Chime, Ngige, others jostle over ministerial slots in Southeast

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief |   07 July 2019   |   4:01 am  

[FILES] Former Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime

Since conclusion of the 2019 general elections won by the All Progressives Congress (APC), attention of party members in the Southeast has shifted to who occupy ministerial positions in the zone.

Presently, the gladiators are engaged in intense lobbying and horse-trading, aimed at not only getting the Presidency’s support, but also those around the corridors of power.

Sources told The Guardian that to ensure nothing hindered their chances, several APC candidates from the zone that contested in the just concluded elections, and who had earlier vowed to challenge outcome of the elections in court, have surreptitiously withdrawn their petitions.

Majority of the APC candidates had queried the election results, chiefly won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the zone during their post election briefings, vowing to use legal means at their disposal to recover their “stolen” mandates.

The enthusiasm majority of them showed to pursue their electoral defeat in courts, when they formed the now infamous “Group of APC candidates in 2019 elections” seem to have been downplayed, thus fuelling suspicion of compromise and bargain for ministerial slots.

As it is, not much is being heard about the APC candidates’ petitions, which is lending credence to views that many of them did not contest to win, but to register their names in the list of party members who should be considered for appointments, as compensation for participating in the electoral process.

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ambassador Geoffrey Onyeama

Sources said the compromises arose, when the candidates realised it would be difficult to prove their matters in court, as well as the fact that those who won the elections, irrespective of their political leanings, could muster some support in their favour to advance their political fortunes.

Thus, the gladiators adopted a two-pronged approach in their pursuit— support from home government, the party’s national leadership and the Presidency.

The combatants include the governorship, senatorial and House of Representatives candidates, who are also persuading the party’s national leadership and their home governments to give them assistance.

Although the general belief is that it is the President’s sole responsibility to nominate members of his cabinet, but there are opinions that inputs should also be sought from states about the candidates, especially as it concerns their acceptability and contributions to growth of the party in their home states.

Feelers in some quarters indicated that the way ministers were nominated in the first four years of the Buhari’s administration gave rise to the crisis that hit the state chapters, the Southeast inclusive. Sources stated that some of the nominees were neither card-carrying party members, nor did they work for the party during the elections, and yet, they were appointed into positions leaving actual members. They stated that such should be avoided in the current circumstance.

However, permutations already going round Enugu State have it that former Governor, Sullivan Chime, the party’s governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Ayogu Eze, immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu and senatorial candidate for Enugu North, Eugene Odoh are gearing up for the only ministerial slot of the state.

Chime, who joined APC in 2017, has not been found wanting in the campaign for President Buhari and APC. He remains the only politician so far in the state that held an elaborate campaign to announce his movement to the APC. That exercise, which attracted the party’s national leadership, has given him an edge over others.

While those that joined the party much later struggled over elective offices in 2019, Chime was busy campaigning for the President and other candidates. Sources said he has remained steadfast in advancing the party’s cause since his entrance.

The sources added that his growing influence, especially in Enugu West, was seen in the last election, where he nominated almost all the candidates that ran in the House of Representatives election. His major challenge, however, is that he comes from the same area as Onyeama and Okechukwu.

Although analysts are quick to add that he has several advantages over the duo of Okechukwu and Onyeama, such would only materialise, if he has the Presidency’s support and perhaps, that of the party’s national leadership.

Chime knows this quite well. It is not lost on him that Onyeama became minister four years ago without, as alleged, being an APC member nor possessed the voter card. He was not in Nigeria, when the 2015 general elections were held, and not known by the party’s state chapter. Yet, he became the favoured candidate for Ministerial position.

One thing that may work against Onyeama, however, is the protracted crisis that factionalised Enugu chapter of the party, which he was severally accused of promoting.

On the other hand, Okechukwu carried on as a true party man, until his senatorial ambition for Enugu West kissed the dust through the party’s national leadership’s refusal to award him ticket. In turn, and out of anger, he had gone full throttle to attack and oppose the Adams Oshiomhole-led leadership. This earned him a suspension from the party.

Apparently realising the consequences of a suspension, he stepped up his game by ensuring support for and defending Presidency’s policies and programmes, a development his critics see as a ploy to remain relevant.

In the crisis that engulfed APC in the state, the three men played from opposing directions.

Beyond the interplay of power by the trio from Enugu West, what probably would stand in their way or that of any other contestant from the state is Ayogu Eze’s desire to be minister. Eze was the party’s governorship candidate in the 2019 elections.

If contacts and connections are anything to go by, Eze, who served as Senator for Enugu North senatorial zone for eight years, has them in quantum. It would also appear he would get Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s support, going by recent developments, where some of his cronies have been appointed to serve in the various Public Service reform committees in the state.

Stakeholders in the state, including traditional rulers, have continued to appeal to him not to challenge Ugwuanyi’s election in court as a way of sustaining peace. And he has hearkened to the voices. It goes without saying that, should the Governor’s input be sought in the matter, Ugwuanyi would likely root for Eze, since they hail from same senatorial zone.

One thing the people of Enugu North senatorial zone has held against past and current administrations is their inability to recommend someone from the area to be appointed minister, since the commencement of the current democratic experience.

While the administrations of Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime retained the slots for their people in Enugu East and West, it has not been so with Ugwuanyi, who hails from Enugu North.

Residents of Enugu North insisted it is part of the marginalisation going on in the state and that Ugwuanyi should remedy it. The last Minister produced from the area was Chief Nnia Nwodo, who served in the late Shehu Shagari’s administration.

IN Abia State, there are feelers that immediate past Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, former Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, former Senator for Abia Central, Nkechi Nworgu; former senator, Chris Adighije; former Deputy Governor, Acho Nwakanma and governorship candidate in the 2019 elections, Uche Ogar are all in the race for ministerial appointment.

A competent party source told The Guardian: “We hope one of them will make the list at the end of the day, because they have worked to deserve any benefit from the party.”

The source explained that the state chapter refused to be drawn into the scramble in the belief that, “whoever is appointed will work for the progress of our party and country in general. So, we have not endorsed anyone, and you know it is the President’s right to make this nomination. If he seeks our input, we will avail him.”

It was further revealed that the contenders are relying on the only senator produced by the party in the state, Orji Kalu, to advance their quest, adding “attention has shifted to Abuja, since there is not much support from the home front.”

FEELERS from Anambra State indicated that the immediate past Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; the party’s National Auditor, Chief George Muoghalu, former Reps member, Tony Nwoye; Director-General of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor and former Senator, Andy Uba are all battling to get the slot.

On paper, Ngige, who served as Minister during the first four years, could easily be considered. But the fact that Uba, Nwoye and Ikeazor also worked to elevate the party in the state makes the situation dicey.

Nwoye wanted to run for Senate, but later changed his mind. Uba ran and lost. On her part, Ikeazor is doing well in her current assignment at the federal level. She was the Presidential campaign coordinator for Buhari in the Southeast during the elections.

Analysts said the competence she brought to the job led to her appointment as head of the presidential campaign committee in the zone, with servivng Ministers and other appointees. Sources said these might play in her favour.

FROM Imo State, accounts are that the two major contenders for the only ministerial slot are the immediate past Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere and immediate past Senator for Imo West, Hope Uzodinma, who was the party’s governorship candidate. Both men were prominent in the struggle to ensure that former Governor Rochas Okorocha did not foist his son-in-law on the state, among others.

There are, however, strong sentiments that, given the opportunity, Okorocha might not want any of them to benefit from the current dispensation. He is said to have sympathy for the immediate past Minister of Education (state), Prof Anthony Anwuka, whom he nominated in 2015.

Sources said flying the Anwuka kite might not be so easy, given what he (Okorocha) went through to recover his senatorial mandate. Adams Oshiomhole had suspended him at a time from the party.

All these might have caught Uzodinma’s fancy, as he has elevated his relationship with the Presidency and contacts with powers that be in Abuja, since the governorship election was concluded.

IN Ebonyi, immediate past Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, the party’s governorship candidate, Sonnie Ogbuoji, senatorial candidate for Ebonyi Central, Julius Ucha and lately, Chinedu Ogar, a House of reps candidate are gunning for the state’s only ministerial slot.

Onu is, however, said to be enjoying the brightest of chances, following his acceptability beyond the state boundary. One thing that stands against him and others is the protracted leadership crisis in the state chapter that has continued to account for their abysmal outing in every election.

Although Ebonyi was among the states that returned 25 percent votes to President Buhari during the election, informed sources said it was not as a result of his personal efforts, but that of concerned leaders in the zone.

Presently, each faction of the party is pushing for nomination of their members and working at cross-purposes to discredit those said to be gunning for the position. Sources said the party’s crisis has taken a toll on the pursuit of their electoral cases at the tribunal.

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