By Reuben Onyishi
The chicken has come to roost now that Senator Ike Ekweremadu has today, 11th March 2022 declared for the Enugu Gubernatorial race. Senator Ekweremadu had last year begun to heat the Enugu polity when he declared his Ike Is Coming fad. It was a term he put in the mouth of his acolytes and media handlers who swooped on social media platforms with it. Ekweremadu’s aspiration was received with cold feet in Enugu State for two reasons. First, the expectation was that he would go for the presidency since the call for the president of Igbo extraction had reached equity pitch and it was being expected the major parties would zone their presidential tickets to the South East. Second, the PDP in Enugu State has a zoning tradition where the governorship ticket rotates among the three senatorial zones. No one was expecting Ekweremadu to aspire to the governorship office since going by the rotation process, it would be the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone. Ekweremadu is from Enugu West and Sullivan Chime had served the turn of Enugu West recently for eight years. It will be the turn of Enugu West Senatorial Zone in 2031.
It was on authority that some stakeholders had asked Ekweremadu if it was true he was aspiring to the office of the governor of Enugu State against the zoning tradition and he had replied to them that it was not true. Yet the social media was agog with Ike is coming. Not only did his media handlers continue to circulate Ike’s posters, at a time INEC had not lifted the ban on campaigning, they also poured into various social media platforms and their daily bread was the castigation of the Ugwuanyi administration. They said Ike was coming to deliver Enugu State from misrule and despite the profundity of Ugwuanyi’s achievements in infrastructure and human capital development, the Ike boys were set to mischievously diminish the Ugwuanyi administration. That had continued until at a point last year when Ekweremadu in the company of Toby Okechukwu and Dennis Amadi, his boys at the national assembly, in a kind of volte-face visited the governor. It was like the return and repentance of the prodigal when Ekweremadu disowned the activities of his boys on social media and tagged their acts as those of jobbers who wanted to sow a seed of discord between him and Governor Ugwuanyi. He asked Governor Ugwuanyi to discountenance their many expletives and uncouthness. Governor Ugwuanyi in his characteristic way received Ekweremadu and his boys as a father would an erring child. He forgave him and patted him at the back and released him in peace in a go-and-sin-no-more manner.
Whatever Ekweremadu wanted to achieve with that visit was only known to what appears like a foxy approach to repentance and reconciliation. It was reported that soon after the visit, Ekwerwmadu recruited yet again some folks to continue to attack the Ugwuanyi administration. Ike had continued with his rebellion against the order of power transition unabated, yet would deny his ambition.
In a radio programme at Dream FM the other day,9 Ekweremadu had claimed he had yet to make up his mind as he was still consulting, yet he had begun to campaign here and there.
What appears like a threatening sword of Damocles9 had apparently begun to disquiet the Enugu polity and its state of peace and equanimity wrought by Governor Ugwuanyi. The people of Enugu State reacted to it by the three senatorial zones organizing rallies in support of the zoning tradition. Odinma Nsukka held its own at Nsukka. Who is who in Nsukka gathered in solidarity with the governor and in support of zoning. Oganiru Enugu rally was also held at Okpara Square Enugu in solidarity with the governor and in support of zoning and power rotation and it was clearly stated that it would be the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone to produce the next governor of Enugu State in 2023. Governor Ugwuanyi at the rally told the people that the decision about his successor would be made through dialogue, equity, justice and fairplay and that was clearly understood since equity points to Enugu East Senatorial Zone. The people of Enugu West Senatorial Zone to which Ekweremadu belongs had its own rally they tagged “Ife Emelu Nma” held at Awgu. There, the people and stakeholders of Enugu West Senatorial Zone emphatically told the governor it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone to produce his successor. Recall also that the Ebeano group had before the rallies held a one-million-man march to solidarize with Governor Ugwuanyi on the zoning question and had conferred on him the leadership of the Ebeano family and urged him to pick his successor from Enugu East Senatorial Zone whose turn it would be in 2023.
The voice of men is the voice of God. All the stakeholders in Enugu State and the elders of the land have unanimously agreed that by power rotation, the next governor of Enugu State should come from Enugu East Senatorial Zone. Chief Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Sullivan Chime, Okwesilieze Nwodo, to mention no more are elders and leaders of the state who have emphatically confirmed that it would be the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone to produce Governor Ugwuanyi’s successor. Even the raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal end of what appears like Ekweremadu’s rebellion against the people of Enugu State. Yet Ike would not hear.
Ekweremadu kept on gathering the dregs to himself. No one in Enugu State who is worth any political value is with Ekweremadu. Most of the people milling around him are rather driven by stomach infrastructure. They want a share of the national cake. They know the truth but they want to satisfy their hunger induced by the present regime at the centre. Quite another are some disgruntled elements who served in Ugwuanyi’s administration and who got kicked out on account of incompetence and poor performance. They are now the cheerleaders chorographing the Ike is coming stuff as a way of getting at Governor Ugwuanyi. They have in theo same process made themselves the butt of the public.
Some of those close to Ekweremadu claim Ike is banking on PDP at Abuja to give him the ticket. They said he had penetrated the soul of the party and that Abuja cannot afford to disappoint him. Many pundits have found that infantile. Perhaps, Governor Ugwuanyi has folded his hands to allow Abuja to decide for him. Perhaps in their imaginary reverie, the Ike camp thinks Ugwuanyi does not know the way to Abuja when the governors have shown that they decide what happens in the PDP. They also forgot that Governor Ugwuanyi is the leader of the party in South East and has undertaken many tasks for the party at the centre and delivered them with acuity and superlative performance. How then on earth and from where would Ekweremadu muster the power to hamstring a seating governor, someone who occupies the seat he is desperately scrambling for with all his might and which has kept on receding from him as shadow would its owner?
Before now, Ekweremadu used to decide who became what in Enugu West Senatorial Zone. Governor Ugwuanyi magnanimously ceded that to him when he thought Ike was what he had pretended to be. Since Ike began to rebel against the people of Enugu State, power naturally slipped off his fingers and today in Enugu West Senatorial Zone, Ike goes about deserted like omaba masquerade without any follower. Those who were with him before soon drew back from the cul-de-sac along which they had trudged with him(See my essay on Things Fall Apart in the Camp of the Dissident). Someone like Hon. Chima Obieze was smart enough to take a detour from that road less traveled by and today he is most happy for that.
The local government elections had been concluded and new chairmen across the 17 local governments have just been sworn in as well as councillors from the 260 wards in Enugu State. We are talking about the grassroots here. How many of them did Ekwerwmaduo produce? It was reported that he even begged to nominate the councillor of his ward. This is the outcome of dissidence. But Ekwerwmadu has yet to see the political cyclone that would swirl him and his ambition away from the horizon. He who would not hear the din of Okpoko, did the elephant stamp on his eardrums? What else does Ekweremadu need to know that the political water has come up to his neck?
Adamant as ever and as Wole Soyinka’s Abiku, Ekweremadu, seeing all this, today dived headlong into the political murky waters, swimming in the mud thereof. He called a so-called world press conference and declared his candidature for the governorship seat, claiming there was no zoning agreement in Enugu State with the sarcasm that he does not want to be a zonal governor. Ekweremadu became the deputy president of the Senate because that position was zoned to South East and he was in that office for 12 years. Then he wanted to be a zonal deputy president of the Senate. The insincerity with which Ike pursues this inordinate ambition of his is unknowingly to him his albatross. Ekweremadu builds his ambition on feeble sand of lies and that ambition is bound to sink in it. Even if Ekweremadu likes let him hold a universe press conference, ’emeko meeko’, as one of my friends would say when he is beating you in the game of draft, though you gave him an uppercut momentarily. “Who press conference help?” to put it in Nigeria slang.
Some political watchers are of the view that Ekweremadu is feeding his ego; that he knows quite well he has no chance at the governorship but may want to play the spoilers game or force the party to a negotiation table where he may be asked to return to the senate. But the people of Enugu West have become wiser, for they have vowed that never again will one man dominate their heritage for 20 years as Ekweremadu shall have done by 2023. They are ready to reclaim their mandate from Ike’s tight grip. It is likely that Ekweremadu is billed to retire from public service.
The declaration for the governorship today by Ekweremadu may have started him down the precipice. It is a process that has ignited political showdown and from the look of things, the political future is bleak for Ekweremadu. Ike has dared the White Lion and by so doing has jeopardized his political career. Ugwuanyi may be smiling, gentle and reconciliatorily peaceful but when pushed this way, he has the capacity to bring out that with which he crosses political seven hills and valleys. The battle line is drawn; the tiger has been touched by its tail. The lion is about to roar. I see a total extinguishing of this ambition of Ekweremadu’s. His declaration is certainly dead on arrival.