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In Anambra, Quest for Zoning is Hypocritical

By Apga Uk
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Using the Anambra State scenario as an example, Elvis Ndubueze writes that the agitation for zoning of political offices is hypocritical and not a tenet of democratic ethos

Presently, Nigerian newspapers have been inundated with debate on where the next governorship seat in Anambra State should be zoned. Governor Peter Obi's quest is that Anambra North be allowed to produce the next governor of the state in 2014, citing a case of marginalisation.

Others disagree. They argue that in each occasion when governorship primaries were conducted, aspirants from the three senatorial districts were allowed to compete amongst themselves for the best candidate to emerge. They argue further that for equity to prevail their candidates should not be excluded from the primaries. This debate no doubt, will continue in weeks and months ahead of the election expected to hold later this year.

In my opinion, the argument about which senatorial district should produce the next governor of the state is neither here nor there. The exercise rests squarely with the party delegates on the one hand and the entire voting population in the state on the other hand.

Anambra is coming of age. Part of growth and maturity is self examination.

The great thing about democracy is the coming together of free people with free will, thus making decisions that are binding to their vision and aspiration. Competence should be upheld in this equation because it is superior and has precedence over political delineation. While zoning can become a tool to promote fairness, it does not necessarily bring about competence in the polity. No amount of zoning can make the economy of Anambra State grow and give jobs to millions of her unemployed.

No one is suggesting that the issue of zoning should be dismissed outright or relegated to insignificance; zoning has its place in Nigerian politics due to long history of denial and unfairness on the mostly perceived weak groups and minorities. Zoning must therefore be shaped by competence. Allowing mediocrity to thrive in order to promote zoning at all cost has its repercussion for in the long run, everybody will be a loser.

In this demanding stage of the evolution of Anambra State, what are desperately needed are competent men and women of goodwill from any part of the State to channel its vision to reality. Anambra needs pragmatic and patriotic leaders to manage her affairs as, governor, legislator, chairman of local government and counselor. The people of Anambra must be willing to trust one another in order to maximize brotherhood and interdependence with each other.

The best way to increase patriotism and citizenship is to encourage social cohesion. Zoning, for one thing, does not increase our cohesive force of togetherness; rather, it highlights our lack of trust among ourselves. Zoning maybe antithetical to democratic process for it inhibits free participation, a cardinal principle of democracy. Therefore, in that case, zoning can become a tool for 'gerrymandering' which goes contrary to its unsubstantiated purpose and justification. Zoning has the propensity to dampen our freedom and liberty in our blossoming democratic dispensation.

In Anambra state, three senatorial zones exist. The people have not come together to discuss and agree that the zones will now be used for the distribution of political offices, especially the governorship.

Although elections for the office of the governor in Anambra State have always been won by candidates from Anambra South and Anambra Central, but record has it that Anambra North senatorial zone has always featured candidates who contested governorship election in Anambra State. It will be pertinent to mention some names from Anambra North that have featured in the gubernatorial elections in Anambra State.

In the 1999 general elections, Senator Joy Emodi made so much impact such that Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who later won the governorship election of that year,commended her for her formidable campaign. Alex Obi Ogbolu, Okey Areh, Frank Oramulu, Okey Odunze and Senator Emma Anosike have all taken a shot at the governorship seat and in turns.

Contrary to the position of Governor Obi, and some politicians in the state, no one has ever been excluded from presenting candidate for the governorship elections in Anambra. Right thinking minds are asking the following questions: if Governor Obi is honest in his quest to cede the governorship position of Anambra State to the North, why did he not take a daughter or son of Anambra North as his deputy in his two tenures as governor so as to hand over to them?

Anambra North senatorial zone comprises of Oyi, Anambra east, Anambra west, Ayamelum, Onitsha north, Onitsha south, and Ogbaru.

This senatorial zone is the home of great Zik of Africa, Chuba Okadigbo, Tim Menakaya, and Ukpabi Asika, the only civilian administrator who governed the defunct East Central State for nine years without any cry of alienation or victimization by any quarter then. Is this the kind of zone that could be marginalized?

Infact, record has it that most guber elections in Anambra State are being determined by the voting partern of Anambra North. It is hypocritical and inciting for Governor Obi and his cohorts to say that Anambra North is being maginalized.

Governor Obi's quest for rotation of the state's governorship position to senatorial districts can only breed nepotism. It will kill patriotic and nationalistic zeal in our people. It will rather encourage a local champion whose score-card will be what he has actually achieved for his senatorial district while the state will be the worst for it. Neophytes, charlatans and mediocres could hide under the cover to find their way into the Anambra State Government House.

What the present democratic dispensation requires is for us to evolve a culture where every leader, irrespective of his zone, will see the state as his primary constituency, where governance will be carried out not by zonal sentiment but based on fairness, equity and justice.

We should dissipate our energy on issues that unite us not those that divide us. The call for power rotation based on senatorial districts can further divide us as smart politicians could manipulate the system to permanently favour a particular group that have spread in all the three senatorial districts of the state.

•Ndubueze writes from Awka, Anambra State