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The forgotten Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Barr. Ifeanyi Ossai

It is beginning to look like Ifeanyi Ossai, who, on May 29, 2023, was sworn in as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State has been forgotten. Less than 80 days after he became the state’s citoyen numero deux, nothing has been heard of him, and it is beginning to appear as if he has been locked in a room and the key, thrown into that thick forest buffer behind Enugu Government House.

It was a former American Vice President, John Nance Garner, when asked about the importance of the office of the Vice President, said it was nothing but “A spare tire on the automobile of government.” Revisionists in Nigeria did their best to alter this definitive perception during the first term of former President Muhammadu Buhari by planting stories in the media, suggesting that the office of the vice president was not going to be like Garber’s “spare tyre” during their administration. While addressing healthcare professionals on February 2, 2015, one month before the election that brought President Buhari into power, then vice presidential candidate, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in response to a question, did state that the office of the Vice President under Buhari was not going to be like a spare tyre.

Osinbajo was right. He was not a spare tyre in the idle sense of the word. Although people believed he could have been put to better use, the Nigerian former number two man was very busy, even for a man occupying a position whose relevance was at the mercy of either the President himself or nature in whose hands is the timetable for all mortals. He was the head of the former President’s economic management team and also toured the country pushing TraderMoni and NPower, two interventionist programmes of the government.


I am not making a case for him, in case I am being misunderstood. I am one of those that strongly believe that the ticket that won the Enugu Governorship election was the one of Chijioke Edeoga/John Nwokeabia, not Peter Mbah/Ifeanyi Ossai, but while still waiting for justice to be done, I felt it was important to remind some of those who expected a different outcome from the Mbah-Ossai marriage to remember that I did predict immediately after the announcement by INEC that this was going to be the situation.

Vice President Osinbajo was everything but a spare tyre. A few times, he was even made the acting president in the absence of his principal; he exercised the power in that office to achieve some remarkable things, one of which was the sack of Justice Walter Onorghen on January 25, 2019, following a controversial ex parte order issued by the chairperson of the Code of Conduct Tribunal. That Buhari handed over power to him during some periods of his (prolonged) absence proved he was trusted and quite importantly, he was seen as relevant.

The case of Ifeanyi Ossai looks like it was going to be one prolonged pathetic journey of idleness that will mirror what then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan endured while serving under late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Legend has it that the late President Yar’Adua’s prolonged illnesses, Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, was asked what her husband was doing, to which she had reportedly replied that, “he is in his office reading newspapers.”

The case of Ifeanyi Ossai as Deputy governor of Enugu State might be more difficult to explain than the one of Goodluck Jonathan. At least he was reading newspapers. In a country where governors have been known to behave like Sole Administrators, it is hard to see a future of relevance for Ossai, who during the campaigns, worked his heart out to record significant votes in the Enugu North zone, particularly in his Udenu Local Government Area.

He engaged everybody that was engageable; negotiated with the church, allegedly threatened some intransigent priests, challenged stakeholders, and went everywhere he was asked to go provided victory was achieved.

I doubt if he went through all that to be literally ignored in the government he was supposed to be the second most powerful.

You do not need to go far to find out just how far into the background Ifeanyi Ossai has been relegated. Your phone will do it for you in minutes. While chewing this issue, I queried Google, asking about the name, Ifeanyi Ossai, only to see his name competing with a number of other people bearing the same name, including some who were indexed as students. No one who has digital footprints, talk more of the Deputy Governor of a state in a country like Nigeria, will encounter this sort of identity conflict during search. When I refined the search to “Ifeanyi Ossai Deputy Governor,” the most recent news report that was delivered on the first page of the search engine was his Wikipedia file, followed by a March 23, 2023 report by Daily Post newspapers, after the visit he made to then Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in the company of the then Governor-elect, Peter Mbah. After this, the next story that was indexed was a profile published by a news platform, www.thenigerianlawyer.com, and when you read, you realise that, like in a few other platforms located down the search path, the article was most possibly written to create some form of digital footprints for the man, whose only claim to fame was his close relationship with former Governor Ugwuanyi.

It became even more embarrassing when I refined the search further by putting “Deputy Governor Enugu State” in my Google query box. Ladies and gentlemen, it is nearly three months since Ifeanyi Ossai was sworn in, but the person Google recognizes as the Deputy Governor of Enugu is still Cecelia Ezeilo, Ifeanyi Ossai’s predecessor.

Google still sees Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State

In case you do not know, what this means is that Google, the gateway to the Internet of Things, does not have anything in its infinite memory that can trigger the recognition of the Enugu State Deputy Governor, three months after he was sworn in.

This is rather pathetic. Concerned about why Ossai could be so rejected, even by Google, I decided to read his profile as published on TheNigerianlawyer website, and I was left in no doubt why his case is the way it is. His profile on this site, most likely written by commissioned writers, the Deputy Governor’s CV reads thus:

“Ossai is a well-versed legal practitioner with over 20 years of extensive experience in various towering aspects of law. He has advised top-notch clientele at national and international levels. Furthermore, he sits on the management board of many notable companies including the News Agency of Nigeria. Ossai’s accomplishments were earned through sheer hard work, determination, resilience, and uncompromising commitment in all his endeavours. It is not surprising that he has been described in the following words: “A man characterized by a global intellectual functioning ability and exceptional levels of working memory, attention to detail, and domain-specific talents in diverse areas. Ossai is a perfect combination of a genius and a youth prodigy…. Ossai took Ezimo Community by storm with his evidence-based intellectual capacity, which shone like a diamond in the firmament of the community. He demonstrated a ‘rage to learn’ and he began early in life to learn and put into practice that which he learned, thus before long, it was easy to distinguish him among his peers.”

The citation is really a mass of words, empty in substance and fact. If Ossai had international clients to whom he discharged his expertise as a lawyer, their names would have helped Google. But the citation is bereft of substance, and if anything, sounded like the CV of a fresh graduate trying to impress on his very first job interview. Google looks for uniqueness, and even when you want to cheat the algorithms to deepen someone’s footprint, you seek the services of experts.

Take the case of the Secretary to the State Government for instance. You do not have to refine the search before the name and activities of Prof Chidiebere Onyia line up on the front page of Google. Right from the day he was appointed as the SSG, Google remembers and has indexed all his activities to date.

The reason Ifeanyi Ossai is looking like he is invisible is because, well truth has to be told, he is politically invisible. I had to extend my search to Facebook and what I found made me conclude that Ossai will not have a fun ride, even if this administration lasts 600 years. It occurred to me, from my search on this social media platform that the only activity Governor Mbah found him worthy of coordinating is a committee to procure and distribute palliatives to the people of Enugu, as the Governor wrote on his Facebook account, “to mitigate the harsh economic effects of the removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government on residents of Enugu State.”

With Prof Onyia imposing his presence and influence everywhere, even outshining his principal, the governor, it is nearly impossible for Deputy Governor Ossai to register any presence. And if, as many suspect, the SSG has the backing of the governor in all that he has been seen to be doing, then it is safe to conclude that Ifeanyi Ossai is on a long ride along a deserted road. Although many of us predicted this before the election of March 18, 2023, there were still expectations that those who own the current fleeting era in Enugu would have at least engaged in a few pretentious activities to keep the front door clean. I have not said that the front door is not clean, but many of us will need a lot to be convinced that Ifeanyi Ossai is not intentionally being sidelined, made irrelevant, and forgotten.

I am not making a case for him, in case I am being misunderstood. I am one of those that strongly believe that the ticket that won the Enugu Governorship election was the one of Chijioke Edeoga/John Nwokeabia, not Peter Mbah/Ifeanyi Ossai, but while still waiting for justice to be done, I felt it was important to remind some of those who expected a different outcome from the Mbah-Ossai marriage that I did predict immediately after the announcement by INEC that this was going to be the situation.

More importantly for Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai is the need to begin to work his way into the public square. It will be tragic for him to leave office, expectedly within the six months window it would take them to journey through the searing barbs of justice, only for Google to fail to index his passage through the Enugu State Government House.

Who even knows: it is possible the all-knowing Google might be waiting for John Nwokeabia, the person elected by the people to succeed Cecilia Ezeilo. So, Google might be right!

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Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

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