The following 10 factors influencing Enugu Governorship contest will make Enugu 2023 a tight race to be decided tomorrow.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shifted forward the date for 2023 Governorship elections to tomorrow, 18 March. In Enugu, the front-row gladiators are Ndubuisi Peter Mbah (PDP), Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga (Labour), Frank Nweke Jr. (APGA) and Uche Nnaji (APC). Enugu Metro looks at the 10 factors that could influence who wins the prize to take up tenancy at the Lion Building for the next four years.
The ObiDient Movement
Peter Obi’s seeming ambivalence is believed to be his way of not wanting to hurt the chances of charismatic Frank Nweke Jr. who proclaims at every turn that he is an ObiDient.
The wave of ObiDient Movement rolled like tsunami in Enugu State on 25 February, sweeping away the State Governor and all but two of the team he handpicked to move with him to the national assembly. ObiDients expect this to power them to victory in Enugu tomorrow. Ordinarily, it should. However, over the past one week, the Movement members have worried over a seeming cold war brewing between Edeoga and Peter Obi, who has not fully endorsed him as he did, say, the Lagos State candidate. Answering an Arise TV question specifically on the Enugu candidate, Obi went into a long-winded explanation about the difference between himself as the candidate and ObiDients as a Movement. He said ObiDients may decide not to vote for anyone that he is duty bound to support as a member and leader of Labour Party. Peter Obi’s seeming ambivalence is believed to be his way of not wanting to hurt the chances of charismatic Frank Nweke Jr. who proclaims at every turn that he is an ObiDient. Apparently stung by this waffling, Edeoga came out strongly to claim personal responsibility for the Labour win in Enugu. Although he will not dismiss the Obi and ObiDients factor in Enugu, he told voters that he has been in the game long before Obi thought of entering politics and what is happening in Enugu is a result of his vow to dismantle his former party. The subtle clash left a few ObiDients in a confused state. Advantage: Labour
The Nsukka Factor
Nsukka boasts of its voting strength but the numbers do not bear this out – Enugu East actually has more registered voters than Enugu North.
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Everyone believes that the Nsukka factor is very strong and because of the last election, it will favour the Labour Party candidate. The Nsukka factor is the unhidden desire of hawks in Enugu North to keep the governorship of the State for the next eight years, to even up what they perceive as imbalance and cheating by “Enugu Zone.” This cannot be achieved in the PDP because of the party’s zoning formula. But the District has found a way round it by promoting the Labour Candidate. Edeoga is geographically from Enugu East District but culturally from Enugu North. There is a weakness in this arrangement. Nsukka boasts of its voting strength but the numbers do not bear this out – Enugu East actually has more registered voters than the North (see table above) In other words, Enugu North does not command the numbers to unilaterally make anyone governor tomorrow. But, like every other district, they can make things difficult by delivering block votes for one candidate: Advantage: Could go either way.
Old Awgu Factor
Enugu West is actually the major battleground for the governorship elections, and all four frontrunners are throwing everything into wooing the voters in this district.
Old Awgu Division comprises three local governments of Aninri, Awgu, and Oji River. They command a majority in the West District. In recognition of this majority influence, Labour picked its deputy governorship candidate from the zone. Whether this will deliver block votes to the party remains to be seen. In the February poll, the District shared the federal positions, giving the senior (Senate) to the PDP and the two House of Representatives positions to Labour. Enugu West is actually the battleground for the governorship elections, and all four front runners are throwing everything into wooing the voters in this district. It is safe to say that the two cultural blocks in the zone, Agbaja (Udi and Ezeagu) and Awgu (Aninri, Awgu and Oji River) will split their votes. The reason is that they are both keenly watching out for the battle that will be fought in 2031 when the governorship returns to the District. Advantage: Could go either way.
The Nkanu Fragmentation
If the voting pattern remains the same, based on the Reps result, the zone will become a straight battle between the PDP and the Labour Party
There is fear that three strong core Nkanu candidates will end up splitting the vote of core Nkanu and deliver an advantage to Labour, the sole frontrunner that does not identify with core Nkanu. Unlike Enugu West, it is impossible to predict how this zone will vote because INEC rescheduled the Senatorial Election after the dastardly murder of Labour Candidate Oyibo Chukwu. The two House of Representatives positions were evenly shared between the PDP and Labour. If the voting pattern remains the same, based on the Reps result, the zone will become a straight battle between the PDP and the Labour Party. Other than Isi-Uzo, almost all political heavyweights in the District have endorsed the PDP candidate. Advantage: PDP.
The “Outsiders” Factor
Part of Enugu South, and all of Enugu North, comprise the Metropolitan City of Enugu. This area has more “outsiders” casting their votes than original natives of Enugu.
Although Enugu East has the numerical advantage than the other two districts, this advantage is qualified. There are six local government areas in this District – Enugu North, Enugu East, Enugu South, Nkanu East, Nkanu West, and Isi Uzo. It is safe to assume that Isi Uzo will likely vote for Labour while Nkanu East and West, and Enugu South will vote for PDP. However, part of Enugu South, and the entire Enugu North is the metropolitan city of Enugu. This area has more “outsiders” casting their votes than the original natives of Enugu. Thus, the votes from this area are not likely to reflect parochial character that would be witnessed in the other six local governments. What this means is that, like Enugu West, the candidate who picks up majority votes in the two local governments will make a strong showing overall. Advantage: Could go either way.
2031 Governorship Factor
If Labour wins, how will an Awgu deputy governorship position influence the choice of an Awgu person versus an Agbaja person as governorship candidate in 2031?
We alluded to the 2031 Governorship contest that has always brought friction between the two cultural zones in Enugu West – the Agbaja and the Awgu clans. The Awgu clan is always bitter about how the governorship and deputy governorship slots went to the Agbaja clan in previous elections, beginning from 1983 when Chief Christian Onoh wrestled the position from Chief Jim Nwobodo. Gov. Sullivan Chime, from Agbaja Clan installed the current deputy governor who is from the Zone. Voters in the two clans are busy calculating the interest that will be served by voting Labour tomorrow versus voting PDP. If Labour wins, how will an Awgu deputy governorship position influence the choice of an Awgu person versus an Agbaja person as governorship candidate in 2031? The political strategists have used this poser to campaign for both PDP and Labour in the District. Which candidate will prevail will depend a lot on how the voters buy the argument. Advantage: PDP.
The Zoning Factor
Labour decided to pick its deputy candidate from the West. This decision, strategic and sound, unfortunately strengthened the position of political stakeholders that (a) zoning is dead, and (b) Isi Uzo is more of Nsukka than Enugu.
If there is one thing that is certain about the 2023 governorship election, it is that zoning will effectively die if Labour wins the day in Enugu. In the last party primaries, the governorship slot was expected to swing to Enugu East, while the deputy governorship move to Enugu North. All the other candidates, minus Labour, have respected the arrangement, picking the deputy governorship candidates from Nsukka District. Perhaps in recognition that voters will revolt if the governorship and his deputy are from Nsukka cultural zone, Labour decided to pick its deputy candidate from the West. This decision, strategic and sound, unfortunately strengthened the position of political stakeholders that (a) zoning is dead, and (b) Isi Uzo is more of Nsukka than Enugu. The politically sophisticated among the voters will take a cue from this configuration in casting their votes tomorrow: Advantage: None.
Many PDP strongmen and women who felt humiliated during the governorship primaries surreptitiously support the opposition and are working to undermine their party at the polls.
The fifth columnists factor is the biggest threat that PDP faces in Enugu. Many PDP strongmen and women who felt humiliated during the governorship primaries surreptitiously support the opposition and are working to dismantle their party. Many of them have also launched local battles to displace their former House of Assembly colleagues, reminiscent of the famed crab-in-a-bucket, dog in the manger actions. Our sources say that these stalwarts attend PDP meetings to get intelligence that they quietly pass on to the opposition to neutralize the ruling party. Their support in large measure accounted for the strong showing of Labour in the 25 February elections. Enugu Metro can authoritatively reveal that the PDP candidate is not even aware of the existence of most of his “colleagues” working with the opposition to ensure he failed tomorrow. Advantage: Labour.
25February Bandwagon Effect
Like a wounded lion, Enugu PDP opened its war chest to financially empower its local warriors, cleaned up its rhetoric and deliberately distanced its candidates from its two major party leaders.
Analysts predicted that the bandwagon effect of the Labour Party tsunami on 25 February will easily sweep Labour into the governorship seat. Today, however, Labour cannot win an easy victory. This is because, like a wounded lion, the PDP has opened up its war chest and financially empowered its local warriors. It marshals strong arguments to show that it has a more experienced and visionary candidate than Labour’s. Finally, the party appears to have stylishly distanced itself from two influential leaders to show that Enugu will not be beholden to them if the voters choose the party candidate. One clear example is the party disowning its senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. PDP had announced that it had no candidate for the election which is also being held tomorrow. But INEC insists that Nnamani is still in the race because the party made its request outside the substitution window. Enugu East PDP is more or less throwing its weight behind another candidate, while hoping that voters will reciprocate by voting for their own core Nkanu candidate. Advantage: Could go either way.
Candidate’s Personality and Experience
Each party uses personality, character and experience to promote their candidates and to knock the opposition.
Enugu parades a quartet of strong personalities and candidates for the election. Chijioke Edeoga (Labour) is an experienced public servant with legislative experience that can be brought to use in understanding and navigating the opaque civil service structure. But he has practically no private sector management experience. Peter Mbah (PDP) does not have Edeoga’s wide ranging public service experience both parades a superior knowledge of finance and administration but in the public and the private sectors. He is also the undisputed entrepreneur among the four. Frank Nweke Jr. also parades public sector experience at state and federal levels like Edeoga but falls short by not having a legislative experience. He however makes up for this by his vantage position in understanding the economy as former chief executive of Nigerian Economic Society. In comparison, Uche Nnaji (APC) parades the weakest credentials among the four. But what he lacks in public service experience, he more than makes up in likeability among his immediate constituents. He is also the only candidate among the lot that does not carry the baggage of public perception that he is somehow tied to the two strong leaders that PDP is trying to distance themselves from. Whether this will work in his favour tomorrow remains to be seen.
The foregoing 10 factors influencing Enugu Governorship contest will make Enugu 2023 a tight race tomorrow. In the closing days of the campaign, the choice appears to have narrowed between the Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party. Citizens of Enugu State will therefore not be surprised if either of the two candidates wins the election.