The former Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani is not new to controversies. Nnamani who represents Enugu East Senatorial District in the National Assembly and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 senatorial election had his hands full with controversies as governor between 1999 and 2007.
As governor, part of the issues he had was that of the Catholic Church, where he was accused of sponsoring the ugly incident that led to the Adoration ground tragedy that claimed some faithful. Although later revelations exonerated him, the matter is reckoned as one he may like to forget in a hurry. But history has it as record.
Others were the several killings that occurred during his tenure, the crisis that factionalized the state House of Assembly, producing three Speakers in his eight years, as well as his squabbles with some known politicians in the state and appointees in his government.
Out of office as governor, he was faced with allegations of embezzling over N3billion belonging to Enugu State. Following the allegation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dragged the former governor to court. He reportedly entered a plea bargain, after the Commission secured conviction against him, regarding some properties linked to him within the state and elsewhere.
Last month, a group of youths, claiming to represent youth leaders from the 17 local government councils of the state attempted to give life to the matter when they went to court to seek the disqualification of the former governor from contesting in the 2023 senatorial election based on his alleged conviction for corruption following the plea bargain order of 2015. They stated that Nnamani was not eligible to contest elections until after 10 years, starting from 2025.
Still out of office, Nnamani, popularly known as Ebeano, also formed a political party, the People for Democratic Change (PDC), after he had issues with the administration that succeeded him in office. He had attempted to use the political party to advance his political career and to call the bluff of the administration of the state.
It was during the days of Sullivan Chime as governor of the state. Chime had employed all known means available to him to make the PDP uncomfortable for Nnamani. Sources said he had done so to keep the senator out of circulation over his interferences in his government. Feeling however that he could not survive the political battle with Chime, especially when it dawned on him that he would not be given the ticket of the PDP to return to the Senate, he (Nnamani) threw in the towel and embraced the lowly PDC.
But in the PDC, he had shown class with his vigorous campaigns and had won the hearts of many in the state as members of his Ebeano political structure in the PDP joined forces with him. On two occasions however, the outcome of the senatorial elections he contested on the platform of the party gave victories to his opponent in the PDP.
In one of the occasions, he had led his supporters to a protest in the streets of Enugu after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returned his opponent in the PDP as the winner of the election.
That adventure created deep holes in Nnamani’s political trajectory that he had to return overseas to rue his misfortunes and probably dust his medical books to resume his medical practice.
In 2019, however, fortune smiled his way a second time. While he was away overseas, Enugu governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi planned to resurrect Nnamani’s political career. Against all odds, the Ugwuanyi had spearheaded the purchase of expression of interest and nomination forms for Nnamani to represent Enugu East Senatorial election of that year on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party.
From Enugu, an emissary was dispatched with the forms to the location of the ex-governor in the United States, to enable him enter the necessary details for onward submission to the headquarters of the party. It was the tonic that was needed to bring him back to political reckoning. Nnamani was not even available on the day of the primary at his Nkanu West local government council, yet supporters of the party were made to return him with almost 95% of the votes cast in the process. He only returned to the state to join other members of the party in the campaigns for the elections of that year, which he won effortlessly.
It is this 2019 senatorial election victory that he currently enjoys. He has however, moved to renew this mandate, having emerged winner of the senatorial primary of the PDP for the Enugu east district held last year. That victory gave him the ticket of the party for the zone to contest in next month’s election.
Yet another controversy
BUT the PDP had last Friday, January 2023, slammed Nnamani with suspension order over anti-party activities, thus opening another can of controversy with him. The suspension order, according to a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba was as a result of anti-party activities reported against him.
Ologunagba said also that the decision to suspend him was taken after a very extensive review and consideration of the affairs of the party in the country, pursuant to the provisions of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).
Nnammani had courted trouble when in an I-don’t-care attitude he openly embraced presidential candidate of the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu in several online appearances. He was even named on the APC PCC list, which he never denied, but stubbornly continued to work against his own party, without thinking of the consequences.
In a swift response however, Nnamani expressed shock over the development. He told his supporters: “I have since been inundated with telephone calls and messages from various persons, seeking my clarification on the matter.
“Just like every other person, the decision and announcement of my purported suspension from the PDP came to me as rude shock and huge surprise.
“I was never at any time notified of any petition or complaint against me or informed of the grounds that formed the decision of the NWC of the PDP to suspend me from the party.
“I was not also invited to any meeting, proceeding or hearing of the NWC of the party where my supposed offence (s) was/were discussed. I was therefore not afforded the opportunity to make representations on my behalf at any meeting where the proposal and decision to suspend me from the party was made.
“My right to fair hearing was consequently violated against the clear provisions of the Constitution of the party, especially in disciplinary proceedings, more importantly the superior Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria”.
He appealed to his supporters to remain calm and law abiding, “while we continue our campaign to a hopefully victorious conclusion”.
Whatever is happening to Nnamani at the moment cannot be unconnected with his flagrant show of affection for the opposition and its presidential candidate over the candidate of the PDP,Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
In September last year, a list of members of the APC presidential campaign council was released with the name of Nnamani appearing on it. While many thought that was a mistake, on September 26, 2022, the Director, Media and Publicity, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga clarified that there was no mistake in listing Nnamani as part of the campaign team.
“He is on the list in his own right as a supporter of our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Distinguished Senator Chimaroke Nnamani who is still away in the United States, is a very close friend of Tinubu.
“He may not be on the field with us as a PDP senatorial candidate in Enugu East, but his presence is indicative that he may have chosen to give moral support to his old time friend and brother,” Onanuga had said.
Few days after the clarification, campaign posters of Tinubu and Nnamani emerged. Although many had described the posters as the handiwork of mischief-makers and aimed at tarnishing the image and reputation of the former governor, Nnamani however, never denied the posters. Since the list was made public, he had resorted to the use of his social media handles and other conventional channels to eulogize and promote Tinubu’s candidature and why he deserved the support of Nigerians to take over from the incumbent president.
The Guardian recalls that last month, Nnamani hosted members of the APC Presidential Campaign Council at his country home in Agbani,Nkanu West council where he allegedly told them that Tinubu would be next president of Nigeria. He was quoted as saying that the APC candidate possessed the right qualities to lead and unite the country.
Since the current campaigns deepened, many residents had wondered why the former governor is absent from the field with his powerful campaign jingle Nnamani,ebeano; Chimaroke, ebeano.
Nnamani runs elaborate campaigns that normally take him from one compound to the other in his senatorial zone, accompanied by beautifully composed campaign jingles, and huge crowd anywhere it was played and heard. His campaigns normally stood out. But these are missing even when he is a candidate and was instrumental to the emergence of the governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Mr Peter Mbah. Many expect that he would lead the campaigns of Peter Mbah, his former Commissioner for Finance and other campaigns of the party in the state. Many have attributed his absence in the field to the moral burden he imposed on himself by his romance with the APC presidential candidate, insisting that he cannot be campaigning for the PDP and APC at the same time.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, a former National Auditor of the party, Chief Ray Nnaji had accused Nnamani of anti-party activities, stressing that he had downplayed the potency of the presidential campaigns of the PDP in the state by his support for another party’s presidential candidate.
The lawyer had insisted that it was “a slap on all of us whom he is representing because he is not showing good example”, adding that he “cannot be a candidate and holding the ticket of the PDP and campaigning for a candidate of another political party.”
To Nnaji, it was a demonstration that he did not value the ticket “he is holding and does not care about the party.”
He quickly added: “Honestly, I’m looking into the books to know where I am going to place it because he (Nnamani) cannot be a senator carrying the ticket of the party and still be campaigning for another party. I am going to activate the national leadership of the party and the state to take certain decisions to show that the party is not weak. It is a slap on all of us whom he is representing because he is not showing good example.
“The party’s Constitution is very clear. That he is a candidate and believes that nobody will remove him is not true. One of the stipulations of the Electoral Act is that you must be a member of a political party before you can aspire for elective position. If you are removed from being a member of a political party, you have lost your seat. So let him not think that nothing will happen. He is my brother and boss but I must tell you that I am totally disappointed with him.”
Findings by The Guardian showed that Nnaji actually petitioned the party against Nnamani’s alleged anti-party activities. He was said to have also given the party seven days to move against the senator or he would initiate action in court against the party.
Reacting to the suspension order against the ex-governor, Nnaji had said that no politician should grow above his political party, adding that the Constitution of the party remains supreme.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the ex-governor will be made to face the party’s disciplinary committee for purposes of fair hearing.