‘Zoning Inculcates Mediocrity’

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong encounters a clever aspirant for the House of Representatives from Isiala Ngwa North and South federal constituency in Abia State. At 31, Ms. Adaeze Nwokeukwu is a young and fresh face on the political turf

Adaeze Nwokeukwu, a medical practitioner is fast learning the ropes and how to navigate in the turbulent waters of Nigerian politics. It may be her first political sojourn, but she is enjoying every memorable moment, as she goes around consulting different stakeholders for the opportunity to represent her federal constituency in Abia State on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Her calm disposition could even be discerned from the forthright manner of her response to questions sent to her via email. “You may find it interesting to know that this is the first chapter of my sojourn in politics. I have neither sought any political position in the past nor identified officially with any political struggle. This is not as a result of my lack of interest in same but simply because, there is a time for everything. Every crucial or calculated step we take as humans is guided by two major factors: Time and chance. I have spent more than one decade preparing myself for the opportunity to be of service to humanity. This is in fact the inspiration behind my chosen career path.

However, my background in politics could be easily traced to my father; a man who for the greater part of my earlier years fully devoted his life to building a career in law while remaining very relevant in the Abia State political scene. He has always been a leader to many and an indisputable community builder. This inspired me a great deal and sowed that seed in my heart to know that mine would be a life of service to my people.”

To her, the race is not a do-or-die affair. While she is focusing on her chances of securing the party’s ticket, if the lot does not fall on her, she plans to return to her medical practice and her business. She has a word for women who plan to take part in politics. Nwokeukwu believes there’s been an upsurge in the number of women taking part in the political process. “We are witnessing an upsurge in the involvement of women in active politics. Women are gradually beginning to recognise their value in the society. We are beginning to accept that we do not belong just in the kitchen and in the ‘other room’, contrary to widely held opinions. There are more educated, career women today than there was 20 years ago. This is not excluding roles in leadership. I will also like to commend efforts from platforms like the PDP that have afforded women a greater chance to get more involved in leadership through policies such as making the party nomination forms free for women with political aspirations. I would also like to commend the relevant non-governmental organisations that continue to strive to give women a voice in our society of today. A lot, however, still needs to be done.

There is need to invest more effort in the sensitisation of women, starting from the girl child. All hands must be on deck in totally eradicating the notion that the girl child is a second class citizen and is not entitled to dream and aspire as much as her male counterpart. Also, women who are already established in politics need not be passive about this. We must champion the cause particularly in the rural areas where there is a higher concentration of uneducated, betrothed, abused, undermined and highly dependent women. We must let them know that marriage, child birth and the many other tasks that significantly shape our lives do not necessarily need to amount to the untimely death of our dreams, passions and aspirations.”

Nwokeukwu claims to have had both sweet and sour experiences in her political in her short, but event political sojourn. “On a positive note, the reception of my aspiration by women, particularly of my constituency has been overwhelming. It has given so many women a new found belief in themselves. People want me to meet their daughters and ask me to mentor them because they would like to see what they see in me in them. The fact that I am a young woman makes it all the more exciting for many because they see the assurance that if things work as we project, God willing, I will be here for a long time.

On a more disappointing note, I have encountered dissenting views bordering solely on the fact that I am a woman and single. This is with absolutely no regard for my intellect, my few accomplishments, my vision and what good I can bring to my people. I think this speaks lowly of us as a society that prides itself as the pacesetter on the African continent. It hurts me not just because of me but because of the thousands of women across the country and continent whose hopes and dreams are dead on arrival because of their gender. I am of the belief that everybody is deserving of a chance to be assessed based on their capacity and their potentials, not based on gender and marital status.”

Nwokeuwku often sums up what she hopes to achieve in the House of Representatives into one sole agenda-to be an ambassador for a better life. “This translates into a more vocal, more critical and more effective representation of their best interests. This translates into a better projection of our strengths as a constituency and a commitment to fighting vehemently for lasting solutions to as many of our challenges as are realistically possible. It is my firm belief that a government that prioritizes politics over the yearnings of our people for good and effective governance has failed on its paramount responsibility which is ‘service to the people.’”

The aspirant for the Green Chamber in the National Assembly came out shooting from the hip in her discourse on zoning. “There are most certainly matters arising that border on zoning and unwritten agreements that tend to limit the aspirations of others. It is my humble opinion that nothing inculcates mediocrity in our polity more than zoning does. It is a system that often times strong arms the electorate into choosing between hell and the high water. The zoning system conveniently gives merit a back seat and offers mediocrity a crown.

I cannot pretend not to understand the sentiment that in a country as populated and culturally diverse as we are, zoning tends to enhance inclusiveness of all the communities, local governments, constituencies, senatorial districts, tribes and regions in our polity. The big question however is: What is the alternative forgone? The fact that the average Nigerian would vote a zone over a candidate seemingly more qualified is to me an essential component of Nigeria’s misfortune. It is arguable that our decision at different stages in our history to prioritise sentiments such as regional, cultural, religious backgrounds over merit, competence and true capacity is one reason our status as the giant of Africa which once used to be beyond doubt has today come under scrutiny.

I am doing my homework. I have sustained an effective sequence in my consultations with my people. I have tabled these issues and how I view them to my people, at different levels. I have assured them of my vision and commitment to them if given this opportunity to serve. It is my utmost belief that when the chips are down, my people will vote to rewrite history. They will vote to preserve today and they will vote for posterity.”