Posted by By Bolade Omonijo on
BY 2007, 25 out of the 36 state governors would have exhausted the opportunity to run the governments of their states. In this Club of 25 is Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State. In 2003, he achieved what none of his predecessors in office had succeeded in doing by winning the right to rule the state for another term.
BY 2007, 25 out of the 36 state governors would have exhausted the opportunity to run the governments of their states. In this Club of 25 is Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State. In 2003, he achieved what none of his predecessors in office had succeeded in doing by winning the right to rule the state for another term. Except Dr. Michael Okpara, none of those who had ruled the state either as region or state since independence in 1960 had been returned for another term. In 1979, it was the turn of Chief Jim Nwobodo to be elected under the wings of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. As a former Chairman of Rangers Football Club, he had no problem being accepted by the people. He was young, charismatic and rich. He seemed to have all it took to establish a hold on power. Chief Nwobodo had even started to see himself as the natural successor to Zik, since the governor of neighbouring Imo State, Chief Samuel Mbakwe was much older. But, that was not to be as the gale of the 1983 election swept away the Nwobodo regime. While Mbakwe with his serious programmes survived, the roots of the Nwobodo political foundation could not withstand the gale.
Then came Chief Chukwuma Onoh. He was elected in 1983 on the platform of the national Party of Nigeria, NPN. many would swear that the Nigerian peoples party won the election but the Federal Electoral Commission awrded the seat to the NPN. That may be true but what is on record today is that Chief Onoh, not Nwobodo ruled the state between October 1, and December 31, 1983.
Onoh himself could not return by the time the military brought back civilians in 1991. another name, a new comer, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo mounted the saddle. He was elected on the platform of the National Republican Convention while Nwobodo was a major supporter of the Social Democratic Party. The late General Sani Abacha chose to play games with the destiny of the country as he experimented with the best way of foisting his perpetual rule on Nigeria, but, when the Abdulsalami Abubakar regime decided to hand over to civilians, it was the turn of Nnamani to emerge.
Who is the man? How did he emerge? From where? Dr. Nnamani is a man who would acknowledge that destiny has a part to play in the affairs of men. At 32, he had already achieved what it takes many men a lifetime to achieve. In an interview with visiting journalists in Enugu, he said at that tender age he had already achieved the American dream. He had attained an uncommon height even by the American standard. Asked what is American standard, Dr Nnamani said the dream of every American is to purchase a porsche car and have a million dollar house. At 32, Nnamani was already there as a professional in that country described as God’s own country. He was a foetal surgeon, one of the few in United States of America. That brought its own challenge: What next? A man who could achieve such a feat is unlikely to sit back and watch life ebb away.
Financially and materially, Nnamani was already made in his early 30s and he chose as most men in the same shoe would, to turn attention to politics. Power is what most men want. It means the ability to decide for others. It means the ability to dictate the course of things in the society. And, it was to acquisition of power that Nnamani turned.
In four years, Nnamani who rode into power in alliance with Chief Jim Nwobodo had found his feet and would no longer tolerate the dictates of a godfather. As most other godfathers in the country, Nwobodo was seen as overbearing and Nnamani gave a fight. He was not alone. In Anambra State, Clement Mbadinuju kicked against Chief Emeka Offor. Eventually, he lost his seat. In Kwara State, Rear Admiral Lawal elected to fight the political institution in the state, Dr Olusola Saraki, Saraki ran out of the party, forced the PDP to adopt his son as governorship candidate and Lawal’s tenancy in the Ilorin Government House was terminated.
In Kano State, Dr Rabiu Kwakwanso fell out with Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and, at the end of four years, he had to plot another scheme to remain politically relevant. In the All Nigeria Peoples Party-led Borno State, the then Governor Malla Kachalla decided to take on Alhaji Modu Sheriff. He lost out.
The situation in Plateau State was different. The governor, Joshua Dariye took on all the party elders in the state, including Chief Solomon Lar. He succeeded in obtaining the party ticket despite the plot for his downfall. But, before the election which was fiercely contested by the PDP, ANPP and the AD, the governor had to make up with his political enemies.
But, Enugu was different. before the party primaries, Nnamani had decided to strike in his own direction. He decided to take on Jim and the latter boasted that he would ensure that the governor he had participated in installing got removed. the first indication that the former governor could lose the battle emerged when majority of the members of the state legislature ditched him and aligned with the governor. Before the election, chief Nwobodo had been sent packing from the PDP. he found accommodation in the United Nigeria Peoples party which adopted him as presidential candidate, but that was a road that led nowhere. Nnamani was declared the winner of the governorship election, defeating in the process Dr Alex Obiechina of the UNPP among others. It marked the arrival of Nnamani as leader of the state.
This has raised another question: What next for this governor? When he quits office as governor in 2007, would he be on his way back to United States of America? What has he in store for his people? Who is he likely to install as his successor since, in the face of the bitter battles he had to fight to win the second term, he would do everything necessary to ensure that his opponents lose out. What qualities does he want in his successor?
When asked what would happen to Enugu State after 2007, what he was planning for the people, whether he was actually grooming someone to take over from him, the governor decided to wax philosophical again. He would not directly tackle the question, but would leave the public to read his lips. To him, the 2007 question is fundamental “as every father prays that his son would be better than him. I have no reason to believe that my successor would not be better. He will be younger, probably more educated and more hard working.”
The governor spoke further: “The problem of power transfer in Africa is important. I do not want to adopt a pessimistic view, a messianic attitude. We don’t believe in that in Enugu State. We want people to be optimistic. We believe that the future of Enugu State is bright.” He would not be drawn into discussing the specifics although speculations are rife that he might be grooming one of those younger men he brought into politics and had seconded to the federal level to receive the baton in 2007.
There is another battle at hand. In line with the development in other states that have produced Senate Presidents in the past six years, the newly elected number three man is already on the war path with the governor. There is a battle for supremacy. Asked about the battle and the weaapons he is likely to deploy to assure victory, Nnamani said the question arose out of lack of appreciation of the state’s political history. He told the visiting journalists that anyone who knew what he had to do to ensure the emergence of a new political class in the state would know that the Senate President could not take him on. He said: “Part of the abuse of the African is that their memory is indeed short.
We waged a war here for four years and after that another leadership emerged.” The governor then took the journalists through t he familiar path of how Chief Nwobodo was dethroned as leader of the state. He reminded the political journalists that the seat being occupied by the new Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani was the same held by Chief Nwobodo. Her pointed out that the Second Republic governor of old Anambra State did not willingly surrender his post to Nnamani. It would be recalled that the Enugu State governor, the Senate President and Chief Nwobodo all hail from the same axis of the state.
Undertaking a political analysis of the situation on ground, Dr. Nnamani said “Who is the Senate President? We are talking about Jim Nwobodo’s seat that we decided to replace with somebody else. What is new? We are talking of a Senator out of 109 who chairs a meeting of his colleagues. In America, how many times do you hear of the Senate President? Why is our own different. It is an elite agenda.”
The governor would not allow the matter rest without pointing out that he had received the news of the emergence of Chief Ken Nnamani with a pledge that both of them would work together in the interest of the people. He explained that, “the political equation has not changed. A new political class has emerged, can’t you give us credit? How many Senate Presidents have been there- four, fi ve? So, what is special about this? When he emerged, the people of Enugu welcomed his emergence. We shut down the state to receive him, so what has happened? The issue is not the Senate President. Many have come and go, the Senate President will come and go and I will also come and go but the people of Enugu State have nowhere to go, the bottom line is Enugu State. The issue is about poverty, by whatever means it is measured. This is what should engage out attention.”
On the National Political Reform Conference, Nnamani explained that the controversy over Resource Control was a mere diversion. He called on the political elite to shun selfishness and focus on the real issues. What are the real issues. Governor Nnamani said “the issue is about poverty.
resource Control is not the debate. true federalism is the debate, the right to information is the debate, dignity of the people is the debate...Even if 100 per cent or 50 per cent is granted as derivation, how does that impact on the lives of the sons and daughters of the Ijaw nation? How does it impact on the lives of the sons and daughters of the Hausa Fulani.”
Governor Nnamani wanted the people themselves to force the elite to begin to focus on issues such as access o good education, affordable health care, good water, good roads, war against HIV/AIDS among others.
He added: “I won’t sit here and talk about how to share money..By doing that you are not looking at the big picture, you are only looking at part of the puzzle.”
As the journalists would not be satisfied with a philosophical response to succession and 2007, Nnamani would only oblige by giving a glimpse into why he thought he would remain relevant in the post-2007 era. He chose to play the lecturer as he brought out his board to teach the journalists about what his administration had done for the people. In the ducation sector, he pointed out that the administration introduced the School Meals Plus programme to tackle not just the problems of poor education but raise the health standards of the children. Thereby, he contended, the government had been able to reach the entire families, asking questions about the siblings of the children in primary schools and the parents. This is probably why developmental partners such as DFID has been showing off the state as a model in Nigeria and Africa.
In February, President Olusegun Obasanjo was taken round the projects embarked upon in the state and volunteered that there were none to be compared to them anywhere in the country. Some of the projects include the state of the art International Conference Centre which the governor said towered above any other in the country. According to him, the project has three main bowls with the major building sitting 5000 people. The other two bowls would seat 2,500 and 3,000 respectively. there is also a 200-room hotel to accommodate visitors. He said he would expect the project completed by March 2006.
Other projects which have reached advanced stages of completion as the governor himself drove round with the journalists are the ultra modern 18-courtroon Judiciary Headquarters which the governor said would be fully computerised, the Lomalinda Housing Estates comprising 324 flats, the dual carriage way tunnel linking New Haven with Ogui road and the Enugu State University of Technology. This is one of the projects the governor is particularly proud of as he enthused that it is the only university which was started from the scratch. He explained that the university which was established during the Nwobodo regime in 1980 had no building of its own, rather managing the few facilities available to the state owned polytechnic, the Institute of Management and Technology./ Located on 600-hectares land, the university also has provision for 54 Junior Staff Quarters, Professors’ duplexes, Vice Chancellor’s Lodge and Guest House, the most modern Halls of Residence with 3000 rooms, all en suite and Lecture halls.
As the journalists were conducted round, they could not help exclaiming. However, critics of the government have queried the choice of projects which the insisted were too elitist. One who spoke with Vanguard said “there is no doubt that buildings are springing up. I know about the tunnel, the first in this country, but are these the priorities.? In the face of hunger, why should we applaud the building of a teaching Hospital, a university campus and a tunnel. Why should I be excited that we will soon have a Conference Centre?”
However, Governor Nnamani dismissed such claims as short sightedness. He said the projects would be the spring board of economic and industrial revolution in the state. He explained that the projects amounted to “effective deployment of power” which he embarked upon for posterity.
Posterity might be important, but the immediate concern is 2007. With such projects which the governor vowed would all be completed before the middle of next year, it might be difficult for anyone to dismiss his administration as one that merely occupied the Government House for eight years achieving nothing. It might be the governor’s own progressive and creative way of ensuring that Ebeano is remembered for a long time.
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