Magnus Eze, Enugu
Traditional ruler of Nawfia in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, has described the recent communiqué allegedly released by the Anambra traditional rulers’ council declaring support for zoning of the state’s governorship seat to the Southern part of the state as a ruse. In this interview, he said that Anambra people had never met anywhere to agree on any zoning arrangement especially as there was no case of inequity in the governorship of the state.
Sometime in March, traditional rulers of Anambra North met and declared that they will not support zoning of the governorship seat; their counterparts of Anambra central also took similar decision. But just few days ago, we saw a communiqué signed by large number of traditional rulers in the state. What actually happened?
Let me say categorically that the politics of Anambra State is trying to disintegrate the traditional institution. From time immemorial especially the time I came back from the United States, and became the Igwe of this town, the traditional rulers have not been treated well and it’s getting worse. The traditional rulers are now being used like pawns to do politics, and after election, nobody remembers them anymore. The fact is that the traditional institution is divided on this zoning; therefore the zoning must be dropped. We cannot get all the people to agree on zoning and secondly, nobody has officially told the traditional rulers especially the governor that we are doing zoning; it is just individuals canvassing for zoning. If zoning is not dropped, the whole place might be disorganised, leading to fiasco and crisis in Anambra.
According to the communiqué, the traditional rulers’ position was in the spirit of the decision taken in 2017 that the governorship position should rotate. Was that actually the situation?
We already had a meeting and decided that there will be no zoning. All of a sudden, we were told that we made a mistake; that we took a decision in 2017. I was in that hall that day, there was no decision taken in 2017; everything done was a lecture by Professors including Nonyelu; Rita Agwuna and others, and the conclusion was that zoning was illegal and I challenge anybody to bring a video clip of that 2017 traditional rulers’ seminar showing where the decision was reached. There was no vote, nobody was asked anything; it was a communiqué that was written at the end of a seminar. I maintain that all the professors who were at the seminar told us that zoning is illegal and continues to be illegal, but if all the people have an understanding, they can do what they want. And we thought that a house will pass a vote just as bills are passed by voting or affirmation but nothing in that nature happened. I am not fighting anybody; I just want Anambra to go in a good direction. Let the best rule, let the best come out. Zoning has brought in cabals that have destroyed Anambra as a whole. So, there is nothing like zoning policy agreed anywhere; nobody should foist lies on traditional rulers, we’re supposed to be known for the truth.
You were in that meeting where your colleagues signed the communiqué, and you did not sign it or did you?
I did not sign the communiqué. That day I was the only person who did not sign the communiqué. Let me say something categorically without fear or favour; in 2014, I supported Akachukwu Nwankpo from the South for governor, he was then the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Technical Matters and chairman of SURE-P. Then I said I didn’t like zoning; that zoning does not bring out the best candidate; zoning only becomes expedient when there is inequity but there is no inequity between North and South or central in Anambra State. How then did they expect me to change now that I know that there is equitable distribution of power among the three senatorial zones? It is impossible. When they brought that thing; I said I cannot sign it just less than a week after we signed against zoning at the central zone. Fortunately, nobody called me to threaten me. I have not received any call of threat that if I don’t sign, something will happen. I think the government has always known my stand, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the state has always known my stand. In that 2017, I challenged the zoning at the traditional rulers’ hall at the Government House. Damian Okeke-Ogene who was and still the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Anambra State and everybody in that meeting knew I challenged zoning, and I cannot change now. It is not by force. I have my own right. The fuse over zoning to me doesn’t even make sense because it’s left for the political parties to choose their candidates. The PDP has made it clear that it is not going with zoning. The APC has also spoken in same direction that it will not go with zoning. So, the issue of who becomes a party’s flag bearer is purely the business of the political parties concerned.
Don’t you think that Anambra traditional rulers are getting too involved in politics?
The traditional rulers are not getting involved as much as they are supposed to get. Left for me, I will say that the next governor must be produced by the traditional rulers. We have been so side-lined. A law was passed in 2007 giving the traditional rulers five per cent of joint-local government allocation but we have not been receiving that money. More so, the Nigerian constitution is supreme to everything; Section 40 of that constitution says that everybody shall protect his/her rights in belonging to any association including political parties, trade unions and others; morality and constitutionality are not the same thing. The traditional rulers if they don’t protect their rights, will become stooges in the next four years in their own domains.