Consensus candidate: Enugu people have spoken -Josef Onoh
As Enugu State politics becomes hotter by the day, Dr Josef Umunnakwe Onoh, son of the late Wawa sage and former governor of old Anambra State, Chief C.C. Onoh, has berated those who are protesting against the wish of the people with the emergence of a consensus candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The former member of Enugu State House of Assembly, who was an antagonist of the Governor Sullivan Chime government and had in the past, attacked him and his former Chief of Staff, Deaconess Ifeoma Nwobodo, appears to have now developed sympathy for them as he said there was no justification to stop Mrs Nwobodo from going to the Senate.
In this interview with journalists in Enugu, Onoh spoke about the decision to zone the governorship slot to Enugu North Senatorial zone, the emergence of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as consensus candidate, and other issues in the state, concerning the 2015 general election.
Since the emergence of Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as the consensus candidate in Enugu State, one or two other aspirants are still kicking against it!
It is political and if we don't have people to fill in the vacuum even when there is none , it will seem as if we are not playing politics . There are individual opinions and rights, they may want to pursue what they want, but the question is, are you going in the right direction? We have people that are card-carrying members of the PDP but the issue is; are they sincerely members of the PDP or are they members of the PDP as contractors? Yes, we have a consensus candidate, but not really a PDP affair, but rather the people's candidate, the people's choice. PDP did not go around making that choice for the people, the people came up with their choice and so PDP had no other choice than to accept because as the slogan of the party goes -power belongs to the people. They have the power, they brought the candidate they preferred, he emerged consensus and the PDP had no other choice than to accept it. For those who do not want to follow the wish of the people of Enugu State, they have the ample opportunity to test the will of the people on February 14.
Why is it that majority of you in the PDP are well disposed to Ugwuanyi as a consensus candidate?
I have known Ugwuanyi for over 15 years. We served in the same government, he was in the National Assembly, and I was in the state assembly. For my personal opinion about him, I like him and I am sure a lot of othe r people like him and I can tell you one thing that if you could do your research, go out to the people of Enugu State, and show me an enemy of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and I will show you a saint just to tell you how acceptable he is. In the Enugu State PDP, he is an imperative candidate, we can't bring a candidate that people don't accept otherwise it becomes a clear case of imposition. So, the endorsement of Ugwuanyi is not a PDP affair as I have said, rather it was done by the people of Enugu State, not just of the Enugu North extraction but also of Enugu East as well as EnuguW est senatorial zones. Therefore, for the three senatorial districts to come up with one acceptable person shows his wide acceptability among the people of Enugu State. They made their choice and PDP only followed their will.
If Ugwuanyi is actually the choice of the people, why is somebody like Senator Ayogu Eze protesting?
Senator Ayogu Eze is not protesting; no matter what you do, so long as it is not him (Eze) that was made the choice, he will still protest. I heard he has been writing all sorts of petitions against Ugwuanyi. I learnt he has even accused Governor Sullivan Chime of ambushing him and I am surprised as well. He was only shocked at how democracy is playing out because for the first time, he has tried to follow democratic trend from the one we were used to which is the selection of a candidate. When Senator Eze emerged as a commissioner in Enugu State, he only took a bow during the screening on the floor of the state assembly and left. Nobody drilled him. In 2007, the state government then had issues with Senator Fidelis Okoro then representing Enugu North Senatorial zone and Ayogu as Commissioner for Information was the only person who determined who said what, and he made sure that Okoro was put in confrontation with the state government and in compensation Eze was given the Senate. I am pretty sure Okoro did not say most of those things that Eze said Okoro did or said. Eze did not bring one penny, did not go for any campaign, Governor Chimaroke Nnamani did it for him and he was single-handedly ushered to the throne as a Senator. Then came 2011, there were issues again on Chime's second term and he keyed in again as usual and he was ushered back again into the Senate. So, he has gotten every single political position free-of-charge and now he decided to come and contest to test his popularity and he found out he had none.
There is insinuation that the presidency is placing a watch on Ugwuanyi for being among the Aminu Tambuwal group that resisted Mulikat Akande from becoming the Speaker of the House of Representatives, don't you think it will rub off on the consensus you have in Enugu?
Both Akande and Tambuwal were members of the PDP as at then and this unsubstantiated rumour about Ugwuanyi is not true. Come to think about it, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is not the only member in the entire National Assembly. He may have cordial relationship with Speaker Tambuwal, but Ugwuanyi did not commit any anti-party activity as was insinuated. Ugwuanyi, by his nature cannot jeopardise the interest of the PDP if at that time Mulikat Akande was favoured to be the Speaker. Governor Chime is a member of the PDP; if such was the case, he would have instructed members of the National Assembly from Enugu State to queue up and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi cannot go contrary to such directive. That should tell you, it was an unsubstantiated rumour. Why didn't all these things come out all these while; this is a very sophisticated brand of propaganda targeted to discredit him. Again, they said the Presidency but know it that Jonathan's personality and achievements are too large to be punctured by inconsequential issues. He is the Commander-in-Chief and has other things to worry about than mere rumour and name dropping. It's all propaganda without any element of truth.
How will the PDP withstand the strategy of other political parties that will equally run for elections in Enugu State?
The truth is that PDP may have its differences, but this has not altered its membership and dedication in the state. In Enugu State, we have only one political party which is the PDP. It is not as if there are no other parties but I am talking about PDP that has shown more physical presence in the state and there was no restriction for other parties not to show their presence, but they have decided not to show any. I only hear about APC in the news but no physical presence in Enugu State. The nearest I know about APGA in Enugu State is that its national chairman, Victor Umeh resides in Enugu State and in Anambra, I see their billboard and posters.
The issue of former Chief of Staff, Ifeoma Nwobodo going to the Senate is dominating discussions in your Enugu East Senatorial zone; do you think she has the capacity to represent the zone?
Yes, I am from Enugu East Senatorial zone and I know that so many people are running for the Senate in the zone. I have had interactions with these people and the issue they have is that she is a woman and I ask, is Enugu State so backward for us to produce a female Senator? I may have had issues with Ifeoma Nwobodo in the past but this time around, we are not just talking about her as a person. Those against her are implicitly saying that there is no democracy, but if they are threatened by her emergence, why don't they come out on the election day to test their popularity. If she comes out on the election day and wins, it means she is accepted by the people. The greatest criticism they have against her is that she is from EnuguW est and married in Enugu East, but we are all products of different women that came from different places to give birth to us. So, the question is what is their fear about Ifeoma Nwobodo? If they are sure to go to election without rigging, then why should they be afraid of Ifeoma Nwobodo. If she wins in the PDP primary, there are still other political parties for them to resort to. If Ifeoma Nwobodo is the one to take us to the land flowing with milk and honey, why not? Otherwise, you can ask for what other Senators from the zone have contributed in the Senate.
If your father, the late Chief C.C Onoh, were to be alive today, what do you think would be his opinion on happenings in Enugu State such as zoning of governorship to Nsukka zone and who goes to the Senate for Enugu East Senatorial district?
If he were alive, I think he would be happy. Not long after Enugu State was created on August 27, 1991 than the issue of governance came in and an emergency meeting was called on September 3, 1991 in the late Igwe Charles Abangwu's house. All the elders of Enugu State were there and the issue of who becomes the governor came up. Igwe Nara Onataeze stood up and said Jim Nwobodo, you were governor and Jim said yes, but it was in Anambra State and he said no diference that he came from Enugu East zone. C. C. Onoh you were governor and you came from Enugu West, now we have a new state how do we move forward. In that same meeting, it was agreed that Enugu North Senatorial zone goes and that was why even when Joe Nwodo was disqualified, they still went back and brought Okwesilieze Nwodo to keep that accord that has guided Enugu State till date. After Nwodo left, the elections came again in 1999 and they said that the first governor came from Enugu East, the second from the West and the third from the North. And they decided to go back again from where it started and that was how it went to Enugu East again and Chimaroke Nnamani was picked. As at that time, Hyde Onuaguluchi from the West was also running and gave a stiff run for the election yet because of the same accord, most of those elders supported Chimaroke and he became governor. No matter how erratic they said Nnamani is, he kept to the same accord and brought Sullivan Chime from the West and the time to move again has come and the greatest fairness is that we have to get it back to Nsukka . Nsukka has not had enough dividends of democracy in Enugu State. There is so much to be done and Nsukka has a lot of potentials such as Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. The Sun