By Dr. SKC Ogbonnia
A zoning policy of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria (PDP), is tearing Enugu State apart. The issue of zoning was largely dormant until Governor Sullivan Chime announced that the Enugu North Senatorial Zone would produce the next governor. Chime’s pronouncement carries weight for an obvious reason: Given that the opposition is historically disenfranchised in Enugu State since the 4th Republic, a saddening consensus seems to be that a PDP governorship nominee would ultimately prevail in the 2015. Although the state had adopted some form of arrangements for sharing political offices in the past, the current zoning debate is uniquely different. Not only does a section of Governor Chime’s zone believe it is its turn to rule, the zoning issue has drawn the governor against his fellow party heavyweight in Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Here are the main items and in alphabetical order:
Old Awgu Division: This zone has a deep history with cries for marginalization. They cry, and rightly so, that it should have been a separate senatorial zone. They cry that, considering its overflowing population, the area should have produced more than its current three local governments and more council wards. Further, they drum that, whether by national or Enugu State average, they should be accorded more than one representative at the National Assembly. More relatively, the people are miffed at the fact that (even after they added some towns that used to belong to the present Anambra State) Awgu is the only old Division that has never produced a democratic governor in Enugu State. Their main argument has been that the State is a product of three old divisions: Awgu, Nsukka, and Udi, which is so true. While Nsukka had produced a democratic governor in Okwesilieze Nwodo, old Udi Division has already given the state Jim Nwobodo, C. C. Onoh, Chimaroke Nnamani, and Sullivan Chime. The Awgu people should also say that while the only two public universities in the state (UNN and ESUT) are located in old Nsukka and old Udi, respectively; Awgu has another none. More worryingly, granted that the current Deputy Senate President of the Senate hails from this area, Greater Awgu should argue, and very persuasively, that it is probably one of the few old divisions—if not the only old division—that is yet to produce an indigene as federal minister or an ambassador in a democratic setting.
Old Nsukka Division: The people of this area have two zoning propositions. The first is that the current Enugu State is made up of two senatorial zones of the 2nd Republic—Nsukka and Enugu, which is very true. Their point here is that whereas the old Enugu Senatorial zone has given birth to the present Enugu West and Enugu East; Old Nsukka Division (now Enugu North) has remained one senatorial zone. To them, power should be rotating between old Nsukka and old Enugu senatorial zones, period. In that case, there is nothing so strange that two universities are located in Enugu State—one in old Nsukka zone and the other in old Enugu zone. While the people of Nsukka should not ignore the different powerful positions held by Dr. Okwy Nwodo in the national ruling party and a couple of ambassadorial postings in the current democratic dispensation; like their Awgu counterparts, they should also add that, of all the ministers thus far produced from Enugu State since army gave way in 1999, none has been considered from Nsukka area. In the same vein, come 2015, the present day Enugu State (after Ebonyi State) might have seen 16 years of democratic rule, with old Enugu senatorial zone retaining the governorship through that long period. The second proposition is that, even if the zoning is viewed on the basis of the current senatorial structure, the Enugu North then becomes the only area that is yet to produce a governor in the reigning 4th Republic. The latter was potent in Governor Chime’s decision to finally zone the PDP governorship slot in 2015 to Nsukka senatorial area. (But that is PDP. Other parties may have their plans).
Enter Old Udi Division: Old Udi Division is made up of the present Enugu East (Nkanu) and Udi/Ezeagu portion of Enugu West Senatorial zone and has seen more political opportunities than its counterparts. First of all, it begot a separate senatorial zone in Enugu East (Nkanu). Second, the Udi/Ezeagu area of the Old Udi Division has produced the only two governors associated to its new senatorial zone (Enugu West)—a zone it now shares with old Awgu Division. So why complain? Actually, the people (particularly Nkanu—now Enugu East) care less. The Enugu East seems contented for having produced Governors Jim Nwobodo, Chimaroke Nnamani, and Senate President Ken Nnamani. But the citizens of Udi/Ezeagu axis are saying something different. A good number of them are angry with their brother governor, Sullivan Chime. In terms of distribution of resources, Chime is widely viewed as polar opposite to Chimaroke, which ordinarily should be hailed. However, his people are craving for more in terms of infrastructural development. They are fuming that, instead of using part of his eight years in office to makeup for marginalization of Enugu West and North under Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, Brother Sullivan is focusing again on Enugu East (particularly the state capital). For example, despite its well-known hunger for education, Enugu West (including Greater Awgu) is the only zone without the presence of a university in Enugu State. This lack of infrastructural development apparently explains why a number of Udi critics have objectively pointed out that the present Enugu West could be doomed if by Chime’s calculation Nsukka produces the next governor. Not that these critics are against their brothers and sisters from Nsukka. None of that! They only worry that the main purpose of zoning is already dashed, especially considering that Governor Chime did not overly concentrate developments in his native Udi talkless of Enugu West. In other words, should an Enugu North PDP governor emerge in 2015, which is likely, and becomes another Chimaroke and focuses in his native village and Nsukka area, which is very possible; what then becomes the fate of the people of Enugu West of Udi/Ezeagu and Greater Awgu? This question should not be difficult for Governor Chime.
Sullivan has over one year left and can proclaim a university in a New York minute. (And His Excellency can be rest assured that towns in Enugu West will be most willing to volunteer their prime hills for a befitting site. Even better, any location in Greater Awgu sufficiently addresses in particular the marginalization sorrows of Old Awgu Division and potentially answers critics who have maintained that Enugu West as a zone deserves a university).
A governor versus a senator: Combined with the current zoning palaver, the individual political ambitions of two princes-turned-politicians have created a social upheaval and serious political conflict in Enugu State. On the one side, reminiscent of Abacha style, unfolding events clearly show that the Executive Governor and leader of PDP in the state, Prince Sullivan Chime, has zoned to himself the senate seat presently held by the Deputy Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Ike Ekweremadu—on the basis of a new norm that the Nigerian Senate is a resting lounge for ex-governors toward retirement. After all, former governors from the state: Jim Nwobodo and Chimaroke Nnamani both took that route before finally bowing out from heated politics, and many governors from other states are also warming up for the upper chamber. On the other side, as if Nigeria’s democracy has suddenly advanced like that of the
United States of America or was designed as a monarchy like Saudi Arabia; having been schemed out of the governorship ticket now zoned by his party to Enugu North, Prince Ekweremadu now believes that going back to the senate for an unprecedented 4th term offers an important compromise.
As seen above, the two men occupying the two positions overheating the polity are both from Enugu West Senatorial Constituency. Even as the people should fervently pray that opposition is born again in Enugu State, if by any chance the original Ebeano clique of PDP dominates again in 2015; which zone then produces the next senator from Enugu West? If the logic of Governor Chime is to truly hold, and there are three principal zones in Enugu State (Enugu East, Enugu North, and Enugu West Senatorial zones) as stated in the Constitution, which is the truth; it also goes to say that there are five constitutional zones in Enugu West senatorial district (Aninri, Awgu, Ezeagu, Oji-River, and Udi local governments). Since zoning is supposed to be based on equitable distribution of offices, and a governor and senator from two different local governments are at war over a senate seat, it is necessary to review the number of years each local government (zone) of Enugu West has produced governors and senators in democratic settings since independence:
Aninri LGA (2006 census: 133,723): Governor: Zero. Senate: 17 years (approx.)—5 years of Senator Michael Chukwubuike (1st Republic); and by 2015, 12 years of Senator Ike Ekweremadu (4th Republic).
Awgu LGA (2006 census: 390,681—most populated local government in Enugu State): Governor: Zero; Senator: Zero
Ezeagu LGA (2006 census: 169, 718): Governor: Zero. Senate: 9 years (approx.)—5 years of Senator Pius Ndu (1st Republic); 1year and 6 months of Senator Collins Ndu (3rd Republic); and 2 years and 3 months of Senator Collins Ndu (4th Republic).
Oji-River LGA (2006 census: 126,587): Governor: Zero. Senate: 6 years—4 years of Senator B. C. Okwu (2nd Republic); 3 months of Senator Sydney Mgbejiofor (2nd Republic); and 1 year and 9 months of Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi (4th Republic).
Udi LGA (2006 census: 234,002): Governor: 8 years and 3 months—3 months of Governor C.C. Onoh (2nd Republic); and by 2015, 8 years of Governor Sullivan Chime. Senate: Zero.
Some grumblings are expected here. Governor Chime’s team will attempt to eat their cakes and still have it. They will prefer to shift from the criteria used at the state level and argue that zoning of offices in Enugu West is rotated between the cultural divide of Greater Awgu and Udi/Ezeagu. Assuming that wish is granted, they should also not forget that there are zones within Greater Awgu as there are zones within Udi/Ezeagu.
Greater Awgu (Aninri, Awgu, and Oji-River LGAs): With an interesting exception of the large town of Nenwe, which is lately largely ignored, most powerful positions zoned to Greater Awgu in the 4th Republic (e.g., Chief of Staff to Governor, Secretary to State Government, Chairman of the State ruling party, Speaker, and Senator, and other juicy board memberships, etc.) are disproportionately concentrated in Aninri LGA, particularly at the ancient triangle of Mpu/ Oduma /Okpanku brotherhood. Therefore, since Ike Ekweremadu of Mpu in the same Aninri Local Government Area might have stayed 12 years in the Senate by 2015, the most equitable thing (under Governor Chime’s constitutional zoning formula) is to ensure that the next juicy political office from Greater Awgu (including the senate) is zoned to Awgu Local Government—being the most populated but most marginalized area in Enugu State. If the people then resort to the long-standing cultural template of rotating positions between old Awgu LGA and Oji-River, though piebald, Oji-River Local Government Area should be considered. (The position of Member Federal House of Reps is purposely left out in this report because, apart from Aninri, every Local Government Area in Enugu West has at one time or the other sent someone to sit at the lower house in the current republic).
Greater Udi (Udi and Ezeagu LGAs): Perhaps the present Udi LGA has never smelled the senate seat per se. However, apart from other various powerful state appointments, Udi LGA alone might have enjoyed 8 years of governorship by 2015 in Sullivan Chime and produced three ministers in Chief Dubem Onyia, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, and Prof. Chinedu Nebo—all in the current republic—as compared to Ezeagu’s mere 2 years and 3 months in the Senate. Thus, the most equitable thing is to ensure that the next major political office in this area (including the senate) is zoned to Ezeagu LGA.
The apparent gist is that zoning in Enugu State is a paradox. If zoning has become the name for internal democracy within PDP and based on principles, which Governor Chime has sworn to profess; regardless of the angle one views it—be it on the prism of Greater Awgu and Udi/Ezeagu cultural equation or on the governor’s rationale for adopting current political divisions; both the governor (His Excellency Sullivan Chime) of Udi Local Government Area and the Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu of Aninri Local Government Area are (and should be) zoned out in 2015. In fairness, they should brotherly step aside and allow more deserving zones or towns to produce the next senator from Enugu West.
Perhaps this writer has never been an ardent proponent of zoning. Under normal circumstances, citizens should emphasize leadership qualities and effectiveness—and not what zone produces who or how long the who stays in office. But our cases are not normal. Nigerian politicians are something else and definitely not known for equity and fairness in terms of distribution of opportunities. The objective fact in this case is that both Sullivan Chime and Ike Ekweremadu are original Ebeano protégés and have not disappointed in promoting its core principles of hegemony and nepotism. Of course, we appreciate Governor Chime’s footprints, such as a first-rate road network across the state. We also recognize his efforts to centralize amenities in Enugu State (with particular attention to the state capital). But what has consistently escaped the minds of the people is the fact that, like Governor Chimaroke Nnamani before him, Chime’s plum appointments are palmed in his native area. Take away the lone case of Prof. Barth Nnaji of Enugu East, which the governor had stoutly opposed; the other Enugu State indigenes appointed federal ministers during Chime’s regime are his epigones from Udi LGA. Today, the governor, the minister, and the sole level A ambassador from the state, the Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein—are all filled from the same Udi LGA. Similarly, his storied accomplishments (including constituency-wide projects) notwithstanding, the star attractions of Senator Ike Ekweremadu while in the Senate are best sighted from Mpu, being his native town in Aninri LGA.
Stepping aside of these two politicians will do themselves as well as the state some good. To start with, both Chime and Ekweremadu have been in power for too long without any semblance of opposition talkless of the essential checks and balances. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” More frontally, their stepping aside will create an atmosphere of peace. It will also help for even opportunities and in the process facilitate the long anticipated emergence of a new generation of leaders from this state. Besides, these Ebeano brothers should not be gasping like fish out of water; for there is life after elective office. We pray that they can go on to become something bigger—far beyond the primordial politics of Enugu State—and they should.
After all, Bola Tinubu of Lagos State stepped aside but will be better remembered for his post governorship efforts in helping to create what is shaping to become the much awaited two-party system in our country. Likewise, even though he stayed only 4 years in the senate, Senator Ken Nnamani has found ways to sustain the visions and attributes that have continued to endear him to the Nigerian masses.
(Dr. Ogbonnia writes from Houston, Texas. He can be reached on: Phone: 281-802-3449, SKCOgbonnia@firsttexasenergy.com)