J. Obi Oguejiofor
As 6th November 2021 draws ever nearer the major political parties in Anambra State are warming up for their imminent primaries to select flag bearers for the real electioneering exercise. To all intents and purposes, this should be the time to zero into serious issues especially the suitability and the prospective governance ability of each of the candidates. This is all the more so given the largely dismal experience of the state in the last eight years. However instead of creating a public space for honest and public debate, some politicians are busy harping on the issue of zoning the governorship to their senatorial zone. By so doing such politicians are weaponizing zoning by using it for their projected advantage. What comes clear in these efforts is the utter selfishness and dishonesty bugged down by glaring contradictions that only a blind person can overlook.
First, it is very well known that Anambra State never for once discussed zoning in any forum or conference that is representative of the whole state. The issue of zoning came to the fore when Mr. Peter Obi was ending his governorship. Those who follow the trend of politics in Anambra know very well that Peter Obi did not prepare or mentor possible successors. For all the good things one can say about Peter Obi’s governorship, it was without doubt a one-man-show. At the point of his exit, competing interests were vying for his pet office. Chris Ngige was one person very interested in the position. The people of Omambala parading as Anambra North Senatorial zone constituted another group. Peter Obi with some nudging preferred to cede the position to Omambala. Within Omambala, there arose the argument that the candidate must be core-omambala as candidates from the fringes of the area as Awkuzu and Umunya also got interested. We do not need to delve into the bitter quarrel between Governor Obi and then APGA National Chairman Victor Umeh that led to the emergence of Mr. Willie Obiano as candidate. What is important to note is that there was neither a discussion nor an agreement by representatives of Anambra people on zoning and its terms in Anambra.
There is an argument that the demand for zoning is based on equity. But equity in addition to other things includes fairness and impartiality in the light of “natural rights” and “natural law.” It also means a right which accrues to a party in a transaction because of the nature of the transaction. What it means is that to talk of equity, there must be standard of reference like clear contract or agreement. There has never been any contract or agreement in regard to zoning governorship in Anambra State. Some people speak of gentleman’s agreement. But there is nothing like such an agreement about zoning in Anambra governorship. And in any case, a gentleman’s agreement is not binding, at least not legally, and so attenuates and reduces the weight of claims.
To underline the fact that there are no bases for any claims on zoning, it must be noted that the current demand for zoning Anambra Governorship to the South Senatorial zone occludes the fact that there was never a governorship election in Anambra State where candidates from the South Senatorial zone did not contest. Chukwuma Soludo contested the governorship when Peter Obi introduced zoning in APGA. Ifeanyi Uba, Emeka Etiaba, John Nwosu and Godwin Ezeemo contested on the platform of other political parties. Again Godwin Ezeemo was one of the major contestants in the last election when Obiano was gunning for a second term; featuring in the Channels television debate of the five leading candidates. Today these previous contestants are all drumming zoning. Because there are no standards or agreements on zoning, there are naturally no terms. Some politicians argue on the basis of the length of time governorships lasted, while others raise the issue of how many people have been governors from each senatorial zone.
What laces these selfish arguments is the level of dishonesty that follows them. On Monday, 8th February, 2021 some PDP chieftains met in Enugu for a meeting. The issue of zoning was not seriously discussed. But from there some cut and nail politicians engaged the services of some cash and carry journalists who flooded the press with the fake news that PDP has adopted zoning. Some of the politicians personally went as far as urging some candidates not from Anambra South to wind up their campaign. When this fake news was debunked, these mongers of falsehood disappeared into thin air. Again recently the “Forum of PDP Governorship Aspirants of Anambra South Constituencies” published an advertorial urging their party to embrace zoning in nominating candidates for the primaries. Part of the reason for this is that their zone has exercised governorship for less than four years and six months. One does not know how the governorships of Etiaba, Mbadinuju, Andy Uba and Ezeife were calculated to get four years. Further the meeting in which the Forum purportedly reached this agreement was said to have held on 20th of April, 2021. Meanwhile seven of the signatures were dated from 15th to 18th of May, almost a month from the day of the meeting, while the rest of the obviously scanned signatures remain undated.
Such moves are purely aimed at arm-twisting the party. It is like using grandstanding as a political tool where the state should be combing for the most competent candidate wherever he/she stems from. The same selfishness is noticeable in the schemes of the politicians about zoning. Zoning is at the end of the day personal to each and every one of them. Nnewi politicians believe that they should now produce the governor of Anambra State. Politicians from Aguata believe the same, while those from Orumba insist on their being marginalized in the scheme of Anambra South and ask for the same single office. It is doubtful whether an Nnewi politician would be insisting on zoning when the result of that process were to prop up a candidate from Aguata; or whether Aguata candidates will retain their interest in zoning if the result favours somebody from Ihiala. The point is that true to type the logic of the politicians is: zoning to Anambra South, then to their local government, then to their town, to their ward and finally to themselves as individuals! Surely the interest of the state takes the back burner in such scenario.
This selfishness and sectionalism is matched by arrant contradictions in propagating the nondescript zoning. It is interesting that currently some candidates are from Ihiala and Aguata in the upcoming election. If these are honest with zoning, straightforward and logical, why do they not consider that Mbadinuju and Ezeife have ruled the state as elected governors, and so the governorship should now be zoned to those who have not had a stint at all? And why should zoning be limited to governorship? How about senatorial and representative seats both federal and state? How come that some local government areas in the South have till now not been to the Senate while others have done so repeatedly? Propagandists of zoning to whom such questions are posed retort that only governorship is in question. But then: when did Anambra decide that governorship and only governorship should be zoned?
The contradiction goes much further. Two of the PDP candidates in recent interviews insisted that though their party is not adopting zoning it must choose its 2021 flag bearer from the 12 candidates who are from Anambra South, and : “They will reject the primary election result if someone outside the 12 of them wins.” (Fides, 6th – 12th June, 2021, page 6). Now it is an imponderable contradiction to present oneself for a free contest and insist that one must be the winner. The only option open for anybody with such conviction is to quit the party and enroll in another where there will be only one contestant or only candidates from an agreed zone.
More palpable contradiction is the view of such PDP party chieftain as Oseloka Obaze on zoning. On March 8, 2020, Mr. Obaze was published in Daily Trust with the title: “Anambra 2021: I’am still in Governorship Race.” On 13th May, 2020 he again came in the NNN with the title: “Anambra 2021: Zoning Capable of Ruining PDP.” In these write-ups, Obaze was quoted as asserting that his party had no zoning arrangement; that zoning is a red herring; and his party should shun it, and look for a competent politician as candidate. Then on 3 April, 2021, Mr Obaze made a ridiculous volte-face in an article published in the Nigerian Voice: “2021: Anambra Should go South.” The evolution of the opinion of this erudite politician is very evident. When Obaze, who is from Anambra North Senatorial zone, was still contemplating to contest, zoning was destructive to the party. Once he decided not to contest, it became acceptable. That summarizes what I have described as the dishonesty and the contradictions of all the talks about zoning governorship in Anambra.
What is very clear from all the above is that Anambra State has never for once provided a forum to discuss the question of zoning its governorship. Consequently, there is no agreement on zoning, and the principles it should follow. Zoning post-Obi governorship to Anambra North was an APGA arrangement, even though APGA politicians from other zones were allowed to contest at the material time. Uche Ekwunife and Chukwuma Soludo stand as typical examples. Since then, no other major political party has endorsed zoning for Anambra governorship. Those who intend to engage in politics should therefore get down to serious business. Politics is important to every citizen of a polity, and so should be done with commitment. What Anambra needs after the past unimpressive years of governance is a competent hand to drag the state back to the rail of progress. Where such a person comes from and to which party he belongs should be given zero consideration if we really care for the state and its people.
Rev. Fr. J. Obi Oguejifor is a professor of philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.