By Jude Atupulazi
The 2021 governorship election in Anambra State may still be two years away, but to politicians and likely aspirants, the game has already begun. Indeed, one of the most critical issues on the front burner today is whether the zoning formula which helped the incumbent North Senatorial Zone of the state to occupy the seat today will still be applied or whether it will be a free-for-all contest.
Of the major political parties in the state, only the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has for now emphatically given the slot to the South Senatorial Zone. The other two parties; the People’s Democratic Party, PDP; and All Progressives Congress, APC, are yet to decide.
In PDP, which many see as the main threat to the ruling APGA, it appears some of the party’s governorship hopefuls outside the North are tacitly and tactfully testing the waters to see how clear the coast will be for them to take a plunge.
Whereas some of them have not personally spoken, their supporters are contending that the North, having taken their slot; and as every zone has by now taken turns, it can either start anywhere or the zoning should be quashed. Those against zoning argue that it whittles down the chances of the state getting the best hands. They therefore believe it is better to throw the race wide open in order for the people of the state to choose the best.
In my piece here recently, I stated that though the zoning issue was not written anywhere, feelers were that it had come to stay, ever since former Gov Peter Obi mooted the issue of zoning and successfully delivered it to the North.
I wrote also that from my findings, it would be foolhardy of any candidate outside the South, whose turn it should be next, to enter the ring. Such candidates, I noted, may be described as dead on arrival even before the actual contest.
Interestingly, it appears I’m not alone on this. A group called Great Anambra Forum, GAFORUM, which I’ve featured here before, is not only of the same view, but has successfully toured the three senatorial zones of Anambra State to preach the gospel of zoning to the people.
GAFORUM does not just root for the next governor coming from South; it insists that such a governor must be homegrown and known to them and the people.
GAFORUM, made up of old and new politicians across political, religious and professional divides, says the next governor after Willie Obiano must also have good conscience, be competent, have character, and should see the entire state as his constituency for developmental purposes.
The chief facilitator of this group is Engr Fabian Ozoigbo, master strategist and active player during the Chinwoke Mbadinuju era. The group consists also of many former local government chairmen, state and federal lawmakers and local government and ward leaders, among whom are such people as one time federal lawmaker and chairman of Onitsha South, Chief Ezeobi Okpala (Monday Hammer); Joe Oforkansi (information commissioner under Chris Ngige); Hon Peter Onuorah, Hon Kelue Molokwu and Hon Ejiofor Egwuatu (former state legislators); Bar George Enekwechi (one time chairman of Awka South); Chief Ossy Chinwuba; and Chief Ossy Ilozue, among others.
I was part of their tour to the three senatorial zones. I saw firsthand, their passion, zeal and commitment to ensuring that Anambra South gets the slot.
The first zone to be visited was Anambra North, precisely in Awkuzu. The meeting was hosted by Hon Ossy Ilozue.
Speaking to the audience, Ozoigbo recalled how 72% of respondents in the survey they earlier carried out agreed for the South to get the governorship slot. Making it clear that equity was the same as zoning, he said that if not for former Gov Peter Obi’s insistence that the last governorship slot would go the North, the North would have found it difficult to occupy the seat today.
Noting that their agitation for the South to have it was not party based, Ozoigbo said no local government could fail to produce at least ten quality candidates. He said it against the backdrop of arguments that zoning restricted the state from producing the best.
According to Ozoigbo, the group has been interacting with the people at the grassroots to sensitize them on the issue.
He expressed satisfaction that 12 out of the 18 persons who have already indicated interest in the governorship election in the state in 2021 are encouragingly from Anambra South, adding that the expectation is that with time, aspirants from the other two senatorial zones will withdraw to join hands in finding an ideal person from the South to emerge as the next governor of the state.
According to Ozoigbo, who insisted that equity means the same thing as zoning, that the group is not interested in any political party, but what is the best for Anambra people.
He explained that even traditional rulers in the state have joined in the campaign for electing the next Governor from the South.
‘Any credible candidate, who is grassroots oriented and who feels the pains of the people, will be supported, irrespective of his or her political party,’ Ooigbo reiterated.
A former Majority Leader in the state House of Assembly, Hon Peter Onuorah, from Anambra North, who is a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, agreed that Obiano’s successor should come from the South, adding that any one contesting the seat from the North and Central Senatorial Zones would be swimming against the tide and also working against the wishes of the majority of the people.
Similarly, a former Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Kelue Molokwu from Anambra Central, said it would be unfair to deny the people of the South what rightly belongs to them in 2021.
GAFORUM also visited Awka in Anambra Central and Uli in Anambra South, where they continued to preach same gospel to enthusiastic audiences.
The Awka meeting was hosted by Bar George Enekwechi, while the Uli meeting was hosted by Engr Fab Ozoigbo.
GAFORUM’s campaign may just be bad news for those who intend to heat up the polity.
According to GAFORUM, zoning eliminates waste and rancor and encourages orderliness.
Many will not fail to agree with the above. For some time now, governorship races in this state have been chaotic, given the large number of people all contesting, including those who have no hope of winning even in their villages. This creates confusion, bad blood and anarchy which ends up overheating the polity.
Granted that it is often tempting to enter the ring, those being tempted should know that by now, the people of the state have become more politically aware and would not hesitate to put trouble makers in their place.
No one needs a soothsayer to proclaim that the 2021 gubernatorial election in this state will be tough. But it can prevented from getting tougher if one zone is allowed to produce candidates and that zone should be the South. The state should be spared of the usual wahala witnessed in elections when there is a multiplicity of candidates.
But even if the South gets the nod, it shouldn’t be every Okeke, Okafor and Okonkwo that should come out. Anambra has been on an upward surge for some years now and this should be allowed to continue. Only the best from the favoured zone should be on parade; else some people should be ready to begin digging their political graves for daring the masses.