Enugu State (Igbo: Ȯra Enugu) is a state in the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria, bordered to the north by the states of Benue and Kogi, Ebonyi State to the east and southeast, Abia State to the south, and Anambra State to the west.
The state takes its name from its capital and largest city, Enugu. Enugu State is among the states where a change of leadership must take place in 2023. This is because of 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 the governorship seat 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.
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 vie for the position of governor.
With this intention, Edeoga resigned from his position as the State Commissioner for Environment. Edeoga is being rumoured as the possible choice 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.
However, Governor Ugwuanyi is believed to be sustaining the power-sharing arrangement, which has made elections less rancorous and divisive in Enugu State.
The Zoning Issue
The zoning issue is between Enugu East Senatorial District and Enugu West Zone where Ekweremadu, a major contender for the governorship election 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 is 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.
In line with this mindset, the governor, who comes from Enugu North Senatorial District, from all indications, aligns with various leaders and stakeholders that his next governor should emerge from Enugu East Senatorial District.
Reiterating his support for the zoning agreement recently, the governor said there is no going back on the decision to allow Enugu East to produce the next governor of the state.
Speaking through his Special Adviser (Media), Steve Oruoruo, Ugwuanyi 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 is well enshrined in the constitution of the PDP.
According to ThisDayLIVE, the statesman speaking for the governor, 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 destabilize 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.”
Proponents who are against this power rotation alignment are convinced that zoning did not start in 1999 as there had been no power rotation in the state.
Another contention is that Enugu West Zone while having produced only one governor; that is Sullivan Chime, is behind the East which had produced Jim Nwobodo, C.C Onoh, and Chimaroke Nnamani who are all past governors of the state, and then Enugu North which had produced Nwodo and currently Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
With this analogy, they are convinced that the governorship power should return to the West but this is not a sufficient enough reason to offset the present flow of power.
The proponents against this believe that power should instead return to the East to maintain equilibrium and continue the present political structure of the state championed by His Excellency Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
The Importance of Zoning in the State
The debate about power rotation in the 2023 election in Enugu State was on the 10th of April 2022 put to rest by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s Special Adviser (Media), Steve Oruoruo, who said the zoning arrangement was started by the forefathers must stand and would not stop.
He also said that the rotational governorship was well enshrined in the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party.
According to him, the clarification became necessary against the background of attempts by “a few overzealous politicians 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 destabilize 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.
“Peace and harmonious social co-existence mean the world to His Excellency, who, as a child of God has continued to restrain himself from joining issues with those whose stock in trade is stoking misunderstanding.”
A lot of prominent Enugu statesmen including Honorable Ekweremadu, a five-time Senator, thee-time Deputy President of Nigerian Senate as well as former Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, who has an interest in the governorship of the state is among one of many who have expressed dissatisfaction over the zoning issue.
His reason is that one should be allowed to run for governor from any part of the state and should not be deprived necessarily because of his ethnic affiliation.
Speaking with some reporters, Ekweremadu, Ekweremadu who represents Enugu West in the Senate comes from Aninri LGA of the Greater Awgu block of the state and listed his impressive repertoire of ll the political-economic moves he has been able to secure while active as a senator and deputy senate president. And he is convinced that he would be able to bring the same results to the table if he is elected into office.
While many might sympathize with this view, the continuance of power rotation which is being heralded by His Excellency Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is the reason why the state has maintained such a satisfactory atmosphere of peace for decades and has contributed to the progressive political atmosphere present in Enugu’s political structure.
Good governance has thrived in many countries which support power rotation such as Isreal and should be championed as a way of ending the dissatisfaction that comes from a particular cultural group holding power for too long.
The crux of good leadership nestles on leaders willing to do the right thing irrespective of political affiliations and a willingness to balance the power structure and will put the City of Coal at the zenith of progressive change in the South East and beyond.
@sedoelijah writes from Enugu