Enugu and Politics of Micro-zoning


As fuss over who will succeed Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state in 2023 continues to reverberate, old political guards mulling for micro-zoning may create crisis, reports Udora Orizu

Barely a year to the conduct of the 2023 general elections, political actors across the divide, are already warming up to slug it out. At the centre, controversy over the zoning of the presidency is still raging. Across the states where elections will be held, the issue is also reverberating.

However, leaders of Enugu, appear to have agreed that the governorship position will be zoned to Enugu East Senatorial District. This development is in line with the existing zoning arrangement that was introduced in 1999, when Senator Chimaroke Nnamani stepped in as Governor.

In line with the agreement, Nnamani ceded power to Enugu West Senatorial District. Sullivan Chime emerged in 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). After his eight years in power and in line with the existing zoning arrangement, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from Enugu North Senatorial District (Nsukka Province), succeeded Chime.

For political pundits and critical observers, this rotational arrangement has created a stable environment and every part of the State has a sense of belonging. The arrangement has further ensured that development across State is even and that no section is marginalised.

However, political pundits have observed that there appears to be a subtle move by old political guards to create a crisis and undermine Governor Ugwuanyi in choosing his successor, in line with the existing arrangement, established by Senator Chimaroke in 2007.

Chimaroke as governor, singlehandedly picked Chime to succeed him in 2007. Every political stakeholder supported him and Chime emerged without any serious opposition. The same feat was repeated in 2015, when Chime unilaterally picked Ugwuanyi to succeed him as governor. Based on the existing arrangement, the political class didn’t fume or challenge Chime.

Questionably, those who supported similar gestures in 2007 and 2015, are up in arms and promoting micro-zoning in Enugu East, thereby setting up the stage to challenge Governor Ugwuanyi in picking his successor. Already, there are six key contenders, below are those who may likely succeed Ugwuanyi in 2023.

Chinyeaka Ohaa

He hails from Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State. He is a prudent and financial administrator who rose through the ranks to become the Enugu State Accountant General, serving from 1999 until 2006. He later served as Commissioner for Agriculture under the administration of Governor Sullivan Chime. In 2016, Ohaa was appointed as Permanent Secretary of the FCT by President Muhammadu Buhari. He was redeployed to the Federal Ministry of Power where he retired. He is from Enugu East Senatorial District.

Ike Ekweremadu

Though he has an intimidating profile, the existing zoning in the State, makes it technically impossible for him to succeed Governor Ugwuanyi.

Professor Bartholomew Nnaji

Nnaji is believed to be the arrowhead of the campaign for micro-zoning, intended to undermine Governor Ugwuanyi in choosing his successor in 2023. He’s in his late 60s, though he also has a towering profile as a respected public servant.

Nnaji, while expressing his views, said: “We have qualified people to advance the interest of Enugu State. We are not asking to make any of them governor to help just our own localities. All we are hoping for is that if one of our own becomes governor, some of the winds of development that he initiates in the state will also blow in our area. This will end our marginalisation and give us a sense of belonging.”

Chijioke Edeoga

Edeoga is currently Enugu State Commissioner for Environment. Edeoga served as Commissioner for Local Government Matters during the First term of Governor Ugwuanyi.

Senator Gilbert Nnaji, is also touted as one of those scheming to succeed Ugwuanyi. He’s from Enugu East Senatorial District. He’s a former federal lawmaker.

Edward Ubosi is the incumbent Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly. He hails from Umuchigbo Iji-Nike, Enugu East Local Government Area. He’s one of those being promoted to succeed Ugwuanyi. He’s also from Enugu East

Charlie Agbo, a lawyer and chieftain of the PDP, in a recent media outing, opposed moves by some politicians in Enugu State to settle for micro-zoning. He said opponents of zoning in Enugu State first instance, have also argued that for there to be zoning, the people should be involved as against the current practice where the governor makes the choice.

Speaking on the dangers of micro-zoning in Enugu State, Agbo said: “Micromanaging affirmative action has never been the convention. For me, it should suffice that the choice is from Enugu East. Whomsoever in Enugu East that emerges we will support. It is important to note that this kind of issue was never thrown the way of Chimaroke Nnamani when his administration was deciding. There was no space for the consideration of micro issues. It is also noteworthy that the administration of Sullivan Chime was not confronted with this type of jigsaw. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his team should be allowed to make their choice leveraging the mechanism in motion to use the well-meaning stakeholders in the state to reach a decision.

“The overriding factor is that rather than fight in a state-wide scale every election cycle, our leader emerges quietly through the collaboration of the governor, or the leadership of the alternative party (where that is the case) and stakeholders they consult for this purpose.”

Another public affairs commentator from Enugu State, Jacob Ugwu, while opposing micro-zoning, wondered why Nnaji, Jim Nwobodo and Nnamani, suddenly descended from “their Olympian heights to such primordial levels of hypocrisy and self-indictment.”

He said their claim that Nkanu East is under-developed, without any conceivable government presence and therefore deserved the pre-eminent right to produce the next governor of the state is unfounded.

“Given that all these men have at one time or the other held very pre-eminent government platforms that would have been employed to develop this particular local government, nothing best exemplifies an unforced error of self-probe and indictment,” he said.

He added: “It is barely a hidden fact that some of these latter-day saints are otherwise seriously pursuing personal agenda; to either position themselves for the gubernatorial office or their protégées. Yet it beckons to reckon once again that those who are greedy of applause would hardly give a cheer to their contemporaries.

“Chimaroke Nnamani in 2007 publicly proclaimed that the politics of the state revolved around him and himself alone. And although he was soon to discover that no one is equipped to write history in a hurry, the fact still remains that nobody sought to direct his attention to wherever he wished the pendulum would swing. Interestingly, some of these his accomplices in the current hypocrisy were either exiled from the state or too emasculated to offer any opinion.”

But former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, holds a different view. He’s backing an agitation of Nkanu East Council people to produce the next governor of Enugu State in 2023.

“I am totally sold to the idea and if there is a way we can spread developments and other amenities in Nkanuland, I am all for it. I wholly support your move and urge you to remain resolute and steadfast in it,” he said