2015: SENATOR EZE AND THE BATTLE FOR ENUGU
Chief Ayogu Eze, a journalist turned politician is a second term Senator representing Enugu North Senatorial District on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. Eze, who is the Chairman of Senate Committee on Works, has been a top contender for the governorship ticket of PDP in Enugu State.
Some observers see him as the most likely candidate of the ruling party in the state, because they believe he has performed excellently well as a Senator to the admiration of his people. He is likewise seen to possess the qualities that are desirable of a good leader who will certainly make significant impact in the governance of the state. His name seems to clearly ring a bell to political watchers more than that of any other contestant.
However, the bringing in of consensus politics into the contest by the Governor and leader of PDP in the state, Sullivan Chime, may have put Eze in a very tight corner, as the development turned the tables on Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, a member of House of Representatives. But the outspoken and courageous lawmaker is, indeed, determined to fight on in his bid to become the next governor of Enugu State.
Rather than allowing all the aspirants to freely go to the field to test their strength and popularity, Chime had recently summoned a meeting at the Governor's lodge, Enugu, and Ugwuanyi was chosen from the long list of aspirants from Enugu North Senatorial district, where the PDP governorship ticket was zoned to. The motion for the adoption of Ugwuanyi as the consensus candidate for Enugu PDP in the 2015 guber race was reportedly moved by Chime and seconded by Chief Goodsmark Ugwu, after a number of the aspirants took turns to step down for Ugwuanyi as if they had a prior knowledge of the plan.
The Enugu State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Vita Abba who was among the aspirants that withdrew from the race there and then to align with the choice of the governor was quoted as saying that, 'having served the party for several years. I will align myself with the position of the governor and am stepping down for Mr. Ugwuanyi.'
Though, some of the aspirants were said to have expressed their deep resentment with what they called a kangaroo arrangement, Senator Eze remains the only formidable dissenting voice as others who equally raised objection in the said meeting appeared to have also chickened out, probably because they are scared of having their names removed from the good book of the governor.
To further prove that he can never be cowed in his determination to clinch the party guber ticket, Eze wasted no time to call a press conference, where he insisted that he was still the candidate to beat for Enugu Government House 2015.
Hear him: 'I've been inundated by calls and personal visits by my supporters who have expressed worry and outrage at newspaper reports purporting that a consensus candidate has been anointed for Enugu State 2015 governorship election. My supporters are particularly worried by the aspect of the story claiming that I have stepped down for the said anointed candidate. I wish to state clearly and unambiguously that I've not and will not step down for any anointed candidate. I'm still squarely in the race for the Enugu Lion Building in the year of our Lord 2015.'
The one-time Enugu State Commissioner for Information added: 'It is their inalienable right to choose a consensus candidate in the same manner that to my supporters and well wishers I'm also consensus candidate. I look forward to all the consensus candidates of the various interest groups meeting in the field at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship primaries on November 29, 2014 to test which of the various consensus blocs is numerically stronger. Democracy is about elections and the will of the people. Those elements of democracy will be put to test when we arrive the field for the primaries. I'll gladly accept the outcome of the primaries and go the extra mile to work for the party with resources and whatever it will take to give the opponents of the PDP a run for their money. Let me state categorically that my respect for the governor and leader of PDP in Enugu State is not diminished in anyway by this development. My loyalty to the party is also unalloyed.'
Few days after the Senator addressed the press to maintain his stand on his guber ambition, his campaign organization raised an alarm over the alleged attempt by the Enugu PDP to intimidate its governorship candidate out of the race.
In a statement signed by Kingsley Onyeke, its legal adviser, the organisation disclosed that the party has descended on its candidate for mustering up the courage to reject an attempt to impose a predetermined candidate ahead of governorship primaries. The statement said: 'It has come to our attention that party officials at the local government and ward levels are being coerced to sign prepared texts which were shipped down from Enugu alleging that they support the contrived consensus candidate of the party.'
Enugu PDP however described the allegation as unfounded and mischievous, while warning the Senator to stop blackmailing the party. The Chairman of the party in Enugu North Senatorial District, Chief Mike Ejinima, in a statement said Eze should stop weeping up sentiments to realise his governorship aspiration.
While noting that the zone's unanimous endorsement of Ugwuanyi as its consensus candidate had not closed its doors against any aspirant whose position is contrary to the party's decision, Ejinima reminded Eze of the grave consequences of all his actions against the interest of the party in the state. He advised Senator Eze and his team to be guided by 'our common belief in the supremacy of the party and desist from further acts that could undermine the peace that exists in the party both at the zonal and state levels.'
What supremacy is Ejinima talking about? Does the issue of supremacy exist here? Is the Enugu PDP empowered to endorse any of its aspirants as consensus candidate? The single answer to these posers was clearly provided in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olise Metuh, where the national body of the party expressed a serious frown of disapproval at the current gale of endorsements of aspirants by some stakeholders in their states. Metuh stated pointblank that it is only the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party that has the sole constitutional right to endorse a candidate contesting under its umbrella. According to the party's spokesman, 'The NWC has noted the activities of some persons and groups supporting some aspirants for the 2015 general election at the state level. Whilst the party cannot stop individuals, groups or communities from endorsing persons of their choice, the national leadership wishes to restate in the strongest possible terms that elected party officials at the state, local government and ward levels must remain as unbiased umpires in the nomination process. For the avoidance of doubt, only the NEC, as an organ of the party, can officially endorse a candidate under the PDP constitution. All party officials at all levels are expected to be guided by this.'
I commend the national body of the PDP for making this very important clarification. I urge it to ensure strict monitoring of the primaries in all the states to prevent governors from conniving with state party officials to manipulate the process in favour of their preferred candidates in the governorship polls and other positions to be contested for.
Transparency and fairness should be the order of the day in the processes leading to the choice of candidates for the various posts by all political parties taking part in the 2015 general elections. Endorsements, no doubt, are part and parcel of democracy anywhere in the world, but it becomes undemocratic when they are done to the exclusion of other aspirants in a political contest.
Before final decision is taken and pronouncement made on the adoption of consensus candidate for any particular position by a party, all the aspirants must be seen to have willingly accepted the arrangement without any form of coercion. Anything short of this will be tantamount to a clear case of imposition which may not augur well for the growth and sustenance of our nascent democracy.
Written by Michael Jegede, a media expert and public affairs commentator.