BARBAROSSA OR BULGE: The 2023 Political Battle of Enugu State by Obori Adaka

In the history of battles and wars, the blunder of Operation Barbarossa stands out as Hitler’s futile efforts to take over the Soviet Union. While the Battle of Bulge was the last offensive of the Germans on the Western Front, it resulted in catastrophic and devastating losses on the German side inflicted largely by American troops, making it difficult to resist the advance of Allied Forces and the eventual fall of the Third Reich. The win and loss of both battles were grounded in the strategies deployed in wars and as rightly defined; strategy is an art of war. Strategy is an important concept in the realm of business and politics including, but not limited to, the political battle of Enugu State. However, the 2023 quest for Enugu State governorship and the soul of Aladimma is far from being a war; rather lessons, strategies, and tactics of war come in handy as we try to unravel the political development of the day.                                                                                                                                                 

Perhaps, the results of the presidential and national assembly election in Enugu State presented a picture of a severed relationship in the marriage of convenience which started in 1999 between the good people of Enugu State and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The Obedient’s wave of the Labour Party (LP) has obviously made available the knife to cut the bond holding Enugu State people and PDP.  Such was so evident that the incumbent Governor, His Excellency Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was politically humbled by his own people of Enugu North as he lost his bid to a former serial loser, Chief Okey Ezea, who stands as Senator-elect today. Ideke dusted GburuGburu in a landslide win with a 52K vote advantage. The victory of the last election has crowned LP as the majority party in Enugu State in control of seven out of eight Federal Constituencies and one senate seat, at par with PDP, and one senate seat outstanding because of the brutal killing of the LP Senate Candidate, Hon Barrister Oyibo Chukwu, may his soul rest in peace.                                                                                                                         

The question is whether PDP will survive the onslaught and retain the governorship of Enugu State or will LP ride on the current momentum of Obidient’s wave to victory and dismantle the 23 years grip of PDP on the state. If there is a chance on both sides, what must the parties’ and their candidates do to survive the next election coming up in 12 days? How should both parties tweak their strategies and tactics to win the soul of Enugu State people? Is it really a two-way fight of LP vs. PDP, or is there a third force like APGA? What will be the possible outcome?

First of all, like an entrenched behemoth with political structures extending the entire Enugu State for 23 years, PDP can survive the avalanche of the recent loss. PDP can quickly reorganize and recalibrate their messages to overwhelm the looming challenges from LP. If PDP strategists start early and utilize the remaining 12 days they can as a matter of urgency snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Despite the filthy baggage of the incumbent, the loss of seven out of eight seats, and the colossal fall of the incumbent governor, the PDP can still win it all, but only if they work for it.

On the other hand, the work of LP is a bit lighter. Apart from coasting in the confidence and euphoria of victory, the Supreme Court’s decision ending the tussle for the LP Governorship ticket boosted their energy in the final onslaught on PDP. LP can
continue what they have done right by reminding the people of Enugu State who have been in charge of the state for the past 23 years. LP has the three powerful motivating words; “we are winning”. LP can actually win it all, but they need a lot of capital and hard work.

Since our verdict is that both PDP and LP can still win Enugu State, it is our humble opinion that PDP must first of all take stock and review what they did not get right that cost them the last election. They need review where they fell short of expectation. They need to come up with ways to fix areas of improvement in messaging. PDP is known to harbor an inflexible bureaucratic culture of imposition which spreads to even the campaign directors and officers of the incumbent administration cobbled together to present a new candidate to the people. No matter the struggle of the new PDP Candidate, the new message becomes muffled into the same old PDP, a party with a firm grip of Enugu State for 23 years with a litany of woes.

The PDP Governorship Candidate should quickly and decisively step out the shadow of the incumbent, who currently represents the faces of defeat and loss. The PDP Candidate should stand as the new leader of the party, acknowledge some of the errors, and promise to right some of the numerous wrongs of the past. The PDP Candidate should confront some of the many nagging questions and innuendos framed as ‘Ego Ndi Enugu’ and ‘Land Grabbing’ and promise like he did in many fora to repatriate all stolen and seized assets of Enugu State people from the Federal Government as done by Bayelsa State and implement an innovative land management information systems to reassure investors and owners in the real estate sector.

Finally, the PDP Candidate and his team should refer to the lessons of the Battle of the Bulge, which includes but not limited to, not underestimating your opponent, taking calculated risks, having reserve and always maintaining flexibility as you build a cult of allies. Such allies can start by the PDP Candidate appointing a point man or woman in the 260 wards of Enugu State who will, along with party officials, ensure that the interest and messages are flowing correctly.

Perhaps since the verdict of win is the same for LP, but their actions are different. It is our opinion that the LP should stay on the message. The primary goal is to frame their message as a continuation of Obidents’ wave and continue to present their LP
Candidate as a disciple of Peter Obi and that whatever PO intends to do for Nigeria the LP Candidate will replicate in Enugu State. The LP Candidate should address his no-manifestos strategy to the people and explain how his strategy of visiting every ward translates to his plan for Enugu State. The LP Candidate should dispel the allegations of leaving Enugu City dirty as the Commissioner of Environment by delineating the roles of his Ministry of Environment and ESWAMA as he did in some fora. The LP Candidate must not rely on the ‘no shishi’ mantra of the Labour Party. He should embark on a serious search for funds for him to counter the avalanche of money bags in PDP.

Finally, the LP Candidate and his team should refer to the lessons of the Battle of the Bulge, which includes but not limited to, not underestimating your opponent, taking calculated risks, having reserve and always maintaining flexibility as you build a cult of allies. Such allies can start by the LP Candidate appointing a point man or woman in the 260 wards of Enugu State who will be capable of spending at least one million Naira to stem the paucity of funds in the Labour Party. Such appointees along with party officials will also ensure that the interest and messages are flowing correctly. 

Posterity will not be fair to us if we conclude this piece without pointing out the looming presence of APGA Governorship Candidate. In our review of the Diaspora Zoom Meeting organized by Nigerian American Diaspora Institute Inc. moderated by Prof Eze Sunny Udeh in USA, we concluded that the APGA Governorship Candidate is indeed the best of the three likely candidates to win the Governorship of Enugu State in 2023. However, the reality of the day is the elections in Nigeria are won with party affiliation not individual candidacy. The political development of Nigeria and Enugu State has not even embraced Diaspora voting talk more of individual candidacy, but we will get these someday.

In conclusion, Operation Barbarossa and the Battle of Bulge are both turning points for the Allied Force quest to free Europe from the iron curtain of the Third Reich. Both were well planned with strategies and tactics of war, but executions in some cases fell short. Like in business and in politics, the punches and counterpunches of strategies and tactics do not always materialize as expected. If PDP gets over the psychology of recent defeat and reaches out to the people of Enugu State, cap-in-hands, in humility and taint of apology and overriding promises to do better, the outcome could favor PDP. The LP, on the other hand, with the momentum on their side could carry the day if they muster enough cash, stay on the message of Obidients’ wave as disciples of Peter Obi, and not become overconfident and start celebrating before the win. As for the APGA, we do not see any path to victory however the APGA Candidate remains the best of the three as we conclude the LP or PDP will govern Enugu State in 2023, so help us God.

Obori Adaka, Ph.D. an Analyst, a Democracy Activist, Election Observer, Social
Commentator and Consultant, writes from Enugu

Disclaimer: Analysis and views expressed are those of the author only

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