The statement by the ex-Prime Minister of Britain and the erstwhile leader of Labour Party, Rt Hon Harold Wilson in October 1964, few days before his party became victorious that “24 hours in politics is a long time” comes to mind when one preys into the political calculus that played out in Enugu. The intrigues in the trado-political headquarters of the defunct Biafra nation in the 2019 general elections which saw the political comeback of the former governor of the state, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani as Senator after eight years of wallowing in the depth of political wilderness.
Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, the gladiator of Enugu politics who led the famous ‘Ebeano’ government as state governor from 1999-2007 was the bride of the people, his striking feature of intellectual sagacity which reflects in his ability to recollect the names of anybody that had come close to him and call them by their names at the slightest encounter endeared him to the people and bestowed him with a cult-like fellowship especially among the young people in the state. The history of his political sojourn in the Lion Building will not be perfectly rendered without the mention of his mentorship of the younger generation of politicians in the state.
It was his drive to include the youths in the governance of the state that has made it possible for ‘Ebeano boys’ to occupy 90% of the political space in the state. Most of the political office holders today had direct or indirect contact and benefited from his overwhelming benevolence in the past. The current governor of the state, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi attested to this fact when he stated during the reception ceremony held for Dr Chimaroke by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the former governor impacted his life politically and made it possible for him to be governor.
However, the honeymoon between Dr Nnamani and his political godsons did not last long as the cycle of betrayal of predecessors and godfathers which started in the state with the humiliation of his predecessor, Chief James Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra state who played a paramount role in the emergence of Chimaroke. His romance with his successor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime went sour days after he won PDP’s Guber primaries in the state. The rift was speculated to have stemmed from the choice of the deputy candidate of the 2007 PDP Guber train.
Whatever was the cause of that standoff, it led to bitter politics; shuddered the political grip of Dr Nnamani on the state. He was in the National Assembly as the Senator representing Enugu North but he never swam the murky waters of the legislative politics successfully as his successor, sworn to send him into political albatross, unleashed the EFCC against him. It was late President Sukarno of Indonesia that was alleged to have invented the saying that “to force down the political empire of a strong politician, you must first collapse his source of income”. The anti-graft agency became instrumental in that regard rendering Dr Chimaroke a ‘walking shadow’ by impounding all his properties and major companies including the famous Cosmos 105.5 FM, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital, 22 Duplex Buildings in Fidelity estate, uncountable plots of land, Rainbownet Nigeria Limited among others.
He was weakened financially and thus became politically deadened. I was visibly shaking when I met Dr Chimaroke on one occasion as a student of the prestigious University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC). He looked beggarly and lean. The ‘sheather’ he was wearing could hardly price above N5000 and he looked like he had not eaten for days. I went into a pensive mood immediately. I had seen him, bright and glamorous in the past when he commanded power and affluence in the entire state. Power is really transient. His hoard of supporters and political godsons distanced themselves from him. Nobody goes where he would not have plenty to eat and reserve some for the days to come, this, unfortunately, defines our political alignment and loyalty in this part of the world.
I remember how the politics of goodwill played out in the 2015 Enugu South Senatorial elections where Dr Chimaroke contested under the platform of the People’s Democratic Change (PDC) having been forced out of the ruling PDP by his political protege and successor Chime. It was a fierce contest between Nnamani and another two powerful candidates, Gilbert Nnaji and late Hon Ozonwabueze Okafor popularly called ‘Okpochengene’ by his political associates indicating the infrastructural development he brought to his rural village and other villages in his local government council when he was the council chairman. After the political gimmicks and intrigues, Nnaji of the PDP was declared the winner.
Many students, though, protested across Enugu South, holding obstinately that Chimaroke won the election. He was shown overwhelming support by many including UNEC students who clustered the voting centres to cast sympathy vote for him and his party chiefly in recognition of his long-standing political goodwill. That was the last fight of a dying man, the last kick of a slain horse. All hope was lost. He tactically withdrew from active politics and retired to his Nkanu native home. That was his sorrowful situation, an active kingmaker and political godfather of many now watching from the rare as his boys play the game.
It was so until the unforeseen political event that catapulted him into the mainstream politics of the state played out. The unfortunate, yet eventful defection of Chime from the PDP to APC allegedly to clinch the Senatorial ticket of Enugu West Senatorial zone not feasible as he was from the same zone with the then incumbent Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. The battle for that ticket between Ekweremadu and Sullivan was so intense that it birthed an intra-party crisis which nearly robbed PDP of the state in 2015. His exit was in total submission to the old saying that ‘two Rams cannot drink off a bucket’.
Some persons speculated that Sullivan left to save himself from an impending corruption trial. However, whatever school of thought one ascribes, it is certain that Dr Chimaroke would see it differently, from an angle of divine intervention to quickly reinvigorate him into political relevance in the state and in the country at large. As it became a political reality in 2019 that for Ugwuanyi to be re-elected as Governor of Enugu state, he needed the political resources (support) of Dr Nnamani to rebuff the opposition Chime’s APC would pull against him at the polls. It was the only viable option if he must retain his seat.
The joy in Chimaroke’s face said it all. It was unbelievable for him. He suddenly became rehabilitated, equipped and handed the Enugu South senatorial ticket of the state through which he made a victorious come back to the National Assembly after wandering despondently in political oblivion for eight gruelling years. Does this vitiate the above quote of Harold Wilson?