Enugu, the capital city of Enugu State, went abuzz on Monday as former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani flagged off his senatorial election campaign.
The former two-term governor is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Enugu East senatorial district in the 2019 general elections. He is seeking to reclaim the seat he occupied in the country’s upper legislative chamber between 2007 and 2011.
The political godfather who was responsible for the emergence of most of the senior politicians in the state since the onset of the present democracy returned to the country on the eve of the new year after a vacation in the United States.
His political stature in the state grew tremendously after he clinched the senatorial ticket of the PDP without being physically present in the country at the time of the primary. He was backed in the intra-party election by the governor of the state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in a move seen by many as a political masterstroke that has virtually locked up the Enugu East senatorial district for the ruling party in the state.
Before the move, there were mounting rumours that the former governor was poised to decamp to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in his renewed quest for the senate. Reliable sources in the party told The Easterner that as part of the efforts to woo the former governor to defect to the party, a senatorial nomination form was reserved for him.
The expected defection, however, did not materialize as Nnamani cleared all doubts by issuing a public statement declaring he was running for senate on the PDP platform.
Following his victory in the senatorial primary of the PDP, the APC leaders in the state capitalized on his continued absence to spread a rash of fake news alleging that he was either bedridden or incapacitated overseas.
His arrival however dispelled the negative rumours and generated palpable excitements in his base, with his associates, followers, former political foes, leaders of PDP in the state and different political support groups besieging his Agbani country home where he received them for days.
Nnamani’s campaign train of long and colourful procession of vehicles took off from his residence and made brief stops at Eke Agbani, Umueze, Obe and Ozalla, where he alighted from his vehicle, exchanging handshakes, hugging and waving at his cheering supporters.
On the campaign trail with him were his former political aides while he served as governor, among them his former chief of staff and later minister of information and communication, Frank Nweke Jr, the latter’s successor as chief of staff, Peter Mbah, former commissioner for environment, Hilary Chinedu Onu, former commissioner for works, Dons Udeh and other candidates of the party from the senatorial district, among them Ofor Chukwuegbo for Enugu North and South federal constituency, Cornelius Nnaji for Enugu East/Isi Uzo and Nnoli Nnaji for Nkanu East and West federal constituency.
At the populous Gariki, Awkunanaw Enugu, residents went agog with joyful songs and dancing on sighting the leader of the Ebeano political family whose grassroots popularity appeared to be growing stronger, almost 12 years after his governorship years.
As if to demonstrate his physical fitness and finally put all speculations about his health to rest, Nnamani re-enacted his old style of street-to-street campaigns that lasted for many hours.
The convoy moved from Gariki to Mayor bus stop, Obioma Street, Kenyetta market, Obiagu Road, Presidential Road and Abakpa, punctuated by long treks along the route, while chants of “Chimaroke Ebeano! Chimaroke Ebeano!” from the boisterous crowds rented the air.
On the arrival of the campaign train at Abakpa bridge, the overcrowded suburb of Enugu erupted and virtually shut down as the popular Nike Road was filled by the surge of Ebeano enthusiasts and party supporters. Accompanied by the teeming crowd, Nnamani trekked all the way to Umuchigbo, amid dancing, singing and animated celebrations.
Nnamani was hosted at Umuchigbo by the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Edward Obosi, from where the convoy left for Neke in Isi Uzo Local Government Area for another reception by the State PDP Chairman, Chief Augustine Nnamani.
The stir caused by the maiden campaign outing of the Ebeano leader has already changed political calculations in the state, with the APC leaders who had made his prolonged absence and purported ill health the centre of their campaign messages seeming to have suddenly lost their voices.