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Anambra 2025: Zoning is a ploy to prevent credible candidates from contesting elections – Chukwuma

Ahead of the 2025 governorship election in Anambra State, former National Auditor of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Paul Chukwuma, spoke with LAWRENCE NJOKU about his intention to contest for the exalted office, among other issues. Chukwuma, who hails from Anambra North Senatorial District which produced former governor Willie Obiano, insisted that zoning is a decoy to prevent credible candidates from contesting the election. Excerpts:

What is propelling your next year’s governorship ambition knowing that your brother, Chief Willie Obiano, literally your next door neighbour, just left the seat?
Talking about next door neighbour or zoning, let’s not forget that we are referring to superintending over the affairs of men. The elements that should be key should be one’s capability and being able to discharge the responsibility. So, I don’t think that where one comes from, in terms of the parochial sentiments around whether you are from village ‘A’ or town ‘B’, should really arise. What is important is that the individual is competent. If we allow our politics to be structured around issues, then you will find out that where the candidate hails from would no longer be an issue.
 
I am aspiring to be the governor of Anambra State, not necessarily because of where I come from, but because I see a lot of work that needs to be done. More so, I understand the issues around the state and I am also very competent, capable and have the necessary experience to ensure that we successfully deal with those issues.
 
For instance, insecurity is ravaging the state. I am from the northern part of the state; those in the central and southern parts of the state are experiencing a similar problem even when the incumbent governor is from the South. It shows that it’s not always a question of where you come from. It’s a question of being able to deal with those issues. I am very confident that I’ve got what it takes to deliver for Ndi-Anambra.
  
Again, the first time a democratically elected governor came from the state, it was from the South; it was from Igbo-Ukwu and going back to the South, it went to Isuofia. That is the next door neighbour. Therefore, it could be seen as not being an issue.
 
The issue of zoning has never been discussed anywhere in the state and anyone that thinks otherwise should be able to provide where it started. In 1999, a governor elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came from the South. But in the build up to that 1999 election, everyone from all the zones contested. The aspirants who later emerged as candidates cut across the three senatorial zones of the state. We had similar experiences in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013.  
 
So, you can see that in every election we have always had a similar scenario. Even the incumbent governor has been contesting all these while. And he is from the South. Other aspirants who are from the South, in this particular instance, have been contesting. Are you now telling me that the turn of the South started in 1999? So, is it because they have not succeeded in winning elections? Because if they had been winning it would be a case of one zone winning the governorship seat all through back to back.
 
It’s a well known fact that Anambra voters have never voted according to zones but according to parties of a particular candidate and we expect the same to be the case this time around.
 
In APC, we have not held the position of the governor. I have never been in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) or PDP. It’s until the office of the governor gets to the party that you may begin to say okay we may now start having zoning arrangements from the incumbent.
 
It was only in 2015 that we started clamouring, saying that it’s fair to allow the Anambra North senatorial zone to taste the position. That is not a zoning arrangement; rather it’s a completion process. And if at all we have to zone it, is it not the first tenure of the position that would be zoned while the second term will be based on performance? It’s very clear and I believe that the zoning thing is a gimmick, a decoy to prevent credible candidates from contesting the election.

With the recent movement of some notable faces in the state into APC, ostensibly eyeing the party’s 2025 gubernatorial ticket, many are nursing the fear that the pressure may lead to what played out in 2022 where alleged manipulation of the primary resulted in crises that made the party to lose woefully during the general poll?
  For me, we need more people in the party; because the more, the merrier. After all, our party, over the years, has been de-marketed seriously. We think that the more credible democrats come into the party; our possibility of winning elections will increase. Election is a game of numbers. We need to talk to people; we need to engage with people. Our doors are quite open and there is no problem with having new entrants into the party.

Whether that will lead to a post primary election crisis, I can assure you that no such will happen because that is the essence of talking to party people before we go for the main election. Whoever that wins will do so creditably. It will then be clear to all and sundry that the candidate that won truly deserves to win. Those that were not able to make it will close ranks and work collectively for the party’s candidate to emerge victorious as the governor.

Why do you think the incumbent needs to be replaced?
  I am not in a position now to give you his score card. But as a person, he’s credible to the best of my knowledge. He’s experienced; he’s well-read. But politics/election is partisan. More so, APGA has outlived its usefulness to Ndi Anambra. We need to connect to the centre. The truth of the matter is that APGA is a one-party state. It’s only in Anambra that we run APGA as a political party. We cannot be an orphan. We need to assess the 16 years of APGA administration in Anambra and tell ourselves what that has translated to. One needs no investigation to know that we still have high level insecurity and all manner of problems.
 
You may say that the police and the military are from the Federal Government. Yes! But the truth is that the governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state. We are standing away from the ruling party. We need to hook to the centre. The ruling party has a lot to give.
 
For instance, there is the problem of erosion ravaging parts of Anambra currently and you need to be in the midst of the progressive governors for you to make a special case to the President because this erosion menace calls for extra funding. So, if you are not a part and parcel of those at the centre, no one would hear your cry. 
 
Again, the governor cannot nominate anybody to any political position at the centre. So, we are losing. Soon our young people will no longer know what it means to be a federal politician because we are actually dealing with a parochial party system where nothing can happen outside Anambra. No one becomes eligible for anything if he cannot be a commissioner. The highest is governor while other states are getting positions. And the more positions you get, the more you are able to attract the dividends of democracy to your people. That’s the way democracy is structured. We are losing out because we are running a party that is isolated. 

What do you think any governor of the state should be looking at from 2025?
  My first move will be to conduct the local council elections because we need to devolve power to the grassroots. We need to ensure that this arbitrariness in the local council management system is obliterated. I must ensure the conduct of elections for duly elected officers to take over and preside over the affairs of the councils so as to exercise their autonomy as prescribed by law. This doesn’t stop the intertwined relationship between the local councils and the state. This will take government to the people, as democracy is about people.
 
Another issue is that we are making governance as if it is rocket science; but gone are the days the achievement of a government is measured on the basis of road construction. No! There is a lot we need to do to ensure that a state like Anambra becomes prosperous. One of such ways is to end this insecurity quagmire. Development and other attendant growth at grassroots would blossom with the enthronement of elected officials at the councils and their assuming the role of chief security officers of their various areas. After all, traditionally, the villagers know one another as well as those with questionable characters. A safe state is attractive to investors. We need to open up the Omambala area and transform it into the food basket of the state and beyond. Power has now been taken out of the exclusive legislative list and the states including ours can now source our energy. The moment we have security and power, Anambra would burst loose in terms of development, because we are originally business inclined. We are all imbued with outstanding entrepreneurial spirit and disposition.

  • Lawrence Njoku

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