2023: Is Ugwuanyi Planning A Surprise For Enugu?


JOHN-FRANCIS NWAROH

The setting in Enugu today is like that of 2007. The eventful tenure of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani as Enugu State governor was coming to an end and a crowd of aspirants had formed for the state governorship under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Many of his aides and political associates who rose from the ranks of Ebeano, the political group he formed, were jostling to take over from him.

The list included die-hard Ebeano disciples like Deputy Governor Okechukwu Itanyi, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his Secretary to the State Government Dan Shere, presidential adviser Prof. Osita Ogbu, former Udi Chairman Oscar Egwuonwu, etc. Even Nnamani’s Nkanu kinsman Sam Ejiofor who was overseeing political and local governments matters, planned to use the Council Chairmen as springboard to the seat. 

Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani …master tactician

Each person was trying to outdo the other in impressing Governor Chimaroke Nnamani but while the horse-trading was going on, however, the governor played the balancing act. After taking a hard look at the field, and with each aspirant stoking the fire from their own support bases, he concluded he had to look elsewhere.  He needed a man detached from deep partisan politics to take Enugu to the next level. 

His mind eventually settled on Sullivan Chime. The Commissioner for Justice might not be the politician’s delight but he possessed both intellectual power and the focus to run a large bureaucracy. He had proved himself in the eight years he served on the state executive council during which time he was behind some of the key decisions in the outgoing administration. 

Chime eventually got the PDP nomination and was elected governor. He went on to run one of the most impactful administrations the state has ever witnessed.

Is Ugwuanyi looking beyond the present crowd of governorship aspirants in Enugu to point the way to his successor?

The sudden burst into the political limelight of Dr. Kingsley Udeh has set many tongues wagging. Is he Gov. Ugwuanyi’s trump card?

At 42, Dr. Kingsley Udeh is one of the Governor’s key backroom staff who is credited with some of the administration’s policy initiatives. A Development Expert with versatile academic qualifications and multi-sectoral experience in governance, Udeh surprised many three weeks ago when he resigned his position as the Governor’s Special Adviser.

Few days later, he veered into the political terrain with a loud bang by picking the Peoples Democratic Party expression of interest and nomination forms to contest election as Enugu State governor in 2023. At a time all eyes are on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to point the way towards his successor, Ude has turned out as the one who may spring a surprise in the contest. 

Dr. Kingsley Udeh

Until he joined the administration in 2017, Udeh had conquered in many fields, as a Consultant to several international development organizations.  Among them are the UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, African Development Bank, FCDO and UK Department for International Development (DFID). 

With experience in multi-disciplinary engagements across almost all the states of the federation, he was a “big catch ‘ for the Ugwuanyi administration.  And in less than six years, his imprint can be seen in several policy thrusts that have defined the administration. 

He started first as Senior Special Assistant on Development Aids, handling much of the state’s international finance partnerships. From there, he moved to become the Focal Person of the Enugu State Open Government Partnership (a multi-stakeholders’ good governance platform) before he was again moved to Education as Special Adviser. 

In between the movements, he served briefly as the Governor’s Personal Assistant, a period – it would seem – was to offer him opportunity to have an insight into the person and style of Governor Ugwuanyi. 

What really, is this man bringing to the table?

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY newspaper on Saturday 9th April, 2022, Ude gives a peep into what drives his aspiration. “To me the whole essence of politics is servant leadership. I have been involved in leadership and activities that impact the public positively. I believe that one should not seek power just for the sake of it but as an enablement to do good. This philosophy has guided my public life as well as my private endeavors as a developmental philanthropist supporting our teeming youths, widows, orphans and people with disabilities and the less privileged in our communities.”

For a relatively young man with little experience in partisan politics, how does he hope to square up against the titans in the field?He answers thus: “My candidacy is unique in many ways and what you consider to be disadvantages are actually what makes it stand out. I am the unifier, and rather than being bogged down by the unnecessary divisions in our polity, I believe I am accepted across board. And having spent over 20 years in key international institutions involved in development plus my critical work as Adviser to Enugu state governor, I have all the requisite experience.”

Barr. Sullivan Chime

What Dr. Kingsley Udeh has going for him are many. For instance, he is seen as a cross between the youth and the older generation that constitute the political leadership in the state. Besides, he is not burdened by any past unsavoury record or baggages that some of his fellow contestants have. At his age, he finds a solid base among the youths, the women and the less privileged.  

A product of College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC) Enugu, like two of the three men that has served Enugu State as governors since 1999, he also possesses a first degree in Law from  the University of Nigeria. He is also equipped with a Master’s Degree in Law (LLM) from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom and a Doctor of Philosophy/Doctor of Laws Degree (PhD/LLD) from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. 

On the flip side, some people may regard the fact that he hails from Ozala in Nkanu West Local Government Area as a challenge to his ambition. The area has produced a governor, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, from 1999 to 2007. While he strongly disagrees, he contends that zoning of the governorship position in Enugu state is on the basis of Senatorial zones and that his chances are not in any way dimmed by the fact that he hails from the same area with ex-Governor Chimaroke Nnamani.

For a man who openly confesses that working with Ugwuanyi has been for him, a mixture of challenges and fulfilment, he says the governor has done “exceedingly well” considering the socio-political and economic climate in the state and country. Like Ugwuanyi promised about his predecessor’s during the 2015 governorship campaign, Ude has also pledged to adopt the development and good governance ideals of the outgoing administration. “I must admit that I have learnt a lot working with Gov. Ugwuanyi. He has a passion for the common people, he is pragmatic and focussed on delivering on his promises.”

He continues: “One act of the governor that has had a profound impact on the development of the state is the setting up of Sectoral Ad-Hoc Committees that looked into all aspects of the state’s development. I was part of the formulation of the committees and the production of the development blueprint that resulted from their activities. It is one of the many policy documents that have taken the state higher, and one that his successor must adopt if he must progress on the trajectory of wholesome development.”

Is Udeh punching above his weight? Definitely No. Many would recall that some of the best governors Nigeria has produced since 1999 – the likes of Donald Duke, Chimaroke Nnamani, James Ibori, Bukola saraki etc, – took offices in their early 40s.

Since entering the race, he has been speaking on his programmes that will bring wholesome transformation to the state. In a broad sense, he says he will not only progress on the trajectory Governor Ugwuanyi has instituted since 2015, but take the state a notch higher.

What are his views on the vexed issue of zoning of the state governorship?

Udeh believes in zoning in Enugu State and at different fora, he has defended the legal and practical perspectives on which the issue of zoning rests. From the legal perspective, according to him, it is provided in the 1999 Constitution under Part II which stipulates that government businesses should be done in such a way to give states of the federation a sense of belonging in the appointment into political offices. “It is called federal character principle (and) the same applies to Enugu State which has Nsukka, Nkanu and Agbaja and other groupings within the state.

In practical terms, he refers those who condemn zoning to the United Kingdom where many of their laws and legal statutes are not written down. There are some that are practiced overtime and have become conventions. “In Enugu State, zoning has evolved in much the same way and it has ensured equity, justice and a seamless rotation of the governorship position from one senatorial zone to the other, beginning from Enugu East in 1999, to Enugu West in 2007 and then presently Enugu North in 2015. It is only reasonable that it should continue in Enugu East in 2023.”

As the contest enters a crucial stage and all eyes fixed on Governor Ugwuanyi and the party’s caucuses that will set the guidelines for the contest in the state, Ude will continue to attract attention. Beyond his youthfulness, his outstanding credentials, his wide experience and impressive programmes, it will be interesting how he squares up with more entrenched aspirants in the contest.


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