial election on February 25 by 46,948 to 104,492 votes to Labour Party’s Okey Ezea.
“Only the Church can save the situation for us because it is the largest vehicle for social mobilisation here”, a National Assembly member from the state confided to our correspondent, pleading that his identity remains undisclosed for fear of repercussions.
“The situation is very critical for our party because it is the governorship election, not the presidential election or that of the National Assembly, that will determine whether the party will survive or not”.
Two prominent clergymen have been identified to serve as the arrowheads for the distribution of the N2bn largesse.
They are Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of the Anglican Communion in Enugu City and Monsignor Obiora Ike, a former Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu and a professor of ethics who now heads an international organisation in Switzerland.
Archbishop Chukwuma, a well-known supporter of Governor Ugwuanyi, seems to have already started work.
He declared a few days ago: “Last Saturday, a lot of mistakes were made because of wrong emotion. Some who were elected have no experience and cannot legislate. The mistake must be avoided on the 11th, please. The Church will surely speak”.
Monsignor Ike is considered to be favourably disposed to the enterprise because of his longstanding cosy relationship with the PDP candidate.
A source close to the Catholic Church leadership in Enugu State told our correspondent: “Mr Mbah invested significantly in the Umuchinemere Microfinance Bank in Enugu which Monsignor Ike founded. He also built the auditorium of the law faculty of at Godfrey Okoye University which belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, and Msgr Ike was instrumental to its establishment”.
The PDP move to infiltrate the church in Enugu State has not gone down well with most priests who not only want to keep the church out of partisan politics but also want it to avoid what a Catholic theologian at Bigard Memorial Senior Seminary in Enugu calls “perception of scandal which every church officer must stay away from.
“How can we tell our followers that the church leadership is supporting the PDP candidate who submitted a forged National Youth Corps Scheme (NYSC) discharge certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a criminal offence that makes it impossible for him to be in office even if, in the unlikely event, he wins?
“How can the church be seen as supporting someone who was detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for seven months for embezzlement of public funds when he was the Chief of Staff and later Commissioner for Finance under Governor Chimaroke Nnamani from 2002 to 2007 and was later detained for his role in the petrol subsidy scam under President Goodluck Jonathan?
“How can the church be seen as being in cahoots with a candidate brought out by Senator Chimaroke Nnamani whom Monsignor Ike repeatedly told the world sent assassins after him but was saved by the fact that the assassins recognised him when they came to murder him as the prison chaplain who was bringing them food, clothes, money and medicines in the prison?
“How can it be heard that the church is in bed with the party whose notorious affiliate, the Ebeano Group, is generally believed to have, on Wednesday, February 22, assassinated Oyibo Chukwu, the Labour Party candidate in the Enugu East senatorial election?
“How can it be rationalised to our people that the church supports the return of the Ebeano politics of violence, arson and unconscionable looting?
“How can we explain that the Holy Church of God wants as our governor Mr Peter Mbah who, even though he is from the same Nkanuland as the late Chief Oyibo Chukwu and is a fellow lawyer, has refused to condemn the assassination or consoled the Chukwu family?
“How can it be explained to our followers that the church is supporting the return of a party which has been in power since 1999 with little to show for it, apart from the Sullivan Chime years?”
Meanwhile, the Enugu PDP has resolved to use in Saturday’s election Bola Tinubu’s election-winning strategy.
A serving commissioner, who doesn’t want his name in print told our correspondent because he doesn’t share the plan, revealed to our correspondent that it “will unleash violence and cash in local and foreign currencies on both INEC officials and voters.
“It is part of the grand Enugu Must Fall Strategy”.
Analysts think that it is rather too late for the PDP to make a dent in the state.
After 24 years of PDP rule, according to Jane Ani, a research student at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, the Enugu people desperately want a change “they eminently deserve”.
What is more, many of the leading PDP members have since defected to the Labour Party following the latter’s victory in the February 25 polls.
Among those who have not only joined the Labour Party but are seeking to run on its ticket in the Enugu East senatorial race next Saturday are Dr Chinyeaka Ohaa, a former gubernatorial aspirant; Captain Evarest Nnaji, chief executive of Odengene Aviation Services who last year sought the PDP governorship platform; and Emmanuel Uche Ogbodo, Governor Ugwuanyi’s Special Adviser.
“It is game over for the PDP in Enugu State”, declared Dr Joy Ugwuegede, a popular former Commissioner for Health in the state who retired as a director in the Ministry of Defence in Abuja and now shuttles between Nigeria and the United States.
“We are expecting a new dawn”.