Dr. Mbah displaying the Ofo symbol at the event
Expectedly, the tension and anxiety often associated with the struggle for political offices in each election year across the country had graphically moved up the chart with the formal kick off of the presidential campaign last Wednesday, September 28, in line with the time table of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
In Enugu State which is the centre of this piece, there are four main contenders for the office of the governor namely; Dr Peter Mbah (Peoples Democratic Party) Hon. Chijioke Edeoga/Chief Evarest Nnaji (Labour Party) Chief Frank Nweke jnr (All Progressives Grand Alliance) and Pastor Donatus Ozoemena (African Democratic Congress (ADC)
Findings showed that Edeoga and Chief Nnaji are still laying claim to the gubernatorial ticket of the Labour Party (LP) as the matter is still pending in the court.
Further checks revealed that the unending crisis within the opposition flank in the state is a gain in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), consequently giving the lead to Dr Mbah ahead of his rivals.
Perhaps, it is against the aforementioned backdrop that the presentation of Ofo to the PDP candidate, Mbah, by traditional rulers of Enugu State last Wednesday September 28, did not come to many as a surprise.
Ofo, a small stick made from a tree known as detarium elastica is believed in Igbo enclave to perform wonders. Despite the advent of western civilization, it is still held with utmost respect as the material and mystical symbol of truth; purity, justice and authority.
Critics of Mbah argued that it was not proper for paramount rulers, as custodians of culture and tradition, to delve into partisan politics even as they agreed that it had brightened the chance of the PDP candidate to realise his political dream in 2023.
But to pro-Mbah’s group, the event of September 28 was a good development, saying, “Ofo is a symbol of power and authority and by extension the signification of a true leader of the people who when he speaks, the people will obey his directives.
“Invariably, the Ofo insignia given to Mbah symbolises a vote of confidence in him, an assurance that royal fathers and entire people of Enugu State are behind him”, Dr Jerry Ikenna, a Public Affairs Analyst said.
This reporter who covered the event that started at 12 noon as scheduled, observed that the royal fathers who travelled from various communities in the 17 Local Government Areas of the state in their regalia were seated in the hallowed chamber carved out for them at the Enugu State House of Assembly building, waiting for their august visitor.
The Chairman of the State Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzo set the ball rolling with the introduction of his key members including their Patron, Igwe Simon Itodo, a one time parliamentarian.
Ambassador Agubuzu, said that Mbah had demonstrated his “great respect” for the traditional institution in holding a consultative meeting with them, stressing, “By deciding to come and hold this consultative meeting with us, it shows that you recognise that the bedrock of democracy is the people at the grassroots who are subjects of the traditional rulers.
His words: “You will recall that on March 29, 2022 when there was tension in this state arising from the arguments for and against rotation of the office of governor”.
“We assembled here and issued a communique in which we unequivocally stated that it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District to produce our governor in next year’s governorship election.
“At that time, all eyes were on the PDP as the ruling party in the state even as we enjoined all political parties to pick their gubernatorial candidates from Enugu East Senatorial Zone.
“The emergence of Hon. Peter Mbah as the Gubernatorial Candidate of PDP is in keeping with the rotational principle advocated in our earlier mentioned communique,” he said.
The chairman also implored the traditional rulers to pray for his protection and wish him success through “our joint presentation of ‘ofo” to him”.
“As traditional rulers, we must remain absolutely non-partisan in politics while advising our subjects to vote wisely for leaders who would bring peace, security, development and prosperity to our state and country,” Agubuzu added.
In his response, Mbah expressed his profound gratitude to the traditional rulers for the prayers and handling over the collective “ofo’ to him, adding: “the great value I attach to what you have done to me today, cannot be lost by me”.
According to him, “this ‘Ofo’, which is a symbol of authority, also represent peace and justice to me.
“My virtues will represent and symbolise what you have done today. If, Almighty God, answers our prayers and I become your governor, I will not abandon you.
“What you have done shows what our ancestors in the state want, as you people are close to them and you are the sole custodian of our culture and tradition,” he said.
Mbah also assured the traditional rulers that he would run a people-focused and development-focused administration when elected, adding that he would continue on the trajectory of rural community development, “which Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, had done exceptionally well on”.
“My administration will make Enugu State the preferred destination for business, tourism, industrialisation and technology hub within the Africa sub-region.
“We will also continue to build on the existing peace and security, as Enugu State remains the most peaceful state in the country. It is clear that without peace and security there will be no development and progress.
“So, we will accelerate youths’ employment to ensure peace and security within our communities as well as go ahead with our integrated local communities’ development master-plan to ensure even development of the entire state.
“We will build new infrastructures in our communities such as roads, markets, electricity and water schemes to further open up the state and continue with the great work of our present governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, is doing,” he said.
The PDP candidate also appealed to the traditional rulers to take the message home to their subjects that they had found who would deliver their development message and give them peace and security as well.
Present in the meeting were all traditional rulers in state, Mbah’s running mate; Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai, the PDP Campaign Director-General in Enugu State, Chief Ikeje Asogwu, Prince U.S.A Igwesi and the state’s PDP Chairman, Chief Augustine Nnamani, among others.