Enugu 2023: How Zoning, Rotation will Jeopardise Ekweremadu’s Chances

Enugu 2023: How Zoning, Rotation will Jeopardise Ekweremadu’s Chances

The contentious issues of zoning and rotation have dominated political discourse in Enugu State since former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, declared his intention to run for the governorship seat of the state come 2023. Vanessa Obioha writes that the ghost of zoning haunts him

Former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, recently declared his intention to run for the governorship seat of the state come 2023. The five-time senator who represents Enugu West in the Senate, while disclosing his reason and passion for wanting to contest for the seat after attaining exalted heights nationally and internationally, stated that, “Enugu State gave me huge opportunities to serve as pioneer Council Chairman of Aninri Local Government Area, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Secretary to the State Government, five-term senator, three-term Deputy President of the Senate, Deputy Speaker and Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament. I have served on a number of important committees and in several global positions.”

Continuing, he added that, “In the course of this journey, I have met world leaders, business leaders, and made friends in both private and public sectors of the national and global economies. I have had the opportunity to understand how states and nations are transformed. A good example is a city like Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was a desert, but has now become the world’s most digitalised city and a global investment hub. I have an insight into the economic transformation taking place in Rwanda,” he explained.

Pledging to deliver good governance bedrock on the restoration of faith in government through delivering on his manifesto and promises; transformation of the civil service, judiciary and parliament, making them technology-driven; improvement of welfare, efficiency and respectability of the public service; duel corruption, improve and enhance revenue generation and use, and run an all-inclusive government that sees all as equals.

Ekweremadu unveiled his eight-point work plan under the following broad themes ”Water, Road Development, Education, Youth and Women Empowerment, Security, Health Sector Reforms, Opportunities provision, Employment and Economy, Energy Sufficiency; and Housing and Urban Renewals.

Recalling his efforts and antecedents as a senator in the light of the exploits and limitations recorded, Ekweremadu averred that “As a senator, I worked hard to put forward necessary bills and motions on constitutional amendments, security, education, economy, health and electoral reform, that have impacted and are still impacting positively on the wellbeing of our people. I have initiated life-changing projects in our communities, beyond my constituency, in the very important areas of water, road, educational infrastructure, health, power, and many more.

The former Deputy Senate President and PDP chieftain, followed his announcement with the naming Hon. Ogboo Asogwa, a former state lawmaker, as his campaign Coordinator for the 2023 governorship race in Enugu.

However, there are those who feel that Ekweremadu has to contend with the issue of rotational system entered orally by the founding fathers of Enugu State.

Having been a five-time senator, three-time Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate as well as former Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, others believe that Ekweremadu’s political height should have been channelled towards realising the presidency of South-east extraction rather than his governorship dream. His governorship dream is seen by many as an inordinate ambition and a step that may torpedo the tranquility of governorship rotation principle which has been acknowledged by all political stakeholders in the state.

Enugu State is made up of three senatorial zones – Enugu North, Enugu East and Enugu West, where Ekweremadu hails from.

Enugu East produced the governor in the person of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani from 1999 – 2007; Enugu West ruled from 2007 to 2015 under former Governor Sullivan Chime; while Enugu North will complete its turn in 2023 under Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

So, under the seamless  rotation principle endorsed by all the stakeholders except Ekweremadu, it should be the turn of Enugu East in 2023.

But for those who have been following Ekweremadu’s political trajectory, indeed, this is not the first time he contested for the gubernatorial seat. In 2007, he showed interest but Governor Chimaroke Nnamani picked Sullivan Chime as his successor.

He also kicked vehemently in 2015 when ex-governor Chime and other stakeholders zoned the governorship seat to Enugu North senatorial zone.

Many political observers in the state believe that his current clamour for the governorship seat is fuelled by the fears that he will be politically irrelevant  by 2031 when it will be the turn of his zone – Enugu West.

Others believe that he wants to use it to negotiate for another term in the Senate.

Since he made his ambition public, the contentious issues of zoning and rotation have dominated political discourse in the state, and it seems to be haunting his chances. And sensing the controversy  he has created, the Aninri LGA- born senator,  during a consultation with the media in Enugu recently, insisted that  there was no fixed zoning policy in the state. He posited that zoning existed only in the minds of persons out to make capital of the situation. He argued that Enugu State is composed of four sub-ethnic groups in the old administrative divisions of Agbaja (Udi), Awgu, Nkanu (Enugu), and Nsukka.

He claimed that there was no zoning and rotation arrangement for the governorship seat. He accused proponents of zoning of having candidates in mind, and challenged them to name the place where such a decision was taken and by who.

He noted that he has never been part of zoning because he doesn’t intend to be a zonal governor, adding that what was important is to provide good governance to the Enugu people.

According to him, there’s no zoning discussion in the state because Chimaroke Nnamani was not a product of zoning pointing out that “I was the campaign director during his election and at no point did we discuss zoning. Sullivan Chime wasn’t a product of zoning. During the emergence of the incumbent governor, there was no discussion of zoning; it was based on equity and justice for Nsukka to produce the governor.”

Continuing, the three-term deputy president of the Senate said it’s “political treachery” when politicians talk about zoning because they’re simply projecting their personal interest. He noted that Enugu East Senatorial zone has produced three governors, whereas Enugu North senatorial zone had produced two governors while Enugu West Senatorial zone produced only one governor in the person of Sullivan Chime, from the Agbaja (Udi) bloc of Enugu West, leaving the Awgu (Greater Awgu) area in the cold.

But some groups have disagreed with him, and insisted that zoning arrangement was discussed in the past by the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

They also produced a document on zoning, which was signed by him and other stakeholders when Chime was the governor in 2013.

For instance, two groups in the PDP, Equity and Integrity Assembly (EIA) and Enugu West Leaders, under the umbrella of Ife Emelumma, at news conferences in Enugu, urged Ekweremadu to maintain his 2013 commitment in support of a rotational zoning arrangement, “to ensure continuous peace in our the state.”

Spokesman for the Enugu West Leaders, Senator Ben Collins Ndu, who displayed a document showing the meeting where zoning was discussed at a PDP caucus in 2013, said the state caucus agreed on the rotation of the governorship position. He said the agreement was signed by over 50 stakeholders, including Ekweremadu.

Ndu said the motion for the zoning and rotation of the governorship position was moved by a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia and seconded by himself after an amendment by Chief Charles Egumgbe.

“The motion was adopted and signed by more than 50 participants that included, among others, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo,  Ekweremadu, Eugene Odo and Vitta Abba,” he said.

Even a former governor of the state, Nnamani, has faulted Ekweremadu’s ambition. Nnamani had in a statement commended what he claimed to be a “principled stand” of some critical stakeholders in the state “affirming the zoning principle as well as the turn of Enugu East zone to produce the next governor.”

“This position of Enugu elders may have put paid to the governorship ambition of the former deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, from Enugu West Senatorial Zone,” Nnamani was quoted to have said.  

To pro-Ekweremadu’s campaigners, merit should be used for the election of Ugwuanyi’s successor. They argued that the rotational system has not been adhered to ab initio.

How far Ekweremadu will go in pursuit of his ambition will be determined by the events of the next few weeks.

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