Dr. Charles O. C. Egumgbe, lawyer and politician, has become a legendary figure in the politics of Enugu state. In 1999, he led the Campaign Organisation of the Enugu state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which produced Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, as governor of the state. Again in 2015, the party re-appointed him as the director-general of its Campaign Organisation which threw up Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, as governor. And in the days and weeks leading to the 2019 general elections, the state PDP once again, commissioned him to lead the party to victory, an assignment he approached with fresh ideas and impetus, reports MIKE UBANI.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Sunday March 10, declared the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and incumbent governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, winner of the election.
Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, who was the state Collation/Returning Officer, put the total number of registered voters in the state at 1,944,803, while accredited voters stood at 478,241.
He announced that Governor Ugwuanyi swept the polls in the entire 17 Local Government Areas of the state; polling a total number of 449,935 votes, while the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), garnered 10,423 votes to secure a distant second position in the governorship contest.
The PDP had remained the dominant party in the state since the advent of the current democratic dispensation in 1999.
However, the emergence of the APC as the ruling party at the federal level in 2015, gave rise to anxiety that the party (APC), might cause an upset in the state during the just concluded general elections.
But that was not to be. Besides winning the governorship election, the PDP also won all the State House of Assembly seats during the March 9 Governorship/House of Assembly elections.
The party (PDP) had also earlier swept all the senatorial and House of Representatives slots in the state during the February 23 Presidential/ National Assembly elections.
Dr. Charles O. C. Egumgbe, director-general, Enugu state PDP Campaign Organisation, told The AUTHORITY in an interview that the party and government worked very hard to endear themselves to the electorate, saying that he would have been surprised if the results of the elections had been otherwise.
Dr. Egumgbe who is also the Enugu State Commissioner for Water Resources said: “We worked very hard before and during the campaigns, so if the results had been contrary to our expectations, we would have seriously questioned those results.
“Right from the onset, His Excellency, Right Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, engaged the people in the various areas that required government attention. There were lots of projects executed here and there which are germane to the people.
“In fact, for the first time in the history of Enugu state, communities were invited, and given the option to choose a project of their choice, and were given a N10 million grant to execute those projects.
“And when we got to the electioneering campaign proper, I can tell you that we worked very hard to get the votes of the electorate. We campaigned vigorously despite the fact that we are the ruling party in the state, and also had something to show the people as evidence of our performance in office. In each community we visited, we were able to point at a particular project executed by the Governor Ugwuanyi-led administration.
“As we were campaigning, several other political parties were adopting the governor as their sole candidate, and that helped to solidify our campaign.
“The APC which would have being the main opposition party, were having their own internal strife, even when they had not built the machinery to engage the ruling PDP in the state in a political fight.
“But it is important to point out that this time around, we changed the pattern of our campaign. Hitherto, we used to organize political rallies at the headquarters of the various local government areas.
“But this time around, our leader Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, decided that we should carry the message to the people on the streets, in their homes, and in the market places. So, this approach helped us to reach out to so many people who are not even our party members.
“For instance, the governor led us to Owerri Road where you have the Hausa people transacting their Bureau de Change business, and from there, we trekked to St. Michaels – and you could see the governor talking to people on the streets; asking them: Are you going to vote for me? Am I doing well?
“And from St. Michael’s, we trekked to Aria market, a distance of about three kilometers – with the governor talking to the people, shaking their in the process; and the people, men, women and children, dancing and cheering our team. And from there, we shot into New Market, Ogbette market, Ninth mile, Oloh market, Agbani…You’ll never believe it.”
Asked why the PDP campaigned so hard, even when it is the only vibrant party in the state, Dr. Egbumgbe said: “We didn’t want to underrate the opposition, after all many of them who are in the APC today, were once with us.
“They know virtually what we know, and that made us to change our style of campaign. In a contest such as we went through, it is important not to underrate your opponent, because surprises may come, and more importantly, our party, the PDP, is in opposition at the federal level.”
Long before the general elections, the Enugu state chapter of the APC was mired in leadership crisis, to the extent that the party couldn’t advance its gubernatorial campaign beyond its state headquarters located at Ogui junction, Enugu. The result was that the party suffered a crushing defeat at the polls.
According to some APC members in the state, the leadership crisis that engulfed the party was engineered by the PDP to destabilize the party, and therefore, render it ineffectual to win the hearts and souls of the electorate.
“If the APC allowed itself to be infiltrated upon, then they don’t mean business, and by implication, they were from the beginning bound to fail. But I can tell you that we don’t have interest in what is happening in APC.
“It’s like saying that APC infiltrated me as the DG of the PDP campaign organisation. It then means that I don’t know what I am doing. So, I think it is absurd to say PDP caused the crisis in APC. Governor Ugwuanyi is not interested in what is happening in APC.
“The APC people know themselves; they know their antecedents. Have you even heard us attack them? Yes, they are noble people; they are our friends, and that’s why we are not interested in their internal matter.
“How can anybody allege that we sponsored the crisis in APC? When you are a giant, as the PDP is, do you need a big stone to kill a rat? We didn’t even have the logistics to propel our movement let alone sponsoring something somewhere. What gain are we going to derive from destabilizing the APC? But don’t forget that the APC has no structure in Enugu state, and they couldn’t have built one overnight.
“Even at that, we didn’t want to take anything for granted. Have you watched the film – the good, the bad, the ugly? If you want to shoot, shoot. We didn’t want to pretend. We were everywhere campaigning despite the fact that our opponents had no structures to win elections here. And that is why you saw the kind of votes we got during the governorship election, and the other elections.
Dr. Egumgbe led the PDP campaign that threw up Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, as governor of the state in 1999. Also in 2015, he was appointed the director-general of the campaign that produced the incumbent governor of the state, a position he also held in 2019.
Against this backdrop, questions are being asked as to when “the kingmaker will become the king?”
Said Egumgbe, “Well, everything is in the hands of God. God has helped me to pay my dues. I follow God, and after God, the governor who is the leader of the party in Enugu state.”
Asked what areas he thinks the governor should lay emphasis on during his second term in office, Egumgbe said: “I think the emphasis will be on water supply as far as Nsukka and Enugu cities are concerned.
“The administration should go ahead to ensure that all rural people connected to the urban areas, because so many places are still landlocked, isolated as a result of bad roads. But I know that as far as Nsukka and Enugu are concerned, this issue of water will be given top priority.
“The government will work towards constituting Nsukka and Enugu as a mega-city. Principally, Nsukka will have a facelift as the second metropolis in the state.”