There is a time for everything under the sun, so the Holy Scripture said. The same Solomon who made the assertion in Ecclesiastics also said that “time and chance happens to all things”. Based on these postulations, I will posit that there is time for zoning and the time to chase competence and merit.
The Igbo man said, “ when a woman marries two husbands, she will know the one that suits her”. Anambra has gone the two paths. We have experienced what we can achieve as a state when we keep our gaze on competence and merit. We have also experienced what we can achieve when the pendulum of leadership tilts towards zoning. The deafening verdict which is shown by the daily struggles of Ndi Anambra is that competence and merit tower over zoning. In fact, the experience Ndi Anambra had under Governor Mbadinuju should have taught us that bad leadership knows no bounds and so does a good one. As I said earlier, however, there is time for everything under the sun; even a time to make mistakes.
One is tempted to ask: what is the essence of leadership if not to deliver the ultimate good to the citizenry? This good is what an English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham described as “the highest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people“. This Bentham’s utilitarian principle will be the prism through which I will want us to view the outcomes of the two leadership choices Ndi Anambra have made so far – leadership by zoning and leadership by competence and merit.
For the records, I was born in Aguata, had my primary and secondary education in Umuchu and Ezinifite, had my university education in Awka, hail from Unubi in Nnewi South. So, I know Anambra, and also have been directly affected by both leadership by zoning and that by competence.
First of all, zoning was alien to Ndi Anambra until seven years ago when it was introduced by APGA as a party. Though the intent was noble, but the outcome is fatal. The bitter truth is that while we adopted zoning for geographical inclusion, we inadvertently excluded competence by narrowing the possibility of recruiting the best for the job. If Anambra must be at par with 21th century development, it must elevate merit and dethrone politics of yesterdays which zoning represents. Anambra cannot be dreaming of being the best in Nigeria and also stick to the Nigeria brand of politics that elevates mediocrity. Anambra must keep setting the pace in leadership and development. While we are considering either to stick to zoning or to jettison it, let me take you to a memory lane.
In 1999, we overwhelmingly voted Chinwoke Mbadinuju from Anambra South as the Governor. By the logic of zoning (though not in practice as of then), one would expect Anambra South to be a “small London”, like our people always say. Not only did Anambra South not see any development, the entire state was plunged into its darkest days. Under his watch, Anambra secondary schools were shut for one year, at a time when the state was still battling against male-child-school-dropout. Under his watch, children did over 4 kilometers walk in Umuchu were I lived to fetch drinking water. During Children’s Day, it took us about two hours for a vehicle to convey us from Umuchu to Ekwulobia because the roads were in terrible states, yet the man on the seat of power in Awka came from my zone.
Today, it usually takes me 20 minutes to drive from Umuchu to Ekwulobia courtesy of Dr Chris Ngige and Mr Peter Obi who are from Anambra Central. While Chris Ngige was the in power he started the construction of Umunze – Umuchu – Uga -Igboukwu – Obeledu road.
At the Umuchu axis, there was a gully erosion site which was there before I was born. Governors Jim Nwobodo of old Anambra State and Chinwoke Mbadinuju- a man from my zone- used the road as a campaign topic, yet the road and its erosion site was untouched. It was Dr Chris Ngige, a man from another zone who not only recovered the lands erosion took away, but built a standard road that has not recorded a pot hole since 2005. While the road was ongoing, Dr Chris Ngige exited office through pronouncement of the court, but Mr Obi, a man who understands that government is like a relay race, came in and continued the construction of the road to the end. Today the road which took my father 1hr from Ezinifite to Igboukwu to sell his bread, now takes me 15 minutes to do so.
If not for former governor, Peter Obi who is not from Anambra South, people who live in Achina, Akpo and Nkpologwu would still be wasting hours on the road to access Ekwulobia their Local Government headquarters, yet a man from their zone had been a governor for four years.
While I was a student of Government Technical College, Umuchu in 2001, we never had good classrooms, school van, toilets, dormitories, science labs, functional workshops. This was the picture of over 95 percent of schools in Anambra State then. At such time, schools in the hinterlands like mine were plagued with acute scarcity of qualified teachers because of lack of basic amenities like water, roads, electricity, etc, yet a man from my zone was the governor. It took a governor like Peter Obi for schools in Anambra State (regardless of the location) to have these amenities we lacked during our days. Same things he did in education, he did in health and roads across the state.
As 2021 approaches, Ndi Anambra must look beyond zoning if the best is what we seek. The question that should be in the mind of Ndi Anambra should be: who will deliver the highest quantum of happiness to the greatest number of people? The ordinary man on the street do not benefit from zoning which gives power to a candidate from his zone, but benefits when power is in the hands of a man/woman with character, competence and capacity. Therefore Ndi Anambra must probe what is in the ‘goody bag’ of each candidate and not the zone they come from.
Remember, only the best is good enough for Anambra State.
Ebube Umeh/ Twitter @umebube