Zoning and Abia 2015
By Mecha Udo
The beauty of Democracy is that it allows free and unfettered contests amongst qualifying candidates; it further offers the electorate the freedom of choice unrestricted by any man or institution. Democracy opens the political space, gives vent to the concept of one man one vote, and allows unhindered expression of political intentions.
Section 177 (a-d) of The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (the grund norm of the nation's laws), expressly specifies the qualifying conditions for seeking or running for the office of the Governor of a state. My understanding of section 177 (a) is that a man of Osun extraction will be qualified to contest for the Abia state governorship seat, if he satisfies the other conditions stipulated by the constitution.
The sound bites, which we are receiving from Abia, pertaining to the process of presentation of candidates for election into the office of Governor are very worrisome and portend great and grave danger to the well-being of the state.
Given the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the politics of Abia since 1999, it is expected that a RIGHT PDP candidate stands more than 75% chance of getting elected as Governor of the state. This assumption is the reason why what the party does or fails to do in its selection process is of concern to a lot of stakeholders in the Abia project.
It is important that recent trend in the Nigerian space be taken into cognizance in drawing up strategies for the selection process. At the centre, the death knell of zoning has been sounded. Zoning has been abandoned and overtaken by merit and performance.
One of the reasons, the APC lost in the recent Ekiti governorship elections is that the incumbent was seen by a large population of voters as one that was imposed on the people, as the powers that be in the party foreclosed an open and even contest for the party's governorship slot. In Osun, a performing Governor was returned by the voting public despite the presence of over 73,000 security men (including soldiers) who were deployed by the PDP controlled central government. In Lagos state, there is an on-going review of some state policies that are now perceived as anti- people, an example is the review of school fees in the state owned university from over N300,000 in some cases downward to N25,000.
The independent Electoral Commission is perfecting the art of conducting free and fair elections, at least, the incidences of malpractices has been reasonably curtailed. The sitting President has shown a proclivity for allowing the people to have their say in the electoral processes. He demonstrated this in Edo, Anambra, Osun and even in Ondo state, not considering the fact that his party, the PDP in all these instances was on the losing side. Times have changed and times are changing. Those who fail to align with the tide of these changes, will be swept away by the force of the tide.
If Abia PDP insists on excluding some of its best contestants on account of an obnoxious zoning proposition, it would have considerably diminished its chances of winning the governorship election in the state. Perish the thought that the Federal forces will be sent down to secure the ticket for the party; it did not happen in Osun. Perish the thought that INEC officials will be compromised to fiddle with the process in order to favor certain candidates; it did not happen in Ondo. Stop imagining that the President's influence and the people's support for the President will sway votes in favor of the party at the governorship elections; Lagos voted PDP for the Presidency and ACN for the governorship elections in 2011. The thought that Abians will stand askance while the electoral process is being manipulated to install stooges will definitely not happen again. Abians will vote for merit, they will vote for persons, they will not vote solely for party and they will definitely not vote for tendencies. The choice therefore before the party is to throw up its very best, regardless of where he or she is from.
Abians are eagerly waiting for 2015, they intend to have a say, and they are poised to have their way, they intend to make their votes count as it happened in Edo. The party must align itself with the wishes of those it has been governing and wants to continue to govern. People's power is in vogue and it is taking root. Voter apathy has suffered dwindled fortunes recently. This is not to talk about the backlash of reactions from those who will be unjustly excluded, as they would most likely work against the party either directly, by contesting the elections under another platform or indirectly by withdrawing the support of their political bases, both instances will further reduce the party's chances of success at the polls.
Stakeholders in the Abia project are now interested in what happens to and in the state, you ignore their expectations at your own peril; they have alternatives.
In 1999, when the military decided to return power to civilians, the process was met with skepticism by a lot of players. This scenario allowed the few who threw their hats into the ring to have easy rides. Voter awareness, consciousness and understanding of their rights and the processes were limited. INEC was learning the ropes and even the contestants were ill prepared, as they did not indeed know what to expect, they therefore treaded with caution. It is instructive to note that despite this seemingly experimental outing, candidates came from Abia North, South and Central. In all the governorship elections in the state since 1999, candidates have always come from the three senatorial zones of the state.
It is extremely unfortunate that despite the advancement and development in the national political horizon, the state is battling tooth and nail to limit itself. There is talk about a certain “charter” that exist in the consciousness of a few, that stipulates that the governorship slot is supposed to be zoned and that it is the turn of the Ukwa /Ngwa in Abia South to produce the Governor this term. A new twist has been introduced by the zoning of the office to a section of the supposed benefitting zone. A few who have spoken about this charter claim that it was initiated and signed in the times of the class of Dr, M.I. Okpara (1952 to 1964). The question then would be when was Abia created ?, was Okpara some kind of Nostradamus to have foreseen the creation of Abia state in 1991, and decided to produce a charter that will ensure Fairness, Justice and Equity in the yet to be created state. The creation of the 105 senatorial zones was effected by Section 48 of The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. This document came into effect in 1999, fifteen (15) years after Dr. Okpara's death and 35 years after he left the political scene. It is difficult to follow this trend of thought. Even if indeed that class signed anything, whatever was signed in the age of the Olympia typewriter, when the Postmaster was such a prominent citizen cannot fashion the affairs of today's dynamic and digital age. If indeed something was signed, it must have suffered obsolescence and as such has become archaic and cannot be relevant in the scheme of things in this burgeoning aggressive political dispensation. I plead that if we cannot build on the legacies of this very Great Nigerian, we should at least allow him peaceful rest.
Others have argued that the document was signed in 1999. Again since 1999, candidates have been thrown up from all the zones of the state, implying that if anything at all, this said charter has been applied in breach and cannot therefore be relied on or counted on.
With due respect to our Abia South/ Ukwa Ngwa brothers, one believes that the postulation that only Ukwa Ngwa sons and daughters be allowed in the contest so as to ensure that victory for the zone is guaranteed is a gratuitous insult to the people of this zone. Are we then saying that without the politics of exclusion the zone cannot win the governorship election?. Are we suggesting that the zone lacks men and women who possess the qualities and of such pedigree that will make them electable by other Abians?. Is it possible that the zone that gave us the great Dr. Jaja Nwachukwu and other great sons of Abia, the zone that provided the platform for the Taiwan of Africa in Aba, cannot groom and throw up a candidate that an Item man will vote for, even if there is an Item candidate in the fray.
The fact that in the past four seasons no Ukwa/ Ngwa man has succeeded in winning the election does not mean that they cannot win in an open and fair contest. The fact that candidates from other zones won the past contests connotes that even the Ukwa Ngwa populace have been finding merit in these candidates from other zone. How fair is it that after having contested in all other elections, they now expect others to be excluded so as to give them an advantage? how equitable is this demand?.
The tragedy of this development is that we are now focused on where, which has no bearing on performance instead of focusing on who. Abia needs men and women of vision, the state needs knowledgeable, dynamic, professional personalities to run its affairs going forward. We need men and women who can harness the potentials in our agriculture, in our commerce and industry and in our sheer determination and innovation to create an egalitarian society that will project the goodness and industry in our people and our society, where poverty will be beaten back , where the unemployment trend is reversed and ultimately eradicated. We need a society where our young are properly nurtured, educated and equipped to continue the development of the state. We must create a home where the old are free to live in peace and enjoy their retirement instead of being kidnapped and harangued by unemployed and depraved youths.
We need a person of integrity who will be God fearing, that will treat all Abians (Arochukwu, Old Bende, Ukwa/Ngwa, Umuahia etc) equally. We do not need a sectional or tribal champion. The platform for our revolution is undoubtedly available in Ukwa Ngwa land in Aba.
We need men and women who will create the positive synergy between the public and private sectors to drive the development of the state starting from Aba. We need modern men and women, who understand the world of international politics, and that can transform these political alliances to beneficial social and economic benefits to our state, through the creation of international collaborations and partnerships in industry, healthcare, education, agriculture and even sports. I think the focus should be on identifying these persons no matter where they may be from. The constituency is Abia, the selection should be Abia wide.
George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it. There are now several variants of this saying including that “Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are doomed to repeat them”. In 2007, the former Governor of the state ran the show and chose his preferred candidate; the result of that exercise is still haunting the state till date. There is no reason why this scenario should be repeated, when the imbroglio created by the actions of the former Governor is still with us. We do not need another distraction as these tendencies only serve to retard the progress of the state. We need to elevate the politics of the interest of the greater majority over and above the politics of self preservation. Our self center political disposition bodes no one no good.
I will conclude by stating unequivocally that we should reject zoning. Zoning has the tendency of projecting the ill-equipped, even when they are more qualified and prepared candidates. Zoning divides us further, instead of uniting us; it brings acrimony amongst Abians and frustrates the overall development of the state. Zoning denies the prepared, the equipped, the experienced and well heeled candidates the opportunity of impacting our society with their wherewithal. Zoning is inequitable, zoning is not fair, and zoning is not just. Zoning is illegal as it is unconstitutional. Zoning should be jettisoned. Let merit prevail.
The current field of contestants is rich, it is made up of tested hands, industrious and illustrious sons and daughters of Abia, educated personalities, international citizens, first class business gurus, industrialists, astute politicians, accomplished career men, financial giants; men and women of very high pedigree. We have contestants who are God fearing, generous, noble, humble, society and community focused, and who are vision driven. None should be denied they should all be given the opportunity to prove their mettle and let the people choose. This is so that Abia may be great again. We are God's own country and we must return to God. May God grant us the wisdom to do the right thing!
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