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Enugu 2023: how Guber candidates stand, going into March 18th election ~ by Frank Ogbozor

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The embargo on political campaigns which was lifted in October, 2022 by the Independent National Electoral Commission came to an end on Thursday 16th March, 2023. In Enugu State, the eight months of electioneering witnessed intense and enervating political activities among four major political parties. They include; the L P, the PDP, the APC and the APGA

The die is now cast as polling will take place in the state on Saturday 18th March, 2023 to elect a new governor as well as 24 members of the House of Assembly. Which candidate will be the choice of Ndi Enugu for governor?  Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, Uchenna Nnaji, Chijioke Edeoga or Frank Nweke Junior?

Barring unforeseen circumstances or variables capable of turning the tide at the very last minute, and which is most unlikely, the outcome of Saturday’s poll is largely predictable. I will therefore go on to project the expected performance of each of the four major political parties and their candidates one after the other, while also evaluating their strengths and weaknesses in the order listed above.

Mr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah.

A native of Owo in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, a lawyer and former Commissioner for Finance is the candidate of the PDP.  He is the Chairman and Chief Executive, Pinnacle Oil and Gas Ltd, a private limited liability company based in Lagos, Nigeria. Among the candidates, he is reputed to be the one with the biggest ‘war chest’ coming into the campaigns which have just ended. Above all, Peter Mbah is the only one among the four, enjoying government’s patronage being the candidate of the ruling party in the state.

Ordinarily, Peter Mbah would have had no serious competitor in the governorship race, Enugu remaining a traditional PDP state since 1999. Before now, anybody’s emergence as a gubernatorial candidate of the PDP was as good as having been elected governor, there being no viable alternatives for Ndi Enugu. Until Mr. Peter Gregory Obi left the PDP in May, 2022 for the Labour Party, Enugu people had begun   to address Mr. Peter Mbah as His Excellency, or the incoming governor, waiting to be sworn in.

Not anymore, as the defection of the former Anambra governor to the Labour Party came with an unimaginable disruption in the preexisting political order especially in the South eastern Nigeria which formed the original stronghold of the PDP. Peter Obi’s defection thus took the shine off the once dominant PDP in the area and instantaneously made the Labour Party the envy of all.

Aside from the Peter Obi factor, there are other factors which are likely to hamper the chances of the Owo born businessman from making it to the lion building. One is the performance of the incumbent governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. The vast majority of Enugu people, after eight years of stewardship, rate Governor Ugwuanyi very low in all performance indicators, something that has made them to  clamour for a total shift away from the PDP, a party that has been in power for 24 years.

Governor Ugwuanyi’s loss in the just concluded senatorial election is another albatross for Peter Mbah. The question is; if the governor was unable to deliver his own area to himself, how could he be trusted to help deliver the entire state to his candidate?

Also, likely to work against Peter Mbah is his closeness to former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, loathed, dreaded and distanced by Ndi Enugu for his unbridled inclination for bloodshed and violence. In fact, it was Chimaroke Nnamani, who recommended Peter Mbah to Governor Ugwuanyi.

Besides all that, Peter Mbah’s own track record is no less controversial. He was the Commissioner for Finance under Chimaroke Nnamani, and under whose watch, hundreds of billions of naira of state funds, was siphone and for which both were detained by the EFCC and prosecuted until recently. To regain their liberty, it was alleged that both men (Dr. Chimaroke and Peter Mbah) entered into a plea bargain alongside their private companies whereupon the EFCC acquired them as proceeds of crime, something Peter Mbah still denies.

The London trainee lawyer’s latest controversy pertaining to the forgery of his NYSC certificate is yet another low point for him. Despite his efforts to convince Ndi Enugu that he attended the national youth service, he has yet to address the main issue and which is the fact that the NYSC through a letter circulated on social media disowned his certificate as not issued by it. Until he got the federal body to issue another letter stating that it did not write the letter in circulation or acted in error, many voters could entertain the fear that even if Mbah got elected, he would certainly be disqualified by the court of law.

The recent murder of the Labour Party’s Senatorial candidate for Enugu East late Barr. Oyibo Chukwu three days to the 25th February election has been described by observers as a coup de grace for the PDP. This is so because the lawyer’s death is generally believed to be have been carried out by agents of the PDP, working for a particular candidate, something that has been condemned diametrically including President Mohammadu Buhari.

Following the incident, the senatorial election was postponed to 18th March, 2023 to enable the Labour Party nominate another candidate to replace him. His younger brother Kelvin Chukwu has been nominated and is expected to attract massive sympathy votes to win the election.

On the whole, Peter Mbah’s chances are not looking bright taking into account the impressive performance of the Labour party in the 25th February National Assembly election.

Analysts are thus of the view that even though Peter Obi is not contesting any position in the March 18 polls, no radical shift in outcome is expected owing to the issues enumerated above. Peter Mbah is most likely to win Nkanu East Local Government area where he comes from, Nkanu West and possibly Udi local government area where the only PDP Senator elect Osita Ngwu comes from.

Aside from the three, where outright victory could be expected for the PDP, Peter Mbah will likely obtain 25% of the votes cast in all the local government areas of the state.

  1. UCHENNA NNAJI. Also, a wealthy businessman and gubernatorial candidate of the APC is reputed to be a close ally of the governor of Imo State Hope Uzodinma. Uche Nnaji hails from Akpugo in Nkanu West Local Government Area of the state. Chief Nnaji has one important factor working for him. It was he who 24 years ago, relinquished his senatorial ticket for former Governor Jim Nwobodo, something many see as a rare act of reverence. That should count for him this time around but unfortunately there is no morality in politics.

The alleged involvement of the governor of Imo State in the installation of both Nnaji as gubernatorial candidate and Ugochukwu Agballa as the chairman of the party in the state,

It’s likely to count against Nnaji in the coming election. Regarded therefore as made in Owerri, by his traducers in Enugu APC, almost all major stakeholders of the party including the minister of Foreign Affairs; Geoffrey Onyeama, former Governor Sullivan Chime, former Senator President Ken Nnamani among others are currently working for political parties other than the APC.

Aside from the above challenges, the Party A P C is one that has yet to resonate with the people of the South eastern part of the country. Uchenna Nnaji may not win any local government area and may also have difficulty obtaining 25% of the total votes cast in 1\3rd of the local government areas of the state.

  1. CHIJIOKE JONATHAN EDEOGA LIKE PETER MBAH, CHIJIOKe Edeoga read law in London after obtaining his first degree in English language from the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka. His specialty is public international law which he did up to master’s degree. A former local government Chairman, member House of Representatives, Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan and later commissioner for Local government and for environment respectively, Chijoke Edeoga is going into next coming election as a candidate to beat for the following reasons;
  2. THE PETER OBI factor. Mr. Peter Obi has become a magic wand through whose influence many people win elections into executive and legislative positions in the country starting from 2019 when he ran as the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP.   Although candidates of political parties other than the Labour Party claim that Peter Obi having done his own election, individual competence as opposed to political party affiliation, will count in the next election, the truth is that the man Peter Gregory Obi remains on the ballot.

Having contested the presidential election under the Labour Party and made it thick, the loss of Enugu or any other state in the South East in particular, to another party will be regarded as a dent on Obi’s excellent home performance record achieved in the last presidential election. To prove that he actually won the presidential election and for which he’s at the tribunal, Peter Obi is expected to deliver at least five states to the Labour party, one of which should include Enugu.

  1. ASIDE FROM THE PETER OBI FACTOR, Chijioke Edeoga has his own credentials which endear him to the people of the state. Having served in the various arms, tiers and levels of government, and at various times meritoriously without any blemish, his supporters believe that he has the requisite character, capacity and competence to get the job done.
  2. THE CHOICE OF DEPUTY GOVERNOR is one other advantage likely to work in his favour. Coming from Isi Uzo Local Government Area in Enugu East senatorial zone, sharing cultural affinity with the people of Enugu North and choosing his deputy from Enugu West, many analysts say the highly tactical politician, has made himself a major stakeholder in all the three senatorial zones of the state.   All the other candidates chose their deputies from Enugu North senatorial zone.
  3. LASTLY, CHIJIOKE EDEOGA’S LAST MINUTE HORSE TRADING and which succeeded in getting the Oganiru Enugu, a sociopolitical group founded by the embattled former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu to support his gubernatorial ambition has been described by political watchers as a masterstroke.

Chijioke Edeoga nonetheless has its own low points. There is a sticking sense of entitlement by Nkanu people who form the majority in his Enugu East senatorial district and who do not see any other cultural unit within the zone, as worthy enough to vie for the office of governor of the state when it’s the turn of the zone to do so.  Chijioke Edeoga is therefore not expecting enough support from Nkanu East and Nkanu West local government areas, a situation that could be changed by intervening variables before the election.

Chijioke Edeoga is expected to win in the following local government areas; Enugu North, Enugu South, Enugu East, Isi Uzo, Udenu, Nsukka, Igbo Eze South, Igbo Eze North, Igbo Etiti, Uzo Uwani, Ezeagu, Awgu, Aninri and Oji River local government areas. The reason the Eha Amufu born journalist and lawyer is projected to win the three Enugu township local government areas populated by non-indigenes is simple. The non-indigenes   are enlightened enough to know that under no circumstances should Enugu fall to any other political party other than the Labour Party for the sake of Peter Obi. Besides the local government areas where outright win is expected, Chijioke Edeoga is likely to obtain more than 25% of votes cast in both Nkanu East and Nkanu West local government areas.

FRANK NWEKE

A former Chief of Staff and Minister of Information and communications under the Obasanjo administration, Frank Nweke is someone seen as a strong contender for the lion building. Going for Frank Nweke is the fact that he has a clean record and has never had any case of indictment by any court or tribunal all through his public service career. He is also seen as one candidate who has the required vision to take the state to the next level.

One factor which will work against Frank Nweke is his political party. Though more acceptable to the people than the APC, APGA is yet to have a firm root in Enugu state.

Another factor which may also work against Mr. Nweke is the fact that he comes from Ozalla, Nkanu West Local Government area which had already produced a governor in the person of Chimaroke Nnamani. That may however not be an issue for voters who do not always care about those things if they fall in love with any particular candidate.

Even though Peter Mbah is touted to win in Nkanu East and West local government areas, being a candidate of the party in power, a current opinion poll indicates that Frank Nweke might end up claiming one or even the two local government areas from Mbah due to his rising popularity. Frank Nweke is also likely to obtain reasonable votes from all the local government areas of the state.

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