How Anambra House Speaker Surprisingly Went North

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David-Chyddy Eleke writes on the intrigues that upset the applecart in the contest for Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly

Before Wednesday, June 12, when the Seventh Anambra State House of Assembly was inaugurated, many believed that a deal had been sealed for the speaker of the assembly to emerge from the southern senatorial zone of the state. This assumption followed the fact that the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano hailed from Anambra North zone, while his deputy, Dr Nkem Okeke is from the Central zone, and for a state that prides itself as one which respects equity, the speaker was expected to emerge from the southern zone of the state, but that did not happen.

Initially, a two-term law maker in the state, Hon. Paschal Agbodike who represents Ihiala State constituency, in the Southern senatorial zone of the state had been touted for the speakership position, at least to balance power among the three zones, but on Wednesday, it was a surprise when the Cerk of the House, Mr. Pius Udoh called for nomination for the position of the speaker and Hon. Edward Igbuzor, the member representing Onitsha North State constituency nominated Hon. Uchenna Okafor, as a lone nominee. His nomination was seconded by Lawrence Ezeudu.

Okafor a two-term lawmaker represents Ayamelum State constituency, which falls within Anambra North Senatorial zone. The area is regarded as neighbors to Anambra East Local Government Area, where Governor Willie Obiano hails from, in the same northern zone.

No sooner was Okafor nominated than murmurs, especially from the gallery where most visitors sat to monitor the proceedings started making the rounds. An indigene of the state, who gave his name as Hon Samuel Okonkwo from the Southern Senatorial Zone was the most audible among the voices that protested the nomination of Okafor. “What are they doing? Does Willie Obiano want to destroy a foundation that had been existing long before he came to power?” He queried. All attempts to persuade him to maintain decorum as the affairs of the house proceeded failed as he continued, insisting that such an arrangement would not stand as Anambra South was the pillar of the state and could not be denied the chance of producing the Number Three citizen in the state.

The immediate past Speaker of the Assembly, Rt Hon Rita Maduagwu was from the southern zone, and it was believed that even against protest, the position was handed to her because she hailed from the southern zone, since Anambra already had a governor and deputy from the North and Central zones respectively.

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that the decision to zone the speakership position to the North was based on an initial agreement that the South would succeed Obiano who would be leaving office in 2022. A source told our correspondent that after a cursory look at the game, the leaders of the Southern Senatorial Zones, especially those from the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, decided that it was better to wait for two years and some months to get the governorship position, instead of insisting on producing the speaker.

From the calculations of the leaders from Anambra south, if the Anambra Assembly had produced a speaker from the southern zone, the tenure of the speaker would still be running as at 2021, when the zone would hope to produce a governor, and that would automatically leave two plum positions in the zone; the governor and the speaker. It was also argued that since the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, led by former governor, Mr Peter Obi had already played its hand by trying to shoot down the zoning arrangement in the state with the argument that all zones of the state have tasted the governorship position, and as such, the next governorship election should be thrown open, and that if such argument holds water, the southern zone may lose the governorship position. Therefore, to show its seriousness in taking the governorship position, leaders of the southern zone had to concede the speakership position to another zone.

To corroborate this, the APGA National Chairman, has said that the zoning of the speakership position to the north, despite the fact that it was the zone of the sitting governor was deliberate. A statement by the National Chairman of the party, Dr Victor Oye stated that the move was to secure the position of the governor for the southern zone in 2022, as choosing a speaker from the south would mean concentrating the governorship and speakership position in the zone.

Oye said, “It has become expedient to issue this statement to correct the malicious and tendentious misrepresentation of facts with regards to the choice of the Speaker of the 7th Session of the Anambra State House of Assembly. The decision to zone the Speakership position to the Northern part of the state arose from the simple fact that our party had earlier zoned the governorship position in 2022 to the South. Again, the decision was reached after due and wide consultations with critical stakeholders and to maintain equity and justice. We urge our members across the various divide in the state to abide by the choices made by the party to oversee its affairs in the 7th Assembly.”

Oye added that that the choice made by the party was made to position it to face the challenges ahead and discharge itself creditably in line with democratic tenets, expectations of the people and the development of the state.

All zones of the state have produced governors of the state, with Obiano being the first governor of the state since creation in 1991 to hail from the northern senatorial zone. Former governor of the state, Mr Peter Obi had against all odds, insisted that Anambra North produce a governor after him, to ensure equity in the state. Obiano, on his part, has also favoured the zoning of the governorship position to the southern zone after him, but his predecessor in a recent utterance by his media aide, Mr Valentine Obienyem insisted that Obi only championed the emergence of a governor from the northern zone because they never produced one since the creation of the state, and that now that all zones have had a shot at the position, zoning can again begin from the central zone or be thrown open to all.

All sides seem justified in their argument, but as time ticks, it would be interesting to see which argument would hold water. While Anambra South has had its turn in Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Dame Virgy Etiaba and Senator Andy Uba who spent three months, and 17 days respectively also hail from the zone. For Anambra Central, Dr Chris Ngige and Mr Peter Obi have mounted the top seat, while for Anambra North, only Obiano has tasted the position.

Anambra is among the few states which holds staggered elections, and with Obiano already approaching the second year of his second term, the polity of the state would become heated soon, and the zoning argument would then become more pronounced.