Magnus Eze, Enugu
Competence and zoning are no doubt the two major issues in the build up to next year’s governorship election in Anambra State. Ahead of the election, the call for the zoning of the governorship seat to Anambra South has become a dominant issue in the state’s politics while it appears competence has been relegated to the background.
Some of those being mentioned as governorship hopefuls are listed here with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) parading the highest number, so far. They include: Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Dr. Oseloka Obaze, Osita Chidoka, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Dr. Godwin Maduka; Mr Valentine Ozigbo, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, and Chris Azubuogu.
In the All Progressives Congress (APC) are Chief Chris Ngige, Dr Amobi Nwokafor, Senator Andy Uba, Chief Tony Nwoye, Dr. George Moghalu, Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo and Chief John Bosco Onunkwo while Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, are the only persons so far for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Progressive Party (YPP) respectively.
PDP, APGA and APC have all stated their positions on the zoning issue. APGA was the first to declare that it has zoned its governorship ticket to the Southern senatorial district of the state. APC said that it was not inclined to zoning but that party leaders will decide on that early next year; while the PDP has been insistent that it would not adopt zoning because other parties were doing so.
Some traditional rulers from the Southern zone recently requested Governor Willie Obiano to ensure that their zone produced the next governor. APGA’s National Chairman, Chief Victor Oye, had earlier disclosed that the party has zoned its governorship ticket to Anambra South.
Reiterating the party’s decision, State Chairman of APGA, Norbert Obi, said that the governorship position should be rotational among the three senatorial zones.
“We are picking our governorship candidate from Anambra South Senatorial zone. North will soon finish its own. After North finishes its own, it’s going to the South. After South; it will go to the central. After central, it will go to the North again”, Obi declared.
Also, former Chairman of Police Service Commission, Chief Simon Okeke has thrown his weight behind the call for the governorship seat to be ceded to the Southern part of the state.
He said that it was annoying to hear some politicians and traditional rulers from other senatorial zones outside Anambra South clamouring for the “gentleman’s agreement” to be jettisoned without considering the political injury it would inflict on the state’s political development.
He appealed to opinion leaders in Anambra Central and North to make political actors in their individual zones to see reasons to withdraw their ambition and allow Anambra South only to produce the successor of Governor Obiano.
For the PDP, its National Vice Chairman, South East, Chief Austin Umahi, was emphatic that zoning the governorship seat might be the internal affair of the APGA which had nothing to do with his party.
Addressing newsmen in Enugu recently, after PDP’s monthly zonal meeting, he wondered what zoning people were talking about. He stated that the PDP has not been in power in the state for a very long time, so, it would go the whole hug of identifying the best candidate to win the election.
The PDP leader noted that APGA could afford to zone because it has been in power in the state for long, asking not to be dragged into what was happening in another party as he did not belong there.
Umahi said: “On the issue of zoning; you talked about APGA, but this is PDP. We are going for the best candidate, irrespective of where he comes from; if he likes, let him come from anywhere and let his brother act as the deputy, the most important thing is that PDP wants to reclaim Anambra State because the state is very cardinal to the South East. There’s no way South East Governors Forum would meet as PDP and Anambra State would be lacking. So, the onus lies on us that we get Anambra back on stream for the PDP. We maintain that our candidate in the election could come from any part of the state. The PDP cannot be blackmailed into adopting APGA or APC zoning arrangement in Anambra state”.
Meanwhile, a professor of philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Rev. Fr. Josephat Obi Oguejiofor, in his recent treatise published in Daily Sun, had dissected why zoning was a huge burden for the state.
The first, according to Oguejiofor, is that zoning was the arrangement of APGA without contribution from other parties: “That is perhaps why, starting from 2013, if zoning was a rule, it was kept only in the breach. Even within APGA, those who sought the party’s gubernatorial ticket in 2013 included Senator Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central), and Prof. Charles Soludo (Anambra South). Contestants from other parties included Dr. Tony Nwoye (Anambra North), Dr. Andy Ubah (Anambra South), Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu (Anambra South), Dr. Obinna Uzor (Anambra South), and Dr. Chris Ngige (Anambra Central). It is, therefore, evident that some present-day proponents of zoning did not subscribe to the principle when it was propagated by APGA for the first time in the 2013 election. Also, most candidates did not think of zoning in the next governorship election in 2017, as leading contestants included Frederick Chidoka (Anambra Central) and Godwin Ezeemo (Anambra South).”
Advocating the contest to be open for all qualified Anambra indigenes, a pan-Igbo youth organisation, Anambra Ekunie, has warned all those promoting discord and social fragmentation in Anambra State using the zoning of the 2021 governorship election as shield, to desist from further seeking to balkanize the state as the idea of zoning ended with the election of Governor Obiano.
A statement by its President, Dr. Ifeanyi Achusi, said every zone of the state was qualified to contest for the governorship position as power had effectively rotated among the three zones since 1999. It said none of the senatorial zones can honestly say it has not taken a chance at governing Anambra State since 1999.
The group also said that Anambra South lacked the moral credibility to insist that it must produce Obiano’s successor since politicians from the zone have contested in every governorship election in the state since 1999.
Anambra Ekunie stated: “For emphasis, Anambra South has had the most opportunities to govern the state since 1999. If they failed to make the best use of the opportunity, they cannot now say they were cheated. No one cheated them. If you failed to graduate from the university, it will be uncharitable for you to go telling people that your father did not send you to the university.
“Also, we recall that Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Sen. Andy Uba, Sen. Ikechukwu Obiora, Hon. Chuma Nzeribe, Prof. Charles Soludo, Barr. KOP Odidika, Betram Dim, Dr. Amanchukwu Ezike, Dr. Harry Oranezi, Obinna Uzor, Damian Okolo, all from Anambra South were cleared by the PDP to contest the 2010 governorship election against Obi. Ukachukwu and Uba however moved over to Hope Democratic Party and Labour Party to become their governorship candidates after Prof. Soludo picked the PDP ticket.
“We are aware that politicians from Anambra South have consistently contested in every governorship election in Anambra State. There has never been a time when they pulled out on the grounds that it was the turn of another zone. They contested when Chris Ngige was imposed on us by one of them.
“There is no doubt that Anambra State rotates the governorship among the three senatorial zones. But as it is now, all the zones have taken their turns. So, the logical thing to do is to begin the rotation afresh from the zone that wins the 2021 governorship election, not to ask others to stay away and only you to present candidates. That has never been done in Anambra state and will not begin now.”
Meanwhile, mixed reactions have trailed the attempt to sell to the people the idea that Anambra Council of Elders threw its weight behind zoning the governorship seat to the Southern part of the state by the state government.
On March 22, this year, traditional rulers of Anambra North senatorial district came out and categorically rejected any contemplation of zoning in next year’s governorship election.
Briefing newsmen, traditional ruler of Igbariam ancient kingdom, Igwe Nkeli Kelly; who doubles as patron of the body, alongside his colleagues on the outcome of their meeting, was emphatic that zoning of the governorship seat was not workable and would be counter-productive to the state.
The monarchs said: “What we call zoning is, if you zone something to somewhere, allow the person; allow all the contestants to come from that zone. If you will not be able to do that, there is nothing like zoning and that’s where we stand.
“Our role is to bless anybody from any zone. You cannot rope us into believing that you zoned to somewhere while it is not workable…So, we are here to tell the world that we are not in support of zoning, period”.
At the moment, Daily Sun was told that those trading zoning, are majorly APGA people and others allegedly influenced in the PDP to cause crisis in the party or whittle down the party’s strength. Those of them in PDP, it was discovered, are from Anambra South who believe that zoning brightens their chances of becoming candidates.
According to a PDP chieftain in the state, “APGA is the one pushing all the parties to go to the South for their candidates not because of their love for the South but because they feel disadvantaged having zoned their ticket to the South.”
A member of the House of Representatives for Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency; Chris Azubuogu and former presidential aide, Chief Akachukwu Nwankpo, both from Anambra South, were named as reportedly mobilising the traditional institution to sustain the song of zoning.
Curiously, while all these happen, it was further gathered that Anambra South had over the years paraded the highest number of governorship aspirants/candidates in Anambra. Analysts said the fear of APGA is that there might be a repeat of history of the South fielding the highest number of candidates again.
Already, the YPP has a potential candidate in the current senator of the zone, Ifeanyi Ubah. There is also the tendency that if Senator Chris Ngige and Chief Tony Nwoye do not contest for the APC primary election, that a southerner in the state would claim the APC ticket. Should such scenario present itself, the thinking is that if a candidate of the PDP emerges from the Central zone, the ballot would be a walk over for the party.
Findings showed that the Central senatorial district has the highest number of votes in the State with Idemili North and South alone, having at least 15 per cent of the total number of registered voters in the state.
The foregoing may have advised government’s decision to possibly whip everybody to line regarding zoning. Traditional rulers from across the state were said to have been under severe pressure to endorse the APGA zoning formula, to the extent that some of them had been reportedly threatened that they risked dethronement if they did not back down.
Regardless, traditional and political leaders of Anambra Central have made it clear that they do not support zoning as it is undemocratic. They said that Ndi Anambra would prefer to have a credible and competent governor who has the capacity to deliver good governance as it is more important to zoning.
A short statement issued after their recent meeting which was signed by Igwe Peter Uyanwa read: “At the meeting of the Anambra Central Traditional Rulers Forum held on 2nd July 2020, it was unanimously resolved that we dissociate ourselves from any zoning arrangement in Anambra State gubernatorial election.
“That we in the Central Forum will only accept and encourage any credible governorship candidate that is ready, willing and capable of delivering the dividends of democracy to Ndi Anambra.”
Speaking on the debate, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC, Dr Amobi Nwokafor, a chartered account said only those who want to hold onto power would be talking about zoning.
His words: “People want to continue to hold power and that is why they are continually talking about zoning. There was nothing like zoning before and if we will be talking about zoning, it could be zoning among political parties. We are Igbo and we are all indigenes of Anambra State and we should not be just in one party, we should disperse to other parties so that we would be able to harness resources both human and otherwise; politics is a matter of dialogue and negotiations.