In this interview, former Vice President, Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme tells veteran journalist, Paul Nwosu that it is in the collective interest of Ndi Anambra to allow Governor Willie Obiano to complete his second term in office. Excerpts…
Permit me to go back to this zoning thing; I want to bring it back to our own local setting here in Anambra politics. I have heard you on a radio program where you once said that zoning should be encouraged in Anambra to maintain stability in our politics. What is your advice to our Anambra politicians regarding this zoning system you are a proponent of?
If you look at 1995 constitution which I referred to, the one Abacha prepared which he never promulgated, you will see where it is stated that the governorship of a state should rotate among the three senatorial districts in the state, just as the presidency of Nigeria should rotate between North and South. It is specified in the draft constitution. The idea is that if you don’t do that, there are states where certain groups will continue to dominate the governance of the state. I can give some examples. If you don’t have zoning, whether by consensus or by legislation, it will be almost impossible for anybody other than a Tiv to become the governor of Benue State. There was a time when the Idomas said that they will not allow any Idoma man to be a running mate to a Tiv governorship candidate. Kogi is slightly different because, you’ll recall that in 1998/1999, the PDP was the majority party in Kogi State including Local Government election of December 1998, the House of Assembly elections and so on. But when it came to the governorship election, I think, in February 1999, the PDP nominated Dr. Toyin Olorunfemi from Okun, Kogi West as a candidate. He was a very good candidate, well-polished and had a doctorate degree in Urban Planning, but because the Igala constitute more than half of the population in the state; once PDP nominated a non Igala person, the APP nominated an Igala candidate, late Audu Abubakar. The rest was history – Igala people voted for Audu because he is an Igala man. He won and we lost that governorship election. But when it came to the next election, he was nominated again by APP and PDP nominated Idris Ibrahim who is also an Igala man. When the two Igala men contested with each other, PDP won. There are states like that where unless something is done, one ethnic group will monopolize the governorship of the state.
In the case of Delta State, it was good that wise counsel prevailed so that after two Urhobo governors, Felix Ibru and James Ibori, they allowed the governor from Delta South, Emmanuel Uduaghan to assume the position and again by consensus they agreed that this time around the governorship candidate will come from Delta North, that is, the Igbo part of Delta, so Ifeanyi Okowa became the governor. But this is because there is maturity and there was agreement. So for Anambra, coming to your question, the matter is very simple. Since Anambra was created in August 25, 1991, the first governor was Okwadike, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezife. Unfortunately his tenure was cut short after 21 months by the coupe of General Abacha. Then we had a series of military governors, until 1999 when Mbadinuju was elected. Ezeife was from the South, Mbadinuju, was from the South as well and he barely finished his first tenure. Between Ezeife and Mbadinuju they did not complete their two terms.
They had only five years and nine months. Then it moved to central; Chris Ngige and Peter Obi did almost 12 years. After Peter Obi, everybody generally agreed that the candidate for governorship should come from the North and I think all the parties, APGA and PDP which are the leading parties selected their candidates from the Northern senatorial district.
Our governor is just about to finish his first term which will end in February and the logical thing will be for the North to have the governorship slot for another four years so that it will complete the two terms of eight years after which the governorship will now come back to the South for another stretch of eight years. I think that is generally accepted. For instance, you can see from the PDP candidate structure of the just concluded primaries that all the candidate were from North. Nobody came from Central or from the South.
APC had their candidates from the North, Central and from the South as well, but eventually they nominated a candidate from the North. I think justice dictates that the North should provide another governorship candidate for four years after which it will then come to the South because everybody needs to have the sense of belonging for peace to reign.
Finally, what is you assessment of Governor Obiano’s tenure? Do you think he has done well enough to deserve another go at the office?
You know that at this stage of my life, I am no longer a politician as such. You will notice that I don’t go to political meetings anymore. In retirement, I consider myself an elder stateman. But at a personal level, I am close to the governor and I think he is doing well and should be given a chance to complete his second term. Even purely from a selfish point of view and as somebody from the Southern senatorial district of Anambra State, it is in our interest that he should have second term of four years because once he finishes, there will be no question of anybody coming to contest with us.
Anybody who comes, we will bulldoze him out of the way (laughs). But if you get a new person, whether from the South, the Central or from the North from any party, that new person after four years will come and tell you that he has a constitutional right to two terms and therefore will want to do another four years while we from the South will be waiting for him which we are not prepared to do. We are only prepared to wait for four years maximum. So as I said, even out of pure selfishness, Obiano should continue so that we will not wait more than four years to take up the position.