Home Opinion Mbah, Ossai, Ozioko: The peas in Enugu PDP’s pod

Mbah, Ossai, Ozioko: The peas in Enugu PDP’s pod

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I have never seen anywhere in the world where people seeking elective political offices have successfully deployed harassment and intimidation of opponents to win elections. The most sanctimonious set of people on earth are politicians. And this is most especially with Nigerian politicians. They could show up at your door with the finest of roses, even when their intention is to pass a death sentence on you once they have got your votes.

In Enugu State, particularly as the general elections draw unnervingly near, it does appear like there is a new template for political marketing whose processus fondamental is to first bully any strong opposition voice until he losses all his guts, then extend a transactional olive branch with the promise of financial rehabilitation once there is evidence of becoming “born again”.

The deputy governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ossai appears to be the proponent of this reversed osmosis political conversion strategy. But it does look like his principal and controversial candidate of the party in the March 2023 elections, Peter Mbah is picking a few examples from his subordinate. Somewhere in Nsukka, there is a council chairman, Walter Ozioko, whose sense of demigod-ship has also been flourishing lately.

A few days ago, news made rounds of the purported arrest by the Nigeria Police of one Ifeanyi Ogenyi, a Labour Party supporter, from Eha Amufu allegedly on the orders of the state governorship candidate of the PDP, Mbah. Ogenyi’s offense, according to what I learned, was that he shared a viral video, Ego ndi Enugu that has refused to stop trending on social media.

With a hailstorm of stumbling blocks beleaguering his dream to become governor, Mbah is entitled to his frustration-induced desperation. Governorship contests in Enugu State hitherto ended at the primary; once you got the party ticket, you were as good as elected and can even begin to hold court as governor-elect.

If there is anything that has given the Labour Party campaign an unprecedented fillip in Enugu, it is the Ego Ndi Enugu video. It evokes anger and bitterness against the party that has superintended the regression of the state from a middle-class, near-homogenous community of people to a badly fractured, poverty capital. If there was anything the PDP in the state should be doing, it is to embark on activities that will deflect from this video.

But not PDP! What they did, on the contrary, is to find a victim, a point of contact in the growing ranks of people who are rejecting the party every day in the state. First, they detained him in Enugu and then allegedly whisked him to Awka, the Police Zonal headquarters. I am sure the idea was to rehash the Ifeanyi Ossai strategy of intimidating him and then making an irresistible offer.

But this was a terrible miscalculation. First Ifeanyi Ogenyi is being fired by a different jet engine. He, like many of us, has served in this government and could not stomach the stench. Secondly, he is from Eha Amufu, the community that has been at the receiving end of the relentless ravage of blood-thirty death-monger called Fulani herdsmen. He is pained that while the sitting government has failed to do anything demonstrably practical to stem the ogre, those it chose to replace it have shown no signs they would work to save the people from their killers, if, by the crook of means, they get into office.

And this is why I feel it was a strategic error for Mbah, who is (or should be) seeking the support of this same Eha Amufu people, being the same one that is allegedly masterminding the arrest of their son on a matter many consider civil. That is like cutting the knife the second time, even after the first was adjudged a mistake.

I also wonder what moral right Mbah has to start an issue against Ogenyi. I am saying this because since the campaign for the coming elections started, Mbah’s campaign has been the most toxic. In his employ is one Reuben Onyishi, one of the most morally unrestrained carvings to ever have a soul, and who has been rewarded both by the Governor and by the Mbah campaign for no other role than to often libelous bile he piles against the opposition.

No one has bothered to accuse Onyishi of anything. He is being rewarded duly by his principals. Given this background, what moral grounds does Mbah have to cause the arrest of anyone on the basis of sharing a piece of material on WhatsApp? I am aware of the Cybercrime Laws in the country, but here I speak morality. Equity must be approached with clean hands and a clear conscience, you know. Or can we say frustrations have set in?

With a hailstorm of stumbling blocks beleaguering his dream to become governor, Mbah is entitled to his frustration-induced desperation. Governorship contests in Enugu hitherto ended at the primaries; once you got the party ticket, you were as good as elected and can even begin to hold court as governor-elect.

This was why Ossai, Mbah’s deputy in their increasingly imperiled journey, was able to handle his own case the way he did and (felt he could) get away with it.

In 2021, the trio of Francis Akpa, Obinna Mamah, and Joshua Ogbonna were arrested and detained allegedly on the orders of Ossai, a powerful member of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi inner circle. Their main offence, according to a story published in The Guardian on 13 July 2021, was being “admins” a of WhatsApp group called Enugu Political Arena, where “comments were alleged to have offended certain persons at the echelon of power in the state”.

Prison broke these young men. Akpa, for instance, was arrested a day or so after his wedding, and that is tough to handle. So, when they were eventually freed, Stockholm Syndrome set in. They alleged oppressors made some irresistible offers including freedom, and what was witnessed was a 180-degree switch of allegiance.

If in 2023, given the seismic shifts in Nigerian politics from June 2022 till date, Mbah believes that a strategy that worked in 2021 could still be effective, then someone must be giving him reports from the wrong political barometer. Unlike before, when PDP was the Alpha and Omega of leadership in the state, these tectonic changes appear to have shaken the party off its perch at the top of the food chain, down to a struggling underdog. Even Ossai, given the opportunity, would be willing to undo what was credited to him in June 2021. Although he was able to win the trio to his side, the story of how those boys were left to rot in prison and allegedly made to sign undertakings as conditions for their release would forever dog his political footsteps.

And that is why the growing paper tiger in Nsukka Local Government Area, Walter Ozioko should be cautioned to refrain from suicidal political steps he is said to have taken.

The story of Ozioko is a pathetic one. Since joining politics riding on the magic carpet laid by his cousin, he has succeeded in ballooning his ego just like the ones before him, who hug demagoguery like it is a prerequisite for exercising political power.

I recall a story of how his siren-blaring convoy of thugs attempted to beat up my brother at a restaurant sometime last year. To have his launch, the Nsukka Local Government Chairman organises a decently long convoy of cars and “men”, who, in any case, would dine and wine at the expense of the Local Council.

I recall the stories of intimidation ascribed to him when the Labour Party began to open offices in many parts of Nkpunano Ward. And then the most recent story of how these thugs allegedly manhandled the Arumona Aboh of Umakashi, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuja, for no other crime other than insisting that the traditional procedure of blessing the kola nut be adhered to.

While Chief Ugwuja is neither a politician nor of the opposition stock, his problem with Walter allegedly emanated from a purported move by the Local Council Chairman and his influential cousin, to get the government to carve a new autonomous community out of Umakashi community in a manner that allegedly violated the historical and ancestral community homogeneity. In a video that was made available to me, Ugwuja was one of the voices that spoke against the creation of the autonomous community and, according to him, the Local Government Chairman has not forgiven him for taking that position.

For someone who came into political power, not of his own making, but by dint of another person’s hard work and network, Ozioko is banking strings of karmic political negatives than is good for him. And to begin to think that he is presently dreaming of winning the House of Representatives ticket come 2027, one can only conclude of a terribly unimaginative person.

I doubt if the Enugu PDP has any thinking strategists in their ranks. Even if they had, the culture of producing demagogues as leaders would certainly have blinded them to the realities on the ground.

The party is struggling to reach the people. The party is completely disconnected from its leadership nationally because no one was brave enough to tell the governor that following his “G5” journey with Governor Wike was bound to be counterproductive because while Wike would not be on the ballot come February, Governor Ugwuanyi would be, and we all know what role the national exco would have been playing for the party’s candidates in Enugu, especially as it battles many court cases threatening its participation in the elections.

Okuhu is a specialist brand critic and public relations strategist, serial author, among other competencies. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish.

This article was first published in https://ikemsjournal.com.ng/

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