By Arthur Okolie
Political seasons are not normal seasons anywhere in the world. It is a season politicians induce all manner of narratives and mantra to suit their quest for power.
In Enugu State, the politics of the race to Enugu’s Lion Building 2023 has been immersed in zoning controversies; and everybody seems to have his/her own argument to which he/she holds to, fanatically.
The result is that weeks to primary elections, when governorship aspirants should be unfolding their plans and answering questions on how they intend to tackle Enugu’s many problems, nobody is discussing how to eradicate the mountains of refuse defacing Old Park, Okpara Avenue, New Market, Corner Stone, Nkpokiti Junction, Abakpa Nike Bridge, New Artisan, NNPC Mega Station road, Holy Ghost, Ugwuaji, Fire Service, Agbani Road, Uwani, etc.
Or how best to solve the biting water scarcity or address the multiple taxation grounding businesses or even Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s scorecard.
So far, no governorship aspirant, except Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has tendered or educated Enugu people his or her agenda on how to solve the multifarious problems like heightening insecurity, unemployment, epileptic power, dysfunctional educational system, broken city road network, among others, to guide party delegates to voter right. Everyone is counting on zoning and the Governor’s anointment.
Ordinarily, no one expects zoning to be an issue in Enugu today since power has gone round the three senatorial zones. Besides, some credible persons have demonstrated with hard facts that while power has gone round, it was never based on any pre-agreed zoning formula.
In an interview with ace reporters, Chidi Nnadi and Magnus Eze, published by Sun Newspaper on 23rd November 2018, former Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, explained why his successor emerged from Enugu North zone in 2015.
Chime declared: “In 2013, when we were holding a town hall meeting in Nike Lake Hotel, one journalist asked that since I was leaving office, which zone will succeed me as Governor. When Chimaroke Nnamani became governor, it wasn’t zoned to Nkanu; he won against somebody from the West, even in his re-election bid.
“When I contested, it was free for everybody, people from the North, from the East, from the West, the same thing during my re-election. Then I said fate had made it that the East had done their two terms, myself in second term at the time, I said it will only be fair that we take it to the North to reduce tensions and I promised to work towards it.
“That was how it happened. We zoned it to the North, not that there was any agreement”.
Again, while receiving critical stakeholders from Nike, recently, Chime equally reaffirmed that Enugu had no formal zoning arrangement. And truly, even when Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani anointed him as his successor in 2007, Nnamani’s deputy, Dr. Okechukwu Itanyi (Enugu North), contested the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship primary against him and lost narrowly.
In an interview he granted to Vanguard newspaper on 5th November 2014, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu detailed the context of all Governorship contests from the old Anambra State up to Enugu State and submitted unequivocally that “We have not had zoning in Enugu State; there had never been any zoning”.
So, clearly, the zoning buss today is about elite’s conspiracy and vested interests, which they are not telling the people. The popular belief is that all the rallies and publications to drum up support for an inexistent zoning arrangement that favours Enugu East zone (where Isi-Uzo belongs to politically) are to present Ugwuanyi as a man whose hands were tied by zoning.
That way, Ekweremadu, who played a major role in his emergence in 2015 won’t expect him to return the favour in the 2023 race. The other is to whip up anti-Ekweremadu sentiments in Enugu East, particularly among Nkanu people, while the real plot and interest goes on behind the scene.
However, whatever was hidden, was made open by Senator Chuka Utazi and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo during the February 2022 Local Government election campaign in Igbo-Etiti. Nwodo and Utazi made it clear to Enugu people that 2023 to 2031 belonged to old Nsukka zone (which includes Isi-Uzo) because the old Enugu zone (Enugu East and West zones) had done 16 years. Nwodo was even specific on Isi-Uzo.
Meanwhile, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, who recently resigned his position as Commissioner for Environment and picked PDP governorship nomination forms, is generally believed to be the governor’s first choice successor.
Unfortunately, nobody is telling Enugu masses that Ugwuanyi and Edeoga are direct maternal blood relations. Nobody tells them that Chijioke Edeoga is married to Nkechi (nee Obayi), daughter of Dr. Grace Obayi, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo’s elder sister.
Only Chimaroke Nnamani has been openly parading his former Chief of Staff, Peter Mbah, from Nkanu clan, as his preferred governorship candidate. But with the other hand, he is pushing his return to the Senate.
Chimaroke Nnamani ruled Enugu State for eight years. He is spending nearly eight years in the Senate, but has picked form to return to the Senate for a third term. Whether Nnamani’s recall from the political cold in 2019 was part of Ugwuanyi’s strategies to checkmate Ekweremadu’s ambition in 2023 is a matter for another day.
But the popular belief is that by his vociferousness on Ugwuanyi’s prerogative to appoint his successor, he is not just playing to the gallery of Nkanu sentiments, he equally playing to the terms of his political resurrection in 2019 and survival beyond 2023. Politics, he always says, is a serious business.
Otherwise, you would expect him to wait, or insist on Ugwuanyi names an Nkanu successor before rushing to purchase PDP senatorial forms. But with forms in his hands, he has gone quiet.
Since Nkanu cannot have both the governorship and senatorial seats at Isi-Uzo’s expense in an Ugwuanyi dispensation, has Chimaroke, by buying senatorial forms, not betrayed Nkanu governorship agenda and cleared the road for Ugwuanyi to pick his successor from Isi-Uzo?
Furthermore, Nkanu West LGA has done eight straight years as governor and almost another eight years as senator on Nkanu ticket through Chimaroke. In the spirit of zoning and equity he preaches, isn’t he supposed to support another LGA like Nkanu East to produce governor or senator for once?
Chimaroke isn’t alone among promoters of non-existent zoning seeking to hold unto power, sometimes against some defined zoning formula in their constituencies. Ugwuanyi did 12 straight years as Member of the House of Representatives. He is completing eight years as Governor. Yet he has picked forms to go to the Senate at the expense of Igboeze South LGA.
It is common knowledge that Enugu North’s Senatorial seat rotates among the three Federal Constituencies. Nsukka/Igbo Eze South Federal Constituency took the first slot through the late Senator Fidelis Okoro from Nsukka LGA, followed by Igboeze North/Udenu through Senator Ayogu Eze, and Igbo-Etiti/Uzo-Uwani through Senator Chuka Utazi.
If you go by the argument of Ugwuanyi’s governorship zoning drummers, the next round of rotation should restart from Nsukka/Igboeze South where Igboeze South LGA is favoured since Nsukka LGA took the earlier slot through Senator Okoro.
Ironically, the same people, who insist that Enugu’s governorship should restart from Enugu East where it began in 1999 (even though it has gone round), hypocritically argue that rotation of Enugu North senatorial seat could restart anywhere since it has gone round. Grapevine has it that Hon. Pat Asadu, a strong senatorial contender from Igboeze South, has been asked to return to the House of Representatives for a 6th term in exchange for the senatorial seat due to Igboeze South.
The Speaker, Hon. Edward Ubosi (Ozege), has bought forms to return to the State Assembly for the 4th term. His uncle, Hon. Cornelius Nnaji, has picked forms to return to the House of Representatives. Hon. Chima Obieze is seeking a third consecutive term in the State Assembly against Ezeagu’s long established zoning tradition. Yet they chant zoning.
So, who is fooling who with zoning mantra, even when they want to achieve in Enugu what Rochas Okorocha couldn’t achieve in Imo? Yet they say Enugu is in the hands of God. Is it the godfather, god the son, god the cousin or god the in-law?
Okolie writes from Enugu