Sheddy Ozoene, a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, in this interview with CHINEDU AROH, discusses what his new book, CLASH OF INTERESTS, which centres on Enugu politics, has come to achieve.
Tell us your background
I have been in journalism for over 30 years. During the span of my career, I edited two state newspapers, Katsina Newsweek and Kogi Express; and a national daily, TheDiet. During the military government, I joined TheNews/TEMPO, which was the strongest pro-democracy media platform at the time. I eventually became the editor of PMNews, one of the titles on the stable and highest selling evening newspaper in West Africa.
Academically, I have HND in mass communication from the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu; a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Lagos, and a Master’s degree from the University of Leicester, UK. I am presently the publisher/editor-in-chief of People&Politics magazine.
What is your new book on Enugu politics all about?
The book, CLASH OF INTERESTS, is an account of some key political developments in Enugu State in the past twenty-nine years. It details the rise of godfatherism in Enugu politics, and how the keen contests for political power in the state have been conducted along personal interests and its consequences on internal democracy, good governance and the people’s welfare
Your book seems incisive. Are you indicting Enugu past leaders?
Not at all. Well, it does not set out to indict anybody, any particular government or group. I don’t think anybody will find any account in the book as offensive or indicting. It is essentially a historical account of events, and I am more concerned about the facts in each issue, not necessarily about political correctness. If those facts are substantially correct, we cannot run away from them as part of our history.
Are there specific incidents in the book you like to recall?
Not particularly. The theme of the book is built around the usual quarrel between godfathers and godsons. How the godsons transmute to godfathers, and the crises that ensue as godfather and godson struggle for control of parties and political structures. It has happened with the three men who have had to lead Enugu State since 1999. Other accounts are built around these issues, to flesh up the book.
Are there specific areas that some people would say the book is critical?
Well, in all the quarrels among key political players in the state, just like elsewhere in Nigeria, good governance and internal democracy are, in most cases, sacrificed. Any analysis of such issue must be able to highlight these consequences. It’s systemic thing, and not necessarily targeted at any particular leader at any time.
What has the book come to achieve?
It will be an addition to some of the accounts out there about our recent past, our political history especially. Such history helps us learn from our past, enrich our knowledge base and probably help us in building a better political system that puts the people’s welfare at the centre.
Who, what and which particular incidences inspired the book, CLASH OF INTERESTS?
The idea of writing this book came about, first, as I tried to present an account of the making of the administration of the Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as governor of Enugu State. He had given me a front-row seat during the campaigns, and I observed the many intrigues that played out, as well as the various developments that took place before his eventual coronation on May 29, 2015. The urge to put those experiences in writing was strong.
I actually started the project in 2016, but stopped momentarily in 2017 when I went from being an observer to a participant in the governance of my state, first as senior special assistant to the governor from 2016 to the end of the first tenure in 2019, to the brief period I acted as chairman of Udi Local Government Area from September to December 2017.
The political developments of that year altered the storyline in a profound way: the gap in relationship between Governor Ugwuanyi and his predecessor in office, Barr Sullivan Chime, had widened to the point that the usually restrained Chime started making uncomplimentary statements against his successor in office and the Peoples Democratic Party he had led for eight years. What started as a rumour that both leaders had parted ways became a reality in May 2017 when Chime quit the party and joined the rival All Progressives Congress (APC). The parting of ways was a big surprise to political watchers in Nigeria, though such had repeatedly happened before in Enugu State. As I analysed the issues in their parting of ways, and juxtaposed them against such previous occurrences, the storyline changed in a fundamental way. The result is the book, Clash of Interests.