2011: THOSE WHO 'LL BE ENUGU EAST SENATOR
The electorate and constituents of Enugu East Senatorial zone of Enugu State like to pride themselves as the foremost senatorial district in the South-East geo-political zone. And this is with good reason: the Coal City is after all, the political capital of Igboland, and home to all Igbos.
Against this background, the senatorial seat promises to be one of the most keenly observed in the run-up to the 2011 general elections. The caliber of individuals who have, at different times, in the fourth republic occupied the seat speaks for itself. Chief Jim Nwobodo, former governor of the old state (comprising Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states), former Federal Minister, philanthropist and elder statesman occupied the seat between 1999 and 2003.
Next was Chief Ken Nnamani (2003 - 2007), who later became Senate President. The current representative of the zone in the Senate, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, a former two-term governor of Enugu State is no less formidable, despite a much tarnished political legacy in the state.
The direction for 2011 seem quite dire as no clear favourite has emerged among the pack of nearly a dozen aspirants who have so far thrown their hats into the ring or are known to habour such ambitions. The line-up is a mixed grill of the serious, the pretenders, the undecided and politicians-of-fortune. It includes Dr. Sam Ngwu, Prof. David Nkwuor Ngene, Hon. Gilbert Nnaji, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo, Chief Evarest Nnaji, Hon. Nana Ogbodo, Chief Chinyeaka Ohaa, Chief Onyemuche Nnamani, etc, (all of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP); Mr. John Nwoye (of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN), and the incumbent, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani (of the Peoples for Democratic Change, PDC), an obscure political platform on which the kingpin of the ebeano political tendency in the state hopes to mount a long-awaited come-back bid in the state. This is how the aspirants rate against one another on a political scale.
Dr. Sam Ngwu
The United States-based medical doctor, who hails from Ogui Nike in Enugu North Municipal Council was, until his declaration of interest, largely unknown. Thus far, he has failed to achieve any form of momentum in his campaign; instead he is said to be relying to a great extent, on an unexplained relationship with the Nwodo dynasty of Ukehe, Igbo-Etiti local council and impliedly, Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He needs to put in more steam in his campaign to rally the electorate to his side.
Prof. David Nkwuor Ngene
Another United States of America-based aspirant, Ngene, who hails from Ugwuaji, Enugu South council, as Chief Ken Nnamani and Jim Nwobodo, is a professor of politics at the University of Denver. He brings to the race a very impressive resume that should otherwise stand him in a good stead to continue from where his kinsmen cum predecessors left off. As things stand, he has struggled to establish campaign structures at the grassroots, but his undoing may well be poor funding.
However, the general feeling is that Enugu South, where both Nnamani and Nwobodo come from, has dominated the zone and should allow others from other areas a shot at the seat, going by the zoning principle of the PDP.
Regardless of the outcome of the PDP primaries, Dr. Ngene appears determined to forge ahead and is said to be eyeing All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA) in the state as a fall-back option.
Chief Evarist Nnaji
Odengene, as he is better known, was the first to declare interest for the seat way back in January 2009; and ever since, he has prosecuted a single-minded campaign aimed at positioning himself as the officially anointed candidate of Government House Enugu. He has largely succeeded in that regard, given his chumy-chumy relationship with Governor Chime. Nnaji, a wealthy businessman, has been flying around in his helicopter with Chime and Senator Ayogu Eze in recent times.
The closure of Enugu airport late last year has further sustained this relationship as the governor and his wife are said to have relied mostly on his assistance in their frequent travels outside the state. His assumed strength is, ironically, the greatest hurdle to his candidacy: a perception that he is being imposed on the people of the zone by Governor Chime's Agbaja clan, in a bid to further strengthen their political hegemony on the Nkanu clan.
A scion of the legendary Edward Nnaji royal family of Nike in Enugu East Local Government Area, Nnaji, a two-term member of the House of Representatives, is a young but experienced and astute political operator. Former Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives (2003-2007), Nnaji was before then, a three-term local government chairman who has built a formidable grassroots political support base, which he is currently deploying to telling effect. His campaign is built around an imperative to empower the youths and rural dwellers through advocacy and political action.
Unlike some of his opponents, his campaign has not suffered from a lack of funding. Given a level-playing field, there is no reason why Nnaji cannot emerge from the pack within PDP. To his credit, his candidacy enjoys favourable perception in official circles in the state. Nnaji has proved himself in the past four years a credible pillar of support for the Chime administration in the state. As such, the Governor is not at all averse to his candidature. Should the race ultimately boil down to a quid-pro-quo between the leading aspirants and government of the day, as is expected, Nnaji's chances are as bright as any other.
Hon. Nana Ogbodo
This is the second time out for this fiery political activist whose slogan the last time around was: 'when evil men conspire, let the good men combine'. In 2007 when he ran on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) against the (then) State Governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, few would dispute that he won the popular hearts, while Nnamani clinched the do-or-die prize.
This time around, the evidently brilliant and erudite graduate of the University of Calabar, who hails from Akpugo, Nkanu West Local Area, is running on the PDP platform. His strongest attributes are his proven competence and integrity, independent mindedness and a burning desire to give ordinary people a voice. Had the Senate seat for the zone been a prize, Nana is most deserving of it given the intense battle he waged against the rampaging dictatorship of the current holder which ultimately dulled his reflexes.
Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo
A political neophyte and an unknown quantity prior to being selected by Gov. Chime as his Chief-of-Staff, three and half years ago. Mrs. Nwobodo has since grown rather too powerful, to the extent that she presently fancies her chances as the first female senator from the Coal City state. There is a growing perception among the Nkanu political elite that she owes her position as Chief-of-Staff in the first place to a cynical game of manipulation which Gov. Chime has perfected into an art.
An Udi by birth, Gov. Chime has nonetheless positioned her as the highest political office holder in Nkanu where she is married. By the time she purchased and submitted the PDP Expression of Interest and Nomination forms, it became apparent that another scheme was in place. To all intents and purposes, Mrs. Nwobodo is being positioned as an alternative, if not effectively a substitute to Odengene. But as one observer remarked: the scheme could only materialize through government house's imposition.
The only aspirant on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to declare interest for the seat so far, Nwoye, is another returnee from the United States of America. He faces an arduous task to rejuvenate the crumbled structures of a political party that once stood as a leading opposition platform in the state.
In nearly four years at the Senate chambers, Senator Nnamani has had a rather undistinguished career. He has not been active in the senate. This contrasts markedly with the larger than life image of a man who once bestrode the political landscape of the state like a colossus.
A notable political manipulator during his time as governor, Chimaroke has, not surprisingly, fallen victim of his own brazen manipulations. Even his much touted ebeano political structure presently lies in shambles. Thus the foray into cobbling together a rag-tag political platform, namely the People for Democratic Change (PDC) looks every inch like the inevitable beginning of the end for him. The public has definitely seen Nnamani's halcyon days as a politician.