‘Why zoning the governorship remains impossib­le in Anambra State’ | The Guardian Nigeria News


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His Royal Highness, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, Osuofia II of Nawfia

His Royal Highness, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, Osuofia II of Nawfia, is the traditional ruler of Nawfia Kingdom in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State. In this interview with LEO SOBECHI, the Igwe talks about the contentious issue of zoning the 2021 governorship seat in the state.

How would you assess the socio-political situation in Anambra State against growing concerns over who succeeds Governor Willie Obiano?
Well, it seems that everybody wants to be governor. Being a democratic dispensation, I don’t see anything wrong with that. But, how they go about it is what matters. Is it going to be violent? Will it be peaceful? Those are the concerns. It is also extremely imperative that the people understand that in a democratic dispensation, everybody has equal rights to contest, to vote and be voted for.

That is also a right enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. So, we expect and anticipate that the people will behave well, though we still have more time on this.

It was reported that Anambra State traditional rulers have insisted on zoning the 2021 governorship position to Anambra South, was it true?
No! I say emphatically that the answer to that question is no. I challenged the grounds upon which (Willie) Obiano emerged in 2014. I almost had problems with the then governor, Peter Obi, for championing that position. That proposition is unconstitutional and illegal. The Nigerian constitution prohibits zoning.

But, what I am looking at is, if zoning must be done, it cannot be selective. It cannot be for only the governorship. If we must adopt zoning, it must be across the board. If we must zone, it must go round, including for Senate, House of Representatives, State House of Assembly and even the traditional rulership.

It is not also about who can afford it. My position is for the best candidate, the most credible candidate to occupy the office of governor. It must be said that the Anambra South Senatorial zone has produced at least two governors. As it is, every zone of the state has produced the governor. However, we must also note that in places where there is mutual agreement on zoning, there must be a section that has been cheated.

I believe there has been an equitable and just distribution of political power in the state. I don’t see any part of Anambra State that is a deprived minority. No part of Anambra State is marginalized. Anambra North was seen as have been cheated and shortchanged in the past, but with Obiano, they are having eight years in power. And the governor has developed the place and given more appointments to Anambra North than any governor in the history of the state.

So, I totally reject zoning. It is unconstitutionally and illegal. If they must do it, without any malicious intention to disenfranchise anybody, then, it must go round and also be done in the council of traditional rulers, in the town unions, in the State House of Assembly, Senate, House of Representatives, Councillorship and so on, so as to make it equitable and just.

But, was there any time either traditional rulers or political class met and agreed on zoning format?
Well, we met when the Ohanaeze people came and suggested the idea of zoning, and I have this in writing. They brought along a lot of professors to discuss it. At that meeting, I rejected zoning. All the professors that came there also told us that zoning is illegal and continues to be illegal, but if all the people have an understanding, they can do what they want.

However, the way Anambra is today suggests that we must bring someone who is eminently qualified to govern us. We must stop the idea of a few cabals throwing up someone and insisting that he should govern us. We must stop that. Our problem, if you recall, Peter Obi asked ‘are we the cause or are we cursed’?

At the end of his tenure, Obi said, we are the cause. But we know that it is how you make your bed that you lay on it. We must stop all these gang-ups that impose anybody on us. Let us go for our best candidate to fix Anambra.

If you are scared that without zoning you will not win, then, you are not qualified. Anambra has grown since 1999 and the people are matured enough to know what and who they want without rigging.

I believe that many of those aspiring for the office of the governor is qualified. But I think what they are looking at is a consensus on zoning. Anambra has people that are eminently qualified, from all the zones, to work for the common good. So, the answer is that we have qualified people to do the job and there is no need for zoning.

If you look at it historically, you will know that Anambra South has produced two governors. Remember also that I had challenged the argument that the north had not produced leaders of the state. Where did Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ukpabi Asika come from? They are both from Anambra north. I said what we ought to be looking at is, had Anambra North been cheated of anything that rightly belongs to it from the state budget? I had warned that we should not create more problems while attempting to solve one.

Do you think that all the political parties can be persuaded to select their candidates from one zone?
I don’t think so, because the PDP had made it clear that it is not going with zoning. APC has also spoken in same direction that it will not go with zoning. So, among the three strong political parties in Anambra today, it is only APGA that is insisting n zoning. However, I believe that f the party goes over that decision again, it will see that the best it can do is to throw its doors open and let the people make their choice.

But the argument against zoning in Anambra could make nonsense of Southeast’s clamour for the presidency…?
Let me illustrate this with the instance of a corporate organization. The law protects the minority in every corporate organization, especially at shareholder meetings. The reason I talk about equity is that if the Igbo are the minority, then, the law must protect them.

However, if a proper census is conducted, the Igbo will be shown to be the majority in Nigeria. If you go round Nigeria, you will discover that everywhere you go, after the indigenes, the next population is the Igbo. Therefore, the marginalization that the Igbo talk about is real and there is no similarity with what is happening to the Igbo in Nigeria and what is happening in Anambra.

No zone of Anambra state is marginalized the way the Igbo are marginalized in Nigeria. No one is marginalized here. There has been a civil war in Nigeria against the Igbo and the Igbo have not been properly re-integrated, since after that war, to make them feel like they are part of the same country, and that is what is fuelling al the agitation. Nothing of such has ever happened in Anambra State.

Traditional rulers are not supposed to belong to political parties, but you talk as if you belong to one?
I do not belong to any political party though constitutionally; I have the right to belong to a political party.

But, morality and legality are not the same things. In morality you have a choice, but in legality, you do not have a choice. Let me take you to Section 40 of the Nigerian constitution. It says, “Everybody shall belong to a political party, trade union etc. to protect their interest”. It is unambiguous. There is no ambiguity about it.

However, it is a morality that holds us back. Sometimes they say I should not endorse any candidate or political party. We had a meeting at Abuja and I told them that if you produce a communiqué that says we should not involve in politics, I would also produce one that says your position is illegal and unconstitutional.

For instance, if someone has been trying to dethrone you and eventually goes to a political party, gets their ticket to run to become governor over you, will you sit back and watch him? The answer is no! You will fight him till he comes down.

There is a saying in Igbo language, which literally says if you don’t allow your father to sleep; your father will not allow you to sleep.

Beyond that, southeast traditional rulers are not well paid that creates the opening for them to be used as toys. So, my constitutional right to participate in politics remains intact and protected, but my moral understanding restricts me from belonging to any party. However, I still retain my right to endorse any candidate.

Your position on issues, including zoning, could pitch you against the power that is…?
I always thank people who say so. However, if you look at Egypt, only one person stood out at the Tahrir Square and there was a revolution, which led to the Arab Spring. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice, even at the point of death.

Look at the life of (late) Gani Fawehinmi, he stood alone till he died. I ask people to challenge me if what I am saying is false. I will keep saying the truth, God helps me. I have been pitched against so many powers. I challenged Peter Obi. He was my schoolmate at CKC (Christ the King College Onitsha. I was ahead of him by one year. Many people thought we were going to kill ourselves, but he realized that all I told him were for public good and posterity.

You must cater for your people’s interests and welfare after they were the ones that put you there. Today, my primary function is the protection of the customs and traditions of Nawfia community. If I don’t like the job, I resign from the office. It does not have to be about me.

Our people must know why they have a government. It is not for your pocket and not for your family. The people put you there and there must be something you told the people that made them vote you ahead of others. You must achieve that thing.



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