EZUGWU OBINNA writes on the dispute that has broken out between governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu state and Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh at the twilight of the administration
In a recent development, what has been a controversial final weeks of the current administration in Enugu State, the speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odo has raised alarm over the withdrawal of six out of his eight security details by the state’s Commissioner of Police, Adamu Mohammed on Friday night in the aftermath of a visit by the newly appointed Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase to the state.
The speaker who confirmed the development to newsmen lamented that his life, as well as that of his family was in danger and insisted that the commissioner of Police should be held accountable if anything happened to him. “I want you to know that six out the eight policemen attached to me have been withdrawn. My life and that of my family is now in danger. Please, should anything happen to me, information available to me shows that Abuja does not know about the withdrawal of my security. “The order came from the Commissioner of Police. If anything happens to me or any member of my family, the Commissioner of Police should be held responsible,” Odo was quoted as warning.
While it is unclear whether the development has to do with the rift between a faction of the House of Assembly led by the speaker, Odo and Governor Sullivan Chime or whether it is in continuation of Arase’s decision to reduce the number of police men attached to politicians with a view to making more police personnel available for policing the lager populace, it nonetheless adds to the already heated political atmosphere in the state.
Chime was allegedly served an impeachment notice a few days ago by a 14-member faction of the 24-member House of Assembly known as G14 and led by Odo over allegations of misappropriation and corruption. The group accused the governor of forging a N12 billion supplementary budget in 2012 as well as of allocating parts of the land mapped out for Enugu International Conference Centre to private residents.
The governor was also alleged to have allocated the old Eastern Nigeria Layout to private developers and gave the land close to the state House of Assembly complex to a foreign investor for the construction of a shopping mall.
Chime had meanwhile dismissed the impeachment plot as a pointless venture, insisting that he could not be impeached since there were laid down processes for impeachment which the group would never meet.
He further explained that the impeachment move was because of money they allegedly demanded from him to which he refused to give.
Nonetheless, the Assembly had through a statement released by the Clerk of the House; Christopher Chukwurah denied serving the governor any impeachment notice contrary to media reports to that effect. “I write to inform your Excellency that the Enugu House of Assembly never moved any impeachment motion, not to mention directing the clerk to serve any notice of impeachment to His Excellency, the Governor of Enugu state,” the Clerk clarified.
The clarification did not however suggest that there was any love lost between the duo of Odo and Chime who had until recently enjoyed cordial working relationship since 2011 when they both emerged speaker and governor respectively. Odo who has been a member of the state Assembly since the return of civilian rule in 1999 had coexisted peacefully with Chime since he became speaker of the House in 2011, the same year the governor took office. To this effect, Enugu had enjoyed grudge free governance until recently when the administration has only a matter of days to wind up.
It must have thus, come as a surprise to many residents of the state when it first became public knowledge that both politicians were at loggerheads. Apart from having maintained a cordial relationship all along, one could have thought it pointless to indulge in grudges at the twilight of what has been a largely successful administration.
However, a close observation would reveal that the current dispute between the two political figures had been in the making since November last year when Governor Chime made it known to all that his choice successor was Hon. IfeanyiUgwuanyi, the winner of the recently held governorship election in the state, much to the disappointment of Odo who had been nursing the ambition of becoming governor and had hoped for Chime’s backing.
Chime had in November last year, in the weeks leading to the Peoples Democratic Party Primaries in the state called the party’s stakeholders, including Odo; Engr. Vita Abba, the then state chairman of the party and Senator AyoguEze to a meeting where he informed them of his decision to back Ugwuanyi’s candidature for governor.
The move understandably did not go down well with the trio who themselves had such ambitions. Odo would later insist that he was not going to back down for Ugwuanyi and continued his governorship quest. He went ahead to obtain the party’s governorship form and although he was defeated by Ugwuanyi in the primaries, he may not have returned to his usual cordial relationship with Chime and his recent issues with the governor may not be unconnected with the events that played out back then.
“Although it would be difficult to link the current crisis to what transpired during the primaries, but it could be remotely connected to that. You know the administration is coming to an end and therefore, a lot of people see it as payback time to those who might have offended them in the course of the regime,” explained Mr. Mon-Charles Egbo, Personal Assistant to Senator Gil Nnaji.
He however observed that the immediate cause of the rift is money as the governor had mentioned. “Chime had noted that the current issue borders on money. The speaker himself had said it was due to a loan request by the governor. So it’s a case of money this time,” he said.
While the grudges between the duo is likely going to continue till the May 29 hand over date, the possibility of Chime not completing his tenure as governor is highly unlikely judging by his grip on the state’s politics.