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Enugu PDP chairmanship race hots up

AS members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gear up for impending State congresses of the party across the country, the picture of the battle for the chairmanship of the party in Enugu State is becoming increasingly clearer, after months of frenetic horse-trading and discrete campaigns among a deluge of aspirants and stakeholders.

The coal city state is a wholly PDP state, viewed by many as one of the few enduring enclaves of the former ruling party, recent exit of former stalwarts, Senators Jim Nwobodo and Ken Nnamani not-withstanding. Ordinarily, the choice of who replaces maverick “kid”, Ikeji Asogwa, as new State Chairman of the PDP in Enugu, should have been substantially the outcome of a triangular consultation involving Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Ken Nnamani, but withdrawal of the two henchmen from PDP effectively installs the governor as the only one with incumbent authority and clout to determine “who” gets “what,” when the congress is convened!

That might appear to be a simple task, but only on the surface! The governor is reported to have confided in close aides that he needs “the wisdom of Solomon” to do justice to himself, all contending persons and zones, particularly in the choice of new party chairman. Lesser offices rarely count.

With regards to his own self-interest, Ugwuanyi obviously needs a candidate with the capacity and political sagacity to win elections and subsequently steer the party successfully between now and 2019 when he (Ugwuanyi) would almost certainly seek re-election.

So many people have been touted as angling for the state party chairmanship position but very few have been visible on ground, a development ascribed by analysts to a “docile” political culture entrenched in the state by past civilian governors who were too authoritarian and domineering to allow free political enterprise.

In the era under reference, it became a sort of taboo for a political aspirant to publicly declare interest in any election without first being anointed by the governor. In the instant case, Governor Ugwuanyi who has not manifested any of those familiar anti-democratic tendencies associated with some of his predecessors, has permitted conversations to flourish while allowing aspirants to thrive in their campaigns, guided only by extant laws, particularly the PDP constitutional provision on zoning. Ugwuanyi’s reported ultra-liberal disposition in the choice of the party chairman is said to have been informed by a burning desire to re-grow PDP, and strengthen it through strong leadership, to weather the challenge now posed by APC in particular, with ‘resources’ from the centre, which might make it formidable in the State in the next general election.

Some of those earlier touted as aspirants, like Steve Oruruo, Dons Udeh, Barrister Jerry Eneh and Frank Anioma, have apparently disappeared from the radar, following reported zoning of the top PDP post to Enugu South Local Government Area. Their aspirations withered almost as soon as they were muted, as the party’s zoning arrangement instantly knocked the wind out of their sail! All the aforementioned come from Nkanu West, apart from Anioma who, along with erstwhile local government chairman, Sam Inyiogwe, come from Nkanu East. Inyiogwe’s ambition became dead-on-arrival following his appointment as an Executive Assistant (EA) to the governor shortly after stepping down as local government chairman.

Another aspirant is Chijioke Ugwueze, from Isi-Uzo. Isi-Uzo is indeed in Enugu East Senatorial zone but the position of the party chairmanship having been zoned further down to Enugu South Local Government Area, effectively takes him out of the equation instantly. As things stand, all the parameters for choosing an equitable and acceptable state PDP chairman would appear to point to the likelihood of the emergence of the Enugu South Local Government aspirant – Deacon Okey Ogbodo. Ogbodo, a founding member of PDP, has remained an active and financial member of the party since inception. There are rumours about other persons from the council area who are interested but stakeholders have denied that anybody else had made contact with them, other than Ogbodo.

Of all known chairmanship aspirants across the state so far, Deacon Ogbodo, by sheer personality presence, is thought to be head and shoulder above the rest. He had briefly led a splinter faction of PDP in the Chimaroke Nnamani years as governor. He is also clearly the aspirant with the widest reach across the state, having fostered political networks and associates over the years, in the course of his involvement with church work as Clergy, Commissioner for Finance, Lands and Urban Development, banker and trade unionist.

Political analysts also argue that Governor Ugwuanyi would have no reason not to trust Ogbodo with the job of steadying the PDP ship. Despite his political stature, pedigree and reputation as an even-handed perfectionist, it is yet unclear if Ogbodo has got any form of endorsement from any high quarters, meaning that he might still have all to do, to realise his ambition to lead the PDP in the state in the immediate future.

Senator Jim Nwobodo, his long-standing political ally and former Senate President Nnamani, both of whom are his kinsmen, have made dramatic exits from PDP recently. Even though both men are still known to wield strong influence with Governor Ugwuanyi, it is unclear whether their impact could affect matters in this regard within their former political party.

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and Senator Gil Nnaji’s interests could also be a stumbling block, according to knowledgeable sources. Both members of the Red Chambers are suspected to nurse gubernatorial ambitions. With their political ambitions alive and burning, Ekweremadu and Nnaji might want to have a say on who becomes the next Enugu State PDP Chairman.

 

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