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The imperative of power rotation in Enugu governor election

By Mathias Nwaobe
16 December 2018   |   4:05 am
As the date for governorship election in the country draws near, the outcome of the exercise in Enugu State will be majorly determined by the existing power zoning arrangement among the three senatorial zones in the State...

Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

As the date for governorship election in the country draws near, the outcome of the exercise in Enugu State will be majorly determined by the existing power zoning arrangement among the three senatorial zones in the State, namely Enugu East, Enugu West and Enugu North.

It would be recalled that with the creation of Enugu State from old Anambra State in 1991, the people of Enugu that have complained of marginalisation and domination felt relieved and empowered.

Among those who championed the creation of Enugu State were ex-governor of Anambra State, now the late, Christian Chukwuma Onoh, his predecessor, Jim Nwobodo, Chief Elechi Onyia, Cletus Opata, Chief John Nnia Nwodo and others.

With the commencement of the botched transition programme of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, these founding fathers of the state saw the need to enthrone equity and fairness, by championing and instituting in principle a power zoning arrangement among the three senatorial zones that made up of the state.

This was also to avoid being accused of marginalisation, the same offence they complained about while in Old Anambra State. It was obvious that by the creation, Jim Nwobodo who was the first civilian governor of old Anambra State is now from Enugu East zone. His successor, now late chief Christian Onoh is from Enugu West zone. Enugu North was then the only zone that has not produced governor.

It was as a result of this that the likes of Onoh insisted in 1992 that Enugu North zone should produce the next and first civilian governor of the state. The major governorship aspirants of National Republican Convention (NRC) in the state then were Hyde Onuaguluchi from Enugu West and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo from Enugu North.

Also in Social Democratic Party (SDP) as top governorship aspirants were Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu from Enugu West and others. Not minding that the likes of Onuaguluchi and Gbazuagu were from the West zone like Onoh, Onoh and others insisted that the North should produce the governor.

Their arguments were that Nwobodo and Onoh from East and West zones have been governors before the creation, so there was need to give the North its fair share by allowing them to produce the next governor. Onoh openly supported the North zone to produce governor. That was how Nwodo of NRC became the first civilian governor of the state in 1991. With the return of democracy in 1999 after many years of military rule, the founding fathers went back to drawing board and asked the East zone to produce the governor.

The two major Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirants were Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani from East zone and Chief Victor Nduka Agu from West zone. Agu was Onoh’s kinsman, but that did not deter Onoh from ditching him on principles of fairness and equity.

Nnamani who was Nwobodo’s godson enjoyed the backing of the major stakeholders in the state. That was how he emerged PDP guber candidate and went ahead to win the election. He was governor of the state for two terms of eight years (1999-2007).

Towards the twilight of Nnamani’s second term, there was rumour that he was planning to choose his successor from his zone, Enugu East. The development generated tension and the major stakeholders, including Onoh quickly reminded him of the zoning principle that made it possible for him to become governor. Nnamani was later succeeded by Sullivan Chime from Enugu West who like Nnamani enjoyed two terms of eight years in office (2007-2015).

Unlike Nnamani, Chime, in line with the already existing zoning formula made his position known early, by declaring in 2014 that his successor in 2015 will come from Enugu North. That was how the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi emerged guber candidate of PDP against all odds and subsequently won the election. His kinsman from Enugu North, Senator Ayogu Eze, who contested against him in the primary lost out in court.

Expectedly, Ugwuanyi the incumbent governor has emerged the PDP guber candidate in 2019. He is seeking second term in office. Surprisingly, Eze, who lost out in his 2015 primary election case against Ugwuanyi at Supreme Court, three months to 2019 party primaries defected to All Progressives Congress (APC). In APC, Eze grabbed the guber ticket amidst opposition and pending court cases. Both candidates are the major contenders in the governorship race in the state.

Factors such as availability, presence human relations and the power zoning will determine who will emerge victorious of the two. Fortunately, the zoning arrangement is not peculiar to Enugu. It has worked and is still working in Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Delta and majority of the states across the country. It has also engendered political peace and unity in those states. Enugu is not different and will never be different, considering the circumstances that led to the creation of the state.

Meanwhile, while it is certain that having performed creditably well in office, the people of the state would prefer Ugwuanyi to complete his second term in line with the zoning arrangement and hand over to somebody from the East zone, Eze is also telling people that he would sign agreement to do one term and hand over to somebody from East zone.

Enugu people cannot compromise their general interests with that of one man with no known record of political stability. What is clear is that by the implied and established zoning arrangement in the state, Ugwuanyi does not need to sign any agreement to assure the people of the state, especially Enugu East that they will produce his successor after his second term in 2023. Ugwuanyi has by his actions and inactions as governor shown that he is the governor of all in the state.
Nwaobe, a retired teacher wrote from Agbani, Enugu