Politics is a very interesting local game. Those who are deeply involved with it play from their strongest points. In the 2015 general election, the All Progressives Congress (APC) attacked the national consciousness with integrity as General Muhammadu Buhari’s strongest point. That point attracted so many supporters, especially among those who were voting for the very first time in their lives because they had grown to know only the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and had become used to negative profiling of the party as corrupt. Not sure the narrative will hold the same level of support in the next round of elections in 2023. However, that is matter for another discourse.
For now, the most important assignment facing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its 2021 calendar is the Anambra State governorship election holding in November this year. In the interest of those who have just turned 18 and will vote in November, I think it is good to note that Anambra has a staggered electoral timetable because of the negative impact of godfatherism on the politics of the state. That negative impact cost the PDP its electoral fortunes through a Court of Appeal decision, which sacked Governor Chris Ngige from office in 2007. That judicial decision ended PDP’s reign in Anambra. In fact, the Court of Appeal had, in its judgment, stated that Ngige should never be referred to as governor of Anambra State. In other words, the court obliterated everything about Ngige and his governorship of the state.
This, to my mind, is why advocates of zoning, as the surest way for an aspirant from Anambra South senatorial district to become the candidate of the PDP for the November election, fail to understand and appreciate the story and history of their party. The simple argument here is this: if the Court of Appeal had made a pronouncement obliterating Ngige’s time in office, can any individual reinstate that time even where there is no superior judicial counter-pronouncement? I guess this is the reason many people in Anambra State also argue that, if indeed the governorship office is to be zoned, Anambra Central ought to be the main beneficiary as it has, logically and judicially, never held the governorship of the state. But that is not the issue here. The issue, rather, is that Anambra people are arguing for competence, capacity and vision as values that would drive the state in a new direction; not zoning. Zoning is a very weak point in the politics of the state. No soldier goes to war brandishing his weakest point.
It is possible that this new position of most people in the state is the reason a recent summit of political bigwigs and aspirants from the southern senatorial district, which was aimed at attacking the forthcoming primary election of the party from the zoning disposition, collapsed like a stack of badly arranged cards. It could not have collapsed any other way because major advocates of a southern governorship candidate were building their hopes on zoning as a value while majority of the people at the summit thought and argued that, besides vision, competence and capacity must rule.
Zoning presupposes that both Anambra Central and Anambra North have taken turns at the leadership of Anambra State, to the ignominious exclusion of Anambra South. That flawed argument is an ingenious way of ostracizing Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju from his roots. Mbadinuju was Anambra’s first democratically elected governor in 1999. Before him, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife also sat in office as governor. Those who deny them their place in history are being clever by half. Besides, that Mbadinuju failed to secure a second term was the making of Anambra people who rejected him at the polls in 2003. He left PDP and contested for the 2003 governorship election on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He did not lose office because he was from Anambra South. No, he lost because he left the PDP and settled for a party that had no support base in Anambra. Anambra people preferred PDP then, as they still do today.
That was why the southern summit was all about PDP. As it is, 16 persons purchased nomination and expression of interest forms to contest the Anambra governorship election on the bill of the PDP. This is the highest haul thus far among all the political parties. That puts PDP in prime position as the party with the most aspirants. However, there is suspicion among Anambra political elite and streetwise political actors that the pack consist of those working with the ruling party to destabilize PDP and make it possible for the ruling party to retain office. This view has become prevalent because of the dwindling fortunes of the ruling party, which, many say, had mismanaged the state and ruined its economic fortunes. There is also the insinuation that some of the form-buyers did so in order to establish locus to drag the party to court and distract it from concentrating on the main campaigns, after the primary election. Though these are insinuations and, therefore, unfounded, they are also possibilities, given what Nigerians have come to know about Anambra politics, elections and courts.
However, at the southern summit, some aspirants made attempts to further segregate the zone along the line of who was 100 per cent Anambra South and who was not. That is one of the dangers of such myopic agitations. Many of those who had kicked against zoning in a state as homogenous as Anambra had argued that, if allowed, the zoning thing would go beyond zones and degenerate to local governments, autonomous communities, villages, clans, families, religious affiliations and sects, and could even go as far down as professional groups. Perhaps, someday, tricycle operators would argue, and logically too, that the governorship be zoned to them since people from other professional and trade backgrounds have tried out their hands. Asking for the pendulum to swing to an aspirant that is 100 per cent Anambra South shows the ridiculous extent to which some politicians could go in the quest to exclude others from what is clearly and open contest. It is unthinkable that there are politicians in Anambra South who are 100 per cent south and those that are not. Somehow, the campaign of denial, which has craftily denied Mbadinuju and Ezeife their spots in the history of the governance of Anambra State, has dovetailed into a calumnious creation of a dichotomy between 100 per cent Anambra South and non-100 per cent Anambra South. It is an exclusion plot.
It is good that those who see Anambra beyond zoning defeated that quest. It is to their credit that reason seems to have returned to the campaign space where most of the aspirants now ask for a transparently free and fair primary election. There is a feeling that the primary election will be contested and won on the grounds of an aspirant’s capacity to beat the incumbent party on November 6. Such capacity will be demonstrated through the creation of a mass movement that appeals to the people because of the visions of the aspirant.
So far, only Obiora Okonkwo has shown that capacity. He has been able to rally the state through a well-structured engagement of statutory delegates and marketing of his programmes for the state. He has also been able to create a forward-moving movement that appeals to majority of people of the state. It is feared that the already failed campaign for zoning is anchored on the fear that he is actually the aspirant to beat on June 26. There is wide expectation that he will win the primary election with very wide margins. The expectation stems from the fact that, while he strategically networks with statutory delegates and the voting public, those chasing after him are more focused on zoning, which the PDP had long jettisoned in favour of running with a candidate that has capacity to win the Anambra governorship election clean and fair.