Activities for 2019 general elections are in top gear in Enugu State. In some public places, joints and eateries, residents talk about the exercise and what the outcome could be.The city is awash with campaign posters and billboards. The airwaves are not left out, as they are saturated with competing jingles of candidates and political parties with messages of hope and why residents should vote for them.
Vehicles have been branded in different party colours. Some buildings, given out by owners to serve as campaign offices, are wearing colours and flags of parties flyon them. Political meetings are held daily, apparently to perfect strategies for the campaign proper.
Of all the seats being contested in the state, one that has gained much prominence and in the centre of discussions is the governorship seat, which has been narrowed between candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Ayogu Eze.
Ugwuanyi and Eze are brothers. They hail from Enugu north senatorial zone, which presently enjoys the benefit of producing a governor for the next four years, based on the unwritten rotational arrangement enunciated by PDP among the three zones.
The duo had, at different times, represented each other at the National Assembly. In fact, while Eze represented Enugu north, covering Ugwuanyi’s Udenu local government in the Senate between 2007 and 2015; Ugwuanyi represented Ayogu’s Igboeze north and Udenu federal constituency at the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2015.
All these they did as PDP members until 2015 general elections, when the governorship seat was zoned to Enugu north. The duo participated in the party’s governorship primary, and Ayogu Eze lost to Ugwuanyi in a contest that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
With another elections beckoning, both men have returned to the political ring for the state’s number one slot. The interesting thing is that the two are coming from two different political parties, and are desirous of making a mark. While Eze would want to prove he was actually “ripped off” at the last primary he contested in PDP, Ugwuanyi would want to convince the electorate he actually earned the victory he got at that primary.
He would also want to show that the popularity he has garnered as governor is not a fluke, and that the PDP under him has grown much stronger than what he inherited from his predecessors.To kick-start the process, the governor, through his campaign team, declared a seven-day prayer and fasting session for peace and violence-free elections in the state. The event started with a Mass at Government House on December 1 and ended on December 7.
Director General of PDP campaign organisation in the state, Dr. Charles Egumgbe said the exercise was “in keeping with our tradition of entrusting the state’s affairs to God’s hands, for peaceful, transparent and violence-free elections in 2019, which Enugu State is known for.”He urged residents to pray for “issue-based, smooth and successful campaigns in the state,” assuring that the PDP led government would through God’s grace, continue to maintain the tempo of peace and security in the state for the people to continue to enjoy the dividends of democracy.
There is no doubt that the call for peace could have been triggered by certain activities from both camps, especially on the destruction of opponent’s billboards and campaign posters in the state. Enugu was agog with accusations and counter-accusations of destruction of campaign billboards in the wake of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s visit to the state to unveil the campaign office of Senator Eze and launch of Sullivan Chime’s book, “An honour to serve.”
To underscore its preparation for the exercise, the PDP last week intensified efforts at reconciling aggrieved members, especially those that lost in the contest for the tickets to the National Assembly.The disagreement that arose from the primaries was one that threatened the party’s unity, as many members believed they were seriously ‘ripped off’ after they were made to procure forms. Majority of them had alleged that the outcome of the primaries were pre-determined, but were made to purchase the forms under the guise that the contests would be free and fair. They had moved to work against the party’s electoral fortunes.
But the Vita Abba-led reconciliation committee, set up by the party, had engineered peace, which has brought back the likes of Chief OAU Onyema, who ran in the primary for Enugu West senatorial zone and Prof David Ngene, who ran for Enugu East senatorial zone primary.
When contacted, both men declared readiness to “work together and ensure that the party, being supreme, delivers all its candidates in tandem with our policy in Enugu State.”Although Ugwuanyi is yet to launch his campaign for the eventual second term, what is very likely is that he may not deviate from the consolidation and continuity he promised the people four years ago.
This was encapsulated in a four-point agenda that includes employment generation, enhanced social services and good governance, rural development and security and justice. Ugwuanyi promised to develop at least one serviced industrial estate in each senatorial zone in the state, with the first of such to be commissioned during his first year in office, as well as targeting and lobbying manufacturing companies to establish plants in the industrial estates and privatising government owned companies, among others, as part of his employment generation.
He also promised to continue providing equipment and logistic support to relevant official security agencies in the state, reform the neighbourhood watch programme to make it more effective, implement youth programmes and activities that would keep young people busy, as well as reform children that have been lured into crime.
He said he would continue implementation of free basic education, continuous training and retraining of teachers, providing enhanced funding to education sector, enhance quality of health services provided in the rural health facilities by providing incentives to medical personnel to work, award of scholarships to indigent and deserving students, among others, as part of his social services and good governance.
ON the other hand, Senator Eze has not hidden his intention to give PDP a run for its money. Aside acquiring and unveiling as his campaign office, the building that produced Sullivan Chime and Ugwuanyi as governors in the state, last week, he also launched a 13-point manifesto.
Titled: “A new dawn,” Eze told the gathering at his campaign office, where the event held that he was going to be driven by the vision to uplift the people to a pedestal that would make them independent, confident and self-reliant. He said his contract with his people is to run an effective goal-oriented administration that would be efficient and prudent, and that he would be accountable to them if elected.
He promised to conduct government business in an open manner that had never been seen in that part of the country. He also said he would set goals and timelines for government to achieve every aspect of the manifesto, while promising to bring employment, development and work. Within the first one year in office, he promised to provide adequate water.
Eze said his government would train artisans, as well as develop coal camp, where people could create wealth for themselves. He promised to ensure that before retirement age, workers’ gratuity would be ready; and that his government would build a film village in Enugu and supply them with equipment to enable actors and actresses to return to life. These and more he promised, if voted into power.
He urged the people to give him a chance by voting for APC, as that would build a new and beneficial Enugu for all.His party has also made an inroad by ensuring that aggrieved persons were pacified to ensure they work together for the party’s victory in the coming elections. The peace process is being midwifed by former Governor Sullivan Chime and others.
The activities of Chime committee received the boost of the presidential reconciliation committee headed by Kano State governor, Umar Ganduje, which was in Enugu last Sunday to placate the aggrieved, with the promise that the party would not abandon them.As the candidates go into campaigns proper, they would be expected to convince residents how these promises would be realised in the next four years to enable them get their votes for either continuity in office in 2019 or a new governor on the saddle.