KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
On Nnamani vs. Nnamani (1)
Photo: Courtesy of Government House, Enugu
M. O. ENÉ
New Jersey, USA
Thursday, October 20, 2005
What do you call the constant confrontations between senate presidents and their state governors in Nigeria? Choose from the following: a brawl of brothers; clash of chiefs; a struggle for supremacy; a war for welfare; a power-pull of politicians; a mêlée of majors; the tussle of titans; the scuffle of seniors; a frosty fraternal fracas; and you can coin your preference… just don’t call it a figment of your imagination—it is not in your head! Whatever else you arrive at, the commotion of captains has become a fact of Nigeria's political life.
Unfortunately, other Nigerian nations are watching. Eventually, if at the next political dispensation Ndiigbo fail to feature at the Presidency project, the Igbo nation will have to settle for leadership of the ruling party and a second-fiddle position in the legislative leg of the democratic dispensation. Maybe they would manage those better.
The present power-pull between the incumbent Senate President, The Right Honorable Chief Ken Nnamani (Onwa) and the incumbent Executive Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani (Ebeano) is not new in the Fourth Republic. The first two senate presidents, Chief Evan(s) Enwerem and late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo did not last long enough to worry about the governors of their respective states, Imo and Anambra. They were too busy struggling to survive the now legendary banana peel—which eventually sent them both down the slippery slope of Senate. When Senator Anyim Pius Anyim came to the saddle and the 2003 elections neared, cracks surfaced in his relationship with Governor Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State. Before anyone could figure out what was happening, it had turned violent. Anyim knew when to call it quits. He walked out of partisan politics and retired to his expansive home in Ebonyi State. Not much has been heard of nor written about Anyim since 2003. Egwu still straddles the state.
Enter Senator Adolphus Wabara. The moment he sorted out the snags of eligibility with the electoral commission and the doubts of his colleagues in Abuja, he remembered that all politics is local. Unfortunately for him, a giant killer of a governor was in charge. Governor Orji Uzor Kalu is not new to political intrigues. He checkmated Wabara so well the man decided to withdraw from the war even before it started. Wabara’s woes were worsened by his involvement in the shameful scandal that eventually engulfed and consumed his risen political career like a pyre soaked in gasoline. As if Chineke the Creator destined equity amongst Igbo states, the honorable senators acquiesced and elected a senator from Enugu State.
NNAMANI vs. NNAMANI
From the get-go, Governor Nnamani did not want the musical-chair madness to come to Enugu State. He knew it would be a distraction from the various projects he had embarked on and, if you must speculate, it could pose a challenge to his hold on power by rattling the stethoscope monitoring the pulse of power in Enugu State. A good student of fourth-republic politics, Chimaroke Nnamani, MD knows that it is no good offering a goblet of water to a primate because retrieving the cup is usually a problem. However, as a politician who is disposed to debates, he allowed superior arguments to override his gut-feelings and survival schemes. He jumped in late into the senate succession selection and fielded his former Chief of Staff and later Secretary to the State Government, now Senator Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West). His preference was also driven by the fact that Enugu West had been complaining of being left out in appointments. Now, even though the Governor and the lone minister from the state were from Enugu East, the senators went ahead in April 2005 and elected Senator Ken Nnaman (Enugu East) to the senate presidency.
After the initial fallouts from the ascension of Ken Nnamani involving the demolition of the house allegedly belonging to Senator Fidelis Okolo (Enugu North), Governor Nnamani sat back and accepted the partial victory -- of getting the senate presidency to his turf. A big reception was staged by the state government for the now number-three citizen. Thereafter, another reception was planned by some folks, mostly those frozen out of the power tussle in 2003, allegedly to showcase the Senator Nnamani as an alternate leader of the party in Enugu State. Bad move! Governor Nnamani did not wait for the move to take root; he struck back by tweaking some political nuts and bolts and pulling some strings at his disposal. Probably feeling a little bit responsible for the fallout, Senator Nnamani took to the podium and badmouthed Governor Nnamani, calling him names as if he had been in Mars these past years and not a regular guest of the Governor. All Senator Nnamani needed to do was reassure the governor privately that no one was threatening the Ebeano structure, the power base that basically produced the senator. Or, maybe, the senator was indeed on a take-over drive!
RESOLVING THE FRATERNAL FRACAS
It took the President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to mediate. Governor Nnamani took a good bite of the humble pie and visited Senator Nnamani at the National Assembly. A good photo of the embrace was taken.
Peace in our time!
It lasted only a few weeks. By August 2005, things were beginning to fall apart yet again. In September, I visited with Governor Nnamani and suggested that he could diffuse the matter by reaching out to those who were rallying behind Senator Nnamani because, believe it or not, that’s what the tussle was all about: access to power. He was not against reaching out, but many of his dyed-in-the-wool opponents might be itching to close in and puncture his smooth-sailing ship of supremacy. It makes sense, therefore, to thread cautiously -- since no sane soul gathers ant-infested woods and expects lizards to stay away. However, I still hoped that he would not escalate the simmering feud. He promised to stay above the fray and concentrate on governing.
This was when and why I requested for the famous embrace photo, a memento to remind me of the promise. And, on my return, I hoped to meet with Senator Nnamani in New York before he returned to Nigeria and to express similar sentiments. It didn't pan out because some prominent Enugu politicians who visit these parts have a weird way of avoiding their core constituents, preferring instead to hang out with close family members and old buddies from elsewhere. Senator Nnamani was no exception.
BACK TO THE BATTLEFIELD
Like joke, like joke, as we say in Naija, the rickety rapprochement did not last long. No one really knows what is now at stake, but it appears that Senator Nnamani now finds Governor Nnamani’s strong hold on the instruments of party politics too domineering. Apparently, his followers have urged him to step up the heat, not to let go. Unwisely, the senator continues to take swipes at the Ebeano structure, the same structure that produced his senatorial victory over Senator Jim Nwobodo’s protégée. A group calling itself the “authentic PDP” rears its head; let us call it Onwa Group, for that is the senator’s traditional title. Like a new moon, the group shows up, but it is still ill-defined.
The Ebeano Group ignores the Onwa Group, but it knows that weeds left unattended soon grow into a bush. So, early October, the Ebeano Group decided to remove the big iroko providing shade to the weeds. The iroko is Senator Nnamani. And so it was that the right honorable gentleman came to town with Senator Ugochukwu Uba of all people. In a radio phone-in program on October 2, 2005, the senator talked about sacred cows and selectivity in fighting corruption. You can see anyone you like in the picture he painted, the Ebeano Group saw an opening, and they pounced on the senator.
OF MASTERSTROKES OR MISTAKES
What did Senator Nnamani actually say to bring down the political structure he was designing? I will reproduce relevant sections of the questions and answers from “Nnamani: Treading That Ignoble Path” by Ohis Unuigbe, Thisday, October 16, 2005):
Caller: (Samuel Oreinya from Nkanu):
"I have been listening to you carefully. :::: You find out everything in this country is based on corruption and when they are analyzing Nigeria, people talk that Nigeria is so corrupt. And then when I talked about corruption, I mean doing what is wrong. People do what is wrong. :::: How do you think the National Assembly can help to tackle this problem? Thank you Sir."
:::: "We fight corruption by living by example and not pretending. There are many people who joined politics, who never owned a brick; that is, they've never molded one block before joining politics. They are now owners of estates and all kinds of structures both at home and abroad, using fictitious names. Well, if our Code of Conduct Bureau means real business, they can track all these things down. Immediately we start facing realities and not having sacred cows, people will be afraid of corruption because one of the dangers of corruption is that it takes away from the economy, it does not add. :::: No, if we all practice that transparency which this administration is emphasizing and not have sacred cows, corruption will go down.
The laws cannot be made for an individual; we should not make laws around a person. It should be a law that is at all times for every being."
"Sir, you seem to be implying that we still have sacred cows."
"Well, if that is your deduction of what I am saying, so be it, but the thing I am saying is that we should throw open. We should look at all complaints, whether it affects A or B or C. Laws should not be made for individuals alone. Law should be a process."
What is wrong with that? Nothing! However, when the next day, Monday, October 3, 2005 Champion newspapers carried the banner: “FG’s anti-graft crusade insincere–Nnamani” by its Enugu bureau chief Chukwudi Achife, I sensed an escalation of the Nnamani vs. Nnamani cold war. In a posting on Waawa-net on the same day, I wrote:
It will be interesting to know where our brother Ken Nnamani is going with the above remarks and how OBJ is going to react. I worry because the polity is already heated up with the OBJ-Atiku face-off. To have the #3 firing on all cylinders might just complicate things a wee bit.
Truth be told, the arrest of Otunba Johnson Fasawe is as close as anyone is going to get to the so-called "sacred cows" around the Presidency. If Fasawe goes down, anyone is game. Of course, we watch how Bayelsa Governor makes out tomorrow in London.
FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIREWORKS
I foresaw fireworks greeting Senator Nnamani’s speech, especially with the choice title of Champion chief reporter in Enugu, but I didn’t think the match would be struck in Enugu. In an October 5, 2005 news piece titled “Nnamani Banned from Criticizing Obasanjo” by Emmanuel Ugwu, the Publicity Secretary of the State Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Ugulu O. Ugulu, told a press conference, that Senate President Ken Nnamani had been “banned from using Enugu State as base to launch any criticism against the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.” In his own interpretation of the talk, Mr. Ugulu said: "In totality, he meant that the Federal Government was not serious in its entire efforts, even though government has received applause for its efforts in bringing trust and confidence in the polity.”
At this point, I knew there was fire on Udi Hills; the matter was being orchestrated, and the senate president might just mishandle it. To my mind, he should not have denied the statement since, apparently, he had not been misquoted. Titles do not mean anything. Everyone knew he did not use the word "insincere”; however, every fool should know that his statements add up to similar sentiments: biased, choosy, careful, not-far-reaching, partial, selective, narrow-minded, etc.; they all mean the same thing, eventually.
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