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Imperatives of zoning in Anambra State

Few, if any, can argue against the idea of power rotation and the peace it has brought to most states in Nigeria. Compared to any other idea on political understanding, the rotation arrangement towers above the rest. Little wonder why the drafters of the 1999 constitution enshrined the principle of federal character, a variant of this inclusiveness in the constitution.

Specifically, Section 14, subsections 3 and 4 compel national and sub national governments to observe and apply these principle. Subsection 4 clearly states that “the composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the federation.”

Since it was first mooted at the federal level of government, many a state took up the idea to deal with their peculiar political problems. Among the states was Anambra, which until then was void of such agitation for power rotation among her three senatorial zones of the North, South and Central. However, the eleven and half years unbroken access to power by the Central Senatorial zone was making the other zones squirm in discomfort. The seed of distrust was almost sown and needed to be uprooted in order not to foul the fairly good political climate in the state. Negotiations were held by major political, business and traditional institutions and agreement reached. Power was to rotate to the zone with least access to power in the state. Naturally, the lot fell on Anambra North Senatorial Zone, which access to power predated the creation of the old and new Anambra states.Their last access to power being in the time of the East Central State when Ukpabi Asika held court.

After some see-saw of political activities, Chief Willie Obiano emerged from relative political obscurity to become the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and eventual winner of the election. It is important to state that the emergence has continued to provoke emotive discussion in quarters that hardly allow a word in edgeways. Regardless, his emergence has both the blessing of God and the support of man, without either the effort would have come in vain. Since that time the state has, at a reasoned estimate, witnessed unsurpasssed peace that augured for accelerated development. What she would have lost dissipating energy agitating for equitable access to power; she gained in aggregated support to her overall development. Today, Anambra State stands tall in the comity of states with a reputation of unflagging commitment to security and growth. And it does not seem the people are in a hurry to dispense with the idea of zoning, at least, not when the major political parties in the November 18 governorship election in the state have fielded their candidates from the North.

What this means is that the battle for the control of Anambra would be decided by how much premium the electorate place on any of the candidates from the zone. By peculiar virtue of the arrangement, it is expected that the South senatorial zone would be expected to produce the next governor of the state at the expiry of the term of the North in March 2022. It is fairly odd to think that because of the arrangement any candidate from the North should be indulged with power in keeping with the agreement. Should that happen, the expectations of the South whose turn it will be in the next four years to produce the governor would be cut off. Or better still, will be long in coming. However, any violation of the agreement of the principle of rotation may bring about a state worse than the pre-rotation period. It will be tempting Providence to dare such a situation and think the state will remain the same. As a matter of fact, Anambra State has proved politically intractable in matters where other states would very easily adjust without problems. To believe that either of the candidates of the APC or PDP, seeking to be elected on the strength of the rotation arrangement, would respect the agreement and spend only four years is not thinking at all. No doubt, a campaign of a single term of four years for both candidates will most likely dominate the whistle stop messages just to get the support of the other zones. But such promise can only be taken seriously at the detriment of Anambra South Senatorial Zone, which is expected to produce the next governor. It is also going to be credible for as long as the two senatorial zones of the South and Central have decided to gamble with the immediacy of their turn. For now, only the candidacy of Obiano has a definite date of termination in March 2022.

If the story of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s renege on a term on the Presidency was anything to go by, whoever believes that either of the candidates would act differently does not appear to think right. Or if the unbroken run of some politicians in the National Assembly is taken into account, the greed of political office would become more evident. The recent hornets’ nest stirred by Aisha Al-Hassan, Minister of Women Affairs, over President Muhammad Buhari’s alleged intention to run in 2019 is yet to settle. Everybody should be minded to guard against compromising the zoning arrangement such that the peace and development in the state will last. If well protected the arrangement will doubtless unleash development previously held in check by bickering and infighting. Of course, no state develops without respect for order, especially where such order bespeaks of a glorious future. Think of what the state would gain in terms of resources hitherto dissipated on elections if campaigns are ordered. Not thinking differently, Professor Chukwuma Soludo had earlier urged contenders against waste of resources, which otherwise should be channeled to better use. 

The over $7.2 billion investments attracted by the Obiano government to the state would pale in insignificance  if the new order is pursued with determination. It is not often talked about but some of the well heeled Ndi Anambra, who know investment only in terms of campaign projects would be forced to think twice. At that point, there would be fewer gambles on futile campaign projects of dissenting candidates. And if any party should field a candidate from a disadvantaged zone, there would be little or no support. The state will very likely be spared the venom of slush fund because men, it is said, always dislike enterprises where the snags are evident.

So far as the zoning arrangement went, some prominent citizens of the state have spoken in support of it. Prominent among them were former Vice President of Nigeria Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former governor of the State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and former CBN governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, among others. In urging support for its adherence, these foremost citizens of the state are not unaware of the cost of squandering the arrangement. 

•Onyima, former Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, wrote from Umuoji.

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