Chijioke Edeoga and Peter Mbah: Who will be better as the next governor of Enugu State? — By Emeka Ugwuonye7 min read
This may look like an idle question coming after the election has been done and voting completed. But that is not really so in Enugu State where the outcome of the election remains uncertain and would probably remain so for many months. As indicated earlier, with the petitions pending, with the heightened level of discontent and tension over the initial declaration of a winner, it is fair to see the outcome of the recent governorship elections as hanging in the balance waiting for a fair and accurate determination. In so far as that is the case, the people will naturally continue to wonder which of the two top candidates is the better man for the job. Hence, the need for an opinion such as this. In fact, any assessment of the magnitude of the injustice caused by real and perceived rigging of the election will depend on analysis such as this. The consequences of rigging out the better candidate are far more profound than otherwise.
The first disclaimer I must make before I go further in this analysis is that I do not have personal relationship with either of these two men – Edeoga and Mbah. The second disclaimer I should make is that I think they are both gentlemen and good people. Based on my knowledge or lack thereof, if I were to score them on character and personality, I will give them equal marks. However, when I compare them on the basis of which of them would run a better administration as Governor of Enugu State in the next four years, I have many reasons to rate Edeoga many times better than Peter Mbah. If you could be patient with me, you will see my reasoning below.
Peter Mbah of PDP spent over 30 billion Naira on his election, almost 50 times more than Edeoga spent. In the past one week, I have traveled to almost every part of Enugu State. I was astonished by massive evidence of Mbah’s campaign budget and expenditure, even in every village in the remotest parts of Enugu State. The entire space is littered with massive evidence of the money Mbah threw into this election. The first question you will ask is: Where and how did Peter Mbah get the money he poured into his campaign? Yes, Mbah is involved in the Pinnacle Oil enterprise and certainly would have plunged a bit of his personal money. But that cannot be the source of the massive expenditure he made for the election. No sane person will empty his life savings for election campaign.
The answer to the question of the source of Mbah’s campaign finance is obvious. You know that up to the time of the party primaries last year, nobody in his right mind entertained any doubt that PDP candidate would win the governorship election in Enugu State. It was assumed that whoever won the PDP primaries would become the Governor. So, when Mbah emerged the selected candidate in the PDP primaries, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be the next Governor of Enugu State. The moneybags with interest in Enugu State lined up to contribute money for Mbah in order to have a stake in Enugu in the next administration. Mbah got the money from many Godfathers who had assumed based on the past that PDP candidate would win the election. Godfathers such as the retiring or retired PDP politicians – all the former Governors of Enugu State alive such as Jim Nwobodo, Chimaroke Nnamani, Sullivan Chime, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi – all supported Mbah with money. He was their candidate and they were competing to give him money. Every serious businessman and the moneybags of the East all poured in money to support Mbah. Many rich men who live in Enugu all poured in money to support Mbah. For all these people, they did not expect another party’s candidate to have a chance. So, they did not bother to support Edeoga. Mbah was awash with cash. PDP Enugu had a lot of cash. Therefore, Mbah poured billions and billions of naira into his campaign. Edeoga, on the other hand, belonging to a party whose leader does not give shishi, was far outspent. If money was all it took, Edeoga would have had no chance. But thank God, it took far more than money.
However, there is something you must always bear in mind about Godfathers in politics. They don’t just give you money to campaign out of an altruistic support for elections and democracy. No! Every money a Godfather gives to a politician for campaign is an investment by the Godfather. And the politician must pay back tenfold to the Godfather once he comes into office. How does the politician pay back the Godfathers? He uses the wealth of the state, the money of the people, to pay back to the Godfathers. So, the more money a politician takes from Godfathers to run election, the more of the people’s money he would use to pay back. Each politician is beholding to his Godfathers. In this case, Peter Mbah can be said to have mortgaged substantial future of the people of Enugu to those who funded his election campaign. Wherever he got that money from, he must pay it back many times over. Indeed, Enugu State under Mbah will have less money for the people of Enugu State. A huge chunk of Enugu State’s revenue will go to service the debt Mbah incurred to finance his campaign. Compared to Edeoga, the Labor Party candidate ran an ordinary person’s campaign because he had no Godfathers or moneybags behind him. He ran his campaign like other Labour Party candidates – the people, the voters were his own source of power. It means that Edeoga is not owing any Godfather, and he has no obligation to pay anything back to any Godfather. It means that Edeoga would spend more money in the interest of the people of Enugu and very little just to pay anybody back.
It also means that Edeoga’s government will be far more democratic in essence than Mbah’s government. Why? He who pays the piper dictates the tune. Mbah’s government will be a government sponsored by the Godfathers. Appointments, police definition, project selection and execution will be dictated by those who gave Mbah money to run for election. And those Godfathers will control his government and dictate the tune and pace of his administration. It will be a government of a few moneybags who do not really care about the interest of the average person. On the other hand, Edeoga’s government will be one that emanated from the will of the people. It will be a government that derived power from the people and which will answer more to the people. Hence, it will be naturally more democratic and that is what the people of Enugu need more than anything else at this time. For too long, this State has been ruled by a government of the few moneybags and influencers and power brokers all at the expense of the average person. It is time now for the State to be ruled by the people. Edeoga’s government is indeed something that flowed directly from the people.
Also, Edeoga’s government will be far more efficient than Mbah’s government. The reason is so easy to see. If Edeoga spent only 2% of what Mbah spent on campaign and still got to beat Mbah or to stalemate with Mbah, it tells you that in terms of costing, Edeoga is far more efficient. He got the same thing by spending far less. In other words, if Peter Mbah had spent the same amount on his campaign as Edeoga did, Mbah would have been far behind Frank Nweke and others. It means that Mbah’s appeal is far less than that of Edeoga. In any efficient system analysis, one will find Edeoga heading a far more efficient government than Mbah would.
For the future of democracy in Enugu State, Edeoga holds greater promise than Mbah. For over twenty years, Enugu had not experienced competitive politics. It had been a monopoly of power which bedeviled the people of the state and set them back behind others. The emergence of the Labour Party has offered the people of Enugu the opportunity of having a competitive politics. Every future Governor now knows that he or his party could lose election. That was something the PDP never allowed in two decades. Edeoga offers the people the opportunity of creating a culture of competitive politics in Enugu. It is important for the people to sustain that effort. And to do that, they need to have a man like Edeoga in office for at least the next four years, as the Governor of the State. If Mbah were to be in office for the next four years, one must fear that there will be a reversal of the gains the voters made in this past election. Could you imagine a PDP candidate kneeling down in churches and crying for votes? That never happened before. It is too early for Enugu people to stop the revolution that got them to that point. PDP remaining in office in Enugu will destroy all that the people have achieved in this last election circle.
Again, I emphasize that one may wonder why this analysis is taking place now, after the election had come and gone. The elections in Enugu State had come, but it has not gone. The office of the Governorship of Enugu State is being actively contested right now. So, even in this post-election period, the people are actively interested in continuing their efforts to ensure that a candidate they voted for would be returned as the winner, not the candidate that was better funded and supported by the Godfathers. Based on what we know, the manipulation and rigging that occurred in Nkanu East in the 18th March elections cannot stand. Thus, the outcome of that election as far as governorship of Enugu State is concerned remains in the air and would remain so until every means of ensuring that the votes of the people count has been exhausted.
Emeka Ugwuonye is the Founder of ECULAW Group.