By Nnamdi Nwokedi
In a dreary season of politics such as now, where the field is left bare of contemplative engagements, it is perhaps impossible to ignore some flashes of deep reflections that seek to animate our political firmament.
Politics used to be a game of glamour suffused with compelling wits and penetrating interjections. Whereas in the years gone by such cerebral minds as the inimitably magniloquent K.O.K Mbadiwe, Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Nnamadi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, etc, animated the political scenes with their immortal pronouncements and styles, the vocation of politics is today defined by depressing vacuity where the best is without conviction and the worst is filled with passionate intensity.Ugwuanyi
The firmament is therefore bare, bereft of cerebral content and erudition that make politics engaging after all. It is therefore interesting to observe those rare circumstances that throw up some words or encapsulating thesis that seek to etch memorable developments for posterity to contend with. In the present political dispensation, we have had such flashes and clichés like “dividends of democracy”, “feeding bottle federalism”, “stomach infrastructure” and now “political ecumenism”. Thus it can be said, that even in the ruins of politics, where the field is barren of ideas and deep thoughts, one can still find some traces of architecture, so to speak.
Yours truly was in Enugu the Coal City State recently and I came directly in contact with the reigning mantra of “political ecumenism”. It was in an innocuous, even if unlikely setting, so to speak. The event was the thanksgiving service of the National Vice Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief Emma Eneukwu.
It was a gathering of who is who in the politics of Enugu and indeed the South East, including the state Governor Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Chiefs Ken Nnamani, former President of Senate; Jim Nwobodo, former Governor of the old Anambra State; Geofrey Onyeama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, Senators Andy Ubah, Chuka Utazi and Ayogu Eze, the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state among others! It was a roll call of who is worth the regards, so to speak.
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The pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre Enugu, one of the Pentecostal outfits that dot the city of Enugu, Pastor Timothy Benedict kicked off what would later amount to an endorsement service for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
He commended the governor for his exemplary leadership style, which he said has brought peace and unity among politicians in the state irrespective of their political affiliations. Amid loud ovation from the congregation, the pastor extolled the virtue of tolerance and forbearance in the governor which he said has created an enabling environment for politics to thrive in Enugu state without bitterness.
While expressing delight that Governor Ugwuanyi could afford a solidarity presence with a member of the opposition, he called on other states in the country to “come and learn the template on how to play politics without bitterness and unnecessary struggles”! The celebrant, Hon Eneukwu, in a frank and bipartisan candour, described Governor Ugwuanyi as “a close friend and true father to all politicians in the state irrespective of their political leanings”. He stressed that the Governor’s inclusive leadership style and bipartisan approach to governance have brought enduring peace and unity among the political leaders in the state which has consequently sustained development of the state.
Elsewhere, in an event organized to fete the Nigerian ambassador to India, Major General Chris Eze (Rtd), a high profile member of the APC in the state, it was a harvest of endorsements for Governor Ugwuanyi’s bipartisan politics, otherwise known as political ecumenism. At that event which had a roll call of who-is-who in the APC, the leaders took turn to commend Governor Ugwuanyi for this uncommon virtue. Ken Nnamani intoned that the governor has demonstrated political maturity in the state by creating an ambience of peace and tranquility where everybody is accorded his or her due respect irrespective of political divide. Chief Jim Nwobodo applauded the governor for uniting political leaders in the state irrespective of political divide and noted that the governor was a leader with conscience and fear of God.
The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu appreciated the governor’s magnanimity of heart towards all and assured him that the APC in the state would not take such a rare gesture for granted. Similar sentiments have been expressed even from unlikely sources such the church including the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Filipazi, the Ecclesiastical Bishop of the Anglican Church in Enugu, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma and the Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, His Eminence, Chris Uche. Indeed, Governor Ugwuanyi is never short of approvals especially from unlikely quarters including the wife of the National Leader of the APC, Senator Oluremi Tinubu and Alhaji Lai Mohammed who have variously applauded his ecumenical disposition to politics.
Although this general approval by both friends and foes is a rare phenomenon in our body politic where arrogance of power against the opposing view seems to be the norm, the significance of this development, according to the proponent, Barr. Nana Ogbodo, and who is also the Director of Communication for Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi 2019 Campaign Organisation, rests on the philosophy it conveys. What therefore is political ecumenism? Ecumenism is of Greek origin and it refers to initiatives aimed at greater unity and cooperation.
Although originally used in Christian denominations separated by doctrines, it has in recent times assumed a greater and broader meaning to describe conscientious efforts by people of noble souls, occupying high political offices, to create unity away from the arrogance of politics. It is the belief that differing political views can be managed to attain some harmony for the overall benefit of humanity and therefore refers to actions based on this. It is the principle of promoting cooperation or better understanding among differing political or even class or denominational divides.
The rule is simply put: try to understand others even as you hope to be understood by them. It is a radical critique of an era in which ideological lines are hardening and real dialogue diminishing in the public arena! It contrasts with the rhetoric of political campaigns which are often based on divisiveness, hyperbole, half-truths and innuendos. How much can politicians learn about issues or one another if their positions harden into inflexible dogmas and their ears are closed to opposing ideas? Thus unlike the norm whereby politicians surround themselves with isolating barrier of like-minded cronies, political ecumenism professes a paradigm shift that values diversity, that is pluralism of opinion as a central virtue. This after all ought to be the substance of politics.
The interesting subject is how was Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi able to live out this profile in a state hitherto marked out by such beastly gale of arrogance of power, godfatherism and swashbuckling tendencies? A state that has had political opponents houses demolished in the middle of the night for holding or expressing different views from that of the man in power?
A state where political opponents found it prudent to escape on self-imposed exile to different parts of the country? A state that is so sensitive to denominational, state, ethnic/sub-ethnic and social stratifications? The unanimity of affection for Ugwuanyi goes far beyond the office he occupies and touches on his character and persona. He is certainly a man of peace who has refused to be overtaken by the violence of politics. In trying to encapsulate the philosophy of political ecumenism in Ugwuanyi’s worldview, it could be said that it means vision, passion and compassion. These are the grimly virtues that have defined his leadership. Shun of guiles and practically incapable of intrigues, political ecumenism to him means tolerance of other views. It is a cosmopolitan disposition etched on large-heartedness. It eschews chauvinism, and being at home with people that hold other views. It is the generosity of spirit, being able to cast an enduring vision in and sparking hope in the ordinary man.
By his personal habits, he has deconstructed the hifalutin façade usually foisted by flamboyant leaders to glorify and mystify their offices. He has torn down the grandiloquent imagery of office of the governor as an institution far removed from the people.
In effect, he has returned the government to the people, all people; and made government house what it is designed for – a house for the people. Today it is home for the PDP, APC, APGA, Accord, SDP, Catholics, Methodists, Protestants, Pentecostals, Animists, you name it! That is what is graphically encapsulated in the philosophy of political ecumenism. That is Governor Ugwuanyi’s substance in the politics of this dispensation.
Nwokedi, a lawyer, lives in Lagos.