CHIME: AN IMMINENT DASH TO VICTORY
A cursory look at the political realities of Enugu State today would quickly project the conclusion that Governor Sullivan Chime and the candidates running with him on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket are definitely on song for a landslide victory at next month's general polls.
Chime's resounding popularity with the people occasioned by the unprecedented transformation he has brought to the socio-economic and political life of the state within a very short period would readily account for this presupposition.
Indeed, such is the overwhelming nature of the governor's acceptance and popularity in the state that some of his self-acclaimed major opponents who, apparently fearing the humiliation of calling poorly attended rallies, have resorted to ludicrous and pathetic radio jingles and self-deprecating parodies of 'house to house campaigns'.
However like any good politician, Governor Chime knows that no election is ever easy even when one is pitched against the weakest opponents. In a setting where free and fair elections are practiced, things can go either uphill or downhill in a matter of days and the result can be disastrous for the lax or complacent. He knows that the people need to have a sense of belonging, they need to see and hear their hero in flesh and blood and they need to have their leader come and celebrate his achievements and successes with them in large gatherings.
That was exactly what the local government electioneering campaigns tours that the Governor recently embarked on, afforded the people of the state. The tours indeed offered the people the opportunity to thank and congratulate the man who has brought unprecedented development to their doorsteps with minimal noise or fanfare.
Wherever the Governor went, the story was the same. The people of Enugu State-men, women, traditional rulers, church leaders, children-trooped out in their great numbers. They lined the roads and thronged the campaign grounds unsolicited just to catch a glimpse of their man. They scrambled for the Governor's posters, fliers or anything that could identify them with their hero. Petty traders and rural women made the most of the situation and made unprecedented returns from the food and other items they put on offer for the mammoth crowds to avail themselves of.
The Governor's local government tours were preceded by the flag-off of the campaigns in Enugu and the three zonal headquarters of Nsukka (Enugu North), Agbani (Enugu East) and Awgu (Enugu West) where all sorts of records in terms of attendance and participation were broken. Before then, the state flag off campaign in Enugu had been overshadowed by the discovery of a bomb planted by unknown persons at the Okpara Sqaure venue a few hours before the commencement of the event.
The State Police Commissioner, Mr. Job Danazumi Doma, had declared after the event held at Okpara Square, Enugu, that the locally-made bomb was planted under the VIP pavilion where the governor and other dignitaries normally sat and that it would have caused untold havoc had it gone off.
But an unfazed Governor Chime had gone to on to deliver a powerful campaign message to the thousands of enthusiastic supporters who had poured into the arena from all parts of the state.
The governor declared that he would not allow anybody or group to take charge of the state to the detriment of the people, promising that he would continue to work hard to ensure that the interest of the people was duly protected during the next phase of his administration. He had noted that his confidence to be part of the process in April this year arose from the tremendous support and encouragement the people have shown to his administration, stressing that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains the one to beat in the election because the choice of its candidates were that of the people and not those handpicked to satisfy the whims and caprices of their godfathers.
Chime had jocularly explained that during his campaign in 2007, he had refused to wear a smile in his campaign posters then because of his belief that governance was a serious business and the fact that 'we needed to convince our people from where we were coming from that we were in for serious business'.
At the equally well attended Enugu North zonal flag off of the campaign at Nsukka, the political leaders of the zone and all the traditional rulers in the zone pointedly told the governor that he should not have bothered to come campaigning in the zone given the fact that in 2009, just two years in two his administration, they had handed him a written declaration along with the 'ofo' covenant stick pronouncing him the unanimous candidate of the zone in this year's guber race.
They reminded him that they had hinged the declaration on the unprecedented love and interest, which the Governor who hails from the Enugu West zone, had shown in the Enugu North zone. They counted his unbridled support for the creation of Adada state and the massive and widespread infrastructural development more especially roads, water and electricity supply that the Governor recorded in the zone within a very short time in office as well as the appointment of many sons and daughters of the zone into very sensitive positions in government as some of the major reasons for their decision.
Two of the foremost political elders in the zone, Chief Maximus Ukuta and Ambassador Justina Eze minced no words in saying that they never expected to see such massive development in the zone in their lifetimes adding that anyone who voted against the Governor from the zone would have committed an offence akin to the offence against humanity. Ambassador declared that she had been forced to withdraw from open political activities in the years preceding the Chime administration owing to the terror and tension prevalent in those days but now felt safe to come out and express her opinions about the shape of things in the state.
Palpable excitement and curiosity had mounted in the state as the Governor took his campaign to Agbani, the headquarters of the Enugu East zone and the home soil and supposed fortress of his former boss-turned bitter opponent and sponsor of the opposition PDC, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani. But the campaign turned out to be a record breaker of all sorts. It was not only that the crowd that turned out to receive the Governor rivalled that at the flag off campaign at Enugu but the traditional rulers of the zone trooped out in their entire number and offered to the Governor the highest symbol of strength and solidarity in Igbo land.
After a highly adulatory speech on the Governor's achievements in the state and the zone in particular, the traditional rulers presented him with a live white eagle- one of the rarest birds in the world and one which a popular Igbo adage describes as something one can only hear about but may never see in his lifetime. The traditional rulers said they had undertaken the great pains and expense of finding something of such rarity and preciousness to reflect their views and conviction about the Governor.
For them, he is a gem of inestimable value who true to the meaning of his middle name (Iheanacho), has proven to be what Enugu has long been searching for. It was a gesture never seen before in the history of the state and as some even ventured to say, the history of country.
As the Governor rounds off the local government campaign at his home local government Udi this week, the picture is already clear and all the pointers, judging from the mood of the people exhibited during the tour, indicate that Chime along with his fellow contestants on the PDP ticket are heading for resounding victory at the poll. Indeed just as he had kept emphasizing, all that is needed now is for the people to cast their votes, make sure they are counted and results declared in their presence -and the rest will be history.
Achife is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Chime on Media and Communications.