Ordinarily, with Dr. Peter Mbah’s emergence as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Chijioke Edeoga is not supposed to be in the governorship race.
First, he was a signatory to the agreement by all the Enugu East zone PDP gubernatorial aspirants to support anyone among them endorsed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Two, he issued a June 8th 2022 statement, personally signed by him, accepting the outcome of the PDP primary election and pledging total support for Mbah.
His statement read in part, “Peter has reached out to us and stretched out a hand of fellowship; we are disposed to support him. Now is the time when intra party jostling should take the back seat. Now is the time to heal and the time to lend a hand towards building up our dear state. In view of the foregoing, I hereby urge all my supporters and the people of Enugu State at large to rally behind Mr. Peter Mbah for the tasks ahead”.
However, in less than a week after that, he ported to the Labour Party. All fingers pointed in the direction of the Nwodos of Ukehe, notably Nnia Nwodo, who were said to have rejected his surrender and reprimanded him for taking such decision. After all, it is their governorship project, not his. He is only but a proxy.
Indeed, although the Nwodos have craftily promoted Edeoga as that much needed pathway to an additional eight years needed by the old Nsukka zone (which includes Isi-Uzo) to equalise what they present to unsuspecting Nsukka folks as the eight years of the old Enugu zone (Enugu West and Enugu East senatorial zones with the exception of Isi-Uzo) through Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and Barr Sullivan Chime.
Edeoga’s candidacy, in reality, is primarily a well plotted scheme for the political and economic rehabilitation of the fading Nwodo political dynasty. It is a clear scheme to pocket Enugu State and govern Enugu by proxy. Edeoga is married to Nkechi Obayi, daughter of Dr. Grace Obayi (nee Nwodo). Edeoga owes virtually all he has achieved politically and economically today to the Nwodo dynasty.
For the benefit of the millennial generations, the Nwodos used to be very powerful. Their patriarch, HRH Igwe John Ugwuamakofia Nwodo (Igwe Okwuluora II of Ukehe) was a Member of the Eastern Region House of Assembly as well as Minister of Works and Minister of Commerce and Industry in the Eastern Region. Dr. Michael Okpara also appointed him Minister of Local Government.
His three sons have also tried to build on that foundation. Chief Joe Nwodo, a successful lawyer, was marching to Enugu’s Lion Building amid fierce political battle with Hyde Onuaguluchi until General Ibrahim Babangida disqualified all the aspirants nationwide. His immediate younger brother, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, benefitted from his structures and work already done and became the first civilian governor of Enugu State. He later became the National Secretary and also National Chairman of the PDP.
The youngest of the three, Chief Nnia Nwodo, served as Minister of Aviation in President Shehu Shagari’s government at a very tender age. He was also appointed Minister of Information by General Abdusalami Abubakar and served as the ninth President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. Their sister, Grace Obayi (nee Nwodo), who is Edeoga’s mother-in-law, has served as commissioner.
However, despite these heights attained, it is really difficult to point at any major development or enduring legacy that could be ascribed to the Nwodos. They have instead emasculated and ruled Nsukka zone with iron fist and have made a handful of enemies within and outside Enugu State. Their political greed and indiscretion have equally caused great opportunities slip out of their hands; and the enfant terrible, Nnia Nwodo, is usually at the centre of it all.
For instance, once Okwesilieze emerged governor on the back of Joe Nwodo, Nnia Nwodo hijacked him and derailed his administration with his Nsukka supremacist agenda and the triangular equilibrium policy that became a triangular disequilibrium in actual sense. When Okwy emerged the PDP National Chairman, Nnia imposed himself as the clearinghouse and “collector”. He fought Okwy’s wife, Dorothy, over Enugu North senatorial ticket. He precipitated Okwy’s obstinacy and eventual fall over the political disagreement between Nwodo and governor Sullivan Chime. In his characteristic greed and scorched earth brand of politics, Nnia prodded Okwy to reject all entreaties and compromises brokered by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and party elders and insisted on no second term for Chime and expropriation of most of the National and State Assembly tickets.
Ever since then, the Nwodos have struggled despite Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s overtures such as the facilitation of Nnia’s emergence as PG of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, contracts, and gifting of Okwy’s son, Ikenna Nwodo, with the Council Chairmanship seat of Igbo Etiti LGA. The Nwodos, therefore, are in desperate need of a bounce back politically and economically. They also have political enemies to fight and no better way to achieve all these than through the instrumentality of the executive powers of the governor. And who could serve the purpose better than their trusted son-in-law and stooge, Chijioke Edeoga.
The Nwodos made Chijioke Edeoga the Press Secretary to the then Governor Okwesilieze Nwodo. They also helped him to the Council Chairmanship of Isi-Uzo LGA.
With Okwesilieze Nwodo’s influence as the National Secretary of the PDP, Edeoga was drafted into the House of Representatives where he served from 1999 to 2003. In 2007 he was appointed Special Adviser on Legal Matters to the then Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu. He later became a Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters to President Goodluck Jonathan, all thanks to the Nwodos.
In 2015, Edeoga’s first cousin, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, became governor. Their mothers are sisters from Obollo-Eke. But while an Eha-Amufu man of Isi-Uzo LGA married Edeoga’s mother, Ugwuanyi’s mother was married by an Orba man, which was also in Isi-Uzo LGA at the time. Udenu LGA was carved out from Isi-Uzo. Edeoga was appointed the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, which is a very strategic position. Ugwuanyi retained him as Commissioner for Environment in 2019, a position he occupied until March 2022 when he resigned in accordance with the law to run for the office of the governor. Edeoga was an insider, and a member of Ugwuanyi’s kitchen cabinet.
It was this fraternal bond that the Nwodos sought to exploit to make their son-in-law the next governor. It started less than two years into Ugwuanyi’s second tenure when the Nwodos rallied the unsuspecting Nsukka intelligentsia to a meeting with Ugwuanyi to discuss the governor’s succession plan. An orator of note, Nnia Nwodo whipped up clannish sentiments and warped logic. He, together with the likes of Vita Abba, Okey Ezea, among others, introduced the argument of old Enugu zone (Enugu West and Enugu East senatorial zones with the exception of Isi-Uzo) and old Nsuka zone (Enugu North senatorial zone in addition to Isi-Uzo), which is unknown to the constitution. Along the line they settled for Isi-Uzo through the crafty manipulations of Nnia. Odimma Nsukka and “Ka Isi-Uzo Jee” political pressure groups were born to champion the cause with the full backing of Ugwuanyi, who bought the idea or simply played along.
Okwesilieze Nwodo did not also hide their stand when Ugwuanyi and the PDP campaign trail stormed Igbo Etiti LGA and Nsukka LGA ahead of the Council election in 2022. He openly told the crowd that it was the turn of Enugu East, but that in Enugu East; it should go to Isi-Uzo for equity. Senator Chuka Utazi also toed the same line.
However, for whatever reasons, Ugwuanyi thwarted their plot at the last minute by endorsing Nkanu East in the person of Dr. Peter Mbah. But to the Nwodos, especially Nnia, that was a political hara-kiri. Ugwuanyi wants to shut the doors to the long targeted Enugu political and economic treasuries to them. Not only did they quickly draft their proxy, Edeoga into the Labour Party, even when he had wholeheartedly thrown his weight behind Mbah, they rode on the “Obidient” fever to humiliate Ugwuanyi in the last National Assembly election.
To underline their determination, one of the comrades in the conspiracy, Senator-elect Okey Ezea has declared the March 18 governorship election as “a do-or-die game” for Nsukka and a war between Nsukka and Nkanu. But don’t be deceived. It’s actually a do-or-die project of some greedy men bent on installing a stooge in the Lion Building and ravage the state resources and political opportunities by proxy. Government of the incumbent’s cousin sponsored by in-laws for their selfish gains. Is that what we want for Enugu? God forbid!
_Okonkwo is a political analyst_