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Enugu: 2015 ambition tears Chime, Onyebushi apart

Onyebuchi was brought to the fore on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 when 22 out of the 24 members of the Enugu State House of Assembly…

Onyebuchi was brought to the fore on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 when 22 out of the 24 members of the Enugu State House of Assembly signed a notice of impeachment against the deputy governor, accusing him of gross insubordination and disobedience to Governor Sullivan Chime’s directives during a session that lasted less than one hour.
The motion for impeachment was presented by leader of the House, Mr S. K. E. Udeokoye, who is also the sponsor of the motion. The deputy leader, MrJohn Ukuta seconded it.
The Speaker, Mr. Eugene Odo said one member representing Aninri Constituency, who is also a younger brother to the deputy senate president, Mr. Mathias Ekweremadu did not sign the 6-page document.
However, the clerk of the House, Mr Christopher Chukwurah was directed to serve the impeachment notice to the deputy governor.
In the 3-page impeachment notice signed by 22 out of the 24 members of the House, the legislators alleged that between February 2013 and February 2014, the deputy governor wrongfully deployed the resources of his office and exercised the powers thereof to resist and ridicule the implementation of a public health policy of the government of Enugu State, which they considered as an abuse of office.
“By a resolution of the Enugu State House of Assembly at its plenary on Tuesday, 12th February, 2013, the Enugu State House of Assembly prohibited the maintenance and operation of commercial livestock and poultry farms within residential neighbourhoods in Enugu metropolis in promotion of public health standards; which resolution was further accepted by the government for implementation,” the lawmakers claimed.
They also alleged that despite the said resolution, Mr Onyebuchi continued to maintain and operate a commercial poultry farm within the premises of his official residential quarters and refused to carry out the directives of the relevant officials of the government, who visited his official premises to monitor compliance with the said resolution.
The lawmakers said consequent upon the intimidation of the relevant officials of the government by Onyebuchi in respect of the above matter, Governor Sullivan Chime through letters with reference numbers: GHE/CAO/31/239 and GHE/CAO/31/240 dated December 24, 2013 and December 27, 2013 respectively, directed the deputy governor to relocate the commercial poultry farm, which is also within the general premises of the Government House, Enugu and adjacent to the Governor’s office.
The deputy governor, the legislators alleged, further defied the governor’s directive when he insisted, in a letter dated January 8, 2014, that he would not relocate his commercial poultry farm from the premises of his residential quarters.
According to the legislators, when the government through the appropriate ministries and departments relocated the birds and cleared the premises of the “noxious stench emanating from there,” the deputy governor “wrongfully deployed the resources and powers of his office and invited the press and openly castigated the government and her officials, thereby impugning and denigrating the authority and office of the governor, and embarrassing the government.”
On the alleged disobedience to governor’s lawful directives, the lawmakers claimed that Onyebuchi failed to perform the functions of his office as directed by the governor pursuant to section 193 (1) of the Constitution without any excuse.
They particularly alleged that on March 11, 2014, Onyebuchi refused to represent Governor Chime at the flag-off ceremony of the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge in Onitsha by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Also, they claimed that the deputy governor refused to represent the governor at the South East Governors Forum held at the Lion Building, Enugu on Sunday, July 6, 2014, despite expressed directive of the governor.
They further alleged that the deputy governor persisted in his defiance of lawful directives issued to him by the governor, stressing that the “defiance has adversely affected and will continue to affect the smooth running of the government, and he will continue to do so if not removed from office.”
The legislators said they were exercising the powers vested in the Assembly by section 118(1) – (9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
But the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Onyebuchi, has formally responded to the notice served on him, explaining why he is running a poultry farm in his official quarters.
Mr Onyebuchi, who said he was glad that none of the allegations bordered on corruption or fraud, denied another allegation that he was disrespectful to the governor, Chime, insisting that since he was elected deputy governor in 2011, he had represented the governor at numerous events.
However, a combination of political factors must have made the Enugu State Deputy Governor, Onyebuchi vulnerable to what observers regard as “the quasi-impeachment process” which the “rubber stamp State House of Assembly” put in motion against him.
According to insiders in the Enugu power struggle, one of such factors that may have given Onyebuchi away is his ambition to represent the Enugu East Senatorial District in the National Assembly in 2015.
His ambition is believed to have clashed with that of the Chief of Staff to Governor Chime, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo, who is also keenly interested in the position. It is believed that Ekweremadu is strongly behind Onyebuchi’s senatorial ambition while Governor Chime is said to be working to ensure that Mrs. Nwobodo takes over the Enugu East Senatorial seat presently being occupied by Senator Gilbert Nnaji.
Another factor working against the depity governor is the perceived ‘cold war’ between Ekweremadu and Chime over the former’s rumoured move to succeed the latter in 2015.
Also, there is deep-rooted suspicion purportedly held by Chime against Onyebuchi for being allegedly loyal to to the former Governor Nnamani, who is equally an Nkanu man just like Onyebuchi.
Shortly after being sworn-in as Governor, Chime fell out with his political godfather and predecessor in office, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani. The two men have not been meeting since then.
However, it was learnt that the political intrigue might not be unconnected with a clash of interest over the sole seat of the Enugu East Senatorial District in the National Assembly between Mrs. Nwobodo and Onyebuchi.
Sunday Trust gathered that Governor Chime recently told his deputy to drop his senatorial ambition for Mrs. Nwobodo, a demand which Onyebuchi refused on the grounds that his boss could not offer any cogent reason to justify his withdrawal.
According to an insider, the game-plan for the impeachment of Onyebuchi is to incapacitate him financially ahead of the 2015 elections and pave the way for the emergence of Mrs Nwobodo as the deputy governor to prepare her for the senate contest.
A reliable source said the fight between the governor and his deputy was so bad that the deputy governor had to be accommodated by one of the commissioners in Enugu State when he represented the governor at a sports event hosted by the Rivers State government in Port Harcourt.
The renovation of Onyebuchi’s official residence, which began in 2012, has been suspended. Similar work on his office complex has also been abandoned. Onyebuchi operates from his private residence at the GRA, Enugu.   
The reliable source said the failure of the deputy governor to represent the governor at the South-East Governors’ Forum was caused by a breach of the protocol.
“They ought to have known that protocol wise, the deputy governor takes instructions or directives from the governor and not from his subordinates. If he did not represent the governor at the southeast governors forum, it is simply because somebody is attempting to usurp powers needlessly, and make him look unimportant, and Onyebuchi should not be held responsible for that, ” an aide to Onyebuchi said.
Commenting on the impeachment notice, Chime said he had tolerated his deputy to protect their “common family” called the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said instead of resigning and showing remorse over his activities, the deputy governor had severally engaged in acts aimed at undermining him as a governor, adding that he ignored his activities in the overall interest of the state.
He also dismissed the insinuation that the impeachment proceeding was ploted because of the deputy governor’s rumoured senatorial ambition.
“What’s the link? We are saying he has refused to do his work and even had to tell me to my face that what is happening to him is because of his ambition. Let me tell you clearly that it has no link. He has been going round Abuja telling people all manners of things. But by the time I open up, Nigerians will know that nobody else could take what I’ve taken from him,” Governor Chime said.
It is an irony that this ugly development is happening between Chime and Onyebuchi because both men have enjoyed a robust relationship since the inception of the administration. Chime once told a gathering of PDP supporters at Michal Okpara Square that he was happy with his deputy, Onyebuchi.
Chime described his deputy as “a reliable and loyal deputy who understands the working of government,” and attributed the landmark feats of his government to the cordial relationship between him and Onyebuchi. But today, the reverse is the case and the story is not the same any longer.
This is not the first time a governor and his deputy will be having friction in Enugu State. The immediate past Governor Chimaroke Nnamani equally had problem with his deputy, Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi, a major political bickering that almost affected the state adversely at the end of his administration. The crisis was so severe that Itanyi’s security aides had to be withdrawn and his allowances withheld.

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