BY LOUIS EJIKEME
THE end is yet to come over the issue of which zone will produce the next governor of Anambra State come 2014. Since Governor Obi’s avowed interest to support any credible candidate from Anambra North for that office everything else has been in flux. Newspapers are awash with varied interpretations of the unambiguous statement. A mishmash of reactions, spawned on the on-line media, sought to portray the man as undemocratic and high-handed.
Those opposed to the idea are obviously not amused at the partisan show of interest by the Governor. But this is not unexpected as the support is gaining wide acceptance, especially among the grassroots. Incidentally gubernatorial aspirants from the central and south zones, conscious of the electoral implications, have been straining like Doberman on the leash, trying to blight its prospects.
Unperturbed, Governor Obi himself has continued to affirm his stand. In a recent tour of the senatorial zone, he was again quoted as saying to the people that it is fair and equitable for them to produce the next governor, going by the fact that they have not done so since Anambra State was created over 20 years ago. This position of the governor’s, however just and equitable, is least expected to be barracked for by aspirants from the other zones. Accordingly it has continued to receive flaks.
But a dispassionate assessor may be hard put to differ in position with the Governor. If the zone’s agitation for the office is properly appraised it could be found there are more grounds upon which this support is exigent. The contributions of the zone, more than those of others, stand it in good stead for the position. Its fertile land area, as well as marginal aquatics, has impressive yield that ensured steady food supply in the State. At some point, it was the food basket of the State and more recently, its portal to oil wealth.
Unfortunately, the economic status could not bolster its political fortunes as past efforts fizzled out disappointingly. The closest the zone got to the office being when Messrs Chudi Nwike and Chinedu Emeka were elected deputy governors under ex-Governors Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Chinwoke Mbadinuju respectively. Again those periods were colourless. Not much could be ascribed to the zone in terms of development because of inherent weakness of deputy governorship position. Not even political structures were built as the sinecure position guaranteed nothing.
It is for this reason that even the efforts made by the Obi government with regard to developing the area are yet to make the desired impact. If past governments did not do much in the area, including those deputised by Nwike and Emeka, it goes without saying that Obi almost started anew. Some sprinkles of road constructions seen in the zone today are done by the government. Evidence of these could be seen in new roads and bridges built in Anambra West, East, Oyi through Awka North to Ogbaru. Similar efforts by the same government in the commercial area of Onitsha have been dismissed by critics as a ploy to safeguard the governor’s business interests in the town. In spite of this, the zone is yet to approximate other zones in the State in general development.
Arguably the current efforts by the zone to produce the next governor of the State after Obi, however challenging, may not be unconnected with this. After all, is it not said that a child is better handled by his mother. Development in the area is expected to go full circle if a governor of Anambra descent takes office in 2014. More than that, the whole idea of support will be meaningful if the following issues are addressed. The support will first and foremost ensure that a credible and acceptable candidate emerges. Two, it must ensure the candidate’s strength is not chipped away via in-fighting. The third, which is almost like the second, is that all inchoate groups like Equity Association, Olu-na-Adagbe, Igboadagbe, Anambra People Assembly et al should be made to work for a common purpose. Those who are pushing for new associations should stop dissipating energy and embrace the existing ones.
Expectedly, the quality of the candidate that will emerge from the zone will very much determine the outcome of the race. This is because other zones are sure to field veterans in the game. What will make the difference remains what new things the candidate of choice from the north zone will bring to the race. What he has that is in short supply among his co-contenders. How disposed he will be to the drudgery that is Anambra politics. Whether he can surmount many obstacles as may be laid in his path? All considered, the candidate must be possessed of uncommon attributes to cope with the challenges of fighting his way through the race.
Those opposed to the idea of support for the zone, base their reason on the fact that no zone in the State suffers any form of marginalisation. That may be in terms of human capital because the marginal presence of government, until very recently, is an obvious indictment. Even the denial of the office regardless of the zone’s contributions to the making of the State is also another indictment. Notwithstanding, the implication is that the zone, in spite of support, must prepare well if it hopes to make a success of the race. It must very well know that a good number of stakeholders from the other zones may not easily indulge its wishes. It should also consider very seriously finance, which places it in comparative disadvantage in the oncoming race.
*Mr. Ejikeme, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.