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Chime: How We Arrived at Who’ll Succeed Me

News » Politics

IMAGE: Sullivan Chime, Governor of Enugu State »


In this interview with Christopher Isiguzo, the Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime justifies the choice of a three-time member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, representing Udenu/Igboeze-North constituency as his likely successor in next year’s gubernatorial election in the state, amongst other issues. Excerpts:

How did you arrive at the choice of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as the consensus candidate of the party in next year’s election?
In the past one week or thereabout, we have been meeting. You know the primary election of the party is next month. Purchase of forms will begin this month and the election is in February. In line with our practice, within the family of PDP in Enugu State, we’ve commenced consultations to see if we can agree amongst ourselves on who should actually represent us at all levels – House of Assembly to gubernatorial.

We decided to take the bull by the horns, so we started with the most difficult or what should have been the most difficult one – the governorship. In the 2011 elections, activities leading to that election, we had the understanding that within the party, I should be allowed to complete my second term and thereafter, it should go to the North that hadn’t produced governor before under the platform of the PDP.

So, within the PDP, I got the nomination, I contested and of course during the general election, one or two persons from Nsukka zone contested but they were abandoned by their people and they performed so miserably, so no reasonable person will hold that against them. Last year, the caucus of our party met, because they felt there was need to formalise that arrangement, we met and also reaffirmed that decision that the governorship should go up North.

In keeping with that decision, last week, we summoned a meeting of who is who from Nsukka zone, although we called it the caucus meeting, everybody was invited. Everybody was there. I believe the Commissioner for Information can make available the list of the attendees – all persons who had indicated interest one way or the other was there – all elected officials, government and public officers, both state and national were there, including past and present leaders.

We met and unanimously, at the end of deliberations, it was put to a formal motion which was moved. A lot of the aspirants stepped down for Hon, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. At the end, it became clear the way the discussion was going.

I was there as the umpire. I didn’t participate in the deliberations. Mine was just to guide them; to coordinate what was happening. So, everybody who wanted to speak was given the chance to speak. People who had expressed concerns earlier, thinking that they were called to come and endorse a particular candidate, after hearing from their kinsmen changed their views and withdrew from the race.

Interestingly, at the end of the day, the two persons that moved and supported the motion were actually contestants that stepped down. Ambassador Fidel Ayogu moved the motion and was seconded by former deputy governor, Okey Itanyi. And the motion was unanimously endorsed – everybody supported. When I asked if anybody was against the motion, not a single soul raised his hand. So, they all endorsed it.

Before we started going into the details, I reminded them that everybody had tried to give me reasons why they should be governor but my response to all of them at the time was that in the end, it is our people that will decide. That whoever we agree upon, it would be my duty to champion the person’s course; that I wasn’t going to nominate any person.

So at the end of that meeting, it became my burden to ensure that we got support from the other zones. We then called a meeting of Enugu East senatorial district and everybody was there but the ones that couldn’t come like Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Jim Nwobodo and so on, I had briefed when we went for the National Honours award and they had indicated their willingness to support the choice of the North.

So they lent their support and at the end of the meeting, only one nomination was available, Hon. Ugwuanyi and everybody again unanimously endorsed him. We followed up on it with the people of my district, Enugu West, who met and the same thing happened. They moved a motion and it was unanimously resolved that he will be our candidate. We firmed it up with the State Caucus meeting and all the zones endorsed him as a consensus candidate.

But I want to say something because I read things in the papers and became worried. Even hearing of people threatening to go to court – nobody should fool himself. This is a case of people coming together to express their desire. We have not elected a governor or selected the PDP candidate; we are saying as a family, this is our number one choice. He will still go through the rigours of primaries, at the appropriate time, he will buy form and will be subjected to primaries.

If on the day of primaries, other people see reasons to key in and give him support, we’ll probably have him as the only candidate and support him. It is not by force, nobody is been cowed, everybody is free to express himself but as a family in Enugu, we try as much as possible to agree and I believe, we have reached that agreement and the very interesting thing is even the young man’s acceptability outside the family ring. People know him and have had encounters with him. He’s widely accepted.

People are excited about his choice, so I thank God that such a character came up and I didn’t have to beg anybody, plead with anybody or start selling a very bad product. I have a good product to sell and that makes it a lot easier. We will probably take it up at the SEC meeting of the party, down to the local government and ward levels. Ugwuanyi is our choice, there is no doubt about it. Every other person, whether you are of PDP, you can contest with him for primaries or a member of any other party, you wait for the general election.

We are looking forward to, and that is our prayer that, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, we’ll be producing a governor who will be returned unopposed. It is not by our might, it is not by any funny dealings with anybody. We had done that during the last council elections, all our 17 chairmen were returned unopposed. It had never happened anywhere in Nigeria, but it happened in Enugu and we look forward to having it happen this time around on the governorship. It depends actually on the way you run the party, get people together to have implicit trust in what we are doing.

What we preach here is peace, togetherness, selflessness, always think of the people. We have endorsed him as the consensus candidate. It is also enshrined in the constitution of the party; I don’t see why any party at any level should be against negotiation. It cannot under any circumstance be described as undemocratic. That’s the most democratic thing you can do, if you can get your kinsmen to agree that this is our leader and nobody is being coerced into doing that. That’s what lobbying, campaign is all about.

So, if you can get people to say this is our choice, this is our candidate, nobody can stop you. We are not running contrary to the constitution of the party but rather doing what the constitution encourages – dialogue, and talk to each other. We are lucky it is working here, we are not killing ourselves. I believe people should be envious of us. We are happy doing what we are doing.

We are only pleading that everybody who feels aggrieved should look at the larger interest of the people and queue behind every other person; we must leave selfish ambition. Ifeanyi is the popular choice; anybody will endorse him any day any time, and I am sure nobody will want to waste his money contesting against him.

For clarity, why was the caucus meeting of Enugu North called, because one of the aspirants claimed that they were not adequately communicated of the purpose? You also said it was consensus but only nine aspirants out of 13 stepped down while the three objected because they needed to go back to their people to consult further.

Let me start with the last one. Like I said, yes some raised issues and like I said at the end of the deliberations, some formally stepped down. Those who moved and supported motions raised concerns initially. Not all of them spoke again. But when it was now put to motion, each and every one of them endorsed it. There was no dissenting voice, not a single one. Everybody said yes. After they heard themselves and I invited you to this meeting but I can get the names of the contestants and I can ask you to go and speak with them one after the other and they will tell you how they feel now.

All of them have queued behind him as far as I know. If it had not been consensus, all of those persons would have been saying things in the papers. They would have been telling you different things. Ayogu Eze is the only one opposing for reasons best known to him. Coming to your second question, because I believe that was what he said, that he didn’t know why the meeting was called, it is laughable. Everybody was invited. I don’t have any apologies for not telling them in advance why they were called.

If you had informed them in advance, probably, Nsukka would have been on fire by the time we would be having the meeting; people will be moving money around, doing funny things. We called the meeting of everybody, nobody was left out. Why you came was immaterial and it was clearly put on the table; this is our reason for coming and the issue was raised. That we should have been given notice and I asked them, do we adjourn, so you go home and discuss, all of them screamed no. So they knew the disaster that would have come out of it if we had allowed them to go home and discuss.

We know ourselves; it’s not a case of somebody from Delta wanting to be president and then you call somebody from Sokoto to come and vote for him, you need to convince him. In this case, we know ourselves; you don’t need time to lobby anybody. This is the time to take the decision and that decision was taken and that was the beauty of it. That’s the surprise aspect. Everybody saw it happening and it happened. Nobody was forced. Nicely, those who spoke against it turned to support it.

The national leadership of your party issued a statement within the week expressing it opposition to any endorsement at the state level insisting that only the NEC can endorse. It cautioned state chapters against going ahead with endorsement. How do you relate the statement with what you have done in Enugu?
I didn’t read it, but if it was made, then it is unfortunate. Under the party’s constitution, we are encouraged to talk things over; we are encouraged to come together and discuss rather than being at war. That cuts across all the levels of the party. I don’t believe the statement was made. The party cannot and never be against any level of the party coming together to agree on a candidate. What should be their problem if any would be is if any level of the party stops other people from buying forms.

Here, people are free to buy forms. That’s what politics is all about. We endorsed the president as the presidential candidate; it won’t stop him from going for primaries. It won’t. But it will be a mere formality; any other person coming out will be coming there to ridicule himself because the party has spoken. But it can’t stop anybody from buying form constitutionally. That we have endorsed him is a statement to whoever that is coming that the party has spoken but if you like, of course the party wants to make some money, you can pick form.

Nobody will stop anybody from buying form; buy your form and go for primaries, what you find, you take. Nobody is going against the party’s directives. I’m not sure what they said affects us. As far as Enugu is concerned, we are not stopping anybody from contesting. Thank God, under the present dispensation, all forms are bought in Abuja. Nobody has the powers to stop you from buying forms. If anything, the party should encourage it. They should congratulate us for this feat for coming together to say this is our choice.

Are you happy with the obvious dull moment in Enugu owing to the fact that everybody was waiting for you to anoint a candidate. Again, Ayogu is already leading a quiet campaign against the endorsement claiming that they were ambushed?
I don’t owe you any apologies. Maybe you were expecting us to break our heads, we disappointed you. We have agreed on who we have chosen to lead us. When people address you (the press) that this happened and all that, the people, who attended the meeting are not spirits; go the extra mile and call Senator Fide Okoro, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Okechukwu Itanyi and tell them that you heard they were ambushed. Collect their numbers and call them. We shouldn’t discuss what one person is saying in a meeting attended by over 100 persons.

Ask the person you are interviewing whether there was any other nomination outside Ugwuanyi; ask the person whether the nomination was put to vote and subjected to a motion. Also ask whether anybody opposed the motion when it was moved. These are facts; don’t dwell on what one person is going about saying. I will not like to discuss what any person told you. Coming to other concerns that the activities are so low; yes, initially when this thing started, people were coming to me seeking my endorsements or anointing and I kept on reminding them that in Enugu, we don’t anoint.

We allow people to speak. We kept on telling them that when the people speak, it will be my business to champion the person’s course. That’s what we are doing. We allow the people to speak and they have spoken. The East, nobody said no; the West, nobody said no and the North, nobody said no. except we have another district we are not aware of, maybe there is a South then we go there. We don’t have issues. We give glory to God for this feat. Our prayer is for us to sustain it.

I look forward in 8 years’ time, we’ll be agreeing on a consensus candidate from the East that will succeed him. We all can’t be governor at the same time. That’s the only way you will understand you come to see me and you won’t be able to see me until 4am and you go and you are bitter; that’s the only way, you will understand. Maybe you make one request and I’m not able to provide it and you say am stingy. I want everybody to be governor. That’s the only time you will understand what the life of a governor looks like. We must have leaders while others allow themselves to be led.

What kind of a successor are you looking at even with Ugwuanyi’s endorsement?
I already know the person by the Grace of God. We already know him. We don’t have opposition here. PDP is the only party here. Once we speak, the people have spoken. So we expect him to win. Like I said, by February, we’ll be going to the poll to vote yes or no. I don’t expect any serious-minded person to contest against him, though we are not stopping anybody anyway. This is just our wish and prayer. He fits into the person I would like to take over from me. He fits in perfectly. He’s widely acceptable, kind-hearted and a team player. He has all it takes; he’s being in House of Representatives for three terms. I think he is eminently qualified.

Are you expecting him to continue with your programmes and policies?
It will be entirely his decision and business. When he comes in, it is his. If he wants to remain in Udenu and be drinking palm wine, it is entirely his business; if he wants to be governor of Enugu State, then good. We’ll give him all the support. I can assure you, he won’t fail.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     Christopher Isiguzo     Sullivan Chime     Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi     Okey Itanyi     Senator Ken Nnamani     Senator Jim Nwobodo