Enugu: Awaiting The Court Judgement
The political cloud in Enugu State is thickening again. The state governor, Sullivan Chime, will on April 23 know whether he would serve out his second term in office or be forced to leave before the expiration of his tenure.
The political tussle in the state picked up in 2010 following the disagreement between the governor and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP over the chairmanship of Nwodo’s political ward. This was after normalcy appeared to have been restored to the Enugu State chapter of PDP after the former governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, who had attempted to rally opposition against Chime, had been silenced.
The Nwodo/Chime imbroglio rekindled the political war in the state, leading to parallel primaries by the party to choose its candidates for the 2011 general elections. While one faction that has Vita Abba as chairman produced Chime as governorship candidate, the other faction elected Anayo Onwuegbu as its own candidate. The deputy president of the senate, Ike Ekweremadu and other serving state and National Assembly members were also produced by the faction that elected Chime. The two lists were forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as PDP candidates for the April 2011 general election. It took the intervention of the court before INEC could recognise the list forwarded to it by the PDP national secretariat which contained Governor Chime’s name.
But the other faction, which now has the effective support of Nwodo has refused to accept defeat. In a suit filed at a federal high court in Abuja the faction is asking the court to declare that the candidates produced at its convention were the candidates of PDP in last year’s general elections. The faction argued that the primary, which produced Chime and the state and National Assembly candidates, did not comply with the 2010 Electoral Act and the PDP constitution. It therefore wants the court to void Chime’s election and reinstate Anayo Onwuegbu as the governor since he was the candidate produced at a primary, which was conducted in accordance with the 2010 Electoral Act and the PDP constitution.
Alex Obiechina, one of the governorship aspirants on the platform of PDP, is also challenging his exclusion from the primary after he had satisfied all the requirements of the PDP leading to the election. He wants the outcome of the primary nullified. The presiding judge, Hon Justice Adamu Bello has fixed April 23 to deliver judgement on the matter.
There has been apprehension in the state since the date of the judgement was fixed. There were fears of possible dramatic turn of event, and that the Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, factor in Rivers State, might play out in Enugu. The Supreme Court had in 2007 sacked Sir Celestine Omehia as governor of Rivers State and ordered the immediate swearing in of Amaechi because he was validly nominated as the PDP governorship candidate.
Legal opinions however said the two cases are not related. They argue that in Amaechi’s case, there was no factional primary and that Amaechi was declared the governorship candidate before he was disqualified by the party based on the report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. But in the case of Chime, the national secretariat of the party supported his candidature and even sent his name to INEC.
Should the judgement turn out otherwise, it is going to upset the political arrangement in the state. Although this has not led to any political violence or its like, it is not going to affect only Chime’s election. The election of the deputy president of the senate, Senator Ekweremadu and other state and National Assembly members from Enugu State who were also produced by the same primary will equally lose their seats.
A source told this magazine that there was an attempt for out of court settlement but this was rejected by the Anayo Onwuegbu faction. It is believed that Nwodo is tacitly giving the faction backing to avenge his disgraceful removal as the PDP national chairman, which was engineered by the Chime faction. He was said to have sworn to pay Chime and others back in their own coin.
Incidentally, Chime and Onwuegbu are from the same Enugu west senatorial zone. The zone will be completing its two tenures in 2015 if Chime is allowed to remain in office till then. The interruption of his tenure then means that Enugu north, which is expected to produce the next governor of the state in 2015, will have to wait for a longer time. Investigation revealed that the zone with over 50 percent of electoral votes, voted massively for Chime to ensure that nothing comes between it and 2015.
Onwuegbu was the governorship candidate of the National Democratic Party, NDP in 2003 but lost to former governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. He also contested the 2007 election.