By Jude Eze
2021 dusked in Enugu with unequivocal demand among the people for justice and equity in power-sharing formula of the state. All camps pitched tent with the governor’s body language — power should shift to Enugu East senatorial district. The delirious furore was rekindled by an undifferentiated ‘Ikeoha phobia’ that cascaded the coal city around July last year, when Distinguished Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (Ikeoha) reportedly threatened to swim against the tide of the entrenched power zoning formula and run for governorship of the state from Enugu West senatorial zone.
The catchphrase then was “for justice and fairness, let Enugu east senatorial zone produce the next governor.” Fast forward to May 2022, when the timetables for party primaries surfaced and all acclaimed apostles of justice suddenly grew cold. Immediately the self-acclaimed custodians of the state politics noticed that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has successfully steered the ship through turbulence to the pre-existing tradition, and okayed the rotation policy, they vulgarized the environment, and raised their mane, to frighten off anyone who advocates for a governor from any local government within Enugu East zone, other than the overbearing Nkanu bloc.
They were belligerent, because that’s the only way they can drown the voice of fairness that favours Isi Uzo’s just demand for a seat in the Lion Building.
Enugu is fast becoming a microcosm of Nigeria, in that while everyone advocated for power to shift southward in 2023, the other two geopolitical zones in the South that have had a shot at the presidency and vice presidency, and that shouted foul when the North threatened to retain power now resist South-East’s demand for it, in the spirit of equity and fairness, being the only geopolitical zone in the South that has produced no democratically elected president.
Juxtaposed, Nkanu East and West Local Government Areas that have produced governor, minister, senators and House of Reps members, now turn deaf to the cry of Isi Uzo for the topmost slot in government house come 2023. Is it not hypocritical, that they wailed for justice and equity, when Ekweremadu’s force surged to arm-twist the traditional zoning formula, but now domesticates the estranged injustice by telling Isi Uzo to kiss the dusk? In egalitarian society, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander also.
This has been the artificially sewn albatross and stigma of being an Isi Uzo man in Enugu state. For being Nsukka man by some fringes of cultural traits, he is seen as a stranger in Enugu East senatorial zone. And having been dragged to politically belong to Enugu East, he can no longer validly share in the fortunes of Nsukka zone. He is now an ostracized species tossed around in the cheese board of Enugu politics. In Enugu East zone, he is seemingly treated as a nominal figure, to make up the needed number of local government areas for a senatorial district. In Nsukka zone, he is seen as a helpless brother in diaspora.
The crisis of identity that has cascaded Isi Uzo since 1996, when it was drafted to join Enugu East can only be imagined.
The Local Government Area has become the proverbial lonely bird on rooftop, stigmatized on both sides, with her name anathemized on the political patronage deck of the state.
In eight years as governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has amassed all sorts of traditional titles and honorary attributes, prominent among which is “Eze Udo” (Prince of Peace). He should know that to be a peace ambassador, you must be a warrior. “Real peace” said Luther King Jr, “is not just absence of war, but presence of justice.” The governor should firmly stand his ground on the side of equity and support the Isi Uzo agenda.
As it stands now, they are marketing the best candidates so far among those who bought the guber forms in the state. Enugu state missing out on Hon. Chijioke Edoga is equivalent to Nigeria missing out on Peter Obi. He parades sterling credentials with irresistible track records to match.
I was reluctant to put up this appeal, after three giant appeals had gone off to the governor’s table in the past two months. Ike Abonyi, a political journalist of over three decades had justified the public outcry against the maltreatment of Isi Uzo LGA in Enugu East senatorial district, in a column titled, “2023: Issues before Ugwuanyi ‘anoints’ successor.”
An America-based Medical Doctor, Social Development advocate, a Public Affairs analyst and the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project, Dr. Osmund Agbo, followed it up with one of the most objective and evidence-laced articles I’ve read in recent times, titled, “Ka Isi-Uzo Jee, Gov. Ugwuanyi and “Ndi-Nsukka” conundrum.”
Then another advocacy group — Nsukka Journalists Foundation, made up of renowned journalists, technocrats, clergymen and resourceful personalities of Nsukka extraction, released a position paper on the subject matter.
In their statement themed “Enugu state Governorships Race: We demand justice for Isi Uzo,” they aligned themselves with the call for the retention of the existing zoning formula in the state which zones the gubernatorial ticket to Enugu East in 2023; but noted the dangerous scheming going on to deny Isi Uzo local Government area of any of the five key positions available for the zone, Governor, Senator and five House of Representatives members.
If all these advisories from strong pen handlers, beautiful minds and dispassionate stakeholders and social critics cannot convince and guide the governor, then not even this solicitation of mine can, because I had earlier made similar prayer on June 03, last year here.
But he should know that beyond 2023, posterity beckons.
By their characteristic docility, Isi Uzo may seem a quiet minority but denying them their due slot, just like denying Ndigbo their due slot in Nigeria’s apex office, will turn Enugu’s serene political configurations that was laid on the foundation of equity and fairness on its head.
“A man who carries a cat by the tail” warns Mark Twain, “learns something he can learn in no other way.”
The national secretariat of PDP should be morbidly concerned about this. Enugu is the only state in the South-East where it has enjoyed uninterrupted 100% electoral largesse since 1999. If it doesn’t restrain its leaders in the state from the monumental mistake of neglecting Isi Uzo in the forthcoming party primaries, it may be witnessing its twilight in the coal city.
Confucius had forewarned that: “by three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest second, by imitation, which is easiest and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
In the words of an analyst, Justice Chidi: “the trees in Uzo Uwani, the grasses on Igbo-Etiti mountain tops, the birds traversing Nsukka, Udenu, Igboeze North and South political skies are all echoing “KA ISI-UZO JEE”. And to the glory of God, Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga, a true son of Isi-Uzo, competent, urbane, suave, humble and kind has offered himself as a willing Azazel to salvage the pathetic situation.”
As 2023 walks down the aisle of justice blindfolded, with a scale on the right hand and a sword on the left, the solace of Ndi Enugu lies in the voice of the peaceful governor occupying Enugu seat of power, who has unequivocally intoned that in the fullness of time, equity, justice and fairness will synergise effort to crown the next governor of Enugu state.
Jude Eze, a public affairs analyst, can be reached via +2348099062006