Oguejiofo Ujam, a Professor of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka restates the need to maintain the existing zoning structure in Enugu State
Many people have wondered why I decided to intervene vigorously on issues surrounding attempts by some political actors in Enugu State to alter the power rotation arrangement in the state. Well, I decided on this piece, unarguably the third in the line of such treatises, for a number of reasons.
To begin with, let me draw the reader into the Igbo metaphysical realm, where dark tunnels are illuminated with philosophical sayings that have stood the test of time. Our forefathers said it is only a tree that would stand still and unfazed at the threat of immediate deforestation
It is also said by them of old that it is a taboo for an adult to watch a she-goat go through the pangs of labour while tethered at a spot. Alerted by those wise sayings, I was therefore convinced that whatever could plunge my state, Enugu, into needless strife and rancour should be avoided at all costs. After all, the public intellectual bears the burden of speaking the truth to enlighten and motivate responsible actions.
It must be reiterated that Enugu state is about the most suited for the political principle of rotating elective offices, particularly the governorship. By May 29, 2023, Enugu North Senatorial District would have served out its final two terms on the saddle. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was inaugurated into office on May 29, 2015, is the third citizen to occupy the seat of governor since Nigeria returned to democratic system of government in 1999.
In the past 21 years, Enugu State has been enjoying the proceeds of orderly rotation of political power among the three Senatorial districts of the state. The incumbent Governor Ugwuanyi, in many ways than one, reflects the peace and harmony, which the power sharing arrangement or zoning evinced by the founding fathers intended.
At the onset of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, it is on record that Enugu State recalled the sad experiences of its divisive past and set the stage for a less rancorous power sharing modality along senatorial zones.
From Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through Mr. Sullivan Chime (PDP, 2007-2015) to Hon. Ugwuanyi (PDP, 2015 till date), the three Senatorial Districts of Enugu East, Enugu West and Enugu North, have had their turns at the Lion Building, the seat of government of the state.
As the three senatorial districts have each had its turn, it is surprising that some enemies of peace and orderliness in the state are making clandestine plots to truncate the power rotation arrangement. Some of these power mongers are divided between ploys to have the next cycle begin from Enugu North or micro zoning the governorship slot to a particular section of Enugu East Senatorial District.
No matter what anybody would say, including internet warriors that have been contracted to attack my interventions on the need to sustain the zoning structure in Enugu State, there was no point in time when the idea of micro zoning was contemplated by the founding fathers of the state. The unwritten principle seems to be that what the senatorial zone has put together, let no one put asunder in the interest of peace and harmony.
But, in recent times, we see prominent citizens of the state making overtures for the dissembling of the pre-existing senatorial demarcations in a bid to serve their political interests. For some time now, political activists allegedly linked to the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has been setting up campaign cells across the entire Local Government Areas in Enugu State preparatory to his purported decision to contest the 2023 governorship seat or play the godfather, depending on which becomes feasible.
While Ekweremadu is making arrangements to enhance his political future after his membership of the 9th Senate, some stakeholders in Enugu North are devising their own narrow strategies. At a meeting in the country home of the outgoing President General of Ohanaeze NdiIgbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, the idea was mooted for the zone to pressure Governor Ugwuanyi to support the argument that the next cycle of rotation to begin from Enugu North instead of Enugu East Senatorial District as expected.
It bears remarking that after Senator Chimaroke Nnamani served out his two terms as governor in 2011, his zone, Enugu East Senatorial District, stayed out as Sullivan Chime from Enugu West did his two terms of eight years in office. Currently, Governor Ugwuanyi, who is in his second term, is due to round off his eight years in office come 2023.
May be it was because those who attended the September 22, 2020 meeting at Nwodo’s Ukehe country home have seen the futility of agitating for another person from Enugu North to succeed the incumbent governor, who hails from Enugu North, that they have begun aligning with Ekweremadu’s argument on the need to micro zone the governorship to Isi-Uzo axis of Enugu East Senatorial District.
Without knowing it, the daydreamers at Nwodo’s village meeting seem to be playing into the hands of Ekweremadu, who goes about with the delusion that the national leadership of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hand over the party’s structure in Enugu State to him.
Ekweremadu’s foot soldiers have been boasting that there is no way any Isi-Uzo person can beat their principal in a governorship contest, because that candidate will have problems picking a running mate. It is necessary to note that this would not be the first time the former Deputy Senate President would be gambling with electoral choices in Enugu State.
Some people mistake Ekweremadu’s opportunism for political wizardry, when indeed what he does is to feed on the greed of some notable individuals and exploit moments of political confusion. That was how he continued to represent Enugu West Senatorial District, when he battled Sullivan Chime to choose between producing his successor and contesting the Enugu West Senatorial seat.
Without suspecting why and from where, the micro zoning argument was coming from at this point in time, the Nwodo group have been busy strategizing on how to convince Governor Ugwuanyi to support a candidate from Isi-Uzo to succeed him in 2023.
The latest plot in the ongoing efforts to disrupt the zoning format in Enugu State is the Nwodo group’s resolution to present a member of the Edeoga family to Governor Ugwuanyi for his endorsement and support. Their game plan is that since Ugwuanyi’s maternal home is same with the Edeoga’s, the governor would be comfortable and be persuaded to support the governorship ambition. Nwodo also knows that the Edeoga’s share a lot with his family by way of political and matrimonial relations. All efforts are being made to present the maternal linkage with Ugwuanyi, even if the ultimate plan is for Nwodo to play godfather at the end of the day.
Funds have been flowing into the project, even when it is hard to know whether it is the Enugu North stakeholders or Ekweremadu that is oiling the machinery to revise the zoning arrangement in Enugu State.
At the recent solidarity rally by the people of Enugu North, tagged Nsukka Unity Rally on November 21, 2020, Ekweremadu’s man Friday, Senator Chuka Utazi, overdramatized his support for Governor Ugwuanyi to confuse his covert support for the former Deputy President of Senate.
In his remarks, Senator Utazi said, “I worked with the government of Dr. Okwy Nwodo, when we were together there for 20months, before the military asked us to pack up and leave. And we left and that was just it, until you are here.”
In one breath Utazi goes about indicating that Ugwuanyi has not performed and in another he believes that the call for Enugu North to produce the next governor is to make up for the locust years.
It would not be surprising if Senator Utazi is among those plotting for micro zoning to Isi-Uzo, because he knows that would prove beneficial to his ally, Ekweremadu. In all this, it is obvious that concerted efforts are being made to confuse Governor Ugwuanyi and pitch him against Enugu East, majority of whom are Nkanu.
The task before Governor Ugwuanyi is simple. Being a peacemaker and consensus builder, he should run away from the rezoning ambush to his succession plan.