Gradually, the debate over 2023 is building up in Enugu State, especially in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
At the centre of the debate at the moment is which of the three zones should replace the incumbent administration of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Attempt to solve the power shift agitation began in 1999, when leaders of the state, especially from the plank of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), agreed to move power in turns from one senatorial district to another.
Although the idea was not written down, applying it practically into Enugu power equations since then has ensured rotating the governorship seat among the three zones, beginning with Enugu East from 1999 – 2007, Enugu West from 2007 – 2015 and currently Enugu North, with its tenure beginning in 2015.
If proponents of a power shift in the state were to stick to the unwritten code, the governorship seat would move to Enugu East with ease in 2023 and to others, as has been the case since 1999. However, as Enugu North zone prepares to serve out its turn in 2023, thereby completing the first leg of the power rotation arrangement in the state, fresh arguments are beginning to emerge that interrogate the power equation arrangement. Those interrogating the arrangement are adducing several reasons to advance their position.
Findings by The Guardian show that the arguments are hinged on four major planks. These include those who want the power to be retained in Enugu North after 2023. Proponents of this position are insisting that the zone, being the last to benefit from the first leg of the rotation arrangement and complete its full cycle, it was appropriate that the second phase of the power rotation should begin with it.
The other plank nonetheless insists that power should return to Enugu East, as it was their turn in line with the unwritten convention in the state. They stress that 16 years without control of executive power has become a serious setback in the growth and development of the area. The third plank of canvassers wants the contest to be thrown open for all-comers in the state. The group derives its strength from the fact that the three zones have benefited from the first leg of the rotation, stressing that any zone that wins in the open bid would have signalled the beginning of the second phase of the rotation.
The fourth but feeble clamour is coming from greater Awgu in Awgu Local Government Area of the state, which feels greatly marginalised in the scheme of things in the state. Although the people of Awgu, who are part of Enugu West Senatorial District, whose turn at governorship was taken by Sullivan Chime from Udi Local Government Area in 2007, also insist that they should be treated as the “fourth zone of the state, based on the old order that made it part of the three districts of Enugu State”.
But while buttressing their call for power to be retained in Enugu North beyond 2023, an advocacy group from the zone, Igbo Nsukka United Forum (INUF), which rose from a meeting recently, took an inventory of distribution of resources and projects in Enugu State and returned with a verdict that the area has been terribly short-changed even though they constitute over 60 per cent of the state’s population. The forum listed their grievances in a statement signed by its National Secretary, Ogbuja Ogbu.
While explaining that they have suffered the worst form of marginalization in the allocation of Enugu State’s resources, they regretted that the zone was only able to produce the state governor in Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, when his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not in power at the federal level. They were also quick to point at the fact that the absence of PDP at the national level is a hindrance to the much-needed federal presence in Enugu North to balance the array of projects in Enugu East and Enugu West Senatorial Districts.
The body also listed the projects cited in Enugu East Senatorial zone, which, according to them, has less than 20 per cent of the population of the state to include: The Enugu State Government House, all the federal and state’s ministries, all the federal and state parastatals and agencies, Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, all the campuses of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, University of Nigeria and Enugu Campus, ESUT Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu State College of Education Technical (ESCET).
Others are Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Federal Orthopedic Hospital, School of Dental Studies, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, all the major markets, Emene Industrial Layout, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Nigeria Law School, Agbani, National Open University, Trans-Ekulu Enugu and Federal College of Education, Eha-Amufu, among others.
On Enugu West Senatorial Zone, which they alleged has less than 16 per cent of the state’s population, they said the following projects exist: Coca Cola Depot, Ngwo, 7UP Bottling Company, Nigeria Breweries, Ama; Federal Road Safety Academy, Udi; Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo; Police College, Oji River; College of Health and Technology, Oji River; Oji River Dam; Enugu State University of Education, Awgu and NYSC Orientation Camp, among others.
They thus lamented: “When it comes to Enugu North, which has over 64 per cent of the state’s population, we have only half of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and nothing more. We do not even have up to one full-fledged institution, while Enugu East Senatorial Zone has 19 and more and Enugu West Senatorial Zone has 10 and more institutions.
“As a matter of fact, the major faculties of the University of Nigeria Nsukka are all situated in Enugu Campus in Enugu East Senatorial Zone, such as the Faculties of Law and Medicine; departments of Architecture, Urban and Regional Planning, Nursing, and others.
“This level of marginalization is not only unfair but inhuman. This is coupled with the fact that not even a single soul from Nsukka has ever been made the Vice-Chancellor of UNN, having qualified for it on several occasions”.
To further justify their demand, they said: “During the tenure of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani as governor, Enugu East had the Senate President, Sen. Ken Nnamani and a minister, Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr. They pulled forces together and developed their place, carefully excluding Isi-Uzo Local Government Area in their plans.
“The case was the same during the tenure of Mr. Sullivan Chime. Both then Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremmadu, Ministers Fidelia Njeze and Prof. Chinedu Nebo and UNN Vice-Chancellor, Prof Bartho Okolo all joined hands to develop and empower their zone.
“However, when it came to the turn of Enugu North, the only man standing is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. He alone is left to do the whole work of development and empowerment of Enugu North at a time his party is not the ruling party at the centre, thereby leaving Enugu North with almost nothing!
“Enugu North should not be given a back seat when we are the majority. We are rightfully demanding to retain the position of Enugu State governor come 2023 and that never again shall we be sidelined in deciding our own destiny.”
In the same vein, canvassers for an open contest believe that the initiators of the rotation arrangement never endorsed a clockwise movement that must begin with Enugu East senatorial zone. They insist that since the first cycle has been completed, the wise thing is to allow all the three zones to compete such that, “we shall start the counting with whichever zone that wins the governorship”.
Drawing from the experiences of 1999, the forum held that Chimaroke Nnamani, who contested and won the election of that year, did not do so as the sole candidate from Enugu East or the state.
“Nnamani ran the election with other candidates produced from other political parties in the state,” Jude Ugwu, from Okpatu in Udi Local Government Area in Enugu West, canvassed. “These candidates came from Enugu West and Enugu North but he eventually won. It was after his election that discussion about rotation started. Therefore, if we had that kind of idea then, nothing stops us from repeating the same, so that in the end, anybody that wins will help us determine the next zone that should produce his successor”.
However, a former National Auditor of the party, Chief Ray Nnaji, insisted that neither clamour for retention of power in Enugu North nor throwing the contest open should hold water, stressing that it is the turn of Enugu East and that the state has had its fair share of crisis that should not be resuscitated by selfish ambitions.
Nnaji stated that Enugu East, which voluntarily ceded power to Enugu West, had waited for 16 years in limbo and was not prepared to continue to wait. He insisted that the fact that certain institutions are located in Enugu East is not the making of the zone. He stressed that it was not a yardstick for retention of power by Enugu North or complaint of marginalization.
“You don’t move anti-clockwise when a circle has gone round,” Nnaji said. “Things are not done that way. It is either these people are being mischievous or doing somebody’s bidding. The position from Awgu, that it is the fourth zone, is uncalled for. It is three zones and anybody canvassing this fourth zone is not doing the state any favour. It is the turn of Enugu East and if we (Enugu East) wanted to be foolish, we had the opportunity of retaining power in the zone. We decided not to be selfish, but if they want to act like people without tomorrow, let them start it and we will be here, watching them. Enugu East people will not do anything to truncate the power equation. All we know is that power should return to Enugu East in 2023.”
Perhaps, it is the realisation of how difficult it might be to sell the power retention clamour to other zones that Governor Ugwuanyi has concentrated efforts in developing Enugu North, knowing that an opportunity to develop the zone might not come in a long while.
A source stated that the governor has done more projects in Enugu North than in any other area of the state, stressing that “all these are geared towards giving the zone a fresh breath”.
He argued that the Ugwuanyi administration has not done a single new project in Enugu City, adding, “what we have witnessed is the maintenance of those done by previous administrations the much the government could.”
“Well, if that will settle this rising debate, there is no problem. But my only worry is that certain infrastructure in the state have suffered on account of developing one senatorial zone, which is not in the interest of the state,” Ikechukwu Orji, a stalwart of All Progressives Congress (APC), said.