Zoning guarantees equity, fairness in Anambra politics, says Egwuonwu, Obiano aide

Chief Emeka Egwuonwu, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willy Obiano on community matters. He is a one time House of representative aspirant and a member of Ohanaeze Ime Obi in Cross River and business man based in Calabar.

In this interview, he x-rays some issues affecting APGA the party and their chances in the forthcoming governorship election and concludes that the party remains the third largest party in Nigerian and would definitely clinch the governorship battle cone next year. According to him, zoning would guarantee equity and fairness in Anambra politics.

 EXCERPTS:

The Anambra state elders seem to be divided over the zoning formula in the coming governorship and other political offices. What do you think that should be done in this circumstance especially as some people are accusing the elders of pandering to AGPA’s game plan?

 Zoning is not all that constitutional, but conventional and has become an integral part of our political arrangement. For a long while it has been driving our democracy and I can tell you that without it our democracy would have crashed. The federal government has also adopted it based on federal character where every zone gets something based on zoning. Though it is not legal but it has been working and it even reduce election cost

No doubt, some politicians don’t believe in anything zoning, especially when it does not favour them. Again, they argue that it does give opportunity for the best that emerge at a particular time. However, with regard to Anambra, state where I come from, zoning has worked for us and in Anambra zoning also reduces the cost of electioneering.

Those that have started it since 1999 till date will continue to embrace it because it helps us tremendously.  It is through zoning that Chinwoke Mbadiniju emerged, it is through zoning that the governorship aspirant in 2003 elections emerged when Ngige and Obi contested. Obi contested under APGA and Ngige contested under PDP but every person and every party and politician channeled their strength towards the central where those candidates came from. It paid off as Ngige emerged as the PDP governorship candidate and Peter Obi emerged as APGA governorship candidate. Even when the court removed Ngige and Obi emerged, the people of the state embraced it because he came from the same central. And after that the former governor, Dr. Peter Obi, fought seriously to ensure that people of Anambra North, who have not tasted the governorship position, got it and that is how Willie Obiano emerged as the governor. Therefore, if there was a conspiracy between the South and the Central, the North would not have gotten it. So, now that the North have ruled the state and are about completing their eight years, equity and fairness demands that the thing goes back to the south  and rotation starts again. I am seeing it from that angle.

Zoning is also being applied at other levels including Senatorial, House of Representatives, councillorship and chairmanship positions in all villages.In most communities in Anambra for instance, we zone them into three so at every four or three years of the election a particular zone will produce either councilor, chairman, state or national assembly member and it has been working that way. There should be equity and fair play. If there are two meat in a plate and two of us want to eat, equity and fair play demands that I take one and the other one will be for you, we may not discuss it but we will apply it and this will help us not to quarrel because of the meat so that’s the way I look at it.

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For the elders, what I happening among them is normal. Of course, they would all battle to see how their zone can have the next slot of the political cake. Therefore, you must expect some horse-trading, intrigues and lobbying and that I what is happening. In other words, they are all entitled to their opinions, but at end, reason would prevail.  For now, I don’t think they are pandering to anybody or group of elders.  Do remember that these elders are made up senior citizens, bureaucrats and technocrats who have varied experiences in civil service, politics and public sector. So, they know what is god for the people of Anambra and would go for it. At their level, they are wise men and give wise counsel. So let us give them a chance to contribute to the peaceful and harmonious relationship among the three senatorial zones in the state because they have the capacity to do so.

Are you not expressing fear that zoning, becoming a determinate factor, may cost APGA the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra if not properly handled?

APGA is the third most popular political party in Nigeria. APGA started like AD, remember that the onetime AD was just controlling one state in Nigeria, but they remained focused, continued playing politics and at a time AD got almost five states. Today, though the name has fizzled out but anytime you want to write about the political history of this country you must always write that there was a political party that existed at some point in time with the name AD and they are part of the central government today in Nigeria.  So APGA has shown their quality in as much as the governance of Anambra state is concerned. Take it or leave it, a lot of Nigerians are yearning for where they can see the solution because we have problem in this country and APGA has the solution.

 APGA knows what they believe in because our people see APGA s Igbo identity and anyone who emerges as governor from APGA will know that the people he has come to lead does not give you a mandate because they are hungry but they gave you the mandate because they believe in you. So now it becomes a debt that you must pay. Obi, as a former governor, ruled the state very well and that was the reason he transferred power to Obiano very easily and APGA won the state by a landslide. This time around, people will not stop voting APGA because of their conviction. They have seen that APGA means well for them and will continue voting for APGA in every other election. And very soon we are going to capture states such Ebonyi even as the governor doing well. Here, Governor Obiano has performed and the masses would troop out en mass again to re-endorse and re-affirm that APGA is where they want to continue to be via electing our governorship candidate on that day.

People sometimes underrate what APGA can do. We are almost finishing 16 years in Anambra and in as much as we can make it for the next 24 years we can equally spring up. Like in Edo state during the forthcoming elections, APGA will contest it and by the special grace of God, you can never tell, things may turn around and you see APGA being in control of the government house in Edo. APGA is a national party. We have House of Representatives members in Benue, Taraba and so many other places, so we are proud and I am a very proud APGA member. SAPGA is famed for producing good leaders like Peter Obi and the present governor Obiano, why can’t Nigerians learn from this example in Anambra?

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But APGA seems to be engulfed in leadership crisis. So as a key stakeholder how far have they gone in bringing all the factions together ahead of the governorship election?

 I don’t think there is a problem. It’s just normal that sometimes the media may speculate just as some people must insinuate and attempt to throw spanner in the works of APGA leadership. APGA is one. In our last congress, there were no issues.  Today in as much as we know, legally and otherwise, we have only Victor Oye as APGA national chairman and nothing has changed such position.  However, some persons would want to bring up some forms of propaganda and allegations in order to be noticed because in politics if you don’t say here I am nobody will notice you. The factions you hear of are imaginary factions; they exist on the pages of newspapers none ground. We just finished general elections and we fielded  a presidential candidate, senatorial candidate and other positions  and Victor Oye signed for those candidate  so will it now change overnight.  If INEC had accepted last year up till now the candidates of APGA under Victor Oye where did they now conduct another congress that removed him as national chairman? So he is still the national chairman we know and nothing has changed so those things are imaginary.

But there speculation that some of the bigwigs of APGA have quit over irreconcilable differences, which may affect the party chances in the next governorship election.

It is not true as being reported. We still have critical stakeholders working with the leadership. The like of Chief Victor Umeh are senior stakeholder, pillars and the pride of APGA. In most of the functions of APGA, I still see them take part in whatever the governor does. Especially somebody is Chief Victor Ume is a big politician and if he decides to quit APGA as being speculated it should not be hidden but a national issue, and the people that he wants to join will be very happy to receive him and APGA will be in a morning position because we are losing one of our pride, so he is in APGA and remains in APGA.

The cost implications for competing for elective positions in Anambra state seems to be on the high side, what do you think accounts for this?

Well, I have run elections and I believe that money plays a little role. But I can also tell you that a lot of billionaires in Anambra have lost elections even with their billions of naira for instance. So, it is not money that made Ngige governor of Anambra state in 2003; it is not money that made Chinwoke Mbadiniju governor in 1999, and it is not money also that made Peter Obi governor of Anambra state, likewise Willie Obian. Money plays a role but power is spiritual. Yes a lot of persons will come to publicise themselves, No doubt, when you have so much money you will want to exhibit it. Most times people exaggerate the money that has been brought into electoral campaigns. One may spend one billion in an election and he will say he spent N20 billion. Meanwhile, there is no person that will gamble with N20 billion without having investments that worth may be worth about N200 billion. But I want to tell you that one using limousine to enter Unical does not make that person the Vice Chancellor of the university and the VC coming with a beetle car does not change him from being a Vice Chancellor. Agreed that sometimes those jostling for elective positions, especially the governorship seat, have capacity, but I can tell you that money can never be a factor to determine who becomes the governor of Anambra statd. It is the structure and I believe that one, APGA have that structure to continue being in the leadership of Anambra state.

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 Recently the Anambra state governor signed a bill from the State Assembly limiting expenses on burial ceremonies in the state, can you throw more light into this?

Yes,  the bill was sponsored and passed by the State House of Assembly  and the governor now confirmed it  by endorsing it and it became a law, you know this wastage we the easterners do when somebody dies  and the money is supposed to be used for some other thing that  is very needful to the society  but you see that in Anambra now and in some other states in Igbo land when you lose a relative, you see somebody spending close to a billion naira  but that money would have been enough to give scholarship to so many people in that community  so in the wisest wisdom of the governor  we want to curtail this so that we can convert our resources to something very meaningful  so I commend the governor for assenting to that bill. A lot of people that are prepared to overshoot their burials maybe after Easter, they have seen now that the law is there watching them and it is not going to be business as usual. So I commend the House of Assembly under the leadership of Uche Okafor and I commend the governor for assenting to that law, it shows that he knows what the people want at this crucial point and let us not forget that the governor is a financial guru, he knows what resources is all about and does not support wastage.

 Nigerians have argued that the anti-corruption fight of the present administration is lopsided and used to haunt opponents of the government. What is your general view?

One thing about government is that it is like a river and flows continuously. If you say that it is politicised the river will keep on flowing and at a point the river carries everything along as it flows. At this point, both the good and bad people will drink it because that is water. So, I don’t share in the sentiments that it is one sided. The anti-corruption has come to stay irrespective of whether they are fighting their enemies or not.

What is important is that they are fighting those who are corrupt. Tomorrow, when you want to fight back, you will equally fight those who are corrupt. Assuming you are not corrupt, corruption will not have anything against you, so the fact remains that something must start from somewhere, whether it is starting from the opposition, the most important thing is that they are fighting those who are corrupt.

Whether we like it or not there is some sanity in the system and economy. The President may not perfect, but he has laid a foundation that would be used to judge him and all those who are working with him. If they do well, they would go scot free after 2023, but if they don’t do well, they would be haunted by the same instrument they put in place. So what is important is the spirit behind the fight against corruption in Nigeria, whether it’s for the opposition or those in power it has come to stay.

What are your thoughts?

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