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By  Ezenwa Okenwa

RIGHT OF REPLY

OGBUAGU Anikwe, a veteran of the beautiful pen trade is seemingly bitter, and I do not begrudge him his right to choose to be.

But I am concerned about the effect of this bitterness on him. In recent times, I have read his series on Enugu, his home state’s politics and I can glean that this bitterness is beginning to take a toll on his thought flow. His recent piece: “Enugu, Like Lambs to the Slaughter”, published in the Saturday Vanguard on March 26, 2022, was a “rhapsody” of mendacity and contradictions.

He made strenuous efforts to denigrate the rotational governorship template in Enugu State and in his allegorical rendition, he strongly denounced the long-established tradition of zoning, describing it uncharitably as a tendency akin to the docility of lambs whose survival strictly depends on the whims of the farm owner.

As is typical of allegories, the real intent is often nuanced. What he would rather not state is that the man idolised in this allegory may well have been the slaughter manager who has supervised the skinning and evisceration of the sheep for so many years now.

This is because in over 20 years, Senator Ike Ekweremadu – the man not so subtly lionised in the piece – has benefited from the system Anikwe now fulminates against. While he narrates his experience in the hands of his friends in Lagos, the headquarters of godfatherism, who allegedly taunt him about the “docility in his state”, he in the same piece narrates the heroic exploits of the likes of Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, Ugo Agballa, Okey Ezea and Fidel Ayogu, who in different dispensations since 1999 have kept the political light aflame and yet praises Ekweremadu for “rescuing Enugu from dirty image of a people that do nothing about leadership selection”.

I am at a loss as to where he places Senator Ayogu Eze who he acknowledged made Enugu “a home where democracy lives and breathes” in the last general elections.

In another breath, he praises Sullivan Chime, who himself was a product of zoning, for unilaterally pronouncing that power should rotate to the Northern district clear two years before the contest and yet rails at the “intentional silence” from Lion Building. The fact, however, is that whereas Chime pronounced his choice two years to the time, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi actually pronounced his during his campaigns for his second term election, a clear four years ahead! But while everyone, including Ekweremadu, allowed peace to reign during Sullivan’s era, this time around hell was let loose. We are all living witnesses to the contrived security breach, including a sudden wave of banditry and kidnapping – especially from the Ani Nri and Awgu axis – that heralded Ugwuanyi’s open declaration in 2019 that power shall rotate to the Eastern district at the end of his tenure.

This is perhaps the third installment of Anikwe’s invective on the subject of zoning I have read in recent time. And, in each, he has rallied public opinion against a practice that has helped instill a sense of belonging in the polity, and lavished praise on the principal figure working to ensure its dismantling.

So, no matter how hard Anikwe tries to couch his intention as altruistic, the supposed intellectual sheen wears off under minimal scrutiny. His own words betray him as one not different from the ubiquitous “politicos” of whom he seems quite disdainful. In the recent piece referenced, he wrote: “Before this time in 2014, Governor Chime had made clear his preference over where the governorship slot should go, and why. He preferred the northern district in order to achieve fairness and balance among the senatorial districts.

The current tenant of Lion Building refuses to speak about what is fair and just in choosing our next governor.” Forget any lofty posturing, “fair and just” in this context is a euphemistic exhortation that the governorship be given to “Greater Awgu”; a divisive and selfish construct known only to the purveyors.

Even if the statement’s inherent cynicism were excused, shouldn’t a man desirous of fairness and justice be worried that denying Enugu East Senatorial zone its due right to the governorship is no less unfair and unjust?

It is disingenuous to argue, as Anikwe had implied, that zoning or rotational governorship comes at the expense of competence and experience. This is nothing but intellectual dishonesty.

It is as dishonest as Ekweremadu’s barefaced repudiation of his Committee’s recommendation to the NEC of PDP in 2015 in the aftermath of their electoral loss that zoning which is a core principle of the party, and which is enshrined in Section 7:3 (C) of their Constitution should be allowed to apply at all levels (Vanguard, October 1, 2015).

Just as dishonest to is overlooking Ekweremadu’s vice-like hold on Enugu West Senatorial Zone’s seat like a personal fief. There has hardly ever been any primary for the whopping five terms that he has been elected to the Senate, not so much for his popularity as by the fact that the door was literally shut against would-be aspirants from the zone.

Yet, it must be emphasised that zoning and competence are clearly not mutually exclusive. The naivety that permits the foregoing also reflects in the notion, however subtly expressed, that an Ekweremadu ascendancy at the governorship level is victory entirely for the so-called “Greater Awgu”. In reality, Awgu is anything but a poster image of a town whose “kinsman” has been a three-time deputy president of the Senate. 

In fact, the myth of “Greater Awgu” solidarity evaporates each time one recalls the humiliating experience of the late Hon. Justice Innocent Umezurike, one of the shiniest advertisements for the zone, is in the hands of these hypocrites whose job otherwise, should have been to protect him. That the eminent jurist never recovered and eventually died from the frustrations and pains associated with this perfidy tells so much about the so-called solidarity! Or the fact that Anikwe, also from Awgu, in spite of his vast experiences, was never considered in Ekweremadu’s “leadership” recruitment drive until he was remembered by the same system he now takes passion in eviscerating.

Equally distasteful is Anikwe’s presentation of Enugu State as one dystopian wasteland with a defective leadership that needs some redemption. This is redolent of a sour grape mentality that should be considered infra dig for a man with Anikwe’s professional stature. It is instructive, however, that Anikwe indicated that he was “a top government official during the 2019 electoral battle”.

But that point ought to have been made in the form of a clearly spelt out proviso, which is that he was a Commissioner for Information, howbeit not reappointed after the 2019 general elections. Had he been more specific regarding his role, a few people would have recalled how glowingly he once spoke about the governor as a mouthpiece of his government.

Perhaps a few of his adulatory comments in the past would suffice. “One thing we should understand is that Enugu State is sitting fifth from the bottom in terms of federal allocation.

This is a governor operating under that kind of financial constraint and he is able to do much more than most governors that have more allocation,” Anikwe then noted in an interview with NAN, published in the Leadership newspaper edition of March 9, 2019.

On the Governor’s reelection, he said: “The victory of the governor is record-breaking. We have never heard a candidate recording 95.9 per cent of votes cast and leaving 2.2 per cent to the nearest challenger. This was achieved due to the administrative style of the governor.

His peace initiatives and development strides laid the foundation for the records.”

To what then do we now ascribe Anikwe’s volte face? What sort of indiscretion would make someone like Anikwe pine for an era when “warriors” like “Chief Onoh, Aninefungwu, deployed federal machinery of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, to crush Nwobodo in the second term?” Would such morbid yearning have arisen if he was reappointed?

In such exhilaration, one can decipher his chilling wish that an Ekweremadu was so enamoured with raw power to deploy such federal might to crush whatever opposition on his way to achieving this maddening ambition.

If we had to requite him by similarly cynical and uncharitable standards, the verdict would be that it does look like the chicken in this instance is “clucking and scratching in the dirt”, desperately hoping that it’s the preferred farm manager will throw it some cornmeal. But the bitter truth anyway is that this infantile blackmail is not working and therefore the prospect is very unlikely.

The many benefits of having a rotational governorship vitiate whatever downside it may be perceived to have. The Enugu State electorate understands this and does not seem willing to jettison what has imbued the state with peaceful coexistence that many other states can only dream of and many more are adopting.

The tradition has become so entrenched that the repercussions of its repudiation are so stark that not even the governor can contemplate it. It is just as well though that he referenced Chief Onoh in his paean to the valiant deeds of old, except that he perhaps forgot that Onoh was a staunch advocate of zoning.

After all, the whole essence of the epic Wawa struggle which he championed was all about zoning and functional inclusiveness.

Okenwa, a lawyer, wrote from Lagos.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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