By SAM ANOKAM
As the Anambra State governorship election draws near, a political consultant and strategist as well as public relations expert, Chief Clem Aguiyi, has declared that the best among the candidates should be elected.
Speaking on the controversy over which zone should produce the next governor, he said that Anambra people have never sat down to agree about zoning. He said there was no need for zoning, as Anambra people have always seen themselves as one.
Aguiyi said that Anambra North, which Governor Peter Obi wants to concede the governorship seat to, produced the like of Ukpabi Asika, ex-administrator of then East Central State, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, former Senate President and the Rt. Hon Nnamdi Azikiwe, former governor-general of Nigeria and therefore cannot cry of marginalization/ He spoke on this and others.
You recently wrote an article, entitled: ‘The She who will be governor,’ where you eulogised Hon Uche Ekwunife, a member of the House of Representatives. What informed this?
Mrs. Uche Ekwunife is my political leader. She is a fantastic politician. I am proud to be associated with her, having been part of her campaigns. In fact, I worked as her political consultant and strategist when she ran for governor under the PPA and that brought us close. She has a clear head and clear vision. She plays politics without bitterness. Even when all her opponent had for her were unkind words, she kept her calm and offered only words of comfort and encouragement. She is also someone that amazes me with her strength. She is an untiring fighter. In fact, she is the ultimate politician, a complete and saleable brand
What attracted you to her politics?
She is a hard fighter, who connects well with the grassroots; so that makes her an easy sale anytime, any day. I also share in her political principles of social justice, probity, accountability, truthfulness, justice and supremacy of our social values. In all her utterances, she espouses the fear of God, dignity of man, respect for traditional values and respect for the way we were brought up. The role the mother played in her life meant a lot to her. I recall how many times she told the touching story of how her mother, as a widow, trained her and her nine siblings. So you can see that she is a woman with proper up-bringing. These are the values that connect us.
Will you say she has represented your Federal Constituency well?
If you have been around the Federal Constituency, you will know that projects being attributed to her are competing and complementing the efforts of the state government. She is a wonderful person, given the fact that she is modest about her political achievements. Her representation of the constituency is fantastic; we can’t have it better. Also, on the floor of the house, where she is holding forth as a legislator, she is a shining example and a beacon of hope, especially in defending the causes she believes in. She is interested in issues on environment, women right, child protection rights, local governments autonomy, poverty alleviation, job creation and youth empowerment, to say the least.
Hon Ekwunife recently declared her intention to run for governor in Anambra State. What are her chances?
Her chances are bright. I am one of those urging her to run because now is the best time to serve the state. Anambra is at the cross-roads; we need someone with her kind of audacity to knock down the strong gates of crime, deception and political enslavement blocking our part to progress, so as to free our people from poverty and disease. Having discharged the assignment given to her as federal legislator creditably, it is only normal that we promote her to the next class, the class of governors.
Recently the incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi, in a meeting with stakeholders from Anambra North reiterated his support for power shift to the zone, while Mrs. Ekwunife is from the Central. How would this play out?
The incumbent has not hidden his opinion and support for Anambra North Senatorial Zone to produce the next governor, which incidentally, remains his opinion. His predisposition has nothing to do with the aspiration of Hon Ekwunife; so I don’t see her as being targeted. By November 2013 or thereabout, when the next governor will be elected, the name of His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, will not be on the ballot paper; so he will not be running as governor, having completed his constitutionally allowed two terms in office. He will either be a supporter of a particular candidate and political party or a neutral interest, but he will not be foisting any zone or candidate on the state and that is where his interest and opinion ends.
On this issue of zoning, which I believe is a by-product of misrule, I concede that any individual or group has a right to free association and to nurse aspirations in furtherance of its own interests, but such liberty does not translate to the wishes of the generality of the people of Anambra State known for their enterprise, dynamism, vibrancy and conscientiousness, especially on issues where they were not consulted. You cannot shave a man’s head in his absence. Consequently, neither the governor nor his co-travelers has the mandate to impose their individual will on the rest of the zones and I believe all those parading as Anambra North stakeholders, being part of the ongoing meetings, are aware of the stark realities that so far there was never a pre-discussion with other zones nor was there any referendum/consensus reached in this regards, except they chose to deliberately delude themselves with thinking otherwise.
But prominent stakeholders from Anambra North, like Justice Obidigwe and the Obi of Onitsha are part of the on-going process?
Respectable and responsible stakeholders from the state had equally spoken to the effect that this issue of zoning the governorship seat had never been discussed. I do not therefore, think that respectable persons, like the former Hon Chief Justice or the revered Obi Okagbue need to be part of issuing statements on such sensitive political matter, irrespective of its nobility and patriotic purpose, such as fostering harmony, ensuring equity, peace and better understanding if there is no proper consultation with all the other stakeholders. Such procedural error caused incurable defect that makes the entire project demonic and degrading.
Come to think of it; how can a zone that has produced leaders and political colossus, like the Great Benjamin Nnamdi, His Excellency, Ukpabi Asika and Dr. Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory claim political marginalisation? I think the governor is on his own in this project. He does not enjoy the mandate of Anambrarians in this self-serving quest.
Anambra people had shared very long political harmony. How did the issue of zoning come about?
Despite present irritations, truth is sacred; the fact is that Anambra is one. We have had a long history of long standing political harmony with each other. In fact, we left old Anambra to escape from the North and South dichotomy syndrome and had hoped to develop our state positively as one. For many years, even before and after the creation of new Anambra, the people of Anambra North Senatorial Zone, whose culture and life style I have come to admire with deep respect, had held sway in the corridors of political power and civil service while the Central and South, which are more inclined to entrepreneurship, funded and oiled their political machine beginning from the time Sir Louis Ojukwu led Igbo to fund the political activities of the great Zik and NCNC. The same goes to Okadigbo; we did it because we saw ourselves as one. So instead of this distraction, what we should strive for now is to get a leader that will serve all of our common purpose and interest. This is why Uche Ekwunife is the first choice. She is also in a position to consolidate on Mr. Obi’s achievement because she shares in most of the developmental policies espoused in the ANIDS policy.
Are you saying the zoning policy being proposed is wrong?
I am not just thinking so; I know that forced zoning without reaching a consensus among all the stakeholders in the state is clearly wrong. I am from the same Federal Constituency as His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi. Without fear of contradiction, I will tell you that he wasn’t elected governor on the principle of zoning, neither had his being a governor favoured us more than any other community in Anambra State. The entire state is his constituency and he has been spreading development, including investing more in Onitsha more than Awka. So, imposed zoning arrangement is clearly unholy. It will plunge Anambra into avoidable acrimony and political disaster. It is an ill wind that will end up drowning the peace and unity of our people, a venture that will be counterproductive. So let no one attempt to return us to the years of the locust by reminding us of our differences and dichotomy, to the detriment of hard work and merit. Getting the best capable hand to succeed Mr. Obi should be our best overriding interest.