In Enugu State, the heat is on.
Chijioke Edeoga has brought unbearable heat to Enugu politics. In a cruel twist of fate, the stone that the builder rejected has become the cornerstone of the building. Cast away in the last gubernatorial primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Edeoga has reincarnated into a formidable opposition force. And now, the Lion Building is sweating under his blistering intensity.
Yes, word on the street is that even Enugu’s silent hills know that Edeoga is the only threat to PDP’s mediocre leadership in the state. After all, the hills bore witness to the only brilliant dazzle that was Sullivan Chime’s regime. Ndi Enugu are disappointed with the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi regime. They pray that the old order should give way to the new. And for many who look back to Chime with nostalgia, Edeoga is the new face of hope.
Indeed, there are many reasons why Edeoga represents hope for so many people in Enugu. First, Edeoga has had a long career in public service. He rose through the ranks in public service, starting out as the council chairman of Isi-Uzo, serving terms at the House of Representatives and being Presidential Adviser to Goodluck Jonathan before eventually returning to Enugu as the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and eventually rounding off as Commissioner for Environment. From the local government to the National Assembly and the Presidency, Edeoga has soaked in enough lessons in public service to know the intricacies of democratic governance and how to make impact where it matters most.
But that is not even half the story. The story is that Edeoga has no baggage, no case to answer in any anti-graft agency and no whispered conversations behind his back. He has kept a clean sheet; in spite of his years in public service.
On the other hand, Peter Mbah, the hand-picked PDP candidate has some cases to answer. There are whispers that his shady deals with former governor Chimaroke Nnamani gave birth to Pinnacle Oil which is his only claim to fame. He is also saddled with the incubus of being the proud heir to Ebeano political family and its heritage of bloodlust. This was amply demonstrated at the primariy where Chimaroke, founder of Ebeano, staged a brief spell of violent outburst to intimidate Edeoga for Mbah. Many observers saw it as a foretaste of what would happen in Enugu under Mbah’s watch.
For them, it would be the reliving of a nightmare. But beyond that, folks also say that being the preferred candidate of Ugwuanyi is enough to turn voters against him; that Ugwuanyi’s underperformance is a killjoy to any politician who hopes to grow from his shadow.
And that is why there is a growing belief that Edeoga is the next governor of the state. He is better qualified than his closest rival. He brandishes an unblemished profile. His career trajectory is quite impressive. He has the requisite leadership training and exposure. He is in the right party at the right time. Other candidates who could have challenged him are in mushroom parties and cannot muster the numbers to make an impression.
The momentum is with the Labour Party. The Peter Obi appeal is very strong across Nigeria. Edeoga will inherit sympathy votes from Obi’s numerous supporters. Enugu voters feel taken for granted by PDP. They resent the crippling mediocrity that has defined Enugu in the past seven years while an infrastructural revolution is raging in nearby Ebonyi. Their season of discontent is Edeoga’s gain. Labour Party offers them a chance to dream again. Edeoga is expected to ride this crest to victory.
Indeed, there is a general sense of disapproval for Ugwuanyi across the three zones of the state. His appalling performance, his ridiculous attempt at politics of deceit and reckless brinksmanship, his utter cluelessness in matters of statecraft are Ugwunayi’s albatross which his preferred candidate has unwittingly inherited. He is widely seen as effeminate and ineffectual; buckling under pressure to shed a few tears. In fact, Ugwuanyi is likely to go down in history as the first governor of Enugu State to be rejected by his own people. A seething anger awaits him in Nsukka where the overwhelming verdict is that he is a colossal failure.
There’s a unanimous agreement that Ugwuanyi did not fully understand his place in time and that apart from the Opi-Nsukka Road, Enugu North has nothing to show for occupying the Lion Building for eight years.
On the other hand, Ugwunayi’s loss has become Edeoga’s gain. The overwhelming sympathy of Ndi Nsukka is for Edeoga whom they see as their adopted son.
And with Nsukka’s history of casting votes in block, Edeoga looks like a governor in waiting. All he needs to stroll into the Lion Building is to tip the scale with votes from Enugu West and a handful from Enugu East.
Nwobodo writes from Nara, Unateze, Nkanu East LGA of Enugu State.