For the German philosopher G. W. Hegel, historical progress is the evolution of the Absolute. This evolution follows a definite pattern. A thesis is posed in the events of the world. From this thesis a counter or antithesis arises; and through the conflicting relationship between the two, a synthesis, an idyllic situation is created. If we transpose Hegel’s teaching to the governorship of Anambra State since the current democratic era, it can be said that the zoning of the Governorship by the All Progressives Grand Alliance to Anambra North Senatorial district in 2013 is the creation of a thesis. It was the first time the issue of zoning reared its head in the state. In the preceding governorship election the Anambra North senatorial district rejected the position of Deputy-Governorship, insisting that after Mr. Obi’s tenure, the district should produce the next governor of the state. That was one factor, among others, that foisted Governor Willie Obiano to power.
As Obiano’s tenure gradually draws to a close, zoning has become a very discordant issue in Anambra. The somewhat self-proclaimed Council of Elders recently held a meeting under the sponsorship of Governor Obiano to declare that Anambra South senatorial district should produce the next governor. That statement raised instant flack. An APGA presumptive contestant Dr. Elo Aforka accused the Council of Elders of playing to the gallery of the governor and furthering his agenda. A group of Anambra Royal fathers under the leadership of the Igwe Kelly of Igbariam also strongly criticised the statement of the Council of Elders, insisting that competence should be the determinant factor in selecting the next governor. Earlier, a meeting of the stakeholders of the People’s Democratic Party held in Enugu declared that the party does not subscribe to zoning in choosing the next governor of the state.
Three important points are worth taking into account in this cacophony of opinions. The first is that zoning was the arrangement of APGA without contribution from other parties. That is perhaps why, starting from 2013, if zoning was a rule, it was kept only in the breach. Even within APGA, those who sought the party’s gubernatorial ticket in 2013 included Senator Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central), and Prof Charles Soludo (Anambra South). Contestants from other parties included Dr Tony Nwoye (Anambra North), Dr Andy Ubah (Anambra South), Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu (Anambra South), Dr Obinna Uzor (Anambra South), Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra Central). It is therefore evident that some present day proponents of zoning did not subscribe to the principle when it was propagated by APGA for the first time in 2013 election. Also most candidates did not think of zoning in the next governorship election in 2017, as leading contestants included Frederick Chidoka (Anambra Central) and Godwin Ezeemo (Anambra South).
This inconsistency raises the second point: that zoning has become a means of scoring favorable political points for its champions. This makes the hype for zoning very personal if not selfish. The real point at issue in the minds of politicians is that the governorship should be zoned to their senatorial district with the understanding that it should also be further zoned to their local government within the district; and from there to their town. Finally the ticket should be zoned to their person. That is why it is inconceivable that a governorship hopeful from Nnewi will be eager for zoning if per chance the ticket goes to another politician from Aguata. And what interest will one from Aguata and Orumba have in zoning if the beneficiary of zoning is from Nnewi or Ihiala?
It is partly because of this selfish calculation that the proponents of zoning refuse even to broach the mathematics that will be necessary if the whole state were to agree on zoning. When Obiano’s tenure ends, Anambra North will have eight years of governorship in its favour. Anambra Central has had almost 11 years of rulership. The South with Ezeife, Mbadinuju, and Etiaba has been on the saddle for 6 years. If one concedes that the governorship should go to the South and run for 8 years, the region will very likely have the longest governorship with 14 years at the end. Where then will the office be zoned to after Anambra South? To Anambra North? If for the sake of the argument, zoning again to Anambra North is not accepted, what happens to the question of equity if zoning is adopted?
The third point is that the foregoing issues are distractions from the real reason why many Anambrarians were in favour of zoning the governorship to Anambra North senatorial district in 2013, i.e., the issue of uneven development in the state! Anambra North senatorial district, especially the 5 local government councils in Omambala and Ogbaru are arguably the least developed regions of the state. The promise of Governor Obiano’s tenure was that more attention would be paid to the improvement of the area. With less than two years to his exit, how far has the region bridged the gap of development? Development can be human, economic and social but let us concentrate on infrastructural development especially roads which can open up the district and greatly improve its economy.
One approaching Aguleri will surely see some beautification marks; the large roundabout at Nkpuonumba, adorned by a majestic statue of blessed Iwene Tansi; the newly completed monument with a molded shark towards another roundabout as one branches off into the town; a new hostel being constructed at St. Joseph’s; and the water project still under construction to serve the town. It is also remarkable that one who drives down to the river will observe that all the roads branching off from Oyeagu- Otuocha trunk B road into the town have all been tarred. The tarring of roads in Nando started by Mr. Peter Obi has also been completed. Now one can drive from Ubaruisioye, Nando to Aguleri; from Agbudu to Onitsha- Nsukka road, and from Abube Nando to the Onitsha Enugu express. There are certainly here and there some other projects in the developmentally backward local governments. The road from Aguleri to Eziagulu has the benefit of a large bridge, but the road has stalled for years. It means that during rainy season the inhabitants of Enugu Otu Aguleri still have to find their way to Ifite Ogwari or Igbakwu by boat to come out of their enclave. But by far the promise of greater development has till date not been fulfilled in Omambala and Ogbaru.
From Oyi Local Government Council, it is remarkable that some roads started in Ogbunike to emerge at 7th mile are yet to be completed after so many years. Awkuzu is worse. The short stretch of road from Nkwor bursting at Abba – Awkuzu road seems to be targeted only at tarring a road to one commissioner’s house; and since the short stretch attained that objective, the work has stopped. The next project in Awkuzu is the construction of a very vital road that leads from Eke Awkuzu to Umunya through river Kisa to join Ogbunike. After about half a kilometer of tarring, the road has been abandoned for more than one year now. At Nteje, the road that leads from St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Nteje to Odumodu and thence to Umudioka which was started by Peter Obi had the fortune of having a connecting bridge completed by Willie Obiano. But the road that connects Ashala Agu Nteje to Abube Nando remains abandoned. Nkwele bye pass completed by Obi’s government remains the only asphalted road project that goes through Nkwelle Ezunaka.
Apart from Aguleri, what is happening to other towns in Anambra East council? Umuleri has a new road that leads from Onitsha-Nsukka to Oyeagu- Otuocha road. The town also rejoiced at the citing of an airport in their territory. At inception the government proclaimed that the project will be completed in 2 years. During his reelection campaign almost 4 years after, it was announced that Chinese will now do the work. A sharing formula for projected profit was also announced. Now the Chinese are gone. The government has swung back to construct the airport. But the state of work at the cite habours no promise that the project can be completed in less than two years, and will most likely be abandoned by whoever becomes the next governor.
Just nearby, the developmental situation of Anambra West Council cries to heaven for vengeance. Its headquarters at Nzam looks like abandoned edifice, overgrown by grass. The perimeter fence around the quarters remains uncompleted since the inception of the local government. There is not a single good road to the towns of Anambra West, except the one tarred by Mr. Peter Obio’s government from Umueze Anam to Mmiata Anam.
From that axis, just some more work would have taken the road to Nzam, but this has not been done for more than six years. Completing that road would have opened up the whole of Olumbanasa (incluing Inoma, Ego Oja, Odey, Odekpe, Igbokenyi, Igbedor, Ala na Onugwa) to the rest of the state. Anambra West Council is a veritable example of abandoned local government, with practically no single notable project initiated by the current government of Anambra State.
Ayamelum local government council remains a place where one heavy rain blocks access to the whole local government. This is because with heavy rain the Onitsha-Nsukka road becomes impassable from Igbariam to the towns in Ayamelum. There is no alternative road of entry to the council area. The mantra from defenders of the state government is that the road is a federal road. But responsible state governments do not wait for the federal government before coming to the succor of their people. To his credit, Peter Obi’s government constructed a long road leading from Anaku to Omor, Igbakwu, Ifete Ogwari, Omasi, and hacking back to Onitsha–Nsukka road. That is the only serious government project in the whole of Ayamelum Local Government since the current democratic era started in 1999. Umerum town remained virtually cut off from the rest of the state until honorable Vincent Ofumelu, representing Oyi/Ayamelum at the Federal House started working on the road linking the town to Omor. Ogbaru local government has just one central road that runs through most of its towns. This road was tarred by Peter Obi’s government from Onitsha to Ossomala. The road continues to Ogwuikpele but the current state government has been on that stretch for more than six years now without any serious result.
It means that Anambra North senatorial district has so far failed to witness the developmental stride that made many Anambrarians support zoning the governorship to the district. The implication is that it is not necessarily the geographic origin of the leader of a government that ensures that good work will be done, and especially that due attention will be given to disadvantaged regions. It is notable that major developmental strides in Anambra North were achieved by governors from other senatorial districts. Some of these strides include the Oyeagu – Otuocha road; the Nkwele bye-pass; the Onitsha-Ossomala road; the bridge across Omambala River; the road from Anaku to Omasi; the road from Umueze Anam to Nmiata Anam; and from Nteje to Umudioka. These were done at the era of Chris Ngige and Peter Obi.
If the aim of politics is ultimately the welfare of the populace, what we learn from all the above is that zoning is not an effective means of achieving that hallowed objective. That lesson is indeed the antithesis of zoning governorship in Anambra State.
Rev. Fr. Josephat Obi Oguejiofor is a professor of philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.