By: Mr IfeanyiChukwu Afuba
How much of a factor is zoning in the unfolding process of Anambra State’s governorship election expected to hold in November/December 2021?
The four political parties considered runners in the election, namely APGA, PDP, APC and YPP have differing positions on the relevance and merit of zoning. While the APGA has thumb up for reserving the party’s ticket to a particular senatorial district, the PDP has restated preference for an all inclusive primary; the APC has not officially issued a statement on the 2021 governorship process; the YPP though also silent officially is expected to eventually endorse zoning.
However, analysts reckon with the APGA to set the pace on the coming poll. Nothing as yet seems to threaten the party’s dominance in the State. If anything, the party could well be waxing stronger. Observers are of the view that the trend of taking the cue from the APGA’s political direction which was earlier noticed in 2013 can only continue in the face of the party’s commanding presence today.
The APGA had in the concluding years of the Peter Obi governorship underscored the need for equity in the State’s political leadership. Development is as much about free enterprise as it is about fairness. And so in the light of the ‘exclusion’ or absence of the Anambra North Senatorial District in 17 years of the governorship relay race, the APGA resolved to elect it’s 2013/2014 candidate from the zone.
Given the novelty of the APGA’s mission and opportunity of political rhetoric the move presented to opposition parties, it was not surprising that the action was strongly criticised. The sentiment of negation of democracy was perhaps good for puritanical posturing but beyond academic pursuit could not wish away the reality on ground.
Some wondered how the same people championing rotation of Nigeria’s presidency could be averse to charity beginning at their home. Was it not common sense that marginalisation, whether deliberate or accidental, would still engender resentment? But what was the fuss? Even the United Nations was in the forefront of institutions that uphold integration policies and affirmative action.
Gradually, the merits and popularity of zoning became street discussions. This was not hurting the APGA. But competing interests fought hard in the various parties to stave off zoning.
In the PDP however, even without official proclamation on zoning, Tony Nwoye, a brash, greenhorn from Anambra North Zone picked the party’s ticket.
Ossy Ezenwa, Director – General of the PDP governorship campaign, admitted that the surprise emergence of Nwoye had partly to do with the realisation of zoning’s potency.
‘It was considered that since APGA the trip ruling party was pushing zoning and had gotten a candidate from the North, it would serve better to also have it’s flagbearer from there.’
A similar scenario played out in the November 2017 governorship election from which Governor Willie Obiano was returned for a second term.
Officially, opposition parties kept a good distance from the zoning policy but in reality bowed to its dictate.
By 2017, Nwoye, a practitioner in the game of playing in the central ruling party had crossed over to the APC and once more secured it’s ticket. In the PDP, the wisdom of zoning threw up the aloof Oseloka Obaze also from Anambra North Senatorial District.
So desperate was Obaze to attain the political correctness of zoning that he unconvincingly pledged to do only one term of four years if elected.
Pundits are therefore right to say that APGA sets the electoral pace in Anambra State. National Chairman of the party, Victor Oye, had in June 2019 stated categorically that the APGA will uphold the zoning arrangement for the 2021/2022 governorship election, citing the choice of Uche Okafor ( from Anambra North) as the current Speaker of the State Assembly as fait accompli in that direction.
The Young Peoples Party is thought by some to be the next party in contention for the governorship – though distantly behind the APGA.
It’s victory in the Anambra South Senatorial election in 2019 in the face of overwhelming sentiment for a PDP, Igbo presidential vice slot is an indication of the party’s promise at this time.
However, the PDP’s presidential performance in the south east is attributed to the virtual abandonment of the APGA’s presidential bid somewhere along the line.
It is believed that the YPP is rooting for the zoning map with its strongest governorship aspirant, Senator Ifeanyi Uba coming from the South Senatorial Zone.
Perhaps, the lesson of the 2017 governorship has made the APC cautious on the zoning debate.
The party was compelled to go for a candidate from the North Zone after it’s National Working Committee had hastily come out to repudiate zoning.
It seems the case that the party will once more tow the line if it hopes to be of relevance in the 2021 governorship contest.
The PDP becomes the only party to have come out against zoning. But it’s rejection of the arrangement is a survivalist consideration.
According to the National Vice Chairman, Southeast, Austin Umahi, since the party had not been in power in the State for a very long time, it would go the whole hog of identifying the best candidate (anywhere) to win the election.
What is clearer is that the party has an uphill task making a good outing in the coming election.
It’s battered image from past misrule and absence of any coherent ideology continues to demarket it in contrast to the APGA’s identity mission and legacy of good governance.
The APGA’s mass following in the State and stellar achievements of Governor Willie Obiano gives the party powerful hold in the State’s politics.
In the end, analysts believe that the APGA holds the ace in the transition to post Obiano government and that the opposition of any party or some traditional rulers to zoning would be of no consequence.
Afuba is editor of Anambra Times.
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