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Chronicles of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s serial misadventures with the Military

From every indication it looks like the relationship between the powers that be in Enugu State as led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and the Nigerian military, as represented by the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, has once again gone south, thanks to a hard-to-fathom tendency to expect different results from doing the same thing.

The current face-off, like the previous one, appears to be emanating from a Motion recently moved by the Enugu State House of Assembly, which seeks to blame the army for the dismal showing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the recent governorship and Houses of Assembly elections in the state.

But it has not always been this way. In fact, I noticed what appeared to be a strong working relationship between the Enugu State Government and the Nigerian Army, represented by the 82 Division Headquarters of the force, sometime in 2018, when I had been convinced to join the Ugwuanyi administration in what eventually turned out to be a sentence to career oblivion.

I joined the Ugwuanyi government precisely on July 24, 2018, and took time to settle, that is if I ever did. Upon arrival, I was given an office and told to just relax and take things easy, until my assignment was fully prepared. Being someone who does not understand sitting on one’s hands, the wait was quite unsettling.

On Monday, August 6, 2018, I was jolted into some sort of activity following an announcement that a delegation, led by the General Officer Commanding the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army was visiting. Not wanting to continue to be invisible, I joined the reception party for the visitors and quickly understood that some Toyota Hilux vehicles were going to be donated to the soldiers t help in managing the increasingly intractable security situation in the state.

I cannot forget this day in a hurry. The vehicles were parked close to the entrance to the governor’s office, and as I stepped out to join the party, I noticed an altercation between one of the governor’s media assistants, Louis Amoke, and a man I later understood was the Commander of the Brigade of Guards of the 82 Division. The issue at stake was where to tie the ribbon the governor and the GOC would cut to formally unveil the vehicles that were just six in number.

Not one to keep quiet where such a thing was happening, I moved forward and had a brief altercation with Louis Amoke, especially because, for one, I felt the officer was correct on the appropriate place to place the ribbon, and secondly, because I reasoned that being our visitor, Louis should not be talking to him so brashly.

As expected, the GOC, Major Gen. Adamu Abubakar, who was just about ending his tenure at the 82 Division, said very nice things about the governor’s disposition to peace and security in the state and ended by assuring officers and men of the Division would always ensure that Enugu sustains her enviable status as one of the safest, most secure and most peaceful states in the country.

I do not know who thinks strategy for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, but for a leader who has barely two full months to leave office, allowing such an unsavoury relationship to brew between him and the country’s major security forces is hard to understand.

Again, in October 2019, just 14 months after the initial donation, Ugwuanyi took this relationship several notches higher by rolling out 100 pick-up vehicles acquired from the local car manufacturer, Innoson Motors to the security operatives in the state. Twenty-nine of these purpose-built pick-up trucks were given to the Army, while the Enugu State Police Command got 65. The rest were distributed among the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

Although the spate of violent crimes like assassinations, kidnapping, and robbery was far from abating, the Army was all over the major roads, mounting roadblocks and cooperating with the government to stem the disturbing wave of unbridled criminality ravaging the state.

Everything appeared to be going well until August 2021, when it was rumoured that a certain kidnap kingpin, allegedly responsible for some of the serious cases of abductions in the state had been arrested by the army. It first started as rumour, but matters got out of hand when news emerged that the alleged kidnapper was actually a close aide of the governor. His name soon filtered into the public space as Tochukwu Okeke, Special Assistant to the Governor on Security.

The rumour mill peddled that after the arrest, forces from Enugu Government House made attempts to release Messrs. Okeke, and when this failed, the news was leaked to the media purporting that the Nigerian Army was unlawfully detaining the man. According to a news item published by Sahara Reporters, an online news channel, Okeke, who was arrested in July of that year, was allegedly picked up by the army, purportedly for being a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra.

Rather than cause the release of the person allegedly in detention, that piece of PR backfired. The next thing that happened was a wave of media buzz as stories sneaked out that the Nigerian Army has arrested an aide to Governor Ugwuanyi for alleged kidnapping.

The link between the alleged kidnap suspect and the governor was extremely unsavoury. Even those who leaked the news knew that Enugu Government House was going to be uncomfortable with such a connection between it and a suspected kidnapper. It was something that had to be quickly cleaned up.

First, a flurry of press releases that claimed that Tochukwu Okeke was never an aide to the governor quickly got to the newsrooms. But as soon as these denials hit the media, pictures where the suspect was standing behind Governor Ugwuanyi also found their way into the social media space, forcing the government to backtrack. You cannot expect to win such PR wars.

Realising the futility of fighting the Army on this front, Enugu State Government quickly made fresh arrangements for an appeasement donation, and on August 17, 2021, a few days after the PR started, invited the Garrison Commander of the 82 Division for another round of security vehicle donations. This time, perhaps because it was hurriedly put together, only two vehicles were on offer.

Interestingly, unlike previous donations which had the Governor personally performing the handing over ceremony, this one was delegated to the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Simon Ortuanya, while the GOC, 82 Division was represented by the Garrison Commander, Brigadier General Christopher A. Ataki.

It was not clear why the GOC stayed away from the donation, but one can conclude that Governor Ugwuanyi apparently did not want to be seen to lower the stature of his office by appearing at the handover ceremony when the GOC had chosen to stay away.

Things went quiet after this. There has neither been any mention of the name of Tochukwu Okeke anywhere again either by the Army or by those who were fighting for the fundamental human rights of a man said to be under unlawful detention. But those who watch closely may not have missed the possible undercurrents.

Then the 2023 general elections arrived with all their debilitating ramifications. Determined to wrestle power from the PDP that had been feeding fat on the resources of Enugu State unchallenged since 1999, the Labour Party approached the contest with unconventional tools that made things tough for the ruling party.

First, their people-mobilisation engagements ensured that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi failed his bid to move from the Enugu Government House to the Senate. The dismal showing of the PDP during the Presidential and National Assembly elections cycle called for a retooling of strategy, with party goons concluding that the only way to have any decent showing was to ensure through the infusion of threats and fear, that citizens were discouraged from voting.

In my earlier intervention on this matter, I discussed to stabilising role that the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, particularly the Department of State Services played in containing the effectiveness of the ravaging non-state actors mobilised to attack the voting public.

As I pointed out in that article, but for the presence of the Army on the streets of many communities and towns in Enugu State, the March 18, 2023, Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections would have been a bloody struggle between the citizens and the thousands of thugs freely deployed in every part of the state.

At the end of the exercise, the PDP, like in the voting cycle before it, went home with yet another bloodied nose. Out of the 24 House of Assembly seats, the Labour Party won 14, leaving 10 for the ruling party. Although the governorship election was called for the PDP, the controversial result is still gathering a lot of heat, with many believing that PDP will surrender it eventually at the courts. Even the run-off election for the senatorial seat that was postponed following the assassination of the Labour Party’s candidate, Barr Oyibo Chukwu was also won by the candidate that replaced the late Chukwu.

Apparently not sure where to place the blame, the PDP most naively decided to blame the army.

Chinedu Nwamba, a ranking member of the House, in a Motion on the floor of the House, accused the Nigerian Army of complicity in what he termed the alleged manipulation of the outcome of the election, suggesting that the military took sides with the Labour Party to the detriment of the PDP.

Although Hon Nwamba was the face behind the now controversial Motion, those who know the workings of the organs of the Enugu State Government, strongly suspect he would never have moved that Motion without the urging of the Governor.

But whether Nwamba acted of his own volition or there were unseen hands pushing him, it appears this Motion is making quite some unpalatable motions that look to finishing what remains of the PDP in Enugu State. A few days ago, reports that suggest the Army is fighting back, the same way it did during the Tochukwu Okeke saga, infiltrated the media space.

According to this story, which has gone viral on social media, the Nigerian Military has released a report, which has indicted four local government Chairmen in the state for alleged gunrunning and politically motivated crimes.

It reads in part: “Four local government chairmen in Enugu State now face ominous consequences as the military authorities have asked for their handover for further investigations over their roles in the spate of insecurity witnessed in the state in particular and the South East zone during and few months preceding the last general elections.”

Mentioned in the report, which cited sources at the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff, Abuja is the Chairmen of Udenu, Igbo-Eze South, Isi- Uzo, and Igbo-Eze North Local Government Areas. Although no major news outlet has been known to have published the story, the speed with which the news has traveled the social media points to a major challenge for the State Government, and suggests that, yet again, the Ugwuanyi administration has disingenuously found itself in an avoidable, unpleasant situation with the army.

I do not know who thinks strategy for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, but for a leader who has barely two full months to leave office, allowing such an unsavoury relationship to brew between him and the country’s major security forces is hard to understand.

To think that the governor had been in a similar situation just a few years ago, makes one wonder why the lessons were not learned. If this story turns out to be true, what would the governor do to calm nerves this time? Buy more pick-up vans and donate to the Army. Throw everyone under the bus and see off his remaining days in office in contrived peace and then retire to his village?

I am looking for the name they call that person who does the same thing over and again, expecting a different result…


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.

  • Commodore Linus Nwachukwu Ugwu

    That person is called a FAILURE who does the same thing over and over again and expctss different result. That’s what Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi personifies. I enjoy reading your publications given the analytical and thought-provoking content. Keep it up

    April 12, 2023 at 4:20 pm Reply
  • Chris Onyishi

    I keep saying that the leadership in this country leaves much to be desired. It’s a war between the ordenary folk and his leader.

    From my assessment, the war between the ordenary people and there leader is on killing a fela who tries to raise his voice against the government.

    A quiet state such as Enugu can come out of this nature of war by God.

    April 12, 2023 at 9:32 pm Reply
  • Chidibere Francis Ezeh

    Why are these set of leaders always putting their wrong foot forward. Now they have touched the tiger by the tail,,

    April 12, 2023 at 10:11 pm Reply

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