THE Oxford English Dictionary defines zone as an area that has a particular characteristic or has a particular use. Zoning therefore means dividing an area into zones. Zone also means a geographical expression mainly used for convenience as in politics.
In Nigerian politics, zones were emphasised or became pronounced with the inauguration of the 1979 constitution where for the purpose of election of senators, each state was divided into three senatorial zones. The exercise was for administrative purposes and not for the division or alienation of a united people.
However during the Abacha 1995 constitutional conference, former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and like minds pushed for the creation of six-geopolitical zones in the country. The argument was that some sections of the country were marginalised. The Middle Beltans felt suppressed by the North.
The minorities in the East were not comfortable with the Igbos. Even the people of Edo and Delta States craved an identity of their own from the Yorubas. Although the six geopolitical zones have not been enshrined in the constitution, it is currently being used for administrative purposes.
In Anambra state, three senatorial zones exist for such administrative purposes. The people have not come together to discuss and agree that the zones will now be used for the distribution of political offices, especially the governorship.
That is why since 1992, all the zones had their sons and daughters running for the governorship with Anambra people deciding who actually rules them. Contrary to the postulations of some politicians, no one has ever been excluded from presenting candidate for the governorship election.
It therefore comes as a surprise and questionable the current posturing of Anambra state governor, Mr. Peter Obi and his phantom proponents to the effect that it is the turn of Anambra North people to produce the next governor of the state in 2014.
Notable Anambra political figures are baffled that Obi unilaterally conceived and sought to implement that policy with total disregard for the inputs of other elders, and more especially excluding the very voters who decide the fate of any politician.
Because zoning is not a constitutional matter in Nigeria, it is usually within the purview of political parties and in extreme cases, communities to determine where a candidate should emerge from. Dialogue and compromise are the operative words in such a political arrangement. In other words, all stakeholders must be present before arriving at any meaningful decision. As the late M.K.O Abiola succinctly captured it, you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.
But Peter Obi, using his mighty office as the Governor of Anambra state, has decided to shave the heads of Anambra people in their absence. Such heads include, but not limited to, those of Alex Ekwueme, former Governors Chris Ngige, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Andy Uba, Josephine Anenih, Victor Umeh, Stella Odua, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu , Dr. Jerry Ugokwe and indeed plethora of movers and shakers of Anambra politics. Can that be possible? Is it practicable even if it is desirable and expedient?
When it become expedient in nearby Imo State in 1998, leaders of the two dominant political parties then, PDP and APP met, and after days of deliberation decided to cede the governorship to Orlu Zone which instructively is the largest in the state.
It was based on that the PDP produced Achike Udenwa even when the primaries was won by Humphrey Anumudu from Owerri zone. The APP produced Ezekiel Izuogu also from Orlu. Since zoning is unconstitutional, the Alliance for Democracy fielded Mark Odu from Owerri Zone as its governorship candidate.
After Udenwa governed for eight years, PDP zoned the governorship to Okigwe zone, even as two prominent Orlu sons, Hope Uzodimma and Festus Odimegwu contested the PDP primaries where Ifeanyi Ararume from Okigwe Zone emerged as candidate. Sadly, President Obasanjo and Maurice Iwu of INEC robbed PDP of victory and sold the seat to Ikedi Ohakim of a less fancied PPA.
The people of Imo State were to register their deep resentment to that arrangement when they voted out Ohakim in 2011 and elected Rochas Okorocha of Orlu zone. Does that teach us a lesson on how not to impose our will and whims on the people?
The issue here is that apart from the illegality of zoning, who did Peter Obi consult before he started tinkering with this divisive and anti-democratic process? Chieftains of his party, APGA, including the national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh have distanced themselves from this self-serving and diversionary tactic of Governor Obi.
All the armourphous groups and unserious persons talking about zoning are all traceable to Peter Obi. Even advertorials placed by persons who can hardly pay for three square meals are all traceable to Anambra Government house .
So under what platform is the governor going to use to install his favoured candidate from Anambra North?
In politics, especially the Nigerian hue, there is nothing wrong with an incumbent governor working hard to install his preferred successor.
But there is absolutely something sinister when the incumbent seeks to employ intimidation, treachery, divide and rule tactics and subterfuge to force a successor on the people.
That is exactly why the good people of Anambra state are annoyed with their governor over this zoning imbroglio.
Mr. CHUDI NWIKE, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Awka, Anambra State.