Enugu 2023: Ekweremadu absolutely wrong on zoning –Agbo

(Last Updated On: April 1, 2022)By Fred Itua
In Enugu State, politics has gone full swing. One issue which is heating the polity to a boiling point is zoning. The proponents say zoning is in place while the opponents say there is no zoning. In this interview, Charlie Agbo, a lawyer and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) speaks on the raging issue.
You seem to be an unflagging champion of the zoning of political offices in Enugu State. This, one can glean from your interviews and public statements on the subject matter. Why are you so resolute on the need for zoning?
Anybody from Enugu State who witnessed the governorship primaries of the National Republican Convention between Dr Joe Nwodo of blessed memory and Reverend Hyde Onuaguluchi in 1991 should have a historical background of what free-for-all primaries look like. Enugu State was turned into a quintessential theater. A theater of monumental battle. It was so fierce such that the people had not witnessed a political warfront of that magnitude before. Even the confrontation between the Okwesilieze Nwodo group and the Jim Nwodo group in the course of their quest for the control of the PDP structure in 1998 was no less incendiary. Remember the gun show at Hotel Presidential with the entire party apparatchik present. That was the face of party primaries in the state before zoning. It became clear to all and sundry that the new state could not continue to thread that path if it was to survive.
But Ike Ekweremadu and his group insist there is no document backing the existence of zoning in Enugu PDP
There is a document which incidentally bears evidence of Ekweremadu’s presence in the meeting in which zoning in PDP was birthed. But I consider that document secondary to the evolutionary process of zoning in Enugu State. Like I have argued severally, not all agreements are written. Some agreements acquire their enforceability from conduct. Hence, they may not be incidented in stone but the courts find them enforceable. Indeed, not all countries have written constitutions. So, you can see the unfolding contours of unwritten agreements.
When in 2007, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani who is from Enugu East Senatorial Zone handed over power to Sullivan Chime of Enugu West Senatorial Zone, a historical event had occurred. Zoning had commenced in earnest. The moment he did not give power to a person from Enugu East, his own zone, he was equity sensitive, he was zone sensitive. He had affirmative action in mind. Anybody who had any issue with zoning should have raised it at that stage. The moment Sullivan Chime accepted power on behalf of Enugu East, a pact with history had occurred.
When Sullivan Chime in 2019 and handed over power to Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from Enugu North Senatorial District, the process of zoning was sealed. Its historical relevance was underscored by its being a process of natural evolution. It is therefore superior to any written agreement.
Ekweremadu is contesting zoning based on senatorial zones. He says that there are four cultural zones in Enugu. He talked about Nkanu, Nsukka, Agbaja and greater Awgu. He contends that only Greater Awgu of the four has not produced a governor.
Are you conversant with the history of Enugu State?
A little.
Ekweremadu is wrong. There are more than four cultural zones in Enugu. Do you know about Uduledem Confederacy, a zone comprising Amalla, Obollo, Ogbodu Abba, Ezimo, Imilike, Umundu and Igugu?   Do you know about Ojebo Ogene? You don’t know.
His permutation is based on legend. On myth. The entire country is running on the basis of three senatorial zones per state. All through the federation, these zones have become not only political denominators as evidenced by the existence of three senators per state but are used for the assignment of responsibility and the delineation of obligations, political and otherwise. Now, Ekweremadu equates the integral parts of former Awgu County Council to a senatorial district. Come on, I mean, is it not ridiculous to import this voodoo concept into what is settled? In law, when we establish facts, we move on. We do not equivocate. His four- zone posturing is a pathetic attempt at voodoo-like revisionism propelled by vaulting political rapacity. It will not work in Enugu State. Zoning has come to stay. All lovers of democracy in the state should squelch this opposition to zoning. Not to do so may reverse the gains we have made and may lead to a situation where other cultural zones like Uduledem Confederacy may begin to eye the Lion Building.
The South Eastern zonal PDP recently asked all PDP states to adhere to the zoning principle. What does this portend for Ekweremadu?
It authoritatively portends the end of the road to his no zoning gambit. This is because the party has a right to rules governing their internal affairs in so far as such rules are not in conflict with the constitution. Parties enter elections to win. Therefore, they determine who should be their candidates based on winability. The courts have since distanced themselves from such internal affairs.
So, what can the party do if he fails to heed their advice?
The party can disqualify him.
And if he challenges the party in court?
To what end?  It will be very unprofitable. If the party decides to zone offices at the state or federal level, any deviant to the party’s rules could be sanctioned. Or the party can ignore you as an ostracized member. When your party does not recognise you or disqualifies you from its primaries, what purpose will your contesting serve? The purpose for which individuals contest elections is to win elections and not to live in courts contesting rustication or punitive actions.
What if he defects to another party and contests from such a platform?
That is one of his options. But to what purpose still? Enugu State is PDP and PDP is Enugu. Are you aware that since 1999, the PDP has not lost any election of consequence in Enugu, not even a councillorship position?
If what Ekweremadu were contesting is the point of re-entry after zoning, which is to say after Enugu North, let it start from Enugu West, that would have been less offensive because he would have been canvassing his position within the larger zoning structure. His position would have been the same as those who canvas an anti-clockwise trajectory, that is, re-starting from Enugu North. But to argue against zoning as a whole is vexatious.
Why do you say so?
Because zoning has brought peace to Enugu State. It has so reduced the political temperature to such a level that has caught the attention of other states of our federation. Is it not sad that that very thing for which Enugu is being celebrated is what Ekweremadu’s gambit aims to tear down? There are only thirty- six states of our federation. It presupposes that every election cycle only 36 governors will be elected. Everybody can’t become governor. The moment Sullivan Chime took the turn of Enugu West, the vacancy ceased to exist. If you throw a pebble in a packed stadium, it will fall on only one person’s head. Zoning will work for everybody ultimately, but must not work for everybody at personal levels.
Those who oppose zoning also argue that the process is not democratic. They say that the process through which the candidate emerges is appropriated by the governor.
I have tried to provide this context in an interview somewhere else. The PDP is just one party. There are about 18 political parties qualified to contest the governorship position in Enugu State. Each of these parties has a right to expect to win. What the governor does is no more than to endorse a candidate of his choice. The leaders of the party may contest it. That was successfully done in Ebonyi State in 2015 leading to the routing of the governor’s choice.
If the party sees the governor’s endorsed candidate as final, then it speaks to the governor’s hold on the party. There is nothing undemocratic about this. Don’t forget that this anointed candidate may be slugging it out with candidates of about 17 other political parties. 
Endorsement of candidates in elections is quite normal the world over. In the US for instance, incumbents endorse both those seeking to succeed them and candidates in the general election. The weight of an endorsement is contingent upon the political capital of the person endorsing. So, it is fairly of general applicability in politics, not just a Nigerian or Enugu phenomenon.
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