President of Umuneke Progressive Front, Hon. Emeka Aneke, in an interview with Akinbami Faloye explains why attempts by Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State to unseat Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, as representative of Enugu West senatorial seat in the National Assembly, will not fly. Excerpts
It is still about a year to the 2015 general election, but Udi LGA, which is the governorâ€™s LGA, is already overheated. What is the Umuneke connection?
Umuneke is the main socio-political pressure group in Governor Sullivan chimeâ€™s home Clan comprising of Abia, Agbudu, Amokwe, Obinagu, Umuabi, Umuaga and Nachi towns. We only exercised our democratic right by endorsing the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu for Enugu West senatorial seat come 2015. But Chimeâ€™s agents like the Chairman of Udi Local Council, Barr Chinedu Iloeje, who himself hails from Amokwe, in Umuneke Clan granted an interview, trying to distort facts.
The central issue should be who between Chime and Ekweremadu has done better in service delivery within the context of the hopes and expectations of the people of Udi LGA and Enugu West Senatorial District. Rather than name-calling, we challenge Iloeje to a public debate on which of Ekweremadu and Chime deserves the senatorial seat
One of the issues the Udi Council Chairman raised against endorsing Senator Ekweremadu is that three terms should be enough for Senator Ekweremadu.
He was merely echoing the well known but infamous decree of Governor Chime that all Enugu second-term NASS members would vacate their seats in 2015. Because he sits in Government house and dictates who becomes Chairman and Councilor unchallenged, he also wants to retire all Enugu federal lawmakers and replace them with himself and his cronies. He sees the Senate as a retirement benefit for ex governors. They are currently harassing LG party executives allover Enugu State to declare them as the adopted PDP NASS candidates. While citizens or groups outside the party structures can endorse a candidate, the partyâ€™s choice has to wait till primaries.
Are you saying that the Council Chairmanâ€™s view does not represent popular voice of your clan and LGA?
How could? One had expected Mr. Iloeje to present facts on ground of Enugu Stateâ€™s presence or service delivery to Udi LGA from 2007 to date. But his selling point is that Governor Chime is â€œour brotherâ€. This is too pedestrian. The issue here is not about fraternity with Chime, but about social justice and service to the people.
But Mr. Iloeje named some projects of the state government in Udi
What project? I challenge the Chairman to mention one health center that was conceived, built and commissioned by Chimeâ€™s administration in Udi LGA since 2007. The only existing General hospital at Udi was built in the 60â€™s and the State government could not even upgrade it to a specialist hospital. Today, the people of Udi travel to Parklane hospital in Enugu North LGA and UNTH Ituku/Ozalla in Nkanu West LGA to receive specialist medical services.
On rural road infrastructure, the Eke-Ebe-Egede-Akpakume Nze-Nkpologu road project which is being done in partnership with the local government council is yet to be completed 7 years after commencement. 35 out of 37 communities in Udi Local Government were already connected to national power grid before the advent of Chimeâ€™s administration in 2007. To date, the two remaining communities of Amofia Agu Affa and Amaukwu Affa in Udi LGA have no electricity at all.
But the Udi Council Chairman also claimed he had not seen Ekweremaduâ€™s presence either.
He can as well tell the public that he doesnâ€™t know that Senator Ekweremadu exists. The first asphalted road and erosion control site from Nkwoagu to Uwani Amokwe (Ilojeâ€™s village) was attracted by Ekweremadu in 2010. The solar plant and street light at Udi station (Chimeâ€™s home town), the exit water scheme project at Udi (Chimeâ€™s home town), Enugwu Obinagu road and erosion control site (Umuneke clan), Umuavulu Abor Erosion control project, Oji/Udi 33kv feeder, the construction of classroom blocks with furniture and VIP toilet at Community High School, Amokwe (Ilojeâ€™s home town) were done by Ekweremadu. The construction and equipping of library centre at Community High School, Ukana; supply of basic drugs to Udi Health Center (Governorâ€™s home town); the Umuabi bye pass road, which is ongoing; the Enugu Umuabi water project; multi million Naira National Youth Development Center at Ngwo Asaa are all projects attracted by Senator Ekeremadu to Udi Local Government. Let Iloeje mention just one project that was conceived and completed in Aninri Local Government where Senator Ekweremadu hails from by this Sullivan Chimeâ€™s administration. Just one!
Donâ€™t forget that the governor still has till May 29 2015 to deliver.
Unfortunately, with 13 months to go, there is nothing in his 2014 budget to suggest that he intends to transform the area. In his 2014 budget, less than 15% of his capital vote was allocated to projects in Enugu West, but Enugu North and Enugu East got 85%.
Are those areas not part of Enugu State?
Look, we do not begrudge other zones, but Umuneke and Enugu West are aware that the Bible admonishes us not to forget our household while doing charity.
The Office of the Deputy Senate President recently accused the Governor of sabotaging federal projects Attracted by Ekweremadu.
Look, Chime is finding it difficult to match the pace of rural transformation legacies of Ekweremadu. A forward-looking government should have leveraged on the Seantorâ€™s capacity for the overall interest of the state. Instead, Chime has been using every arm-twisting to dampen the zeal of our lawmakers. A clear case is the Miliken Hill – 9th Mile road, which was undertaken by FERMA at the instance of Senator Ekweremadu. Mid-way into the execution of the road-resurfacing project, the agents of Enugu State Government stopped FERMA and awarded contract for the same project at a staggering sum of N2.4 billion. If the State government had allowed FERMA to complete the work, it could have saved the government that huge sum, which the State would have channeled to construct Enugu-Ngwo-Etiti-Amachala-Amaborâ€“Umase-Nsude road. Likewise, if the state government had allowed FERMA to undertake the reconstruction of new market road along Agu-Abor and Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, which the Enugu State government has awarded at the sum of N1.8 billion, that money could have been used to construct Amokwe Station-Umuabi-Ehuheâ€“Achi Court Road. They even suspended work on the National Youth Development Centre in Iwolo Ezeagu. It was this policy of rivalry and attitude of self-destruction that the Senatorâ€™s office must have complained about.
Is it not too early to narrow the senatorial contest to Senator Ekweremadu and Governor Chime?
Which senatorial contest? Not when you have a five-star representative like Ekweremadu. You donâ€™t change a wining team. As for Chime, I recall that he told us in 2011 that he would never contest any election after 2015. He even went as far as saying that after completing his second tenure as Governor, if people ever see his poster on the streets again, it would be obituary posters, not for election. So, what is happening now? There is more to this after-thought senatorial interest of Chime than he is telling us.
First, if Chime gets to the Senate, he will be ranked to the lowest ebb and Enugu and South East will have lost a performing top-ranking Senator. In the legislature, the longer you serve the better for your constituency and the nation because of the experience and their ranking rule. It is not like the executive where the Governor or the President is not challenged. It will be self-destructive to replace a senator who has no rival in constituency representation and attraction of democracy dividends with another who will waste four years to learn the rudiments of parliamentary norms. Putting his nature, background, and public relations in context, Governor Chime is not a parliamentary material.
What if the Enugu PDP stakeholders think otherwise?
Which stakeholders? Instead of allowing people to express and exercise their rights of free democratic choices, he assembled a college of government functionaries and few party officials and called them stakeholders of government. These so-called Stakeholders decide and cast our ballot for us. They decide on who should get what in the state and local governments and who should hold what position in Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party in Enugu State. In Governor Chimeâ€™s home Local Government, they call themselves the Senior Stakeholders or the â€œBig Sixâ€. In crystal contrast, Senator Ekwereamdu is an urbane, humble, compassionate, reachable, appreciative, resourceful and visionary champion of the masses. But 2015 is theor end of the road.
What if both men decide to throw their hats into the ring?
If politics is about people, the result of any contest between Senator Ekweremadu and Gov Chime in ENUGU WEST senatorial district will produce an alarming result against Governor Chime. First, Ekweremadu will beat Chime hands down in the Governorâ€™s hometown, in his Umuneke clan, and his Udi Local Government.