Two major political developments arrested my attention as the Nigerian political parties prepared, and actually conducted their primaries ahead of the general elections of 2023. The first was the withdrawal of Peter Obi from the Presidential primaries and his eventual resignation from the People’s Democratic Party. For some inexplicable reason, I felt happy that Obi was not going participate in a race whose end I felt was long predetermined.
The second development was the near slavish treatment meted out to Chijioke Edeoga, by the leadership of the same PDP, as he toiled and strove for the governorship ticket of the party in my state, Enugu. Edeoga’s case was made a bit more exciting, for me, because, unlike Peter Obi, who saw the handwriting on the wall and left, Edeoga’s oppressors hid their claws so cleverly that he did not realise he was trying to thrive among political carnivores until they began to demonstrate a thirst for his blood and hunger for his flesh. An attempt to humiliate culminated in a physical assault at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu venue of the party primaries, by former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, an embarrassing scene that was captured on a video clip that went viral on social media.
Now, why was I arrested by these two events? What are the manifestations from the two events that have made referencing them this important, more than seven months after they had taken place?
Looking through the events and developments of the past seven months, one has no option to suspect the intervention of divinity in what happened to both Obi and Edeoga and which forced them to leave PDP: both eventually became Presidential candidate and governorship candidate in Labour Party, and are heavily looked upon as bearers of the aggregated burdens of their longsuffering people.
I volunteered my support for the two candidates as soon as they were mentioned as flagbearers in the Labour Party for pretty much the same reason, and that is their decision to seek the mandate of the people n a platform other than that of the PDP. Do not get me wrong, but I have always been anti-establishment, but having neither seen nor derived any measurable value from this party since 1999, the idea of a messiah emerging to save this country from this clan was nearly impossible to visualise.
I guess the relationship between both Obi and Edeoga with the PDP was driven solely by the hope for a fulfillment of the old saying that any person who wishes to trigger change must have to do so from within, rather than from outside. This may perhaps have been the reason the Labour Party presidential candidate had to leave his former party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to join the PDP in October 2014. It may also have informed the fortitude with which Chijioke Edeoga endured the deception, subterfuge and [attempted] humiliation meted to him by Enugu PDP.
But as events have turned, it is emerging that these unpleasant experiences by the two gentlemen have proved pivotal to the heaves of tectonic political changes that is sweeping across the country, and, for governorship elections, across Enugu State. It is making people re-evaluate the idea of effecting change by joining the establishment and lighting up new thinking perhaps, political changes do not necessarily have to happen when patriots endure and tolerate the recidivism in established political structures such as the PDP, where the more things changed, the more the party remained the same. It thus tells any person who wishes to lift his society politically to be prepared to chart a new course, and create new pathways capable of leading to new and more agreeable destinations.
Fate and history must have carved roles for Obi and Edeoga long before providence brought them into the same political party, and at such a difficult period in the history of the country. By now, they must have learned the difference between “queueing for their turn” the typical Nigerian way, and taking the bull of their peoples’ collective destiny by the horn, and literally making a way where there seemed to be none.
For Edeoga, his tutelage for leadership had been long, methodical, and painstaking. From his days as a local government chairman, through the time he spent as an elected member of the National Assembly, to his position as Special Adviser in the presidency, Edeoga has been around circles where valuable hands-on lessons on leadership are the daily Manna.
That was why many who knew him believed that his presence in Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration was intentionally orchestrated as a stepping stone to the top position in the state. In environments where leadership was allowed to rest on the best, Edeoga easily stood the tallest of all the men who served in the Enugu government from 2015 to the present.
I was in the Ugwuanyi administration for some periods and that was when I got close to this brilliant, humble, but a hugely self-effacing journalist-turned-political leader. Unlike most politicians around the state who struggled, and actually invested in being in the limelight, Edeoga rarely intentionally designed attention for himself. He would rather let his footprints tell of his direction and output.
In 2019, for instance, I had a session with some civil servants in the Ministry of Local Government and one issue they spoke quite passionately about was the conviviality Chijioke Edeoga brought to his job as a commissioner. I also observed a useful depth of transparent humility in Edeoga’s person that Enugu State direly needs, especially after eight years of sanctimonious religiosity that has left the state bleeding under the voracious canines of a gleeful, well-fed oligarchy, whose members preferred to get fat on the state’s vanishing assets, even while the real issues of development were left in the hands of God.
Chijioke is approachable in the genuine sense of the word. I have travelled with him to a number of local governments across Enugu and each visit revealed his deep networks of family-like friendships dating back 30 to 40 years. He is still in close contact with nearly all his primary, secondary, and tertiary school friends, and scores of them would willingly present heartwarming testimonials of a man who has worked hard to get richer in knowledge and worldview while refusing to let his social steps affect his relationships with virtually everyone connected with his development from young adulthood.
One recalls that the first eight years of this republic in Enugu were characterised by reprehensible executive brigandage and rough exercise of state power. People could not wait for the era to be behind them, and although a total departure from that obnoxious period was nearly impossible, the hope was that whoever was going to replace that regime was likely to work towards guaranteeing some measure of freedom for the people.
And just as the people wished, respite came over the succeeding eight years when Sullivan Chime managed the state, and even with all its inadequacies, the period 2007 to 2015 has remained the golden era of this republic for Enugu people.
Long before he emerged as a governorship flagbearer and front-runner, Enugu people had hoped for a miracle: that there be a departure from both the present and the past. The people wanted something fresh and different. For a change, they wanted intelligence, rather than cabalistic anointment, to be a primary characteristic of their next governor. This is because only intelligence would be able to heal the state from the intentional leadership-by-nepotism of the past. It has also been felt that only intelligence would enable the harnessing of the abundant resources of the state for a twenty-first-century-oriented development.
It is usually heartbreaking to scan the Enugu socio-economic space and discover wasting and wasted social and economic opportunities, most of which remained so because the pilots either did not know any better or failed to muster the commonsense to strive for enhanced economic windows outside the privileged comforts of their entitled oligarchy, fed fat and docile as they have been by statutory allocations and decades-old revenue streams.
In Chijioke Edeoga therefore, Enugu people have been gifted a creative mind, modest in his ways, but nonetheless fertile and fruitful in his approach to management. In a state where political and leadership myopia has limited growth opportunities for many young people, Edega offers a new potentially auriferous tangent that the people can anchor their revivalist hopes and dreams.
This is the departure that is making the occupants of today’s power corridors uncomfortable. The fear is that Edeoga was going to dislodge them from their present predatory perches, from where they had been leeching the state. But the truth, which many of these people fail to realise is that their lot would be bettered by a leader who would rather open the rich bowels, collective intellect, and innovativeness of the state for wealth creation, than allow the current culture of loitering around the Government House and Local Council Secretariats for unsustainable stipends.
In a nutshell, Chijioke Edeoga is bringing these and more to the table, and that is why many of us are rooting for him. That he is on the scene at a period of this current Peter Obi wave across the country even rubs the ointment of divine coincidence on the vision to elect him governor. And if truth has to be told, we need a social and economic rebirth, the type that will usher in a Michael Okpara-like industrial and economic revamp with a 21st-century touch across the state; the type that the person and intellect of Chijioke Edeoga will help bring to birth
This is where Enugu is headed. It is the wagon every future-forward lover of the state has joined.
Be on this wagon.