BY OWEN OZUE
IT is not in doubt that the clock is ticking away on the tenure of the incumbent governor of Anambra State of Nigeria and the end game is on. It is not a dream that Obi dreams to pick his successor and not a figment of anyone’s imagination that the voters in Anambra State, backed by the principle of democracy do not desire it so. It is not a piece of propaganda that Obi is pushing this personal view of his which he is entitled to with all the fibre in his muscles and all the armoury in his arsenal including ,trust me, Anambra State funds.
But do the people want to zone the chief executive position in a homogenous and mono-lingual state like Anambra? Practically; on the street and beer parlours, in sponsored and neutral discourses the answers are mixed. Some emphatically say yes. In this category is the governor. Others say no. In this group is the usual army of gubernatorial hopefuls who happen to fall outside the zone unilaterally favoured by Obi to take the first slot in the presumed zoning? Even many politicians in Obi’s choice zone who cannot aspire in 2014 are in this group because time calculations will not favour their political future. Yet, others say that Anambra will decide when they meet for the purpose. Three views on the streets and their numerous variants, yet many more sown in the hearts of those who speak only when the table is decorated.
Recently, November 26, 2012 to be precise, the mouthpiece of Anambra State Government- Anambra State Broadcasting Service (ABS) in a news commentary claimed that Anambra has agreed to propose ‘zoning of the office of governor across the three senatorial Zones ,starting from Anambra North Zone’ to the national Assembly for inclusion in the federal constitution. But according to ABS ‘ a few greedy and disgruntled politicians in the state are sabotaging that agreement’
We shall yet return to this commentary which largely triggered of this highly procrastinated piece; its deductions and assumptions; and the larger implications for democracy in Anambra State and Nigeria.
To understand the issues in the zoning discourse let us trace the issue from the root. In the aftermath of a 1994/95 constitutional conference organised by the nation got bitten by the zoning bug. This followed a proposal introduced and made popular by Dr. Alex Ekwueme, speaking from the blueprint presented by Mkpoko Igbo, itself a product of the Igbo Intelligensia organisation Aka Ikenga. The proposal was for the rotation of the office of the President around six geo-political zones, drawn out on the basis of a mix of voting patterns in the country’s previous elections, linguistic/ethnic blocs and sociological factors.
The proposal met with a stout resistance form the group led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua ad largely supported by the north which was in the thick of their hegemony. So stiff was their opposition that they raised voices to shout down Ekwueme on the dais. It took the physical intervention of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who was co-chairman of the well-prepared South –East delegation, to secure an audience for Ekwueme to espouse the subject. Ikemba who had to remain standing challenging the ring-leaders of the shouting match to make a whimper. Of course, the argument was to continue outside the plenary.
Eventually, those who sought and failed to shout the motion down went back and built a consensus to defeat the view on the floor of the conference. But it was contained in the minority report sent in by Ekwueme, which made sense to Abacha, himself coming from a ‘marginalised’ group in the north.
So Nigeria informally recognised six zones and started applying it in their lives. Yet, not having had any opportunity between then and this month to discuss the making of their constitution as a people, it had to wait for this year for the people to vote yes to its inclusion in the federal constitution.
But in 1998, Ekwueme’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) inserted a watered-down version of the zoning arrangement in the party’s constitution, making it a two-dash arrangement between North and South Nigeria, with many in it’s ranks, including the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi opposing it. Even that party-inspired zoning manifesto faced its biggest challenge when President Umar Yar’Adua, took ill and eventually died, as there was clear reluctance to hand over power to his then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan. And of course the constitution had the legal answers, but not the political.
Many argue that this is the origin of the emergence of the political Boko Haraam, which differs largely form the original one led by late Yusuf in 2009. A comment in that regard by the late former Security Adviser to the President cost him his job, but the plausiblility was not lost on Nigerians. And now with Abubakar Atiku beginning the political rounds in target of 2015 and Jonathan playing the ostrich game, the zoning issue is far from settled even now that it is outside the constitution. So it cannot be said to have succeeded.
Dr. Ozue, a political analyst, wrote from Nnwei, Anambra State.