Meet the four frontrunners in Enugu guber race, their chances

by Amos Kalu
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Outsiders and resident political neophytes have quaked and shivered over the noises generated by the activities of social media crusaders on who leads the pack of four frontrunners in the governorship election of Enugu State. 

The attendant disturbances have snowballed into name calling and charges, often accentuated in denial of profiles of the contenders, to score some cheap points. Those who had been of the Ebeano political organization now deny their membership and join in clubbing it to the ground. The ones who are kit and kin and thorough bred Gburugburu is swearing to high heavens like Peter before the killers of Jesus Christ that they neither, ever, heard of Ebeanoism no smelt Gburugburuism. One is exploiting the persecution sentiment of people of a different senatorial zone if only to lay an exclusive claim to some assumed block vote.

Yours truly understands the backgrounds, the substantiated and the spurious claims in these. And please, never miss the point; these are normal in Nigeria’s political genre.

Foremost of the frontrunners, Peter Ndubisi Mbah, 50, attorney at law, and native of Owo, in Nkanu East Local Government Area, is the governorship candidate of the PDP. Quiet, unassuming and soft spoken, he is an innovative business entrepreneur based in Lagos. He first got into the politics of Enugu State on invitation by Governor Chimaroke Nnamani. That was about 2003. First appointed the Chief of Staff, he later became the Commissioner for Finance. Then, as now, he was always benign, focused and purposeful. He avoided the rattles, rancor and razzmatazz of politics, especially the political circuses. Many actually thought that he was either shy or timid. And immediately after government, he proceeded back to Lagos, where he threw himself back into both formative and heady businesses. He never looked back, and had soon emerged a billionaire, at least in the Naira. Today, he plays in sectors like finance, investment, tourism/hospitality, real estate as well as the heady oil & gas, among others.

Mba was then not a first timer in businessman. He actually went into trading immediately after secondary education, buying and selling commodities and stuffs on the West coast – Lagos, Cotonou, Lome and Accra – among other merchantile routes along the Atlantic. Prior to joining government, he had already established and ran thriving private high schools in Lagos – the Focus International Schools Group. He had run a thriving trading company and had become rich when he went for his degree in Law. This makes it laughable when people make the spurious claims that he got rich by his participation in Government in Enugu State.

Not true. Mbah became the Chief of Staff about the same time I was appointed a Commissioner, having been upgraded from my position as Chief Press Secretary. Mbah has always been an ambitious businessman, who always complained, albeit quietly, that he missed his business runs. For those close to him, he never hid his dislike for being in political circle where some inexplicable bickering, often not leading to making business and trading deals, were endless.

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He commenced the oil & gas business from the scratch and made sudden strides by what he still calls simple disruptive innovation. He was the first to start out on what is called, ‘ship-to-dock barging.’ This is a kind of spot oil trading business. This meant running barges from tankers at high sea to docks, which helped in solving the problem of vessels waiting for months on end before securing the anchorage slots to enter and offload at the docks. Big players in the industry hardly considered such liberalized method of easing of the high pressure of lifting oil from giant tankers at sea to the docks. Before long, his business innovative was thriving and lucrative and he was in an upward swing in the field. So, when Mbah talks about ‘disruptive innovation’ as a kernel of his development plans, he appears to be stating what worked astoundingly for him..

Second of the quadruped is Frank Nweke Jnr, 57, of the APGA. He is a native of Ishi-Ozala in Nkanu West Local Government Area. He was the sleek, smooth, suave and urbane minister of Information in the Olusegun Obasanjo Federal Administration of 2004 to 2007. He first served as a Member of the Enugu Economic Team, 1999 – 2002, before he became the Chief of Staff to Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, he was actually succeeded by Dr. Mbah as he proceeded to Abuja to become a Minister. Contrary to the claims that Nnamani could not be challenged by his subordinates, this writer was a witness to many incidences where Nweke quietly, steadily and stubbornly disagreed with his principal. He once or twice got his principal to reverse his decisions to dismiss some political appointees on claims made by some local political chieftains. He shares this closeness and courage in dealing with the Principal with other capable strikers like Peter Mbah, Dan Shere, Chinyeaka Ohaa, and others not necessarily fitted to be mentioned here.

He has since been this usual roving deal maker, investment media promoter, social conciliator and informal diplomat, amidst playing politics as it comes along. Nweke is perpetually in search of peace and friendly relations.

When the books are written, he would not miss the description, ‘a sedate and serene surrogate of Chimaroke Nnamani,’ busting with immeasurable capacity, loyalty and courage. On that account, it is correct to state that Nweke deals, breathes and exudes Ebeano, without the oft claimed predilection to violence. He is not timid. More than once, this writer had heard Governor Nnamani growl, “Frank delivers…he is a smooth operator…he can go into any office in this land.” Nweke speaks the three major Nigeria languages, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa, with the flourish of downtown happy-go-luckies. Born and raised in Maiduguri, schooled in Lagos and of Ishi-Ozala, Nkanu parentage, he blows the Nkanu-Igbo dialect with the taunts, gestures, jabs-and-stabs of playmates in the typical village square.

The third is Chijioke Edeoga, 61, native of Eha Amufu. He is the Labour Party candidate, and has been openly stated to be a cousin of the present governor, Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi. Ugwuanyi who appointed him as a double-Commissioner for two ministries: Local Government and Environment.

He started his political career in the old Enugu State government of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo. By the time General Sani Abacha sacked all politicians, in 1993, he embarked on series of engagements and political forays, and soon headed for Lagos, where he joined yours truly and many other journalists in the Post Express newspapers, Apapa, Lagos. He was a Special Project Correspondent on the Special Projects Desk then headed by Mr. Chukwuemeka Gahia. This writer was then the Group Political Editor. Gahia, a seasoned journalist and fatherly personality later gave Edeoga a ‘privileged leave and cover’ as he returned to Enugu and successfully contested for the office of the Chairman, Isiuzo Local Government of Enugu State. In 1999, the Nwodos of Ukehe ensured a ‘packaging’ that landed him as the Member representing Isiuzo/Enugu East Federal Constituency, in the House of Representatives. Unable to return to the HoR after 2003, he was now ‘packaged’ by Governor Nnamani to be elected the President General of Nkanu Peoples Assembly.

So, Edeoga is a redoubtable Ebeano man, despite efforts to distance self from the political organization.

He is also a formidable Gburugburu practitioner, being the only and first ever, two-tenure double-ministerial-Commissioner in the Gburugburu administration. Strangely, though, the Ugwuanyi administration is strongly criticized for failed performances in three major departments of Government: waste management services, local government services and public water services. Edeoga, his cousin, headed the first two under the Ministries of Environment and Local Government.

Uche Nnaji (Nwakibie), 61, is a businessman said to have become a multimillionaire in several foreign currencies in his 20s. He first came into limelight in 1998 when he won the nomination to run for the Senate under the PDP. In display of rare quality of compromise and deference, he quietly conceded that networth political chance to former Governor Jim Nwobodo. He would not go to the Senate when a man of Nwobodo’s stature wanted the ticket; he was reported to have said.

This gesture pleased most of the people to no end. His brother, younger or older, Nnoli Nnaji, who was Commissioner for Public Utilities in the Nnamani administration, was said to have repeated this same outstanding characteristic recently. He was said to be interested in the Senate, but when he was confronted with the fact of ex-governor Nnamani being also interested, he quietly withdrew, saying, “I will not contest against my former boss.” Not a few who heard this, as this writer, doffed their hearts for him and his family – a family of loyal and considerate fellows, not given to desperation in their personal drives. Today, he is the only survivor of the Obi-dient storm which swept off every National Assembly member from Enugu State.

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By association with the Rep. Nnoli Nnaji; the mogul, Uche Nnajii is resoundingly an Ebeano, much as he may not have been a visible practitioner.

An outstanding problem against the governorship ambition of the business man can arise from the recent successes of his sibling, Nnoli Nnaji. The narrow escape from the Obi-dient storm is pleasurable but it will be a hard sell promoting the governorship ambition when one in the family is already a member of the Green Chambers.

Another likely challenge is that the big Nnaji – governorship aspirant – does not appear to have had any other political experience, safe the rumoured strong covert muscle which caused a turnaround for the emergence of a fourth-scorer as the governor of a State in the South East. Of course, it is wiser never to underrate one with such muscle in Nigeria.

So, in essence, the hope of the new dawn as being preached by each of the candidates is a possibility realizable only on the content of their offers via the manifesto. Incidentally, only the Manifesto of Peter Mbah is in full circulation. Others sweep about town with computer generated synopses of promises on offer.

If any will fail to deliver, it cannot be for want of experience in politics and government. So, let none play the innocent virgin or join in the blackmail of the others as Ebeano. All are Ebeano, while Edeoga, having been the longest on the political terrain, has the added toga of being a redoubtable Gburugburu practitioner.

Ogazimorah, former Enugu State Commissioner for Information Strategies, Culture & Tourism, is a legal practitioner.

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