Anambra 2021: Arguments for and against zoning continue

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Governor Willie Obiano

By next year 2021, voters in Anambra State will go to the poll to elect the next governor of the state. The new governor, all things being equal, will take over from the incumbent helmsman of the state, Chief Willie Obiano, in 2022 upon taking oath of office.

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Although the governorship election is more than 12 months away from now, activities leading to it have started taking place gradually. Politicians, their parties and some stakeholders have commenced their consultations and moves which could in some ways, shape the outcome of the poll.

Without doubts, Anambra is a unique state with its unique style of politics which is largely different from what is obtainable in other states. It is also a state known for parading a lot of billionaires and men of means whose influence don’t go unnoticed in every sphere of life – politics, business, entrepreneurship, etc.

But despite the abundant human resources of its people, they are generally peaceful in their conducts; and they promote oneness and togetherness amongst themselves in everything they do. They observably do not support any action that could negatively stir crises in their environment; and by extension, affect their businesses.

This may be because of the filial or familial nature of Anambra people who generally believe that it is their duty to be their brothers and sisters’ keepers at all times. In fact, for them, it is cultural. This way, everybody literally avoids throwing stones in the marketplace knowing full well that whoever is hit is theirs, one way or the other.

Again, there is high literacy rate in the state; and greater population of the people are well enlightened. Ndi Anambra, aside being predominantly business people, are mostly well educated and exposed.

These and some other factors including but not limited to religious politics play salient roles in the state during electioneering periods. However, a new twist appears to be creeping in and that is the issue of zoning.

Lately, some persons within the corridors of power in the state commenced the promotion of zoning arrangements in the state’s political system. Their push is to see the state’s governorship position move from one zone to the other.

The promoters of zoning who are largely in the current administration of Obiano-led government particularly wish to see that power shifts to Anambra South Senatorial district when their principal finishes his tenure. They argue that doing so would promote equity and fairness.

Already, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which is the party in power in the state has zoned the 2021 governorship seat to Anambra South Senatorial zone and appears to be fronting the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Charles Soludo, as its preferred choice for the poll.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on its part, has said that its governorship ticket was open for all to contest. That simply means that it has no space for zoning.

It is not clear if the All Progressives Congress (APC) has taken a definite stand on whether it is zoning its governorship seat or not but may likely go the way of the PDP.

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But does the argument of the APGA agents that are promoting zoning hold any water? Could moving the governorship seat to Anambra South meaning meeting equity and fairness standards?

Is there any iota of truth in the picture being painted by the agents who seem to say or suggest that Anambra South Senatorial zone has not produced a governor before especially as they claim that doing so would mean being fair and meeting equity scales?

The first governor of the state, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, held office from January 2, 1992 to November 17, 1993 before the military struck. He was elected governor on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). General Sani Abacha took over the reins of government after that military coup and military administrators were appointed to man the states. Chief Ezeife is from Anambra South.

After the return to democracy in 1998, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju was nominated the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the governorship election. He was elected governor in April 1999 and was sworn in on May 29 that year. He finished one term of four years on May 29, 2003 but could not get the ticket of his party, the PDP, to contest again for second tenure as he lost it to Dr Chris Ngige.

One of the many factors that worked against him was his reported feud with his godfathers. He reportedly fell apart with them and that largely constituted a cog in his wheel of political progress. Mbadinuju is also from Anambra South.

In 2006, Dame Virgy Etiaba, the erstwhile Deputy Governor of the state became governor when her principal, Mr Peter Obi, was removed from office by the state House of Assembly over certain allegations.

By virtue of that, she became the first female governor in Nigeria. She was governor from November 2006 to February 2007. Dame Etiaba is also from Anambra South Senatorial zone.

The former senator who represented Anambra South Senatorial zone in the National Assembly, Senator Andy Uba, was pronounced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the April 14, 2007 governorship election.

However, the then governor, Mr Peter Obi, challenged the election in court, arguing that since the court had only accepted that he had won the April 2003 governorship election on March 15, 2006, he still had about three more years of his four year term to serve as governor.

After looking at the merits and demerits of the matter, the courts accepted his argument and on June 14, 2007 nullified Andy Uba’s election. That singular ruling of the court changed the election circle of the state till today.

From Anambra Central, the current Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was governor of the state from May 2003 to March 2006 before his election was nullified by the court. He was elected governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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Subsequently, Mr Peter Obi who filed the suit was declared governor. He argued that the mandate being enjoyed by Ngige was his. He claimed that he won the 2003 governorship election.

Obi, who was the Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 Presidential Election, was of APGA at the time.

The ex-governor, Obi, upon completion of his two tenures of eight years, handed over to Chief Willie Obiano who is from Anambra North Senatorial zone. Obiano was elected governor under the platform of APGA and was sworn in on 17th March, 2014. He is currently doing his second term.

Some political commentators have, however, argued that it would have made better sense if the promoters of zoning had supported their arguments with explanation of how short the tenures of some of the governors produced from Anambra South Senatorial zone were.

Regardless of these, some stakeholders appear to have bought into the idea of zoning. But other than the reason of equity which the facts above have deflated, some of them look at the economic benefits it would bring to the people.

Former governor of the state, Chief Ezeife, strongly supports zoning and wishes the governorship seat to come to his Anambra South zone. He said that stakeholders in the state have already agreed on that. He was also of the opinion that zoning would reduce the cost of electioneering campaigns.

“What we are talking about now is that we want to reduce tension. We want to reduce the cost of election. We want to make routine, if possible, the election of governor. And we agreed on zoning. It is an agreement we reached”, he stated.

The elder statesman said that the argument by those opposed to zoning that all they need was a competent person to emerge irrespective of the zone they come from does not hold water as every part of the state is rich with competent people who can competently govern the state in that capacity.

“There is one good thing about Anambra. The good thing about Anambra is that from any village, you can get competent people to be governor of the state. From any zone, any local government you can get people qualified to be governor of Anambra State.

“So, what people are saying is that there is no point going away from equity and justice. We expect the next governor to come from Anambra South. And there is a new element.

“I was the first governor of Anambra State. I took the whole state as my area of concern. I never did anything for Anambra South because I am from Anambra South. No! But as you know now, everybody who comes as governor pays special attention to his zone.

“There is no point repeating what you know already. Everybody in Anambra State knows that governors now take special care of their zone and then do something for the rest of the state.

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“So, I support strongly that the next governor should come from the South and I will not be too concerned about the governor paying extra attention to the South because all others are doing it.

“In fact, I am the person to advocate it because everybody is blaming me for not doing anything for my special area, my zone. Because I thought, we could not be doing because of zone”, Ezeife stated.

Former representative of Awka North and South in the National Assembly, Chukwuemeke Nwogbo, is also in full support of zoning. Nwogbo said that he would want the next governor to emerge from Anambra South.

The ex-lawmaker said that he was initially against zoning with the reason that doing so might negatively affect the oneness of Ndi Anambra but has changed his mind having realised that doing so has some benefits.

“Initially, when I contested for governorship under APGA, I was one of the persons who were shouting themselves hoarse about balkanizing the polity, zoning governorship. I actually stood for primaries under APGA against Willie Obiano and that was in defiance of the zoning thing.

“But in truth, I have come to realise that there is wisdom in zoning. Anambra North has had their shot at governorship. They will no longer say okay, we never did. In the spirit of fairness, Dr Peter Obi felt that it was sacrosanct that every zone felt included in the scheme of things.

“That argument you can’t fault. Today, the wisdom is becoming clearer. If like right now, the governorship is zoned to South by some political parties apparently; and I cannot fault that wisdom because it will stem the competition.

“You may come up with an argument that it may likely throw up persons who are less than ready to take up that mantle but on the other hand, you will also see that in Anambra, whatever zone you go to, there are competent people who will be able to handle the affairs of the state.

“So, I think that there is reason in determining that Anambra State governorship should be zoned. One is to stem the rancour; two is to actually clearly x-ray the candidates very well and be able to make informed decisions as to who will best carry the flag from that zone”, he argued.

Regardless of their position, many stakeholders have said that they would work against zoning in the state. In fact, some of them have literally built strong walls against it.

They dismissed the argument by other stakeholders that zoning the governorship to Anambra South would serve the purpose of equity saying that Anambra South Senatorial zone has already produced four governors.

One of the stakeholders opposed to zoning is the traditional ruler of Alor community in Idemili South Local Government Area of the state, Igwe MacAnthony Chinedu Okonkwo.

What are your thoughts?