ANALYSIS: Enugu: Why Governor Ugwuanyi seems poised for easy re-election

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

The governorship election in Enugu State is shaping up as a no contest as the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and its candidate seems to have handed the diadem to the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

After the primaries of the two parties last year, it seemed as if Mr Ugwuanyi faced a big battle from the APC governorship candidate, Ayogu Eze.

But Mr Eze and his party in the preceding months failed to build on the momentum generated by his emergence. Instead, the party seems to have pressed the self-destruct button leading to the gradual implosion of the party.

First, the APC broke into two factions with two persons staking claim to the chairmanship of the party. This leadership tussle started before the primaries but expanded after.

Less than a week to the election, the dispute over the chairmanship of the party remained in court between Ben Nwoye and Okey Ogbodo.

There was also a very bitter struggle over the governorship ticket of the party. The party submitted the name of Mr Eze to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but George Ogara of the other faction of the party challenged his candidature in court.

On March 5, the Federal High Court sacked Mr Eze and ordered INEC to recognise Mr Ogara as the candidate of the party.

Mr Eze headed to the appeal court. The court case forced INEC nor to list any candidate for the APC in its final list of candidates released during the week.
But on Thursday, barely 48 hours to the election, the court quashed the Abuja High Court ruling and reinstated Mr Eze.

But the court case may have destabilised the party beyond redemption.

The chairman of the party in the state, Mr Nwoye, called for the postponement of the election in the state to allow their candidate time for campaign.

He asked INEC to immediately relist the name of Mr Eze as the APC standard bearer. The party chairman led thousands of party supporters to throng the INEC office in protest to that effect.

The long drawn legal battle and other alleged injustices arising from its acrimonious primaries plunged the party into chaos and confusion.

This led to the colossal loss of the party in the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state. The PDP had a field day in those elections, clearing all the National Assembly seats in the Enugu and winning the presidential election with ease.

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But the APC seemed not to have learnt its lessons. Political observers expected it to embark on consensus building and reconciliation of aggrieved members. Instead, the national leadership of the party worsened the situation with last week’s suspension of the Director of Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechuikwu.

Mr Okechukwu was an aspirant for the Enugu West Senatorial ticket of the party. He lost the ticket to Juliet Ibekaku-Nwaugwu, a Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr Okechukwu was accused of anti-party activities by the party’s National Working Committee, which it said led to the poor performance of the party in the elections.

But Mr Okechukwu denied the charge and warned that the APC might face an even worse humiliation in the governorship election.

“Please help me to inform Comrade Oshiohmole 9APC National Chairman, Adams) that there is no vigorous campaign going on in Enugu by Senator Ayogu Eze,” he said as if mocking the party.

“This information is important because he may accuse me unduly if APC loses. For when his darling candidate, Juliet Ibekaku Nwagu, lost the senatorial seat he allocated to her, he made me a scapegoat. Little did Comrade agree that Juliet is a dark horse, and to compound matters, she did not campaign vigorously.

“She hoped to use federal might to write results, not reckoning with the ubiquitous Smart Card Reader. This assumption made her lose in Egede, her ward, and in the rest 80 wards of Enugu West Senatorial District,” Mr Okechukwu said.

In contrast to the situation in the camp of his main opponent, Governor Ugwuanyi despite his popularity continued to campaign vigorously across the state.

From the days of Chimaroke Nnamani who was elected governor in 1999, Enugu State has remained a PDP State with little or no opposition.

Both Messrs Ugwuanyi and Eze were aspirants in the PDP in 2015 before the emergence of Mr Ugwuanyi as the flag bearer. Mr Eze contested that nomination in court.

The matter ended at the Supreme Court a few months ago in favour of Mr Ugwuanyi. Mr Eze decided to jump ship and got the ticket of the APC.

The APC rank swelled with the defections of prominent politicians like a former governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former governor, Sullivan Chime; former Secretary to the State Government, Onyemauche Nnamani; and former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Eugene Odo.

But Mr Nwobodo decamped back to the PDP, citing the achievements of Governor Ugwuanyi as his reason. He declared his support for the governor’s re-election.

But analysts believe the former governor became disillusioned over the protracted crisis in the party, which caused an irreconcilable division in the party.

The PDP has enjoyed a relatively smooth ride ahead of the polls.

Apart from one or two defections by some aspirants who had issues with the party over the primary elections, the party appears more united with fewer distractions as the elections approach.

One thing going for Governor Ugwuanyi is his disposition to peace and harmonious relationship which has endeared him even to the opposition. His relationship with the opposition constantly caused APC leaders to accuse each other of sabotaging their party.

Unlike his predecessors, the governor has also maintained a good relationship with elders of the state, including Messrs Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani and Chimaroke Nnamani.

Mr Ugwuanyi has broken the jinx of a sitting governor fighting his predecessor/godfather which had been the norm in the state.

Even after his predecessor, Mr Chime, defected to the APC, Mr Ugwuanyi continued to accord him due respect.

In all, if there is any candidate that could give Mr Ugwuanyi sleepless nights, it is Mr Eze, which was the reason the APC quickly adopted him as its candidate immediately he crossed over from the PDP.

For one, he has been in government circles having served as commissioner under Mr Nnamani’s administration. He was also a stakeholder in the PDP before his defection and should know all the political tricks it may use against his new party.

However, Mr Eze is coming against a governor who is perceived to have performed, promoted peace and unity and whose political ratings towers above that of Mr Eze.

Mr Ugwuanyi is a grassroots politician who has retained his touch with the grassroots even as a governor.

Thus, the bookmakers expect an outright victory for Mr Ugwuanyi in the governorship elections on Saturday.

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