Ebeano resurrects, shaping 2023 political alignments in Enugu State

By Lawrence Njoku (Southeast Bureau Chief) |   01 October 2020   |   3:05 am  

Ugwuanyi

No gathering in the state in recent time comes close to the mammoth crowd last Saturday in Enugu, where the leadership of Ebeano (where we are) Political Dynasty was conferred on the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. It had the air of festivity and in attendance were political actors in the state since 1999, with the former governor and founder of Ebeano Political Dynasty, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, leading the pack.

Ebeano Political Dynasty is a pressure group in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), formed by Nnamani when he was governor from 1999 – 2007. Guided by the philosophy of “equality and absolute loyalty”, the group made waves as its activities grew to the point of dictating the mood of politics. Its endorsement was as good as a victory for any person vying for any elective position in the state.

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Ebeano became so popular that by the time Nnamani was leaving office in 2007, it had amassed so much popularity and members, including those occupying various elective and appointive positions within and outside the state. In fact, the 2007 elections that ushered in Nnamani’s successor was an easy ride for PDP in the state following the dominance of the group. That election brought to power the administration of Sullivan Chime.

However, no sooner had Chime emerged than a heavy blow hit the group; Chime distanced himself from it. Although it brought him to power, Chime did not recognise Ebeano since it was not a political party; it wasn’t registered as one. To buttress the fact, he passed what looked like a death sentence on the group when he insisted that he was elected by PDP and not Ebeano.

At one of the gatherings at Michael Okpara Square, Chime had made good his summation of the group, when he pronounced Ebeano ‘dead’, insisting that “it does not exist in the political lexicon of PDP.” He had advised those still parading membership of the group and hoping to get an appointment in his administration or have him fund activities of the group to try elsewhere.

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True to his words, he began the decimation of Ebeano. He began a new political structure that saw him jettisoning those that worked for his election and brought fresh people, including those who never voted in the election.

Not done and probably realising how difficult it might be to operate the group without funds, he mounted a campaign against its founder, Nnamani, who was then in the Senate, expressing the desire to replace him. Chime had reasoned that Nnamani’s inability to attend regular sittings was a minus on the state, believing that it was better “we get someone who can, at least, sit down, hear and contribute to debates than a truant”. It was then the search for Nnamani’s successor in the senate that produced Gilbert Nnaji began.

That campaign dealt ruthlessly with Nnamani. Things went awry. He could not maintain a strong political foothold and his members began deserting him. There were uncertainties surrounding his quest to return to the senate under PDP. Apparently to salvage himself and survive the onslaught, Nnamani decided to quit PDP and form People for Democratic Change (PDC). He contested the senate seat for Enugu East Senatorial zone in 2011 but lost to Nnaji.

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That defeat became the crushing blow to Nnamani’s political career; it was too difficult for the group to bear. He led his supporters to the streets in protest over the outcome of the election, alleging that he was robbed. Nothing changed at the end of the day, as Nnaji returned to the senate.

In 2015, with Chime still in charge as governor, Nnamani recontested the seat of Enugu East Senatorial District but lost again. It was then he decided to ‘retire’ from politics and return overseas to continue his medical practice. The Ebeano group went under until last year, when Ugwuanyi brought Nnamani back to politics, promising him the ticket for Enugu East Senatorial zone seat. Nnamani ran and won the election. This marked the rebirth of Ebeano political structure.

Last Saturday, the group made a bold statement on its comeback and readiness to reclaim the political space of the state, when members marched in solidarity to Enugu Government House to confer Ebeano leadership structure on Ugwuanyi. It was a gathering of the old and new. Leading the pack was Senator Nnamani, who danced and sang to several melodious tunes provided by music groups that thronged the event.

Coordinator of the group and former Secretary to State Government (SSG) during Nnamani’s administration, Dr. Dan Shere, told the crowd that in spite of the setback suffered by the group following disagreements among its members, Ebeano has now embraced peace and reconciliation.

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He stated that Ebeano political structure of PDP in Enugu state was “not dead,” as it has so far produced three governors (including Ugwuanyi), stressing that these governors interpreted the Ebeano dreams and aspirations in various ways.

He said: “Ebeano is about the dream for Enugu and its people. A dream for industry, initiatives, trade and inventions in Enugu, a dream for a total transformation of the entire landscape of Enugu, a dream for poverty alleviation in Enugu through ensuring that the economy sits in the hands of artisans and the middle class, a dream of sustained, standardised urban renewal, a dream for stimulation of rural development, and a dream for the people of Enugu to smile.”

Further, he said it is “A dream for the universal brotherhood that the Wawa people are known for, a dream for people of honesty, a dream for people of hard work and a dream of people who welcome others, a dream of a place that accommodates the entire Igbo race and others, a dream for total hospitality for Igbo and all easterners, a dream for an ancient place with a grey history, because when we know where we are coming from, it is easy to know where we want to go and where we are coming from and where we are is ebeano.

“Ebeano never slept. Ebeano has provided leadership in Enugu from 1999 till today. Ebeano is Chimaroke Nnamani; Ebeano is Sullivan Chime; Ebeano is Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. These are ambassadors of Enugu dream. The dream people interpreted the way they understand it. Chimaroke came, interpreted that dream; Sullivan came and interpreted that dream and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is the present ambassador and leader of Ebeano, and a leader of urban renewal.

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“A leader of urban development, a leader who is the master of infrastructure, a leader who is at peace with the people, a leader who wants peace and I am sure he is the one our Lord has in mind when he says Blessed are those who look for peace because blessed shall be theirs; a man who practices total inclusiveness”.

To Nnamani, however, the visit to Ugwuanyi was not only to solidarise with him, but to remind him that as leader of Ebeano, he was free to navigate the political ship of 2023 as it suits him, assuring that members of the group, as loyal partners, would as usual work for its realisation.

Nnamani, in a speech punctuated with shouts of ‘Ebeano’, added: “I was governor from 1999 to 2007. When it was time to hand over, I named the zone that will produce my successor and from that zone named my successor in Sullivan Chime, who, of course, is a member of Ebeano political family. After eight years that Chime served, he also named his successor to come from Enugu North. That was in 2015 and that was why we have the present governor, who is the leader of Ebeano as governor.

“So after eight years, it is within your right to name the zone that will succeed you. Whether it is Udi, Nsukka or Enugu East and whoever you name will become the governor.

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“Politics is a serious business. It is the equality of leverages to balance interests. In Ebeano, we have no major or minor stakeholders but equal stakeholders. You can become whatever public office can offer in this democracy. But you must continue to demonstrate loyalty and support and that is why, wherever the governor says we should go we go. In 2023, there is no vacancy but whenever our leader, who is the governor, says is vacant, it is vacant.”

He re-echoed the determination of Ebeano political structure to continue to dominate the politics of the state. As governor, Nnamani would enthuse that products of Ebeano would rule and represent the state for 50 years.

On the other hand, Ugwuanyi felt so elated that he described the visit as a “family reunion”, promising not to take their call for granted. He stated that he owed his emergence to serve at the Federal House of Representatives for 12 years to his membership in the group.

The permutations
THERE are, however, concerns about the 2023 political ante being raised in the state three years before another election. These concerns are being raised on account of the firm control of PDP in the state. Apart from the era between 1999 and 2011 that witnessed little incursion of other political parties into Enugu politics, it had been PDP all the way.

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So, if this thread or streak is anything to go by, then what exactly do protagonists of last weekend’s outing aim to achieve? If it was a visit to show solidarity, how come it never happened before the 2019 elections when Ugwuanyi sought re-election? Being a member of the group, Ugwuanyi would have benefited immensely from such a visit during that campaign. Why now?

Speculations are rife if it has anything to do with the much-rumoured governorship ambition of former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, which would negate the ongoing rotation among the three geopolitical zones of the state that began in 1999. Ekweremadu touted as the ‘most beneficent’ of the current democratic dispensation in the state, was conspicuously absent last Saturday. There were no explanations for his absence and this fuelled belief of the cracks in the relationship between him and Ugwuanyi and Nnamani. There are other schools of thought about the political gathering being part of the ploy by Nnamani to remain in political control of the state. 

They insist that with the level of attendance the occasion attracted, it would be difficult to displace Nnamani in the politics of the state for now. Others, however, feel that the gathering was a ploy for determining the sharing formula of 2023. Those who hold this view see the gathering as mustering support that could enable Ugwuanyi, Nnamani, and former past governor, Sullivan Chime, to determine who gets what in the state in 2023, including Ugwuanyi’s successor.

Chime proved bookmakers wrong last Friday when he visited his predecessor, Nnamani in his country home, Amakpu Agbani, where they held talks, believed to be connected with 2023. It was a reconciliation meeting and the first time both men were meeting since Chime left office in 2015. He and Nnamani had parted ways after he (Chime) became governor.

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Sources stated that with the frosty relationship now healed, there was the likelihood that Chime might return to PDP, and should that happen, it might mean contesting the election for Enugu West Senatorial zone in 2023. He had shown interest in the seat since leaving office, but such desire had been punctured by Ekweremadu.

Ekweremadu had told a gathering during his birthday celebration early in the year that he would not recontest his present position. If that happens, it could be an opportunity for Chime in Enugu West. Bookmakers say within the same period (2023), Nnamani will likely retain the seat of Enugu East senatorial zone, while Ugwuanyi could occupy that of Enugu North Senatorial zone.

Opposition political parties
WHILE these permutations are ongoing, however, opposition parties are kicking against the gathering last Saturday, describing the move to begin discussions and campaigns on who succeeds Ugwuanyi in 2023 as unfair and premature. They argued that premium should rather be placed on delivering good governance and addressing the many challenges facing residents of the state.

State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Ben Nwoye, stated that it was unfair to start discussing 2023 at the moment when those elected in 2019 were yet to find their feet due to the prevailing circumstances in the country.

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His African People’s Alliance (APA) counterpart, Mr. Chukwunonso Ogbe, however, described the statements that emanated from the gathering as undemocratic and capable of causing political tension in the state.

Ogbe said that as much as members of PDP in the state had the right to associate, “it is wrong to make statements that suggest that one man will decide for the state.

“That statement, which was made in full public glare that the governor should be allowed to choose his successor to come 2023, is capable of heating up the polity. This is an implied admittance on the part of the former governor of the culture of imposition of political office holders on the people of the state, which we have always protested against

“The arrogant cum insensitive political disposition of PDP in Enugu State as openly asserted by the progenitor of Ebeano Political Family of PDP, in the person of Senator Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani on the 19th day of September 2020, shall be checkmated in future elections in Enugu State and the leadership of APA in Enugu State is poised, more than ever before, to arrest the arrogant political inclinations of some PDP leaders in Enugu State within the ambit of the law.

“The leadership of APA in Enugu State, furthermore, makes it clear that come 2023, it is the voice of the people that shall be heard as to who shall become the governor of Enugu State, and not the voice of a few godfathers, who have no regard for the political rights of the electorate of Enugu State. We urge the good people of Enugu State to get ready come 2023, as a new order of governance, to be enthroned by the electorate of Enugu State, shall emerge.”

The days ahead will clearly put meaning to the 2023 permutations that inspired the current realignment and reconciliations.

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