Anambra 2021: Who Is Afraid Of Zoning?

Joe C Anatune

Prof ABC Nwosu needs no introduction in Anambra politics. He has been this and that but I am sure he will cherish being addressed as an elder statesman. ABC is not one whose voice will be missing in matters that concern us as Ndi-Igbo. For this and more, I hold him in high esteem.
However Prof Nwosu stirred the hornet’s nest when he was quoted thus in an interview with The Sun –‘’Anambra needs competence not zoning.’’ Riding on this perceived goodwill, the opponents of zoning are in every media consumption space spluttering with relish the said ABC’s statement to support their position. I totally disagree with the former Minister of Health and stalwart of the opposition PDP in Anambra state, who perhaps might have been quoted out of context.

I stated my position on this vexatious issue last year in a response to the illogicality of Obiora OKonkwo’s arguments in opposition to the same issue. My position remains that zoning will secure our democracy as every local government in Anambra State can produce a competent governor. I reproduce the said article for records.

‘’In the heyday of NPN, National Party of Nigeria, there were so much discussions and controversies over zoning. The plum job was the position of president of Nigeria. Late Alhaji Shehu Shagari was in that saddle with late Dr Alex Ekwueme as his vice. The likes of MKO were angling to take a shoot at the plumb job. The northern elements went about giving the impression that they were not ready to let go the position of the president of Nigeria. They boasted there was no vacancy and that Nigeria was not for sale to the highest bidder – ostensibly referring to Abiola’s ambition. Tensions were building up and when confronted with the palpable tensions and agitations in his party, late Dr K.O. Mbadiwe explained, ‘’We have zoned to unzone.’’ K O as the colourful politician and wordsmith was fondly called was attempting to explain that though NPN zoned presidency to the north, they could also unzone it from the north and zone it elsewhere. For some time now, this ‘home grown’ democratic practice has helped to reduce tensions in Nigeria and held the festering fabrics of our nation. Though tough and rough, Nigeria has continued to zone and unzone and zone again.

Historically, it was at the 1994/95 National Constitutional Conference that the issue of zoning came to the front burner to assuage the fears of inequalities in the distribution of political power and national resources in favour of the north as way of securing Nigeria’s federalism. Late Dr Alex Ekwueme’s stellar performance in providing direction in furtherance of the foregoing will be discussed in another day. Suffice it to say that he was the blockbuster of the conference and remains the shining light of zoning in Nigeria. The 1999 constitution emulated the Ekwueme’s zoning idea by prescribing the Federal Character principle. For me and perhaps many others, zoning is the political jargon for federal character or quota system which we have been striving to practice. Interestingly, those who don’t follow that are labelled as provincial, nepotistic, clannish and such unsavoury characterisation. The underlying principle is to propel national or state stability by giving everybody a sense of belonging and ownership.

With the Anambra state gubernatorial election a few years away, stringent voices are emerging here and there for zoning to be thrown to the dustbin of Anambra’s political history. The reasons for this clamour are yet to be made known. A friend suggested it may be the case of wishing that the bridge is removed when one has crossed it or a case of desperation by politicians of Anambra central. We shall know sooner or later but some of the actors have begun to test the waters.

In the Sun newspaper of May 23, 2019, one Obiora Okonkwo argued eloquently albeit illogically that it is only selfish politicians in the state that are routing for zoning. In his words, ‘’Indeed, I do feel amused by that because it is only selfish politicians in Anambra state that will be canvassing for zoning of the position of governor, especially with the state of fatal paralysis we now have.’’ I do not know where Mr Okonkwo got his facts from or which Anambra state he is referring to as being in state of fatal paralysis. As an economist and global enthusiast which he said he is, one would have expected him to back such position with opinion polls that empirically reflect the stand of the good people of Anambra state on zoning. But not yet done, Mr Obiora waxed on albeit illogically, ‘’don’t get me wrong, zoning for me is okay where it is to create a balance and equity.’’ He went on and on quibbling how inconsequential positions can be zoned but not the position of governor and how Anambra is homogenous and so on. I think that the idea of zoning is essentially for fairness, equity and balance. l am equally sure that Mr Okonkwo will use the same points to push for zoning the position of president to the south east in 2023. I figure that he may have forgotten that the same sense of entitlement we feel as Nigerians in different geopolitical zones is also the same we do as Ndi-Anambra from different senatorial zones.

Zoning as home grown practice has helped us to reduce tension and give everybody a sense of belonging. Luckily it has served Anambra well since the return of civil rule in 1999. Many states around us are coping and using us as example to propagate zoning in their states. The truth remains that there is no town in Anambra state of today that will not be able to produce good governorship materials, not to talk of an entire political zone. I refuse to subscribe to the arguments in certain quarters that some zones have better governorship materials than others as there is nothing to support this position. So why do they want to kill turn by turn which we practice in sharing offices and amenities in our various communities? The constitutions of many communities in Anambra state clearly zone the now plumb office of town union president dubbed PG to give every section and village sense of inclusiveness. And everyone is happy.

Over the years, I have been fascinated by the game of football. I am even more intrigued by the organisation and what great coaches such as Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen klopp, Carlo Ancelotti, Louis van Gaal and many others bring to make the difference in the beautiful game of football. I watched decisions taken by the bench in crunch football competitions. I have observed that more often than not, victories come from decisions made by the ingenuity of these coaches. And one thing that good and smart coaches rarely do is to change a winning team. In the same vein, zoning has served Anambra state well and whoever or whichever political party is scheming to upset the apple cart should perish the thought as Ndi-Anambra will punish them at the pools. It is therefore more fruitful for us as people to move our dialogues to development oriented issues and shun the shenanigans of politicians who are only interested in the next elections than the next generations. So whoever is afraid of zoning in Anambra state should let us be as Anambra has accepted it as a way of life.’’

  • Anatune writes from Awa in Orumba Local Government Area,
    Anambra State.

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