Enugu: Zoning crisis threatens PDP's continued dominance

Posted by News Express | 10 April 2022 | 542 times

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Enugu State is among the states where a change of leadership must take place in 2033. This is because the outgoing governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is serving his last term of four years as the helmsman of the state having assumed office on May 29, 2015. Ahead of the 2023 governorship election in Enugu State, one major issue shaping the political future of the state is the zoning contention. Since last year, rotation of the governorship position has been a major discourse by the contenders for Lion Building as they hit up the political space in their bid to succeed Governor Ugwuanyi.

For the major opposition parties in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the issue of zoning appears settled as the 2023 governorship slot has been zoned to Enugu East Senatorial District which has Nkanu West, Nkanu East, Enugu North, Enugu South, Enugu East and Isi-Uzo local government areas.

However, within the ruling PDP, zoning is a major albatross affecting the party’s continued hold on power. While followers of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi are insisting that the governorship position should be zoned to Enugu East for equity, justice and fairness, former deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu is insisting that a transparent primary should be held to give room for a candidate with the credibility and capacity to win election and lead the state out of the doldrums.

With the uncertainties surrounding the new Electoral Act, two prominent members of the Enugu State Executive Council, Barrister Chijioke Edeoga and Joseph Onoh, have already picked nomination forms to contest the governorship election with Edeoga resigning his position as the state commissioner for environment. Edeoga is being rumoured as the possible anointed successor of Governor Ugwuanyi. He is also rumoured to be the major reason the governor and his associates are pushing for the governorship position to be zoned to Enugu East.

Isi-Uzo, his own part of Enugu East Senatorial District is yet to hold any major political position, apart from House of Representatives seat. This, it is learned, has been the reason the clamour for ‘Ka Isi-Uzo Jee’, meaning ‘let Isi-Uzo go’ is gaining ground. Other aspirants who have bought nomination forms in the PDP are Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Hon. Ofor Chukwuegbo, representing Enugu North/Enugu South Federal Constituency and former Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji.

Prominent aspirants for 2023 governorship position who are yet to pick their expression of interest form include the President/founder of the Youth Resource Development Education and Leadership Center for Africa (YORDEL Africa) and former commissioner in the state, Hon. Godwin Ogenyi, who hails from Isi-Uzo LGA; businessman, aviator and founder of Odengene Air-Shuttle Services Limited, (OAS Helicopters), Captain Evarest Nnaji, who hails from Nkanu East local government area; a bureaucrat and former Federal Permanent Secretary, Sir Chienyeaka Ohaa, from Nkanu West local government area; businessman and former chief of staff to former Governor, Chimaraoke Nnamani, Mr. Peter Mbah; the speaker of the state house of assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi, Enugu East LGA and Senator Gilbert Nnaji from Enugu East LGA. Apart from Ekweremadu, the rest of the aspirants hail from Enugu East Senatorial District.

Despite the fact that Ekweremadu is the only aspirant outside Enugu East Senatorial District, zoning issue is almost tearing the PDP apart. Many watchers and observers of political developments in the state have opined that the issue of zoning will either make or mar the PDP in the 2023 polls. Already the ruling party at the moment is heavily divided because of zoning with so much acrimony, and animosity being witnessed within the party over which zone should produce the next governor of the state.

The zoning issue is between Enugu East Senatorial District and Enugu West Zone where Ekweremadu hails from. The contention from Enugu East is that having occupied the governorship seat first from 1999 to 2007 and handed over to Enugu West which occupied the seat between 2007-2019 and handed over to the Enugu North which is currently occupying the seat, it only fair and just for the power to return back to Enugu East where it all started to begin again in 2023. PDP stakeholders in the zone warn that the party may be heading for doom if they fail to zone the governorship slot to the area.

Also, as state chief executive, Governor Ugwuanyi is believed to be sustaining the power sharing arrangement, which has made elections less rancorous and divisive in Enugu State. In line with that thinking, the governor, who hails from Enugu North Senatorial District, from his body language, aligns with various leaders and stakeholders that his successor should emerge from Enugu East Senatorial District.

However, Senator Ekweremadu who has insisted that he is the right aspirant to govern the state in 2023, insisted that the state needs someone with his vast experience to turn the state around.

Cracks in PDP’s wall

While the zoning battle rages in the PDP, all that is on the mind of the ruling party is to consolidate its continued dominance in the state since the return of democracy in 1999. It is believed by some analysts that the ongoing rift between Ekweremadu and Governor Ugwuanyi over rotational governorship is a deliberate attempt to allow the former deputy Senate President to pick the PDP governorship ticket. According to rumours, even the projection of Edeoga as the governor’s anointed candidate, is part of a grand plan to let Ekweremadu have his way at the party’s primary. Analysts believe that Ugwuanyi would want to pay Ekweremadu back for being one of the major instruments that made him governor in 2015.

But some party members and chieftains are expressing serious concerns over what they described as ‘dangerous face-off’ between the camp of the governor and that of Senator Ekweremadu. According to party sources, the two ‘big men’ of PDP in the state must not be allowed to clash ahead of the 2023 general election in the interest of the party. “If this is allowed to fester, PDP in Enugu state will bear the brunt,” a source said. He added that the contentious issue of zoning is pitching supporters of the two politicians against one another. “Look around Enugu today; it is divided into two; those for Ekweremadu and those for the governor. This is not good for our party,” our source added.

Reiterating his support for the zoning agreement recently, the governor said there is no going back on the decision to allow Enugu North to produce the next governor of the state. Speaking through his Special Adviser (Media), Steve Oruoruo, Ugwianyi said the zoning arrangement was started by the forefathers must stand and would not stop. The governor accused some politicians of plans to heat up the polity in Enugu State through needless arguments about the power rotation arrangement that has not only been in existence in the state, but well enshrined in the constitution of the PDP.

He said, “The Enugu people know that it has been a tradition to move the governorship from one Senatorial District to another. The power-sharing arrangement was not the making of Governor Ugwuanyi, but that of the founding fathers of the state. It is possible that some people want to destabilise the government in Enugu State, but as you can see our peace-loving governor has maintained his focus. Notable leaders and elder statesmen have spoken and the situation is clear that zoning exists and must continue to exist in the state.” (The Nation)

Source: News Express

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