As the political climate gathers momentum in Ebonyi State, indications are rife that the permutation for power shift to the South of the state could be a mirage after all, writes Benjamin Nworie
Since Governor Martins Elechi brought the idea to the public, although he said it was still subject to people’s approval, it has sparked off mixed reactions from the public, mostly political gladiators from the most populated Ezzas and Izzi clans, who believed that zoning negates the principles of freedom and participation and compromises efficiency and capacity embedded in a democracy.
Even as the south is at the heart of PDP, some of the interested contestants have all gone into oblivion, probably on consultation. Or in the usual norm, waiting to be called, invited or anointed.
One of the contestants perceived to be waiting to be anointed, endorsed or simply to be invited is the Minister for Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who has been quoted in the media that he would contest the governorship election if invited. Others may have sealed their lips to avoid being put at tight corner before the election.
Still in the south, many contenders are perceived to be jostling to play the spoiler because of apparent lack of unity in the zone. The list of aspirants is practically endless, based on speculation and imagination of the people because nobody has summed up the courage to express his or her ambition. Everybody is waiting and leaning on Elechi to invite them and dash the seat as “Christmas Gift” to them.
Though some of those waiting on the side appeared to have underestimated the powers of the people in the game; they seemed to have forgotten the fact that contest is for the fittest. They operate by the psychology that Elechi has the final say and whoever he anoints is it, since it’s always been the practice, of which he was also a beneficiary.
However, Elechi as the leader of PDP in the state has shown maturity in decision-making, especially in 2011, during the local government election, where he forced the return of four council chairmen in what looked like a “fiat” to observers.
He has been known for long as a man with few but powerful words of “let there be and there will be”. Although it has been working for him in the past, from emerging indication, some aggressive politicians are battle-ready to whittle his influence as the sole decision-maker in the state politics, a position he has enjoyed since 2007 when he came on board.
But if the zoning worked as planned, the opposition APC may consider throwing the battle open for everybody, thereby limiting the chances of the PDP wining the position. Already, one of the leaders of the APC in the state said they are keenly watching to know the final decision of the PDP concerning zoning before taking a position that will undermine the chances of the ruling party.
Whereas the ruling PDP will give ticket to the minority southerners in the Old Afikpo bloc with five local government areas, the APC may consider the numerical strength of the Abakaliki bloc with eight local governments, knowing full well that politics is not a game of sentiment but number.
A staunch member of APC and member representing Ishielu/ Ezza North Federal Constituency, Hon. Peter Edeh said zoning is alien to Nigeria’s political culture. Both Edeh and Igwe Nwagu share the same view on zoning as politics of a weak generation, and Ebonyi is not a weak generation, they thought.
Although speculation in some quarters revealed that Elechi has cautioned the Izzi clan – his in-laws – to forget their ambition and allow the calculation for power shift to the south work, the possibility is still in doubt.
Before the reconciliatory move, according to inside source, there was tension that the Izzis are determined to capture the number one seat either by hook or crook. More especially as the First Lady of the state, Mrs Josephine Elechi, who came from the clan, was rumored to be packaging her nonagenarian brother, Senator Chris Nwankwo for the position.
Beyond Nwankwo’s rumoured ambition, lies a vibrant politician, Mr Austin Edeze, whose ambition is gradually gathering momentum and supports from the teeming youths in the state but on the platform of APC.
Edeze, from Izzi clan in the North zone was the former UBEB chairman in the state during Dr Sam Egwu administration but later parted ways with Elechi when he was removed from office and joined the defunct ANPP, now APC.
The former UBEB boss has started flying awareness posters to refresh the minds of the people that a “big fish” is in the contest, though with hidden ambition. Observers know he is battle-ready for the governorship seat.
But his chances will be determined by how urgent and effective the crisis in Ebonyi APC is resolved. Ebonyi APC has three factions and the crisis, if not resolved will greatly affect the chances of the party, even as insinuation in some quarters alleged that PDP is behind the ugly trend in the opposition party.
This feat, according to analyst cannot be achieved because the Ezza people, known as the most populated clan in Abakaliki zone, made up of Izzi, Ikwo and Agba-Ezekoma is ready to grab the seat.
From Ezza, one of the most contenders in the race is the Senate Committee Chairman on Police Affairs, Senator Paulinus Igwe Nwagu, who said he could never soft-pedal on his ambition to serve the state.
Generally, if not because of the head ways and extensive consultation he is making, the atmosphere in the state would have been controlled by some political overlords because the contestants are gripped with fear of the unknown.
At a recent media interaction with the Correspondent chapel of the Ebonyi State council of Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Senator said he was determined to rule the state because of the overwhelming clarion call of the people.
Thus, in the opinion of the people, Nwagu is a candidate to beat if only he is able to surmount the zoning controversy, which he though considers as no problem.
The issue of zoning has not been discussed as far as Ebonyi is concerned. Elechi said it was in their heart but was never pencilled down because the charter of equity was the only factor that nearly stalled the creation of the state and that they never succeeded in having one.
The governor was convinced that he emerged through divine providence but the people should be begged to genuinely accept that it was the best thing for power to shift to the south. This plea holds no water as far as Nwagu is concerned.
Talking of qualification and experience in politics, the senator is at the vintage position as the only politician since the creation of Ebonyi state who has continuously served elective position in a progressive manner. He was a councillor, local government chairman, member of the House of Representatives and now a serving senator, representing Ebonyi Central.
“Anybody that is just waiting that we are going to do zoning is wasting his time. If barrack Obama, a black American is elected President of America today, then why not myself who is an Ezza man, who is also an Abakaliki man, who is also a Nigerian not be allowed to become a governor?”
Since the creation of the state and return of democratic rule in 1999, zoning has not been obeyed. Everybody from primaries to the main election has never talked about zoning. In 1999, nobody talked about zoning. In 2003, 2007 and 2011, the same scenario applied, where the principles of zoning suffered a major setback.
Then, elections were thrown open and everybody irrespective of which zone participated fully and actively. In 1999, Sam Egwu and late Andrew Nwankwo contested and both are from the North. Nwagu Onele from Central contested.
From the south, Dr Oko Isu and Dr Udo Okoro contested and at the end of the day, Egwu won. The question on the lips of everyone is “where is the issue of zoning coming from? Apart from that of 2007, what happened?”
Political analyst wondered the origin of zoning to the extent that Senator Azu Agboti (South) contested till the primaries and lost to Elechi.
Thus, as the 2015 elections are around the corner, the question still unanswered is whether efficiency and capacity will be sacrificed on the altar of zoning or whether a credible candidate should be supported no matter which zone or clan they come from. But the earlier these pertinent issues are addressed, the better for the state that is still struggling to provide the basic necessity of life after 18 years of creation only because of accidental leadership.