By Charly Udeh
If not that some politicians and their supporters are jobless, mischievous, insincere and insatiable, the ongoing controversies and cacophony of voices over zoning of Enugu 2023 governorship seat is needless and avoidable. This is because there is established and implied zoning of the governorship seat since the state was created in 1991.
The conventional zoning arrangement must not be written for people or politicians to abide by it. No, it must not. It is not written in most states that have adhered to it. It is morally and hypocritically wrong for anybody to go against it simply because it was not written and signed.
There is no place every political agreement, understanding and arrangement is written and signed, before parties involved abide by it. There is none, but people of conscience, integrity and God fearing respect and abide by it, having in mind that there is always a tomorrow or another day.
Looking at the case of Enugu ahead of 2023, let us go down memory for clarity and posterity. It would be recalled that with the creation of Enugu State in 1991, the likes of late Chief Christian Onoh and Chief Jim Nwobodo, who were civilian governors of old Anambra State are from Enugu West and Enugu East Senatorial zones respectively.
With this and despite that both of them presided over the affairs of old Anambra state, where Enugu State was carved out from, it was assumed that their Senatorial zones have produced governors, thus they allowed and threw their weight behind Enugu North Senatorial zone to produce the first civilian governor of Enugu State in 1991 in the interest of fairness and equity.
They have the option of insisting that they presided over the affairs of Old Anambra State and are now in new Enugu State and should be allowed to start the zoning from Enugu East zone to Enugu West zone and Enugu North zone. But they didn’t do so, even when the odds would have favoured them then. They didn’t do so because such negates the battle for equity and fairness they fought for that culminated to the creation of Enugu State.
That was how Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo from Enugu North zone against all odds emerged as the first civilian governor of Enugu State in 1992. Eventhough some people from other zones particularly Enugu West Senatorial zone contested against him, the founding fathers of Enugu State, led by Onoh and others rallied round Nwodo to emerge governor. Unfortunately just like Onoh, Nwodo’s administration was truncated by military intervention.
RETURN OF DEMOCRACY IN 1999
With the return of democracy in 1999, the likes of Nwobodo, Onoh and their supporters worked so hard to ensure that the conventional zoning of 1991 was upheld. It was in line with this that Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu East Senatorial zone emerged Governor of Enugu State in 1999. This was after a keenly contested primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket between him and Chief Nduka Agu from Enugu West zone. Nnamani emerged victorious at the end, despite the fact that some politicians who had benefited from the zoning in the past supported Agu for selfish reason.
But those who understood the grave implication of altering the zoning arrangement went extra mile to ensure that Nnamani did not only win the PDP primary election, but the main election. This was done in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice, upon which the struggle and creation of Enugu State was founded by the founding fathers of the state.
After Nnamani’s two term of eight years between 1999-2007, he, in line with the established zoning arrangement anointed his godson and a cabinet member in his government, Bar. Sullivan Chime from Enugu West senatorial zone as his preferred successor on the PDP platform.
Just like in 1999, Bar. Okey Ezea from Enugu North Senatorial zone contested against Chime on Labour Party platform. Nobody stopped him from contesting against Chime, because it is his constitutional right to do so. But Chime was massively voted for by Ndi Enugu in line with the zoning arrangement in the state that favoured the Enugu West to produce Governor then as against Enugu North Senatorial zone. Chime just like Nnamani enjoyed two terms of eight years between 2007-2015.
Ahead of the PDP primary and 2015 general elections, Chime called a stakeholders meeting at Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu, where he openly declared that his successor will come from Enugu North zone in line with the implied zoning arrangement in the state that has promoted peace, equity and fairness. I couldn’t reconnect if there was anybody that opposed Chime’s position in that meeting.
That was how Senator Ayogu Eze and Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi both from Enugu North Senatorial zone threw their hats into ring for the PDP governorship ticket. Bar. Okey Ezea also from Enugu North zone picked the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket in the state. Ugwuanyi emerged the PDP candidate for the election. Because Enugu State is PDP and PDP is Enugu since 1999, Ugwuanyi won the governorship election.
AHEAD OF 2023 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION
Ordinarily, there should be no hullabaloo about which Senatorial zone should produce Ugwuanyi’s successor in 2023. This is because following the conventional and implied zoning arrangement in the state, it is the turn of Enugu East Senatorial zone to produce Ugwuanyi’s successor. There is no doubt about it.
But politicians being what they are, have started playing pranks on people’s intelligence by trying to turn facts upside down to suit their selfish interests. This is even when Ugwuanyi in line with his predecessors’ style has not made a public declaration of who will be his successor and where he will come from.
Politicians and their followers have been engaging themselves in war of words on social media platforms, arranging nocturnal and endorsement visits and meetings that are neither here nor there.
Just like his predecessors did and in line with the zoning arrangement in the state, Ugwuanyi will choose his successor from Enugu East zone. His own will not be different. This is the expectation and desire of majority of Enugu people, who are the voters. They are looking forward to Ugwuanyi’s final decision and public statement to this effect.
The hired social media warriors who are not from Enugu and mostly urban guerillas can continue to say anything they like on their social platforms, forgetting that elections are fought and won on ground and polling units not on social media platforms.
EKWEREMADU AND ENUGU 2023 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION
It is a fact that Senator Ike Ekweremadu who has represented Enugu West Senatorial zone in the Senate since 2003 till date is one of the most lucky, opportunistic and favoured politicians in Nigeria today. He has enjoyed a lot of political presence, influence and patronages.
This was a young man that his political palm kernel was broken by Senator Chimaroke Nnamani in 1999. After serving Nnamani as SSG and Chief of Staff, Nnamani pushed him to Senate in 2003 and even tried to make him Senate President in 2005 against Senator Ken Nnamani, if not for the stand of the opposition senators from the North alongside, the then Senator representing Enugu North, late Senator Fidelis Okoro.
Even though Ekweremadu has since denied in a radio programme that he didn’t tell anybody that he is contesting the 2023 governorship election in Enugu, activities around him and his foot soldiers’ dispositions have so far proven otherwise.
His denial of 2023 guber ambition is typical of a seasoned politician that will like to test the water first, before jumping in. The people are not deceived by his antics. He is a smart politician, who failed himself in the last National Assembly leadership election for lack of tact and inordinate ambition.
It is Ekweremadu’s fundamental and constitutional right to contest the governorship election in Enugu State. He is overqualified by all standards and nobody is stopping him, even when it is clear that the odds are already against him. Some of his allies have spoken truth to him and had openly opposed his ambition on the ground that it is against the zoning arrangement of the state.
The odds against Ekweremadu’s 2023 gubernatorial ambition is too glaring and factual to be ignored by Ekweremadu himself. He is a major stakeholder in Enugu politics and needs no soothsayer to understand the political arithmetic of the state. He has seen it all and knows the truth about the implied zoning of governorship seat in the state.
His Senatorial zone, Enugu West has the least number of voters in the State, while Enugu North senatorial zone has the highest number of voters in the state. From the voters register of 2019 general elections, votes from Nsukka, Udenu, Igbo-South and Igbo North local government areas in Enugu North senatorial zone are more than the total votes of Enugu West Senatorial zone.
For Ekweremadu and his cohorts to try to twist the fact or act in a manner belittling of his personality just for his near impossible 2023 governorship ambition will make mess of him after the election. It will amount to betrayal and attempt to destroy an arrangement he made alongside other major stakeholders in the state before now.
It is the turn of Enugu East Senatorial zone to produce governor in 2023 . This is in line with the zoning arrangement in the state which Ekweremadu is part and parcel of. He cannot deny this, having been a key player in Enugu politics since 1999.
Obviously, Ekweremadu’s perceived governorship ambition is against the established and implied zoning of the seat in Enugu State. But nobody will stop him from trying his luck, just like others did in the past governorship elections and failed abysmally, not because they were not qualified, but simply because their ambitions were against the conventional zoning arrangement in the state.
For Ekweremadu, his foot-soldiers and social media miscreants to have resorted to illogical and infantile arguments to push their case is very disappointing and appalling. Unfortunately for them, the more they push for it, the more it backfires. This is simply because zoning of the governorship seat has become a tradition and culture in the state since its creation in 1991. It has come to stay. The people have adopted it. That is the truth.
The puerile and senseless advocacy and campaign by Ekweremadu’s supporters that merit and competence should be placed above zoning of the governorship seat in 2023 is an insult to the sensibilities of all the people of the three senatorial zones in Enugu State.
It is so because there is no senatorial zone in Enugu State without many competent and qualified people with outstanding track record. If to them, what makes Ekweremadu more competent than others is that he has rapid political opportunities and grabbed them, it means that they don’t know what competence means.
They don’t know that competence goes beyond scheming and grabbing political opportunities and leveraging on it for self aggrandizement and personal enrichment. Competence goes beyond pontificating, grandstanding and rabble rousing.
Telling the people that Ekweremadu is the only quality and competent person to govern Enugu State in 2023 is madness of the time and joke taken too far in a state like Enugu, where they are too many quality persons.
No doubt and with due respect, Ekweremadu is competent and qualified, but he is not the first among the equals. Even though, he is not a pushover or political neophyte.
That Ekweremadu was able to leverage on his political contacts in Abuja to arm-twist and threaten Governor Chime in 2015 and succeeded does not mean he will succeed in 2023 governorship election in the state.
The political calculations and permutations have changed. The scenario is entire different now and Ekweremadu is off it. APC that would have been Ekweremadu’s fallback or alternative in case he loses out in the PDP primary in 2023 has already zoned their governorship ticket to Enugu East Senatorial zone. Is this not enough signal or sign to Ekweremadu that even the opposition recognizes, respects and abides by the implied zoning arrangement of the governorship seat in the state?
It amounts to hypocrisy for people who have been and are still agitating for President of Igbo extraction in 2023 relying on zoning, equity and fairness to be opposed to such zoning of Enugu governorship seat in 2023.
Zoning, consensus and agreements are parts and parcel of democratic practice globally. The only difference is the approach to it. While it may not be publicly pronounced in advance democracies, it is often pronounced and canvassed for openly in Nigeria, because of the politicians’ antics and mischief.
Political decisions such as where party candidate should come from is usually made and carried out at the party’s hierarchy. It is not for every Dick and Harry to participate. Ndi Enugu are waiting patiently for Governor Ugwuanyi and his party to declare publicly who from Enugu East zone will be his successor.
There are salient questions I will like those opposed to the implied zoning arrangement of governorship seat in Enugu to answer especially those from Enugu North zone who are now opposed to zoning by saying that Enugu North should produce Ugwuanyi’s successor in a ascending order.
What would have they done, had it been Governor Chime did not make it back to Nigeria from overseas hospital at twilight of his administration to preside over the emergence of Ugwuanyi from Enugu North zone as his successor?
What have they done had it been that Enugu State House of Assembly members succumbed to external pressure and impeach Gov. Chime, while he was away and hand over power to his deputy from Enugu East Senatorial zone, who would have insisted on re-contesting for the seat in 2015? What would have happened between then and now? Will anybody be saying there is no zoning or there is zoning by now?
God knows why He perfected the zoning arrangement in Enugu state and allowed it to go round the three Senatorial zones. It is beyond human understanding and making, not even Ekweremadu and his supporters can explain it. It is divine and should be respected by all in the state for the peace of the state and posterity sake.
This is why the arrangement should be strictly respected and abided by all in the state. There is and there will be always tomorrow or another day.
After all, the governorship seat is tenured and there will be chance and time for every senatorial zone to produce Governor, Deputy Governor and Speaker from time to time. There is no need for desperation and insistence that it must be me or my zone as against the known and established zoning arrangement in the state.
Zoning of governorship seat among the three senatorial zones in a state is what is the trend across the states in Nigeria today. It is not only in Enugu. That is what is obtainable in Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra and other states.
Even in Kogi State where dominant ethnic group like Igala has been lording it over others. The election and reelection of Governor Yahaya Bello from the minority tribe has broken the political jinx and altered the dominance of Igala people in Kogi State politics. One day, such will happen in Benue State where the majority Tiv people have been suppressing the minority Idoma people politically with their numerical strength in governorship election.
This happened in Kaduna State some years ago, when Hon. Patrick Yakowa, now late and a Christian minority from South Kaduna emerged governor of Kaduna State, after the then governor of the state Namadi Sambo became vice president to President Goodluck Jonathan following the sudden demise of then then President Umaru Musa Yar Adua. Nothing is cast in stone in politics, but politicians play God so much politically, forgetting that there is nothing He cannot do at all times.
Adhering to or abiding by zoning of governorship seat in the states across the country has reduced drastically rancour, infighting, tension and post-election violence and litigations. It has given every senatorial zone sense of political security and belonging.
It is not undemocratic and should be inserted in our constitution if need be or if possible.
…UDEH WRITES FROM TRANS EKULU, ENUGU STATE