ENUGU – The return of Chimaroke Nnamani in Enugu State politics appears to have changed the political equation in the State. At the inception of this Fourth Republic in 1999, Nnamani was elected as the Governor of Enugu State under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and he held power until 2007, serving out two successful tenures of four years each.
During Nnamani’s reign as Governor, his political structure known as “Ebeano Family” held sway in the state.
In 2007, Nnamani installed Sullivan Chime as his successor, using his Ebeano Family, which dominated affairs of the state chapter of PDPChime, however, turned out to be the political nemesis of his godfather, Chimaroke Nnamani.
Although Nnamani was equally elected as a Senator in 2007, Chime chased him out of PDP.
In 2011, Nnamani left PDP to form his own party, People for Democratic Change (PDC) but that was as far as he could go as Chime made sure that he did not secure re-election on the platform of his new party.
With the entire instrumentality of the state, Chime supported Gilbert Nnaji, a former member of the House of Representatives to displace his estranged godfather, Nnamani in the senate as representative of Enugu East senatorial district.
Another attempt by Nnamani to return to the Senate in 2015, was also truncated by Chime, who again deployed state resources to return Gilbert Nnaji to the senate.
Thus for eight years, Chimaroke Nnamani remained an internally displaced politician (IDP) in Enugu State until his celebrated return as a Senator in 2019 under PDP platform.
Nnamani’s return was said to have been plotted by a former Secretary to State Government (SSG), a re-elected serving member of the House of Representatives and a former Commissioner for Environment in Enugu State.
The three politicians who hail from Nsukka zone like incumbent Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, were very active members of Nnamani’s Ebeano Family while its reign lasted.
They were said to have sold the idea to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi that there was a scheme by All Progressives Congress (APC), the party controlling power at the Federal level, to use Nnamani to win election in Enugu State.
But unknown to the Governor the trio that hatched the plot were more interested in their future political relevance and were actually working for Peter Mba, a former Chief of Staff under Governor Nnamani.
Since leaving government, Mba, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle Oil has been very successful in business and has been tipped as Nnamani’s most likely choice for Governor in 2023.
The oil magnate hails from Owo in Nkanu East local government area, under Enugu East senatorial district.
Apparently not aware of the real intention of the three musketeers from Nsukka, Ugwuanyi who was not ready to toy with his re-election immediately moved ahead of APC and procured a senatorial ticket for Nnamani in PDP.
Nnamani eventually secured the PDP ticket and won the senatorial election in Enugu East, trouncing the incumbent, Gilbert Nnaji and others.
Nnamani’s return has changed a lot of things in the political equation of Enugu State.
Before Nnamani’s return, there were two power blocs in the political equation in Enugu State.
While Governor Ugwuanyi, popularly known as Gburugburu, led one bloc that dominated mainly Nsukka politics, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu led the other bloc. Ekweremadu’s bloc dominated his Enugu West senatorial zone, and had influence in Enugu East. Senator Gilbert Nnaji from Enugu East belonged to Ekweremadu bloc.
Ekweremadu had preferred Nnaji to return to the Senate, but Ugwuanyi bowed to the three musketeers from Nsukka and opted for Chimaroke Nnamani whose real intention was to bring Ebeano Family back to power in 2023, having lost relevance since the days of Sullivan Chime as Governor.
Apart from the prodding of the three musketeers from Nsukka, Governor Ugwuanyi, it was gathered felt that he should show appreciation to a man who helped.
In 2003, Nnamani railroad Ugwuanyi to the House of Representatives as representatives of Udenu/Igboeze North federal constituency, ahead of the people’s favourites, such as Fidel Ayogu.
Ugwuanyi’s disposition may have prompted the kind of tumultuous reception given to Nnamani on his return to PDP last year, after two unsuccessful attempts to return to the senate.
Inside sources however said Nnamani’s return has been ruffling feathers in PDP, especially within the corridors of power.
One of our sources said unlike a leopard that hardly changes its spot, it has been difficult for him to rein in his ego.
For instance during the campaigns for the last general elections, he was not seen anywhere wearing a t-shirt bearing the Governor’s image.
He was also said to have rejected posters designed in a way that the Governor’s portrait were imposing on his own
A recent incident during the burial of Peter Mba’s Uncle at his Owo hometown, Nkanu East appeared to be the climax of it all.
Some insiders, who were there, said although Governor Ugwuanyi came to the burial late, every other person stood up to welcome him, except Senator Chimaroke Nnamani.
When Nnamani was asked to move around and greet the people, he stood up and grabbed Ugwuanyi’s hands and dragged him around, a development onlookers felt, created the impression that “Ugwuanyi is his boy.”
Our sources further said Nnamani has been grandstanding that Ugwuanyi won because of him.
It was gathered that Nsukka leaders are not only uncomfortable but angry over the way Nnamani has been showing off since his return, as if Ugwuanyi, an Nsukka man, would not have gotten a second term without him.
According to our sources, the feeling now is that Ugwuanyi took a big risk in bringing Nnamani back, considering the former Governor’s strained relationship with the Catholic Church, Jim Nwobodo and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and Senator Fidelis Okoro (Aka Agbadaman) who the former governor ordered the demolition of his house over political differences.
Okoro was a serving Senator at that time of the demolition of his house, located at GRA Enugu.
He took the Enugu State Government to court and after a prolonged legal tussle, the court ruled in his favour.
On assumption of office, Governor Ugwuanyi paid N80 million compensation to Okoro in line with the judgment.
Nana Ogbodo, the spokesman of PDP Campaign Organisation and another close associate of Governor Ugwuanyi, had suffered a similar with Okoro in the hands of Nnamani.
Ogbodo was an aide to Nnamani before the two of them parted ways over irreconcilable differences.
When Ogbodo joined the opposition, the state government demolished his house at Trans Ekulu Enugu.
The administration of Sullivan Chime later compensated Ogbodo for the demolition of his house.
Moving from the past to the present, there are fears of a possible implosion in Enugu State PDP as a result of the return of Nnamani.
Inside sources said the implosion may start with a battle between Nnamani and Ekweremadu over who will call the shots in 2023.
Ekweremadu was first elected into the Senate in 2003, after serving as Chief of Staff and SSG under Nnamani. During the last general election, he was re-elected for a fifth term as Senator representing Enugu West.During his birthday recently, Ekweremadu announced that he would not be contesting for the Senate again.
However, keen watchers of political events in Enugu State see Ekweremadu’s statement at his birthday as an indication that he would vie for the governorship in 2023.
According to our investigations, Ekweremadu may have decided to make a foray into the governorship in 2023, following the displacement of his preferred choice, Senator Gilbert Nnaji by Nnamani as Senator representing Enugu East.
Going by the subsisting zoning formula, it would be the turn of Enugu East to produce a Governor after Ugwuanyi.
Ekweremadu’s camp however believes that pushing Gilbert Nnaji will be difficult, as it would be difficult to market an internally displaced politician (IDP) in 2023. The plan B now is for Ekweremadu himself to join the governorship race.
Suddenly, the new argument in Enugu is that the subsisting zoning formula should be discarded in 2023.