Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor and strongman of Enugu Politics reclaims mandate to represent Enugu East Senatorial Zone after a return to PDP.By Victor Ugborgu
After seven years in political limbo, Chimaroke Nnamani , former Governor of Enugu state has staged a comeback to the politics of the state and heartbeat of democracy in the country. Courtesy of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, the platform through which he won election to become governor of the state for two terms in the past, Nnamani, strong man of Enugu politics whom many prefer to call Ebeano, will be among new entrants to the 9th Senate which will be inaugurated in June this year.
Before emerging flag bearer of PDP during the primaries, Nnamani had been away from the state for over one year. He moved to the United States of America at a time the politics of the state was unfavourable to him. He returned to clinch the PDP’s senatorial ticket for Enugu East Senatorial District in a keenly contested primary election in the state.
In the February 23, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly election, Nnamani reclaimed the senate seat he occupied between 2007 and 2011 before the alleged political conspiracy by Sullivan Chime, his successor, which kept the former in political oblivion.
In 2011, Nnamani sought for re-election into the senate on a new platform, People for Democratic Change, PDC, after he was literally chased out of the PDP by Chime and other prominent politicians in the state who felt unease by Nnamani’s intimidating political dexterity.
Also in the 2015, he vied for the same seat on the same platform, a political party established by his formidable Ebeano political group,following his defection from the PDP.
He was also floored by Gil Nnaji, the incumbent senator both in the election and at the Supreme Court.
Nnamani later returned to his old house, the PDP, which he helped to institutionalize in the state. His return rattled Chime, the immediate past governor and he decided to defect to the All Progressives Congress, APC. He was said to be jittery with the presence of Nnamani
being in the same party with him.
In the 2018 primary election Nnamani defeated the current senator, Gil Nnaji and others.
In the ensuing National Assembly elections of February 23, 2019, he won in a landslide with a wide margin as he scored a total of 128,843 votes to trounce his closest rival, Lawrence
Ezeh, who garnered 14,225 votes while Uchenna Agbo of APGA came third with 1,586 votes.
Nnaji later lost in his bid to upturn the ticket given to Nnamani. The senator had in October, 2018, after the primary election approached an Abuja Federal High Court, asking that his name be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the PDP candidate for the Senatorial District even when he came fourth in the result announced by the party after the primary election.He, however, went to court, where he claimed through his counsel,Onyinye Mbanefo, that Nnamani was not present during the PDP screening of candidates and as such was not qualified to stand for the primary elections.
He further claimed that he came second in the election and was the rightful candidate.
The case was later transferred to Enugu on the orders of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
- Anyigbo, Counsel to Nnamani in his defence told the court that the suit was statute barred and argued that the course of action should have arisen after the PDP screening which the plaintiff (Nnaji)claimed Senator Nnamani did not attend. There was also drama halfway into the suit as another aspirant, Mr. Chinedu Nneji indicated interest to be joined in the matter. Nneji,who came second, prayed the court that in the event of Nnamani’s disqualification, he should be declared the rightful candidate of the party.
Delivering judgement, Justice Buba Mohammed said Nnaji appeared in person to give testimony where he claimed to have come second in the PDP primary.He held that as the plaintiff failed to institute the action within the period as provided by the law, the matter was dead and the court held that the suit was statute barred and should be dismissed.
Verbatim investigation showed that many people are happy that once again, a vibrant person would represent Enugu East senatorial zone at the national assembly.Ray Nnaji, a legal practitioner and former commissioner of sports in the state said it was a good omen that Chimaroke Nnamani has bounced back to political limelight. “Good omen in the sense that positive representation will return in Enugu East senatorial zone. He is the only past governor with human mind and capacity development that people will continue to remember. He looks at the pros and cons in governance. Unfortunately, people attributed to him what he did not do, but now they know better”. Ray Nnaji told Verbatim that Nnamani would be in the senate courtesy of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who wanted to mend fence with the former governor over some uncompromising attitudes meted out to him. “Before now Nnamani was not happy with the way he was treated in the last local government election by the governor. Do you know that Chimaroke wept on phone when I spoke with him about the happenings in the state?
I also drew the attention of the governor to that impasse. I reminded the governor how Chimaroke Nnamani made him what he is today, first by sending him to the National assembly as a member of the House of Representatives. But in the last local government election, Nnamani was not consulted before someone was “anointed”. Thank God the governor realized his mistakes and supported his senatorial ambition”, Nnaji said.
According to Nnaji, other senators before Nnamani were equally good.
Jim Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra state was there between 1999 and 2003. Ken Nnamani took over from Nwobodo and eventually became the senate president, but the same cannot be said of Gil Nnaji,who is short of responsible representation. “To recall him was a big task and so we waited for the right time to stop him. He should be satisfied for ever going to the senate, though he is still fighting for the ticket”.
Nnaji told Verbatim that Nnamani‘s road to the senate in 2019 was a walkover, no matter who other parties presented. “He still has his political structure that delivered him in the senatorial election. That is to tell you how strong he is. The same cannot be said of the former governor, Sullivan Chime even as he moved from one party to the other, he has no political clout. The emergence of Chimaroke Nnamani will be an added advantage to us in the zone. Even in the past elections, he has been winning, but the final result never favoured him. But that never affected his popularity in the state. No matter the quality of candidates from other parties, I am sure that Chimaroke Nnamani will triumph at the polls any day any time”, Nnaji assured.
Chuka Utazi, senator representing Enugu North said the coming back of Chimaroke was a wise decision in the right direction as one of the foundation governors of PDP in 1999 that the party would not afford to Miss.Raymond Nnaji, who was a former National Auditor of the PDP and a lawyer, said that Nnamani’s victory was because he returned to his “rightful party,” stressing that the Enugu East Senatorial zone is now formidable and complete and ready to do battle with any political party in subsequent elections.
He said, “Nnamani’s return is the tonic that PDP requires to win elections in Enugu State. He has returned to the party, which he helped to institutionalize in the state. He actually returned to the PDP a long time, but we decided to make it a secret. Sullivan Chime, the immediate past governor, realized that Nnamani had returned and decided to quit the PDP. This is because; he cannot face Nnamani in the party.”
On his return to the senate for the second term, Utazi said Nnamani cannot be threatened by opponents or forces, explaining that his scorecard at the red cambers in the past spoke for him on the Election Day.
From all indications, Nnamani is currently enjoying the interest and support exhibited by people of the state over his return to the senate. Speaking through Dan Nwomeh, his Media Adviser, he has been appreciative of the huge interest of the people of the state in his current political affiliation.