Opinion

2021 : The Action Begins

. . . APGA, PDP, Differ on Zoning

As the countdown to the 2021 governorship election in Anambra State gathers momentum, the two major political parties in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, are singing different tunes regarding the issue of zoning. This is even as the guns have begun to boom with the real battle still 27 long months away, reports Jude Atupulazi.

When the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, was about concluding his second tenure, he had championed the issue of zoning, insisting that the Anambra North Senatorial Zone should be allowed to take over; as at then, it was the only zone yet to produce a governor.

Although Obi’s insistence had been heatedly opposed by opposition parties, the idea had stuck, with the major parties all fielding candidates from the North. That had eventually produced the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, from Anambra North. Today, Obiano is serving his second term which will come to an end on March 17, 2022. But before then, the election for his seat will come up in the latter part of 2021.

But even though, as already stated, that date is still many months away, the build up to that day has begun, with many interested individuals already signifying interest and mobilizing support. Interestingly, some of these candidates are not from the ”favoured” South Senatorial Zone, thus raising dust as to whether the issue of zoning will not count in the 2021 election.

Fides sought the views of the two major political parties in the state, APGA and PDP, to know their stance on zoning. While the ruling APGA insists on zoning and has clearly resolved to take it to the South Senatorial Zone, the opposition PDP is throwing its dragnet wide, insisting that the electorate should be allowed to choose the best, without being hemmed in by zoning.

But it appears for now, that PDP is alone. A powerful grassroots organization, Great Anambra Forum, a.k.a. GAFORUM, is also insisting that the South Senatorial Zone must be allowed to produce the next governor. GAFORUM, made up of old politicians across parties, is headed by Engr Fab Ozoigbo. It also insists that such a governor from the South must be homegrown and not one imported from abroad.

Echoing GAFORUM is another group called Equity Movement headed by Mr Gaius Ezeh. The group also roots for a governor of South Senatorial Zone extraction come 2021, even offering to negotiate with aspirants outside the North Senatorial Zone with a view to having then step down for those from South.

While the controversy over zoning rages, the National chairman of APGA, Ozonkpu Victor Oye, told Fides that the issue of zoning had already been foreclosed in APGA as the South had been chosen.

Commending former Gov Obi for initiating the idea of zoning, Oye said zoning eliminated bickering, blood bath and enthroned peace, pointing out that APGA had been able to balance things in the state to ensure equity, fair play and smooth transition.

He said the PDP was free to carry on with their own arrangement and that APGA would not be perturbed in the very least.

When pressed to name those already jostling for the gubernatorial position in his party, Oye declined to do so, saying they would be known at the appropriate time.

On APGA already adopting former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, as its consensus candidate, Oye said the party would not play God by projecting too much into the future, while once more saying the party’s candidate would be known at the right time.

He said those clamouring for Soludo’s candidature were free to do so as it was part of their fundamental human rights, especially when such a clamour did not breach the peace.

This was even as he said APGA was not shopping for candidates but would at the right time go for somebody that would better Obiano’s ‘wonderful record.’

But for PDP, the state deserves to have its best hands and such best hands should come from anywhere.

The state chairman of the party in Anambra, Chief Ndubisi Nwobu, speaking to Fides in Awka, asked those insisting on zoning why the last guber election that was supposed to be for candidates from the North, had candidates from other zones contesting.

He said the PDP position for now remained that the contest would be thrown open to all interested aspirants and that if in the immediate future that decision needed to be revisited, they would not hesitate to do so.

He said his main concern was to see that the party’s primaries went well in order to produce an acceptable candidate.

Nwobu gave the names of some those who had indicated interest as Chief ObioraOkonkwo; Senator Uche Ekwunife; Godwin Ezeemo; Emeka Etiaba, Hon Chris Azubogu; Osita Chidoka and Godwin Ezemo and Dr Godwin Maduka, among others.

Some of those names, interestingly, are not from the South and it is left to be seen how the PDP primaries will pan out.

The aspirants are however not waiting for that time as they have started testing the waters and oiling their machinery. Some have even set up structures in both local government and ward levels. These are those who believe that capturing the grassroots structure early will give them a major advantage.

While the PDP has not yet favoured any candidate, it appears that APGA is looking the way of Soludo at the moment, doing what political watchers describe as marketing him. Recently, he was appointed the chairman of Vision 2070 by Gov Obiano.

To many, if Obiano could appoint an aspirant to head such an important position, it is likely that he is preparing him for a future role.

Although Oye denies this and points at a similar appointment of Soludo by the Federal Government, it may be difficult to convince people otherwise, especially given the recent call by mostly APGA members and government appointees on Soludo to contest.

Whatever the case and however it pans out, the 2021 guber election in Anambra State promises to be the Mother of all Battles.

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