Enugu State electorates will, like the rest of Nigerians in various states of the federation, head to the polls on March 11, 2023 to elect new leadership. But for the state, one thing is already almost certain: Peter Mbah, CEO of Pinnacle Petroleum, will be the next chief executive; the man to take over from the incumbent governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Mbah, 50, an ally of Chimaroke Nnamani, leader of the Ebeano political family who governed the state from 1999 to 2007, was anointed by Ugwuanyi, evidently on Nnamani’s recommendation and was formally unveiled on Monday, May 25, 2022, being the day for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary. It was the day Mbah was I reality ‘elected’ as governor of Enugu, but will still go through the formality of the ballot on March 11, 2023.
There will be an election in the state. The All Progressive Congress (APC), the country’s ruling party, produced Uche Nnaji, a businessman in his own right as governorship candidate for the state, while former minister of information, Frank Nweke Jnr, will be on the ballot, too, as candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
But even they ought to be aware that once a candidate emerges in PDP in Enugu, given the level of the party’s dominance in the state, it’s practically over, and would take extraordinary turn of events to prevent such candidate from occupying the Lion Building, the state government house.
Nweke, undoubtedly has pedigree, and Nnaji, being candidate of the ruling party ought to ordinarily be a contender, but in the context of Enugu politics, they are at best, ‘also runs.’ Mbah can already begin to count down on his swearing in as governor on May 29, 202, what would mark the return of the Ebeano political dynasty in the state, and its leader, Nnamani, from the wilderness of near political oblivion to the throne of political dominance one again.
Tomorrow, for the Ndi Enugu, has already begun, declared Mbah, who has become more active on microblogging site, Twitter of late.
“There is a solution. Yes, there is! Words shall soon match sustained actions. One step away and dance of fortune will start. Our tomorrow is here,” he wrote.
“I believe that Enugu State is a precious pearl before God. We as Ndi Enugu must hold this as a premium of love and so unite to make the state the pride of our land and forebears. We are first brothers and sisters in love with our Coal City before we part to our respective parties
“Be it party this or party that …we must hold our hands together in love and unite to build and to forge ahead. Love is stronger than hatred. Let us love one another as God first loved us. Our tomorrow is here.”
The decision of Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy senate president who had aspired to the governorship, to thrown in the towel last week, opting to finally back Mbah, after failing to make inroads into the APC, means that the coast is now almost completely clear for the oil mogul to emerge next governor, and indeed, tomorrow has already begun in Enugu.
“We won together as there was no vanquished in that primary election. More than ever before, all the aspirants won my heart for their sense of sportsmanship,” Mbah told Ekweremadu, among other PDP aspirants in the state who have since opted to support him.
“I thank all of them, without exception, for this demonstration of support and I can assure them that if Enugu people give us their votes and we enter the Lion Building, we shall all have stakes in the government.”
Among aspirants who stood down their aspirations to back him are: Captain Evarest Nnaji, Prof. Barth Nnaji, Senator Gil Nnaji, Mr. Chijioke Edeoga, Sir Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa, Rev. Raphael Nwoye, Dr. Josef Ken Onoh and Engr. Erasmus Anike. The rest are Prof Hillary Odo-Edeoga, Dr. GOC Ajah, Pastor Beloved Dan Anike, Dr. Kingsley Udeh, Prof Jehu Nnaji, Dr Abraham Chukwudi Nneji, Barr Nwabueze Ugwu and Chief Chikwado Chukwunta.
Mbah said had received phone calls and visits from virtually all the 16 aspirants who contested with him in the governorship primary and all of them pledged their loyalty to and continued support for the togetherness of the PDP in Enugu State.
Ekweremadu, who was the only aspirant not to participate in the primary having gone to court to challenge the ad-hoc delegates list, said on Thursday that he took the decision to withdraw from the race after holding wide consultations with some elders of the party and his political associates across the country.
The lawmaker said he had made plans and developed strategies to transform the state, but regretted that some persons conspired against him and “planted landmines” to frustrate his rescue and transformation mission in the state.
He said he also witnessed “betrayals and high level of ingratitude” in his journey, but said he remained focused on his vision for the state.
“After considering the current security situation in the South-east region and the need not to put anybody in harms way by a foreseeable combustive political environment, as my ambition is not worth the life of any Enugu son or daughter, I, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, hereby formally withdraw from the 2023 gubernatorial contest in Enugu State. I congratulate Peter Mbah and wish him success,” he declared.
Ekweremadu, had stressed, however, that he had received “assurances” from the governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Mbah, that he would integrate the roadmap in his programme for the state as well as ensure participation of everybody in his government.
The Enugu West senator had been the only aspirant outside the Enugu East Senatorial district, the Nkanu zone, which by the state’s zoning arrangement, is to produce the next governor. He had insisted that since the governorship seat had rotated to the three senatorial districts, it could start all over again from any other district.
But he was practically alone in his line of thought, as virtually all political stakeholders in the state backed power return to Enugu East where it began with Nnamani in 1999, before going to Enugu West with Sullivan Chime in 2007 and eventually Enugu North in 2015 with the emergence of Ugwuanyi.
The destined emergence of Mbah, who is from Owo in Nkanu West Council Area, Enugu East District, means that the zoning arrangement remains intact, and Ekweremadu can aspire once again, in 2032 when it would the turn of his senatorial district.
But Mbah’s emergence also signals the return of the Ebeano dynasty, a dynasty many in the state remember mostly for its brutality. Mbah served as chief of staff to the Enugu State Governor and Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development of the Enugu State Government, all under Nnamani, who as governor, took no prisoners.
Mbah is a known ally of the former governor, who currently represents Enugu East in the senate, and had started Pinnacle Petroleum during his reign as governor in 2004, what many believe was the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. Regardless, Mbah has since proved himself as a brilliant entrepreneur, taking Pinnacle to great heights, even if he is coming as a largely unknown quantity; from relative obscurity, just like Nnamani, Chime and Ugwuanyi before him.
Enugu under Nnamani’s reign witnessed series of politics inspired violence, even as his performance in terms of infrastructure was largely underwhelming. Indeed, it was with a sign of relief that the state’s populace welcomed his successor, Chime, who upon assuming office, chose a different path, shunned the Ebeano family that brought him into power and birthed his own political family, Ebe Ana Eje (where we are going), to contrast with Ebeano (where we are).
Chime succeeded in practically crushing the Ebeano dynasty, brought back peaceful political atmosphere in the state and achieved a commendable feat in the development of infrastructure. He changed the face of Enugu, built new roads and importantly brought an end to politics of violence.
The Ebeano group fought him for a season, but eventually figured out that they were holding the wrong end of the stick. Soon Nnamani broke away from the PDP and formed the People for Democratic Change (PDC), but failed to pose any sort of threat to Chime and the PDP in the state.
The Udi born lawyer, turned governor, had successfully decimated Nnamani and his team, and warmed the heart of Enugu people, such that he was hailed as a hero by the time he left office in 2015, and Ugwuanyi, his anointed successor, had promised to replicate his feat such that history would kind to him, too.
The Orba, Udenu local government area born former member of the house of representatives, stepped into the saddle in 2015. He showed flashes of brilliance initially, but ultimately failed to match his predecessor.
Many say Enugu has retrogressed significantly under his stewardship. Reviews of his performance are largely negative, and he has further blighted his legacy by handing the state back to the Ebeano group.
Recently a video of him dancing with his wife before Nnamani attracted widespread criticism by many who couldn’t stomach the “embarrassment” of a sitting governor dancing before a discredited ex-governor.
“After failing to do much as governor, Ugwuanyi had the one last opportunity to make amends by handing over to a competent hand,” said Mr. Sam Eze, a political analyst. “But he in the event, he has decided to end in infamy by handing us back to Ebeano. It’s such a shame.”
But Nnamani who took the state university, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) from the capital city to Agbani, his Nkanu area, built a number of roads in the area, while also empowering many youths in Nkanu land, remains popular in his primary constituency, even as the rest of the state held him in contempt.
His attempt to go to senate in 2015, through PDC, witnessed a lot of approval from his Nkanu people, who on election day, trooped to the polling booths to vote for him. But he was stopped by Chime who ensured that Gilbert Nnaji, the then largely unpopular incumbent, returned to the red chamber.
Frustrated by what he saw as stealing of his mandate, Nnamani went to court, but failed to overturn the verdict of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which pronounced Nnaji winner.
However, in 2017 with Ugwuanyi now governor, he returned to the PDP, and in 2019, won election into the senate; what marked his resurrection from political oblivion, courtesy of Ugwuanyi, who has now completed the resuscitation of his former boss by handing the state back to his hands through Mbah who many as his proxy.
However, Mbah would be the chief executive of the state, barring extraordinary turn of events, and as chief executive, may yet chose his own path.