It is courteous, firstly, to acknowledge and commend the effort of Chimezie Ogenna Nwodo, Esq., for the fact that he took time and courage to react to the topical and critical theme “Rotational Template and Governorship Contests In Enugu State.” At least, he bared his mind and expressed his personal opinion on the issue, his narrow-mindedness or parochial approach notwithstanding.
The second paragraph of his opening statement is captivating. It raises the curiosity to read his write-up with rapt interest hoping to be properly schooled on the topic and to get detailed account of all the contending issues, both in facts and logic. In the said paragraph, Mr. Nwodo berated the original author (Julius Aneke) for want of depth in his write-up, when he stated thus, “In spite of Mr. Aneke’s painstaking efforts, my delight varnished upon noting the rather rattling brevity he employed in treating such a serious issue that is capable of imploding the extant political structure, and completely altering the unwritten Magna Carta of the state. To say the least, Mr. Aneke’s thesis ended before it began!”
Deplorably, Mr. Nwodo at the end of the day, did not do any better than Mr. Aneke. Mr. Nwodo’s rejoinder exposed his mindset and disposition to such issue.
Often, in life, whatever is received is received according to the manner of receiving it. Therefore, it is said and rightly so by Fulton J. Sheen that if a truth is poured into a mind that is sincere, a mind that is indifferent, and a mind that is evil, the reception will be quite different. Be that as it may, it is hereby noted at the outset that, in an ideal situation, especially at this time of our sociopolitical-cum-economic history, requiring of the best of minds and experiences to steer us clear of the raging world economic meltdown, every effort ought to be geared toward sourcing the best candidate to lead at the helm of Enugu State, irrespective of cleavages or political leanings. This is bearing in mind that our consociational approach to democracy, which is based on rotational governance among defined groupings, tends to limit the possibility of choosing the best candidate for the office governor of Enugu State at every given time. Realistically, the ‘ideal situation’ has continued to elude us.
Rotational governance is certainly not new to us as a people, both at the national and state levels. There is no gainsaying the fact that our relatively stable democratic practice, at least, since 1999, can conveniently be attributed to the fact that the presidency has been alternating between the southern and northern parts of Nigeria, at the national level, while governorship position is revolved around the three senatorial districts of Enugu State, at the state level. Hence, the apprehension of regional or sectional hegemony and its attendant crisis have been largely avoided.
Apparently, this tradition of rotational governance we have had, informal though it has been, was introduced in the present dispensation by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) both at the national and state levels as a functional solution to eliminate the pre-1999 politics of discordant or acrimonious regional relationships in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, it is a major factor that helped the political party to retain power for about two decades. Experiences have shown that the political party lost power at the national level as a result of disruption or perceived disruption of the rotational system, whereas in Enugu State the party has been strictly consistent with the scheme and has retained power in the state as a result. Therefore, the practical usefulness of the scheme to both PDP and the entire Enugu State to ensure or enthrone the most enabling environment to achieve the needed developmental goals of the state cannot be overemphasized.
It is an obvious fact that these groupings jostling for full representation in governance subsist as the ladder goes down. Therefore, it does not start and end at the national and state levels. Notably, the informal but effective rotation of candidacy to the office of governor of Enugu State by the PDP, which appears to have been consciously or unconscious adopted by other political parties in the state during general election, exists among the three senatorial zones – Enugu East, Enugu West and Enugu North Senatorial Districts or zones. At the end of the current administration of Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in the year 2023, persons among the indigenous people of the three senatorial districts would be said to have had their fair share of representation at that office since 1999.
It began with the administration of Dr. Chimaroke Ogbonnaya Nnamani of Enugu East Senatorial District, from 1999 to 2007; that of Barr. Sullivan Iheanacho Chime of Enugu West Senatorial District, from 2007 to 2015; and the present administration of Governor Ugwuanyi of Enugu North Senatorial District, which started from 2015 and is expected to end in 2023.
Now that, traditionally, it is the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District to produce the next governor of Enugu State, would it be fair and in tune with the spirit of equitable representation to have the same political interest group or cleavages to produce the next candidate for the office or to afford others opportunity to have a bite at the cherry provided they boast of qualified and competent persons for consideration? This is the point where Mr. Chimezie Ogenna Nwodo’s bias and egotism climaxed. To achieve the premeditated and egotistical objective of his write-up, he narrowed what he understands to be the main and notable competing political blocs/cleavages or groups in Enugu East Senatorial District.
However, to keep the record straight, there are four notable or main political groups and cleavages that make up Enugu East Senatorial District, namely, Ngwo, Nkanu Ikenga, Nkanu Odenigbo and Isiuzo political groups. They have always been respectively clamouring and competing for full and effective representation in governance in Enugu State.
As it stands, it is only Ngwo and Nkanu Ikenga groups that have produced governors in the state since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. The late Christian C. Onoh of Ngwo was governor in 1983 under the old Anambra State, at the end of the Second Republic. Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwodo of Nkanu Ikenga was also governor from 1979 to 1983, under the old Anambra State, also during the Nigerian Second Republic. While in the present political dispensation, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani of Nkanu Ikenga was governor of Enugu State from 1999 to 2007. None of the two other groups, to wit, Nkanu Odenigbo and Isiuzo groups, has had their son or daughter occupy the number one political position in Enugu State.
Now that it is the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District to produce the next governor, it will be fair and in accord with the spirit of rotation, equity, effective and full representation to give utmost priority to the two groups – Nkanu Odenigbo and Isiuzo – since they have never produced a governor in the state. Provided they have qualified, eminent and competent persons for the office.
There is no doubt that the incumbent governor at every material time plays vital and most crucial role in giving effect to this noteworthy tradition of rotational governance in Enugu State. There is also no doubt that the current governor is the last beneficiary of this valuable arrangement, and that it is expected of him to follow and consolidate same as posterity would judge him if he fails to do so. It is often rightly said that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The golden rule, which is common with many religions and cultures, is to treat others how you want to be treated. It is also encapsulated in the Holy Scriptures in Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 12, which provides thus: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” In this instance, it is not just a case of the incumbent governor treating others how he wants to be treated, but him meting out to others (the concerned) the equal treatment he has received and present enjoys.
In keeping with the golden rule, it will be most dangerous and of greatest disservice to humanity to attempt to exclude any of these political groups or cleavages in the Enugu East Senatorial District as suggested by Mr. Nwodo, simply because such a group is said to be affiliated, in one way or another, to a group in another Senatorial District. Sadly, he wants Isiuzo not to be given any consideration, because according to him, Isiuzo is often associated with Nsukka zone of Enugu North Senatorial District where the present governor hails from. Mr. Nwodo was, however, faced with demonstrable and apparent difficulties in finding a justification for his exclusion of Isiuzo political interest within Enugu East Senatorial District. As a result, his argument in the third to the last paragraph of his write-up evidently turned out to be self-contradictory. While he argued that it “does not matter that some persons from other cultural zones have spilled over to the Senatorial District specifically meant for Ndi Nkanu”, in another breathe he argued “that my kin finds himself in another family, owing to certain arrangements, does not empower him to vie for positions, which the family has been strictly named to occupy.” This argument with due respect is not only self-contradictory, it is also so lame, irrational, primitive, parochial and untenable, to say the least.
If it does not matter that a people (Isiuzo) said to be of a particular cultural background spill over into a defined geographical setting (Enugu East Senatorial District) in which is found another set of people (Nkanu) of a distinctive cultural background, what then matters as to necessitate their (Isiuzo’s) exclusion from position or anything meant for that particular geographical setting? Similarly, if two or more sets of families or people of different cultural backgrounds are united or classified by a defined geographical setting in which they live and contribute their respective efforts to sustain, what reasonable grounds, other than iniquitous acts of greed and wickedness, would justify exclusion of any of the families or set of people from any benefit that accrues to the said defined geographical setting? It can also be asked, when and under what circumstance would Isiuzo in this context vie for the governorship position? Can Isiuzo vie for the position when it is zoned to Enugu North Senatorial District since it is said to share same cultural background with majority of the people from the senatorial district, or forever remain disadvantaged? The questions or issues arising from Mr. Nwodo’s lame and vicious argument are endless and indeed, absolutely none could be reasonably resolved in his favour.
It is on a similar note that Mr. Nwodo also finds justification in excluding Ukehe, Igbo Etiti in Enugu North Senatorial District under the unfathomable guise that they share same cultural background or affiliation with Udi (Agbaja), which is under Enugu West Senatorial District. It can also be said that it is on the same ground that he excluded Oji political interest group as part of the blocs constituting Enugu West Senatorial District because they share boundaries/affiliations with some Anambra State communities. Since it is obvious that Mr. Nwodo argues from the standpoint of utter selfishness and greed, it would not be strange to find that he belongs to a particular family or political interest group in Nkanu land who would stop at nothing to exclude the other family or political interest group in Nkanu from any benefit that accrues to the said Nkanu land. This is a clear case of divide and rule, which ought to be and is hereby condemned in the strongest terms.
A fair and equitable consideration of every identified political interest group or cleavage is hereby recommended and strongly advocated for, irrespective of affiliation or association to any other group in a different Senatorial District in Enugu State of Nigeria.
Finally, we, as a people, must always bear in mind that political instability, which is the propensity of government collapse either because of conflicts or rampant vicious competition often impacts grievously on economic growth; and due to its uncertainty, tends to reduce investment and economic development. Major feuds in the Nigerian polity since independence have been over leadership and the rancor over regional or sectional hegemony. Be it the Civil War of 1967 to 1970 or in the recent time, the notorious June 12 saga, what is clear is the fact that issue of leadership and equitable representation in governance must not be taken for granted. If the relative peace we enjoy in Enugu State must not elude us, we must learn from and not lose sight of these examples. Hence, the utmost need to give adequate opportunity to all the identified groups without exclusion, particularly the Nkanu Odenigbo and Isiuzo groups, to have their shot at the helm of affairs. They must be given their chance to occupy the Office of Governor of Enugu State, and the time is now.
•Ugwuedeh is a political analyst and social commentator