Between Zoning and Competence in Anambra State Leadership

Between Zoning and Competence in Anambra State Leadership

The next governorship election in Anambra state will hold in November 2021. That is clearly about 31 months from today. But that is not the issue. The issue, as gleaned from debates among the diverse people of the state is what exactly should be the main focus in seeking to elect a successor to Willie Obiano. For some people, the issue of who succeeds Obiano should be the exclusive privilege of Anambra South senatorial district. Many others disagree. For those who disagree with this view, the leadership of Anambra state should be open for contest among all who have shown leadership competence and capability, and have demonstrated capacity to manage resources, financial and human.

National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Victor Oye, set off this debate by his single-handed pronouncement that his party has already zoned its governorship ticket for the 2021 election to Anambra south. In making the pronouncement, Oye said the decision was so as to ensure that every senatorial district of the state is equally favoured in the governorship of Anambra. Factly, Oye was wrong. While he lacked the powers to single-handedly decide on where the governorship pendulum will swing after Obiano, he ignored facts that indeed, Anambra south started off the governorship of Anambra state when democracy was restored in 1999 with Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. In concealing that fact, Oye erased Mbadinuju from the list of persons who had been sworn in to govern Anambra state. That list also included Dame Virgy Etiaba who held sway while Peter Obi challenged his impeachment in court.

Mbadinuju was a governor under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. His failure to get a second tenure was specifically as a result of the party’s goodwill for Anambra whereby it refused to support a governor who failed to uphold the ideals of human capital development, a paramount policy of the PDP, by shutting schools for almost one year. In essence, Mbadinuju’s outing as governor is representative of the ambitions of the people of Anambra south. After Mbadinuju, the governorship pendulum has been through Anambra central and now, in Anambra north. In other words, having gone round, the state is now at a threshold where it is important for it to redefine its leadership strategies and become the real leading light of south-east.

Despite this, there has been an attempt to re-write history and insinuate that zoning was introduced by Peter Obi. Those who argue this insist that but for zoning, Obiano wouldn’t have been governor as Obi used it to ensure that Anambra North had a hand in the leadership of the state. Obi has vehemently denied ever instituting zoning in Anambra. In fact, he said his effort was for equity only. Speaking through his aide, Valentine Obienyem, the former governor said: “Part of the reason Mr. Peter Obi insisted that Anambra North should produce the Governor after him, despite being alone in the quest, was to give them a sense of belonging in the spirit of equity.” He also stated that: “Now that every part of the State has produced governor, we can justifiably state that equity has been achieved.”

Those who disagree with Oye, argue that with every senatorial zone of the state holding the governorship since 1999, it is now time for the state to move a notch higher to end the reign of mediocrity foisted upon it by zoning. For those who share this view, Governor Obiano’s expression of leadership since his inauguration for his second and final tenure leaves the people wondering what happened to the delivery of dividends of democracy. For many, Obiano, who is on record as having signed the most memorandum of understanding while actualizing none, has recently started raising competence questions about himself in the leadership of Anambra with insecurity, the welfare of citizens and infrastructure development now in limbo. For this reason, many people in the state believe that the next Anambra governor should be one, man or woman, who is competent and has demonstrated capacity to manage available resources while connecting all component segments of the state into the national leadership grid.

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Irrespective of this, there has been the argument that zoning has run its course and ought to be jettisoned, for competence and capacity, in the next governorship election in Anambra state.

The debate is already catching fire on social media. Chuwkunonso Kingsley Anajemba, writing in an update on his Facebook page said: “In the spirit of equity, Anambra went north and the result was a grievous penance! Say no to zoning.” Another update which goes by Ikuku Amanonya, obviously a pseudo name, said: “why is it that Anambra south is singing zoning as if we cannot beat any candidate from any part of the state without argument. All zones have taken their share of the guber slot including south. This is the best time to bury zoning. If any candidate takes the seat on the basis of zoning, it will take another 25 years to stop zoning. This is the moment we have been waiting for. This is the moment that Peter Obi saw and said: let the north take their slot so that the cycle would be complete. I am not against anyone from the south being governor but he must be ready to compete with the rest.” Obi Dee Okoye also wrote that “zoning was to correct an imbalance and it was an APGA thing. We cannot use it to perpetuate undesirables or ineligible candidates based on zoning.”

Following the debates, a non-governmental organisation, Media Awareness and Development Advocacy Forum, MADAF, embarked on a survey of the state. MADAF found in its survey, that majority of the people, cut across the three senatorial zones, preferred competence above zoning. Those who voted for competence cut across all age groups, from 18 years up to 70 years, and involved people from all professions including artisans, traders, transporters and even the jobless. For the majority of those polled, what was more important is leadership by the competent and not whatever zoning throws up.

According to most of those polled, recent experiences in the governorship of Anambra state makes it necessary that the people move away from whatever zoning means and settle for only people who have shown competence in either business or public service leadership. For many of the respondents, zoning is an APGA policy which is not binding on the generality of the people of the state and other political parties. They, therefore, agree that the next governor of Anambra state cannot be elected on the grounds of zoning but competence and capability. That is exactly is where the pendulum swings.

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