By CHRIS AGBU
One thing that readily distinguishes the Igboman from other Nigerians is his fierce republicanism expressed in personal freedom, independence and uncanny industry. While northerners literally worship their emirs and see nothing wrong in lining up at the house of their rich uncle to take food, the Igboman would rather starve than live such a subservient life.
While the Yoruba pay allegiance to their obas and venerate them as a second god, the Igbo man scoffs at the idea of being dictated to by anybody. It was that attitude that spawned the concept of Igbo enwe eze (Igbo have no kings). Though traditional rulers are now dotted in any hamlet in Igboland, they alone can testify to the potency of their power. Among the Igbo themselves, the people of Anambra State manifest more of these characteristics of independence, owing largely to their early contact with the Europeans, their native intelligence and their cosmopolitan nature. Their belief in competition and struggles had been responsible for their phenomenal rise, be it in the military, education, health, commerce or skill acquisition.
They suffer not lazy people or those who wait for their turns. Their methods may not pass a morality test, but it has engendered the spirit of hard work and self-help. There is no area, which Anambra people have demonstrated and put these characteristics at work than in politics where, again and again, they have proved that only merit, hard work and resourcefulness can win anybody a seat, be it at the councillorship, parliament or governorship. The concept of zoning is alien to them because it presupposes the humouring of the weakling and devaluation of competitive spirit of a people. The restrictive practice of zoning robs the people of the essence of what defines them. It is on this light that majority of Anambra people were shocked over the pronouncement of their Governor, Peter Obi, that the governorship of the state has been zoned to Anambra North for the election in 2014.
This absurd, selfish and unworkable proposition not only rankles but also meant to be an insult on the intelligence of Anambra people. But for the purposes of academic argument, it is obvious that Gov. Obi simply wants to ridicule himself. Neither the leaders nor the followers in Anambra State have set out, as a body, to adopt the principle of zoning in the distribution of political offices since the present Anambra State was created on August 27, 1991. That was why, even after the first civilian Governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, emerged from Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra South, the people still went ahead and elected another man from Anambra South, in the person of Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, as the second civilian governor.
Of course, in those two elections, candidates also came from Anambra North and Anambra Central. Mbadinuju would have been re-elected if not for non-performance as Governor. In the 2003 elections, all the three senatorial zones also presented candidates. The incumbent governor, Mbadinuju, who was denied ticket by the PDP also contested. At the end of it all, Dr. Chris Ngige of PDP who hailed from Anambra Central, same as Governor Obi was declared the winner by INEC. It took three years for Obi to prove at the courts that he was the actual winner of that election. If there was zoning and Obi emerged governor, would it not have served the interest of justice for the governor not to seek re-election, since, together with the years of Ngige, Anambra Central would have done eight years? Obi sought re-election, of course, because there was no zoning entrenched in Anambra State.
In that election, which he ran with Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, at least two candidates came from Anambra North. The governor also knows that he went into that election with a damaged ticket because Anambra people were dissatisfied with his performance. The late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was so alarmed over the poor popularity of Obi that he sacrificed his life for his re-election. “This is my last wish,” he told Anambra people. Grudgingly out of respect for Ikemba, Anambra people got Obi back to office. Having thrashed out the issue by establishing that the contest for Anambra Government House since 1991 had always been a free for all and the survival of the fittest, it is obvious that zoning had never appeared on the political lexicon of Anambra people. So, why is Gov. Obi mischievously heating up the polity by his current grandstanding?
The answer is not far fetched. Contrary to the high hopes of the people, Gov Obi has disappointed them with just an average performance. To shore up his dwindling political fortunes, the governor resorted to cheap political propaganda to win the sympathy of Anambra North people, especially those from Onitsha who are aware of his investment portfolios in the commercial city. Is it not curious that a man, who, in the last six years, has failed to conduct local government elections, even in defiance to his party’s directive, could be talking of justice, equity and fair play? What are the democratic credentials of Obi to be an advocate of zoning, when, in the actual fact, he is yet to advance the cause of democracy? This diversionary tactic, which he has employed to cover up his lapses and sustain his lame-duck governorship, cannot subsist. It can also not succeed because the issue of zoning is unconstitutional.
Nigeria, as a nation, is toying with it because of the prevalent injustices against some sections of the country. Those injustices are not present in Anambra State, which is homogenous in culture, religion and otherwise. Power, therefore, is open to whoever that is qualified. It is ironic that the people who Obi is crusading for, that is Anambra North, do not believe in his latter-day crusade. Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), who hails from Onitsha, does no believe in zoning, just like other prominent citizens of the town. So, what is Ob’s beef?
In any case, if Obi, in his obduracy, continues to engage in this anti-people and anti-merit advocacy and succeeds in foisting his preferred candidate on his party (APGA), he should be warned that Anambra people will certainly reject him and the candidate. Everybody knows that it is in a bid to impose such a candidate that Obi instigated crisis in APGA. But the scheme will fail in a state controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). If, as a sitting governor, Obi could not deliver any of the senatorial zones to APGA, how then can he anoint and impose an APGA successor?
While Obi is free to hallucinate over his imaginary powers, he should be advised to desist from ridiculing Anambra people with archaic and anti-democratic zoning formula. Gov. Obi must stop this dangerous, primitive and clannish politics, which has the tendency to dwarf the intellectual and sophisticated accomplishment of a cosmopolitan and republican people. • Agbu, an accountant, wrote from Onitsha.