By Sheddy Ozoene —
The outset of the process for nominating the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Enugu State, had produced a motley crowd of aspirants. The prediction then was that, if not properly managed, the entire exercise was bound to be rancorous, considering the weight of the major gladiators.
The decision to go for a consensus candidate was therefore the best option to minimize friction and perhaps, factionalization. The state PDP Caucus, in seeking the ideal candidate, keyed into Governor Sullivan Chime’s preference for a candidate who would unite the party and sustain his administration’s development strides. They found in Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi a man who can do both, and even more. His popular choice ensured that the primaries ended up as a mere formality, the pocket of protestations notwithstanding.
Ugwuanyi’s candidacy has so far, lived up to the billing; he has succeeded in rallying all the political tendencies in the state behind his candidature. He also kick-started his quest for Enugu state governorship by pledging to follow in the footsteps of the incumbent governor. While delivering his address at the rally that drew an unprecedented crowd of party faithful in Ikem, Isi-Uzo LGA, last week, he had declared that he would run his administration on a mantra of 3Cs: continuity, consistency and consolidation.
From Governor Sullivan Chime to the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, from Representative Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi to Senator Gil Nnaji, all the major gladiators — both winners and losers in the last primaries –have all closed ranks. From Ikem to all the LGAs so far visited, they all find space to share the platform in a symbolic gesture of unity and attesting to Ugwuanyi’s good character. The most shining of them all was the character testimony in Awgu where Ekweremadu said, “Ugwuanyi is a man of impeccable character, hardworking bridge-builder and one politician with a large heart who feels what the rich as well as the poor feel.”
Beyond that, Governor Chime has also received praises for his political sagacity, his steadfast support for Ugwuanyi and the sacrifice he made for the unity of the party in Enugu State. It was Governor Chime who put the prevailing camaraderie in perspective at the campaign stop in Nkwo Nike: “the trend within the PDP chapters across the country is that the selection of governorship candidates ends up tearing the party apart with many losers decamping or forming parallel structures… but in our own case, the reverse is the case: the election of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has acted as a catalyst to galvanize unity and support among the member of PDP in Enugu State”.
Chime should know; he had earlier stepped down for Ekweremadu to run again for Enugu West Senatorial seat in a rare show of statesmanship.
It was Senator Gil Nnaji (Enugu East) and Ekweremadu who opened the floodgates in Nkwo Nike. While attributing their primary election successes to the governor, they praised him for bringing a new attitude to politics, which has greatly tempered the erstwhile anger and malice associated with politics and elections in the state. Ekweremadu, who extolled the virtues of Gov. Chime, pledged that even if he steps down as governor, he would continue to be the leader of the state PDP. He also used the occasion of the campaign visit to his native Aninri to unveil a development master-plan for Enugu West and which will involve all the LGAs and communities in the zone. The proposal has since been endorsed by Ugwuanyi who promised to integrate it into the state’s 4-point Agenda.
At every stop, the crowd has been tumultuous while many who had earlier taken the back seat in the state’s politics are re-emerging to be part of the Ugwuanyi success story. The visit to Udi, the governor’s home town last Tuesday was particularly memorable at it witnessed the open solidarity of Senator Fidelis Okoro who once represented Enugu North, Chief Ramzey Onyia and Amb. Dubem Onyia, one-time Minister of State, Foreign Affairs. It was a gathering in which an impressed Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, outgoing member of the Federal House, declared that every shade of political persuasion within Enugu PDP has collapsed into the Ugwuanyi aspiration. It is a trend that will continue as the campaign trail moves from one area to another.
For the governorship candidate who has vowed not to deviate from the development trajectory envisioned by Gov. Chime, his speech at Udi was the indeed short. All he did was to thank a governor who has taken the state to an all-time high and who has succeeded in drafting him to step into his oversized shoes. In extolling his Four-Point Agenda, namely Physical Infrastructure, Economic Expansion and Employment, Rural Development and Service Delivery, he has consistently praised Chime for boldly confronting the challenges of development and political leadership in the state.
Both Chime and Ugwuanyi are unanimous in rallying Ndigbo behind President Goodluck Jonathan for another term for giving Ndigbo a sense of belonging in the affairs of this nation. Not only did the Jonathan administration make the age-long quest for an international airport in the South East possible, the Onitsha Seaport, which Ugwuanyi as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Transport was privileged to be part of its realization, is another landmark, just like the ongoing construction of the Second Niger Bridge and the revival of Port Harcourt – Enugu railway service.
In Ugwuanyi’s candidature, the PDP Enugu state has blazed many trails. Not only is the party for the first time nominating a candidate for the governorship from the Northern axis of the state, the choice of a woman as Ugwuanyi’s running mate, is another first. If elected next month, Hon. Cecilia Ezeilo, the member representing Ezeagu constituency in the state House of Assembly, will become the state’s first female deputy governor. Her candidature is a big boost for the Ugwuanyi ticket which has drawn plaudits across the state.