BY DONS EZE, PhD
With the emergence on Thursday, August 4, 2022, of Barrister Chijioke Edeoga as the Gubernatorial Candidate of the Labour Party in next year’s election, the game has changed, and Enugu East Senatorial Zone now has four formidable candidates eyeing the Lion Building in 2023.
Apart from Edeoga of the Labour Party, the three other Gubernatorial Candidates are Barrister Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Mr. Frank Nweke Junior of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); and Mr. Uche Nnaji (Nwakabie) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). They are all from Enugu East Senatorial District, where conventionally, the 2023 Enugu Governorship is zoned to.
In Enugu East Senatorial Zone, there are six local government areas that make up the zone, which are Nkanu East, Nkanu West, Enugu East, Enugu North, Enugu South and Isi-Uzo. Three out of these six local government areas have governorship candidates as follows: Nkanu East (Peter Mbah of the PDP), Nkanu West (Frank Nweke of APGA and Uche Nnaji of the APC); as well as Isi-Uzo (Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party).
As far as we are concerned, each of these four candidates is eminently qualified to be Governor of Enugu State, which was why they emerged from their respective political parties. However, based on experience, while Peter Mbah of the PDP was Chief of Staff to the Governor as well as State Commissioner for Finance, and with an impressive performance at the private sector, Uche Nnaji of the APC is not known to have held any public office, but has been a successful businessman.
Similarly, Frank Nweke of APGA, apart from being Chief of Staff to the Governor, was also Minister of Information, and Director General Nigerian Economic Summit; while Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party was Local Government Chairman, Member, House of Representatives, Presidential Assistant, and State Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, and also of Environment and Solid Minerals Resources.
As things currently stand, and as far as 2023 Gubernatorial Election is concerned, it does not seem that Enugu State will be a one-way traffic, where the political party in power usually carried the day. In other words, next year’s governorship election in Enugu State is likely going to be hotly contested.
With the increasing political awareness among the growing population, and the coming into force of the new Electoral Law, there is likely going to be a summersault in the previous political understanding of the state.
There is no doubt that there is always the power of incumbency, but most residents of Enugu State do not seem to be satisfied with the lacklustre performance of the present administration in the state which has been in power for the past seven years, and therefore, will likely not going to toe the path dictated to them by the government in choosing who will be their Governor in 2023. What had happened recently in Osun State, where the incumbent was roundly defeated, should be an eye-opener.
Equally, most people in the South East, Enugu State inclusive, appear not to be happy with the PDP as a political party, due to the alleged “injustices” done to the Igbo in general, over the years, in spite of the people’s long standing faithfulness to the party. They are now looking towards the direction of another political party, the Labour Party.
The APC is also out of the way because of the disdain the party had for the people of the South East. APGA would have been where to go, but the party is not firmly rooted in the state.
What may equally likely going to determine the outcome of next year’s governorship election in the state appears to be the local government area of origin of each of the contestants and the zones and local government areas that are likely going to be sympathetic to them.
There is no doubt that Enugu East Senatorial zone, as well as the Enugu West Senatorial zone, are going to be market places for each of the four candidates, while Uche Nnaji of the APC, and Frank Nweke Junior, who hail from Nkanu West Local Government Area, may likely split their votes.
There is however a caveat. Nkanu West Local Government Area has produced a Governor under the present political dispensation, while the PDP Senatorial Candidate in next year’s election and incumbent Senator, Chimaroke Nnamani, is from the same area. So, even though that Frank Nweke and Uche Nnaji are “sons of the soil”, it does not seem that the Enugu State electorate will look towards the area so soon, due to the aforementioned reasons.
Peter Mbah of the PDP is from Nkanu East Local Government Area, which has not been well favoured in the scheme of things, and the people have been agitating for a piece of the cake. Therefore, there is the likelihood that the people of Nkanu East may overwhelmingly vote for him. The PDP as political party in power in Enugu State may equally help Peter Mbah garners a good number of votes across the state.
Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party is the sole Candidate from Isi-Uzo Local Government Area, whose people have for long been complaining of marginalization. With their battle cry of “Ka Isi-Uzo Jee”, it is likely that Edeoga will collect most votes coming from the Local Government Area.
With the growing popularity of the Labour Party across the state, particularly among the youths, Edeoga is also likely going to get a lot of votes in virtually every part of the state, in addition to block votes from Enugu North Senatorial zone because of their cultural affliation with Isi-Uzo Local Government Area. This is in spite of the fact that the incumbent Governor of the state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, comes from Enugu North Senatorial zone.
From what we have been reading in various social media platforms, the people of Enugu North Senatorial zone appear not to be very happy with their son, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, because according to them, the man had failed to satisfy their aspirations in his seven years occupation of Enugu Government House.
The current belief, however, is that any of these aspirants to Enugu Government House that manages to get block votes from Enugu North Senatorial zone will likely have the day, which was why a lot of pressure was said to have been mounted on the leadership of the Labour Party not to accept Edeoga as its Governorship Candidate. In 2019, for instance, the zone delivered about 56 percent votes to Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi that saw him through as Governor.