Published On: Sun, Dec 16th, 2012

‘The Constitution of Anambra State of Nigeria’ – By Owen Ozue


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It is not in
doubt that the clock is ticking away on the tenure of the incumbent governor of
Anambra State of Nigeria and the end game is on. It is not a dream that Obi
dreams to pick his successor and not a figment of anyone’s imagination that the
voters in Anambra State, backed by the principle of democracy do not desire it
so. It is not a piece of propaganda that
Obi is has pushing this personal view of his which he is entitled to with all
the fibre in his muscles and all the armoury in his arsenal including ,trust me
,Anambra State funds.

But do the
people want to zone the chief executive position in a homogenous and
mono-lingual state like Anambra? Practically; on the street and beer parlours,
in sponsored and neutral discourses the answers are mixed. Some emphatically
say yes. In this category is the governor? Others say no. In this group is the
usual army of gubernatorial hopefuls who happen to fall outside the zone unilaterally favoured by Obi to take the first slot in the presumed zoning? Even
many politicians in Obi’s choice zone who cannot aspire in 2014 are I this
group because time calculations will not favour their political future. Yet
others say that Anambra will decide when they meet for the purpose. Three views
on the streets and their numerous variants, yet many more sown in the hearts of
those who speak only when the table is decorated.

On Monday this
week, November 26,the mouthpiece of Anambra State Government- Anambra State
Broadcasting Service (ABS) in a news
commentary read throughout news commentary yesterday , which claimed that
Anambra has agreed to propose ‘zoning of the office of governor across the
three senatorial Zones ,starting from Anambra North Zone’ to the national
Assembly for inclusion in the federal constitution. But according to ABS ‘ a
few greedy and disgruntled politicians in the state are sabotaging that

We shall yet
return to this commentary which largely triggered of this highly procrastinated
piece ;its deductions and assumptions; and the larger implications for
democracy in Anambra State and Nigeria.

understand the issues in the zoning discourse let us trace the issue from the
root. In the aftermath of a 1994/95 constitutional conference organised by the
nation got bitten by the zoning bug. This followed a, proposal introduced and
made popular by Dr Alex Ekwueme, speaking from the blueprint presented by
Mkpoko Igbo, itself a product of the Igbo Intelligensia organisation Aka Ikenga. The proposal was for the
rotation of the office of the President around six geo-political zones, drawn
out on the basis of a mix of voting patterns in the country’s previous elections,
linguistic/ethnic blocs and sociological factors.

The proposal
met with a stout resistance form the group led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua ad
largely supported by the north which was in the thick of their hegemony. So
stiff was their opposition that they raised voices to shout down Ekwueme on the
dais. It took the physical intervention of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who
was co-chairman of the well-prepared South –East delegation, to secure an
audience for Ekwueme to espouse the subject.
Ikemba who had to remain standing challenging the ring-leaders of the
shouting match to make a whimper .Of course the argument was to continue
outside the plenary.

those who sought and failed to shout the motion down went back and built a
consensus to defeat the view on the floor of the conference. But it was
contained in the minority report sent in by Ekwueme, which made sense to
Abacha, himself coming from a ‘marginalised’ group in the north.

So Nigeria
informally recognised six zones and started applying it in their lives. Yet,
not having had any opportunity between then and this month to discuss the
making of their constitution as a people, it had to wait for this year for the
people to vote yes to its inclusion in the federal constitution.

But in 1998,
Ekwueme’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) inserted a watered-down version of the zoning arrangement in the
party’s constitution, making it a two-dash arrangement between North and South
Nigeria, with many in it’s ranks, including the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi opposing it. Even that party-inspired zoning
manifesto faced its biggest challenge when President Umar Yar’Adua, took ill
and eventually died, as there was clear reluctance to hand over power to his
then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan. And of course the constitution had the
legal answers, but not the political.

Many argue
that that is the origin of the emergence of the political Boko Haraam, which
differs largely form the original one led by late Yusuf in 2009. A comment in
that regard by the former Security Adviser to the President cost him his job,
but the plausiblility was not lost on Nigerians. And now with Abubakar Atiku
beginning the political rounds in target of 2015 and Jonathan playing the
ostrich game, the zoning issue is far from settled even now that it is outside the
constitution. So it cannot be said to have succeeded.

I hold a
personal view that if we wish to draw the right lessons from the PDP experiment
which we cannot wish away, any zoning we introduce at the federal level should
work out a unique arrangement that separates the ticket of the President from
his Vice, in order to succeed. We must not copy every American way because we
are using the presidential system of government.

For the
zonig to succeed,learning from our experience,
we may need six Vice Presidents,with the First Vce President,who is next to the
president in succession coming from the former’s zone. That way if for any
reason ,the president is unable to continue in office, dies or is removed, the
power remains in his zone.Beyod this, the exact duration that ower should stay
in one zone has to be defined.ut accept of reject this proposal, we should
define the number of years for which an office should be defined. As a country
we are lucky that Yar’Adua died a natural death or things could have been
worse. But we must foresee all kinds of possibilities in the future and provide
for them.

deliberate copious reference to zoning as currently being experimented by a
party ,with great challenges is to underscore that for zoning at the national
level ,it is still a learning curve with a
lot of work ahead, because we are trying to impose it on a democratic
model copied from those who have evr allowed such concept as zoning to play any
role in their polity. Hence any issue regarding the subject has to be
approached with care at every level,
irrespective of current sentiments in some quarters in Anambra State.

by their very nature are transient. If Atiku Abubakar, a surviving pillar of the Yar’Adua group had foreseen that one
day Nigeria would have a president outside the north, while the latter would be seeking to recapture power, he would
have lent full support to the Ekwueme proposal in the conference and perhaps
joined forces to see it promulgated into the constitution. But hell no. They
kicked it down. Gladly Atiku has made a volte-face only because he alive to so

Likewise sentiments
for one particular senatorial zone to produce the governor are not criminal,
but it may no be in the air in the next ten years. Yet it takes gargantum
national consensus to amend the constitution, which does not happen all the
time. So it is possible that some politicians could tie up the hands of Anambra
Development with a bad policy for the next 50 years, just to take care of their
interest in less than a year.Should we continue the match to centralise power,
when one one popular hand, we are seeking to devolve same to the zones/states
in the same amendment?

I would have
continued to insist that we distance ourselves from zoning, as I did in the past,
but t , appears to be a necessary evil
at the national level to contain our differences and fears, which led us into a
needless civil war, in the course of nation building, but there is so much to
do to run that system without problems. But in my view, it is needless to talk
about zoning at all in states like Anambbra who speak the same language and
share the same culture.

And this
brings us to the issue of Anambra agreeing to insert the zoning of offices amongst
senatorial zones. The facts as I know them do not support this assertion. The
matter was not discussed.

First, the
meeting of November 11, 2012 held at the Women Development Centre Awka, was a
meeting convened by Gov. Obi to respond to a specific template drawn up by the
National Assembly highlighting blanket questions on broad issues of amendment
to the constitution. With respect to the zoning of executive offices, that
template asked the question: ‘Do you
think the constitution should be amended to insert the zoning of the presidency
between the six geo-political zones for presidency and the three senatorial
zones for governor’.

The NASS, at
least as reflected in their template, did not envisage that different answers
could be given for the two offices. The House of Representatives constituency
sessions held the day before on November 10, most of the constituents in the 11
federal constituencies in Anambra State in their wisdom separated the question
into two parts and most voted for zoning at the national level, rejecting it at
the state level. These reports were not read in Awka, where Gov. Obi who
virtually chose all the delegates and whose personal views on the matter were
already in the public domain posed the
questions together. So it is actually incorrect to say that Anambra has voted
for zoning of governorship position. My understanding based on the reasons adduced
above is that the governor is letting his personal view on the issue override
that of the people. He also tried to do that on the issue of autonomy for the
State Houses of Assembly and Local governments, but it was easier to stop him
because there was no double –barrel question. He even deliberately omitted
vital questions like whether INEC should conduct all elections in the country.

Secondly, as
we continue to deepen our democracy and strive to true federalism, it is
pertinent to point out that the federal constitution cannot decide on a zoning
policy for the states. There are states like Benue and Delta, Platueu, Cross
River and Rivers that harbour up to five ethnic/linguistic groups, and
certainly their on-the-ground response to the issue of zoning need not be identical
to Anambra, which is homogenous. Why then should the constitution of each state
not decide whether they should zone offices and define the conditions .Who syas
zoning must be on the basis of senatorial zones? Are senatorial zones not administrative
lines created by INEC for purposes of conducting elections? Will those lines
remain the same if more states are created as the South –East desires and
deserves? So why should we form a thesis and present its anti-thesis in the
same document?

Thirdlly, it
is almost like a return to the era of military government for a governor to
arise and choose the zone to begin in an assumed zoning arrangement without the
people themselves sitting together to negotiate and agree on the schedule, the
term due to each zone and what the state must do in case they come across bad
or inept leadership. To do that is to leave crisis as a recipe because we shall
inherit unresolved issues in a state that is not known to sit down around the
table and resolve issues when they break, but rather prefer unfortunately to
petition outsiders to decide their matter. It is needless to emphasise that
those who should decide on a matter like this should have the mandate of those
they represent. They have to be elected, with only a few expert appointments to
enrich the discussion.

Fourth and
finally, the language deployed by ABS which ought to speak for Anambra, not Obi
is amazing. Why would politicians in pursuit of their inalienable right to
aspire to be governors be described as ‘disgruntled elements’. Why should these
persons give up their aspiration in exchange for nothing and not based on the
outcome of any negotiation? Is that
Peter Obi’s understanding of democracy? Many have argued that the latest chorus
being sang by Obi and his supporters is simply to appoint a successor who would
cover up his tracks and such people whose confidence he has as close associates
today come form Anambra North Senatorial zone, namely Obaze, who has been
discredited by his own party, Oseloka Obaze, Dubem’s elder brother who
currently serves as secretary to the state government, Paul Odenigbo, his
immediate predecessor and surprisingly
Stella Oduah ,Minister of Aviation.

corollary to this trend of thought is that there are very competent candidates
in other zones who Obi would rather not wish to succeed him, irrespective of
how popular they may be and therefore finds in ‘the campaign promise I made in
2010’ a convenient platform to play the game of exclusion. Do not ask me if Obi
has any right to promise any zone governorship of Anambra State.

Nothing in
my essay should be seen as excluding the right of the governor to groom a
probable successor, which the people must vote into office if he (Obi) convinces
them that his legacy as a governor of Anambra state is worth continuing and
that better alternatives are not waiting elsewhere. That is the essence of our
democracy which we need to protect with all the blood in our veins.

My take is
that Obi should invest all the energy being used to preach an unbroached,undiscussed
and unagreed zoning mandate into the inevitable, desirable and deserving
efforts to get Anambra State to discuss their political future, broker consensus on all essential issues-not
necessarily on zoning alone- and translate the agreements into ‘The
Constitution of Anambra State of Nigeria’.

This one-man
zoning project may not be as easy as waking up one day and changing the ‘Home for
All ‘slogan of the state to ‘Light of the Nation’. Don’t get me wrong, Indeed
we are the light of the nation. We can be as many more things as we want,
except that in our democracy and all democracies the process is as important,
if not more important than the outcome.

Dr Owen Ozue
6 Oraeto Street
Anambra State

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