By Vincent Ujumadu
- Obiora Okonkwo, a Russian-trained Political Scientist and a High Chief from Ogidi in Idemili North local government area is one of the major political players in Anambra State.
Earlier this year, Okonkwo endowed a research chair at the UNIZIK Business School, Awka, to carry out a study into Onitsha Main Market as an entrepreneurial hub of Igbo land. He believed that the outcome of the research would help create innovative changes that would revolutionize Igbo enterprise and make them to become global brands, having had his initial contact with business at the market before he traveled abroad for studies.
In this interview, Okonkwo speaks on the argument concerning the controversial zoning of the governorship among the three senatorial zones of the state ahead of the 2021 election in which he has shown interest. His position is that Anambra people should play down the issue of zoning and go for the best candidate during the next governorship poll. Excerpts.
As politicians express their interest to be elected governor of Anambra State in 2021, one thing that has become very topical is the issue of zoning. What is your position on the zoning of governorship?
Zoning is a problem for me. I am aware that there are agitations for zoning, but I believe that Anambra, as it is, those who love the state should pray to God to give us the best in 2021. We are in total paralysis in Anambra State and it is only someone chosen by God that will be able to bring us out of that situation. My party, PDP, has its stand or zoning and I am not doing anything against the party’s position for coming out.
So, I believe that from what the party said, you can only hand over what is in your hand. PDP has not been in government for 16 years come 2021 and so it does not have anything to hand over. What PDP wants is to come and win. I am not declaring for the governorship election, but I will make myself available for service if it pleases God and the people of Anambra State.
But this zoning argument that Anambra South should produce the next governor is gaining so much ground
I want to say that what 80% of people in Anambra South want is to have the best no matter where he or she comes from. So I don’t know where this zoning thing is coming from.
Some people are talking about equity without understanding what it means. I am not against the South, but it is God that gives power.
Let us consider this. Peter Obi, from Anambra Central was made governor by the Supreme Court, because he won the election. Chris Ngige was made governor because he contested and was declared winner. Peter Obi did not take over from Ngige because both come from Anambra Central. Ngige did not take over from Mbadinuju because he was from Central.
The same year Ngige from Anambra Central contested, Mbadinuju from South also contested on the platform of AD. So, if there was zoning, the two ought not to have contested at the same time. It was Peter Obi as APGA governor that chose to get APGA candidate from the North in 2013 and he had made it clear that he did not sit down with Anambra people to zone the position to the North at that time. Obi was in a position to zone because he had the power as the incumbent governor.
Even at that, Prof. Charles Soludo from the South contested the APGA primary with Obiano from the North and was disqualified Also, Tony Nwoye was the flag bearer of PDP not because of zoning, because there were others from other zones that contested with him, like Andy Uba and Nicholas Ukachukwu who are both from South..
The meaning of zoning is that forms can be sold to only the aspirants from a particular zone, but there was nothing like that. If people are talking about zoning for 2021, there should have been precedence where only one zone should aspire. For a party to zone, it should disqualify aspirants from other zones.
Again, the only zone that respected the call for equity was Anambra Central. This is because when Ngige ran in 2017, he lost even in his local government because the electorate obeyed the zoning. Anambra people are not parochial in anything they are doing. So if an Anambra person is a mayor in Canada and a House of Representatives member in Ireland, there is no justification to limit his aspiration in his country.
Anambra is such a homogenous state where we eat the same type of food and wear the same clothe with the same culture. There is really nothing that divides us that will necessitate all these agitations. I hope people who are in this will understand. I want to believe that one important thing we have achieved in this state is the good road network that had been created by these governors of the state. These governors did it without considering the zones they came from. For me I preach and stand for one Anambra, united for our development. I believe that I am operating above the divisibility of where I come from. Anybody has the right to agitate, but power belongs to God. At the end of day, it is the people that will decide. I am of the PDP and I will go by the dictates of the party, which is let whoever is prepared and ready and capable contest.
It should also be noted that Anambra South had produced Mbadinuju Andy Uba and Ezeife as governors, the length of time they governed notwithstanding.
Do you think PDP can wrestle power from APGA in this state?
The only thing PDP needs to do to win Anambra is to be together. APGA has never won Anambra without the support of PDP. If PDP members make up their mind that they want to take over the state, APGA will not be a problem for them. Besides, what is on ground in Anambra State today makes it easier for PDP to take over the state. Everything is in comatose. We in PDP have all learnt our lessons because most people who collaborated with APGA to win the state have seen the mistake they made. The good thing is that PDP has seen the need for a single leadership. For the first time, we went into elections in 2019 without factions and the party leadership is occupying the state secretariat. We held primaries without rancor. There is no intra party problem in PDP in the state anymore.
What vision does PDP have for Anambra?
We need to maximize our human resources. We need to go back to the areas of our strength, which are things of the brain. Anambra people dwell more on ideas and it is ideas that bring about creativity. We need to get our youths back to doing things with their brain. Youths are involved in the e-money syndrome which is excellence in a negative way, Anambra has fair share of restless youths in Malaysia or Japan and in the remotest parts of the world and most of them are probably people who were apprentices in Onitsha before they traveled out.
Anybody who wants to govern Anambra come 2021 must not look at the end of his four years. He must be someone who can lay the foundation for the next 30 years of the state. We need to go back to the basics and that is why I endowed a chair at Unizik on the entrepreneurship of Anambra people who serve their masters and are then settled. We are losing our values and that is why we need reorientation.
Our youths must know the dos and don’ts and imbibe the fear of God. It is crazy for our youths to be killing themselves in the name of cult war. Our founding fathers did not fail us and we are worried about our youths who don’t get direction. We have our youths who had done so well in many areas of human endeavour, but they do not come home to play any role in our communities.
Some rich people send their children to the best universities in the world, but do they come back to play any role in the development of our society? The answer is no. they remain overseas because there are no jobs for them here.
We are losing those who have the wherewithal to help develop our country. That is why we need a government that could create the enabling environment for those youths to come back to contribute their quota in our development. That is the vision of PDP.