By Jude Eze
Enugu State has maintained considerable level of political stability since the Fourth Republic. After then Gov. Chimaroke Nnamani vs Chief Jim Nwobodo skirmish that tore the State House of Assembly apart (2000 — 2003) and other unpalatable happenstances that characterised Nnamani’s second term (2003 — 2007), Barr. Sullivan Chime succeeded him, holding out an olive branch of pacification. From thence, subsequent administrations have maintained a stable polity both in the judicial, legislative and executive arms of government. This millpond calmness subsisted presumably because the State was a running on one-party system. Peter Obi’s Labour Party (LP) thwarted this equation, as a result of which current Governor Peter Mbah was not all that “lucky” like his predecessors to inherit a unipolar State legislature.
Until the recent fiats of the state election petition tribunal, Labour Party had more members than the ruling PDP in Enugu State House of Assembly. The stakes were tense as rivalry of the two parties heightened by the claims that Mbah was sitting on a mandate he allegedly ‘stole’ from their member — Hon. Chijioke Edoga. As the inauguration of the House drew nearer, and the politics of which party should produce Speaker was raging, hearings began at the various tribunals. Suffice to say that Gov. Mbah was dragged to limit and his temperance stretched at both ends.
If he escaped one, he may not be lucky in the other. However, by a dint of rule of law, in line with the provisions of the House rule, the leadership question was settled seamlessly as the minority held sway. Then every attention was turned to the tribunal, with torrents of evidence and counter evidence accompanied by tumultuous social media frenzy. From tribunal to the Supreme Court, those who had passed vote of no confidence on the judiciary after it quashed Peter Obi’s petition, still managed to heap too much hope that Mbah will be sacked, by the “forthrightness” of the self same judiciary.
It then follows that what they hated was more of Mbah’s guts than the judiciary. They were ready to cuddle the “corrupt” judiciary in their newfound strange bed fellowship, so long as it can sack Mbah. It was a deja vu of what St. Augustine of Hippo preached to his congregation about those who make selective adherence to Bible teachings. “If you believe what you like in the bible, and reject the ones that don’t sit well with your ego or lust, then it’s yourself you believed in, not the Bible,” said the Doctor of the universal Church. Like the Church of ancient North Africa where Augustine pastored, these Party faithful had selective belief on the judiciary in relation to electoral jurisprudence.
No one should blame them. Never in the history of a democratic Nigeria did we witness such sociopolitical revolution. It weighed heavily on Enugu, as then Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (though a member of the G-5 group of PDP) did not buy the idea of result mutilation to rig the election as the leader of the group did in his state. Mbah did not have it easy on the ballot like predecessors. Those who are already angered by PDP’s antecedence of “ojebego” electoral slogans took their rebellion to opposition. Despite being a Catholic and Edeoga an Anglican, Mbah faced strife during Mass, at Ugwu Di nso Eke Catholic Church. It was a pointer to an impending revolution in the state, seeing that the stigma found home even in the Church. The venerable iconic image of Holy family of Nazareth (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) was replaced by three viral avatar images in Labour Party logo and shared across social media platforms.
It was a potent signal that Enugu politics will witness unprecedented turnaround from the status quo, for as Paschal Blaise said, “Men never do anything so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
The shocker came on the first ballot — Presidential and National Assembly polls on February 25 2023, which saw LP sweep majority of the federal legislative seats in the state. However, after a careful postmortem of what transpired, some Bishops of the faith of both Governorship candidates called for caution on how their faithful indulge in protest voting.
Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu Anglican Communion was the first to tweet: “Saturday (25th February) a lot of mistakes were made because of wrong emotion. Some who were elected have no experience and cannot legislate. That mistake must be avoided during the Governorship and State Assembly elections on 18th March please. The Church will surely speak!” His Catholic counterpart in Nsukka diocese — Bishop Godfrey Onah through his homilies corroborated similar sentiment, which led to allegations from LP members that he was bribed with N5million by the ruling party.
What these Church leaders implied was that the best leadership reform happens when people de-emphasise party and adopt best candidates, irrespective of party affiliation. But their message was coming”late” as some wrongly claimed. Of the 17 Local Government Areas in the state, it was in only two which results were contested. This showed the influence of the voices from pulpits. Yet Enugu will not remain the same again. Peter Obi’s goodwill is contagious, and it trickles down to all candidates of the party whether merited or not.
But it was incredible that amidst all these, Peter Mbah maintained serene decorum. He never appeared swayed by the whirlwind of novel rivalry. While, waging judicial war of alleged electoral malpractice and the crisis of legitimacy and acceptance among Ndi Enugu, Mbah fearlessly went ahead to touch the lion’s tail when he decided to implement one of his campaign promises — eradication of the endemic Monday sit-at-home order in Enugu.
As a way of little background, Nnamdi Kanu’s indoctrination of a faction of native Igbo youths (majority of whom have no social capital) into his Biafra secession struggle has demystified the highly-revered Igbo wit. They take irrational decisions on their hollow approach and dictatorially impose it on the whole tribe. And so, their irreconcilable sit-at-home strategy was deep wound in the flesh of Ndigbo. How could anyone do this to the fledgling economy of the region?
It didn’t sit well with anyone. It was a dreadful plague. But overtime, Stockholm syndrome began to set in among them, and they started falling in love with the suffering.
In layman’s understanding, Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response, that occurs when hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers. This psychological connection develops over the course of the days, weeks, months, or even years of captivity or abuse.
A prototype of that condition was happening to Ndigbo nay Enugu people when Mbah enforced the Monday sit-at-home abolition order in the state. A fraction of the suffering masses covertly rose in defence of the IPOB order.
They have fallen in love with their abusers. People now use Mondays to rest, and works begin on Tuesdays.
Mbah still managed to have his way in the end by consistently preaching the gospel of liberation and enforcement order until Monday is restored to the weekly calendar of the state. If this was not done, his local/foreign investment renewal dream for the state would be a tall order.
He also went on to dare another sacred grail of Enugu politics — public water scheme. Over a half century, government boreholes were not just dry but dilapidated in Enugu. He promised to rehabilitate it in his manifesto. However, private merchants of waters supply in the State also attempted to impose another level of Stockholm syndrome on the people. They tried to gaslight the masses to talk down on the project, in an attempt to perpetuate their capitalist grip of the monopoly water business in the state. In the end, the dream came through, as the honorable commissioner for Information and Communication , Mr Aka Eze Aka announced it and provided details.
It is quite interesting that within eight months, a full book of essay on sociopolitical happenstance can be written of a State that hardly made news over the past two decades of democratic experiment. When tumults arise, people of rare stern personalities usually rise to hold out the stake. From the foregoing, Mbah may be of that stock. If this becomes the case, then Enugu will be better for it.
Jude Eze sent this piece via email@example.com