2021: Anambra Should Go South

In Nigerian politics, oftentimes expediency trumps morality. Honour is also a scarce commodity. Sadly, this norm has gained a toehold. As the 6 November 2021 Anambra State Governorship election approaches, the issue of zoning is now front and centre and fraught with controversy for most parties. This is more so for my party, PDP. It should not be, for anyone who expects a modicum of morality in politics.

At issue, is whether it is the turn of Anambra South Senatorial Zone to produce the next governor; that is after Anambra North Senatorial Zone would have governed for eight years – 2014 to 2022, and Anambra Central Senatorial Zone for eight years before that. Without any ambiguity, my position is that we should let Anambra South be and enjoy their turn in 2022.

I am from Anambra North. In 2013 and again in 2017, I campaigned for the governorship of Anambra State to go North. I did so while in APGA and later, in PDP. To avoid any ambiguity, in 2013, I wrote an op-ed piece, titled, “Understating Why Anambra Has to Go North.” In 2017, as the PDP candidate, I campaigned on the premise that I would only serve one four-year term if elected and allow the position to revert to the South. That position was implicit in the understanding/agreement that power would shift to the South in 2022. Those who now conveniently repudiate that understanding are being clever by half.

Yet, the fact remains that while as the PDP 2017 candidate, I got some support from the Anambra South, a majority of the Anambra South power brokers and moneybags did not support my candidacy. Their rationale; simply, they could not contemplate honour in politics and therefore, did not believe that I would honour my four-year service commitment once elected. They were totally wrong and Anambra State is worse off for it.

I did not win the hard fought 2017 gubernatorial elections, despite picking Lady Chidi Onyemelukwe, a female from the South, as my running mate, and despite her political pedigree. Still, that fact does not negate my principled position and my commitment to honour that implicit, and to some, explicit – rotational understanding, which explains why I am not running for Anambra State Governor in 2021. My decision not to run mirrors that of Senator Ben Bruce in 2018, not to run for another senate term in order to respect extant rotation and “as a man of honour interested in the well-being of my people,” or, in my case, my state.

That I’m not running in 2021 does not mean that some qualified aspirants from Anambra Central and North will not run. It’s their call. It’s a matter of personal choices and values. We cannot chastise them for running, since they will point correctly to several aspirants from the Anambra South running when it was the turn of Central and South.

Those who argue that the three Anambra Senatorial Zones have respectively had their turn of governorship and that the process should be thrown open, also have a valid argument. That point of view is further buttressed by the fact that when it was the turn of the North, some aspirants from the South and Central zones also ran. These views are in tandem with my broad position that political zoning in any form is meant to ensure equity. Once equity is achieved, the premise ought to shift to purposeful leadership and the capacity to lead and deliver good governance. The forgoing point has been eloquently buttressed by someone; “Zoning is a desirable tool that when followed carefully, can successfully address political imbalances, until a country (or State) matures democratically to the point that such things are no longer needed.”

Nonetheless, the present debate is made possible, especially within the PDP; because the party did not take a firm position on zoning in Anambra State. Yet for those of us from the South East Geopolitical Zone, it would be near dubious to be fighting for zoning of the Nigerian Presidency to the South East Zone, while repudiating intra-state zoning, when it comes to the governorship.

I don’t argue glibly against superior logic. And on this zoning issue, superior logic exists on both sides. Consider this observation: “Coming from Anambra State, I cared very little if all our successive governors came from one town. I am more interested that we receive good governance, and that should be the standard in most states, especially tribally homogeneous states. Once this last cycle is completed, it would be in the interest of all political parties to open up their nomination process to the whole state and allow the best candidate to emerge. Or these parties risk putting themselves at a disadvantage, especially in states that share the same tribe, culture, religion, and so forth, as is the case in most Igboland.”

While morality in politics, most times, seems more of an aberration, it ought not to be so.  My position is ably guided by a sense of honour and by the fact that I should not repudiate a position I took voluntarily and publicly, just for the sake of convenience.  My children, their peers and the many young people I mentor, would never understand nor accept such volte-face. And what they think of me and my generation is important to me.

Concluding this piece for me is easy. I will use the exact words, which I used in 2013, when canvassing for Anambra North to be given a chance, to wit: What indeed we look for in a leader for Anambra, is someone who will take the state from good to great. Their zonal origin, pedigree and political sophistication ought not to be an issue. Anambra South can boast of a few of such good men and women. Anambra South and their choice must be given the opportunity to tender their provenance.

Obaze was the Anambra State PDP governorship candidate in 2017.

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