The Enugu State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has since its inception in 1999 produced various chairmen. They include Chief Charles Egumgbe, who is the current Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, the traditional ruler in Aninri council of the state, His Royal Highness, Igwe Onyioha Nwanjoku, Chief Vita Abba, Mr. Ikeje Asogwa, also Chairman of Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB), and the incumbent, Mr. Augustine Nnamani.
From 1999 also, its products have controlled the executive and legislative arms of government. In fact, no other political party has been able to win the election in Enugu State except PDP. The only exception was in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of Muhammadu Buhari appointed its member from the state into the federal executive council other federal appointments made before then in the state had been from within the fold of the PDP.
However, while the party has continued to dominate affairs in the politics of the state, one challenge it has been unable to overcome is lack of permanent address, as it has no structure of its own. It has operated from one rented apartment to another in the state. From an old building along Abakaliki Road in GRA in 1999, the offices of the party moved to Zik Avenue in Uwani, where Onyioha Nwanjoku operated till he served out his tenure. From Zik Avenue, offices of the party moved to Ogui Junction into former governor Sullivan Chime’s father’s building. It was while administering the party from this building that Vita Abba-led executive conceived the idea of setting up a permanent secretariat building for PDP.
It was in an apparent move to change and end the party’s homelessness even as it claimed that ‘Enugu is PDP’ as well as deepen the party’s foothold in the state that the Vita Abba-led executive in 2010 resolved to set up a state secretariat building befitting the PDP. The proposed secretariat would comprise offices, libraries, conference halls for retreats and meetings among others.
Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu was appointed to lead a committee that would raise funds for the realization of the project. While Ekweremadu and others pursued funding, Chairman of Enugu State Universal Basic Education (ENSUBEB), Asogwa, who later became the party’s state chairman, headed the building committee.
It was gathered that outside the funds members contributed, appointed and elected officials were made to contribute from their monthly incomes until the project was completed. It could not be ascertained whether the monthly contributions were carried out and how much the party realised from it. An 18-month timeline was set by the leadership of the party for the realization of the project. And to underscore the importance of the project to the party, it began to hold party functions, especially those involving the national and zonal affairs at the permanent site.
“Not when the party is barely surviving in the state even with being in control of power,” a PDP Stalwart, Jerry Ugwu told The Guardian. “Not with the many troubles and contentions here and there over who gets what and where the interests now are how to satisfy self and not the party”.
A source, however, hinted that Enugu chapter was not the only branch of the party that planned to set up a permanent secretariat building that got abandoned midway. The N11 billion national secretariat building of the party in Abuja is said to be suffering a similar fate. The 12-story building conceived in 2008 and located on Muhammadu Buhari Way in the Central Business District has not been completed.
In the case of Enugu State chapter, funds were reported raised from individual contributions, sale of forms for elections, and donations as well as fund raising activities that involved friends of the party within and outside the state.
Divergent opinions have been expressed as to the cause of the abandonment of the secretariat building even when the party has continued to dominate the politics and governance of Enugu State. While some attribute it to the paucity of funds, others insist that the party generated enough to have taken care of the project but blamed it on lack of accountability and mismanagement of resources. There are others who are calling for a probe into the activities of those who handled the secretariat project so far.
Reminded, however, that his administration set up the Ekweremadu fund raising committee that sourced for money for the project, Abba added: “That committee was formed with Ekweremadu as the chairman with no interference from the chairman of the party. The then committee chairman should be able to explain how much was raised and how much was spent on the project”.
He stated that he did not run the party alone, but with other officials, stressing, “the issue of secretariat building was handled by those we set up for the project”.
Asogwa, who took over from Vita Abba and organized a fund raising launch for the project, denied that work stopped at the secretariat building after monies were raised. He stated that whatever was realised was channeled to the project, and challenged anyone with a contrary report to come forward.
As at the time of filing this report, the current chairman of the party in the state, Augustine Nnamani, refused to respond to inquiries on the fate of the project. A source in his office, however, said: “That secretariat building is the least of the things on the table of the party at the moment”
A former national auditor of the party, Chief Ray Nnaji, believes that the secretariat project was suffering due to lack of checks and balances, stressing that it was unfortunate that its promoters could not account for anybody about their activities.
“When Asogwa became chairman after Vita, members thought the project would receive speedy completion, since he was chairman of the building committee and now chairman of the party, but everything suddenly collapsed. The project has been like that since then.
“Those that will answer the question are the Ikeje Asogwa committee, the Vita Abba executive and Senator Ike Ekweremadu fund raising committee. Along the line, more names may be mentioned. We cannot leave it like that when the land is lying fallow and when the party is still in a rented place. Where we are now is a rented place, which ought not to be. We ought to have our secretariat by now. Ebonyi PDP has her own secretariat and many other places. It is very shameful and too bad. I hope the party will do the needful in this regard.”