2023: Debates in Ebonyi over zoning of governorship


By Obike Ukoh

Though all the senatorial zones have occupied the Ebonyi governorship position for two terms, an issue is currently on the front burner. Which zone should start the second phase of governorship rotation?

Already the word bloc has crept in. The implication is that if accepted by critical stakeholders, power will now rotate between Abakaliki and Afikpo blocs.

Ebonyi, created in 1996 during the regime of military Head of State Sani Abacha was carved out from Enugu and Abia states. As a result of the country’s political arrangement, the state has three senatorial zones: Ebonyi North, Ebonyi Central (Abakaliki bloc) and Ebonyi South (Afikpo bloc)

The issue of bloc was subtly raised by Gov. Dave Umahi, when he recently permitted governorship aspirants in his cabinet to commence consultations

Umahi spoke through Mr Uchenna Orji, Commissioner of Information and State Orientation, when he briefed journalists shortly after enlarged executive council meeting.

According to him: “The Chairman-In-Council announced the lifting of the ban on political consultations ahead of the 2023 general elections.

“He expressed determination to consult widely especially with the House of Assembly, the EXCO, the Elders Council, Founding Fathers, women organisations, CAN and other relevant groups with a view to getting opinions on where the governorship position shall be zoned to.

“For the governorship seat, he made it clear that Ebonyi South, having benefited from the principle of zoning, shall not be allowed to contest as his administration’s support shall be for Abakaliki bloc.

“EXCO noted the intention of the Chairman of Council and kick-started the debate on where the governorship seat will be zoned between North and Central zones.”

Sen. Sam Egwu, the first civilian governor of Ebonyi also lend his voice to zoning.

Egwu, now the incumbent senator

representing Ebonyi North

zone on the platform of PDP, was however specific, that Ebonyi North should produce the next governor. He even narrowed it down to Izzi, the most dominant clan in the zone.

He spoke recently at his country home,  Umuebe Ezzangbo, Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi.

“At the end of my last tenure in 2007, almost everyone became interested in the position, and based on the situation, I appealed that a procedure should be followed to enable each zone to know its turn.

“It is on this arrangement that Elechi emerged from Ebonyi Central Zone, we advocated for the South but some people kicked against it, but we vigorously campaigned for the South, through which Umahi became the governor till now.

“So since the principle had gone round, the power should go back from where it started to maintain the trend,’’ the former governor stressed.

“Ebonyi North Zone has waited for 16 years and therefore the people are to produce the next governor, I have shared the same view before now and I was supported by Elechi and I am sure that the present government will also do the same because anything contrary will not be ideal for the state,” he explained.

He appealed to stakeholders to support the arrangement, adding that “ by the grace of God, in 2023, Izzi man will become the next governor of Ebonyi.”

Though the issue of zoning is yet to be resolved, Sen. Obinna Ogba, the incumbent senator representing Ebonyi Central Zone and Mr Chris Osulor, member Ebonyi House of Assembly (PDP-Ezza South) have indicated interest to run for the governorship.

The two lawmakers are members of the PDP and from Ebonyi Central Zone.

Ogba outlines his manifesto recently, stressing that the zoning arrangement was not binding on any aspirant as the  aspirants were at liberty to contest for the governorship  or any other positions of their choices.

Ogba, a former Ebonyi PDP chairman, however said that as

a true party man, he would  abide by any arrangement or decision reached by the PDP on the  issue.

Osulor on his part alluded to the unresolved issue of zoning.

The lawmaker further said the next governor of the state can come from either Ezza or Izzi, the two major clans in the Abakaliki bloc yet to produce a governor.

“The clamouring everywhere is that other clans should allow Ezza clan which is the eldest son of Ezekuna, to produce the next governor of the state.

“Generally, the position of the people in Ebonyi Central Senatorial Zone is that it is their turn to produce the governor.

“An average Izzi man will equally be clamouring that it is their turn. But the State Executive Council resolution has given the two zones an equal opportunity to vie for this position. And so, any of the clans can take it.”

Mr Abia Onyike, a former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi affirmed that the governorship game in Ebonyi is  essentially a “tug of war’’ between two major big clans: Izzi and Ezza.

For the Ezza clan, they have two big LGAs-Ezza North and Ezza South. They also have a strong presence in Ishielu, Ohaukwu, Onicha and Ivo LGAs.

On the other hand, Izzi clan has three large LGAs-Izzi, Abakaliki and Ebonyi.

He listed the main gladiators from Ezza as: Anayo Edwin Nwonu(PDP), Sen. Igwe Nwagu(PDP), Prof. Bernard Odo, former Secretary to the State Government (APC) and Mr Chris Osulor, a member of Ebonyi State House of Assembly (PDP).

For the Izzi clan the leading contenders/aspirants are Chief Elias Mbam, Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) APC.

Others are Mr Fidelis Nwankwo, former Minister of State for Health (PDP), Chief Austin Igwe Edeze( APC),  Dr Ezeh Emmanuel Ezeh(PDP) Mr Francis Nwifuru, Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly (APC), among others.

“From all indications, the Izzi clan in Ebonyi North Senatorial District appears to be having an upper hand as the debate about zoning of the governorship seat rages in the state. “Political analysts believe that the governorship seat may have to go back to Ebonyi North, where the whole thing started initially in 1999, when Dr Sam Egwu was elected.

“If that happens, then Chief Elias Mbam, an APC front-runner has a chance of becoming the governor if he can defeat the other candidates,’’ the former Deputy National President of NUJ said.

Though Mbam has not declared intension to contest the governorship, people are urging him to join the governorship race.

Mbam who is of the Izzi clan, they said would consolidate gains of democracy in Ebonyi beyond 2023 and stimulate infrastructural and human capital development in Ebonyi.

The residents in separate interviews in Abakaliki, also noted that Ebonyi was endowed with capable hands to steer the ship of state.

One of the respondents, a civil servant, urged Mbam to make himself available for the governorship race in 2023.

He described Mbam as a consummate technocrat, politician and financial expert, who would deploy his wealth of experience to sustain, stimulate and deepen gains of democracy in the state if elected governor.

“Mbam has been in leadership position since the dawn of this current dispensation in 1999 and has held different executive positions at various times in Ebonyi where he proved himself as an experienced administrator.

“The RMAFC chairman was first appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan and through his rare display of ingenuity in his first tenure as the RMAFC chairman was reappointed by President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term.

“Ebonyi needs a man with such vast experience, especially in global political economy in the saddle, who will bring to bear his wealth of knowledge in the governance of the state,” Elom said

He added, “The current zoning arrangement in the state will have power shifted to Ebonyi North senatorial district where Mbam hails from, hence, he should take this advantage to offer his service to the people.’’

Another respondent, a retired civil servant said that Mbam’s governorship would serve the interest of both the poor, the rich, small and mighty in the society.

He described Mbam as a selfless and humble politician, that has touched many lives and empowered many youths and widows in his community and Ebonyi in general.

“Though I read in the news sometime that Mbam said he is more concerned at the moment with discharging his duties as the chairman of RMAFC.

“He should start now to contemplate to serve his people in a higher capacity and as such make himself available to run for governorship of the state in 2023.

“He has all the qualities needed to offer the state good governance and credible leadership; hence, I am urging him to throw his ‘hat’ to the ring in the 2023 governorship race,” he said.

No doubt the right to contest election is a constitutional right, but zoning and power rotation are essential to ensure equity and stability. (NANFeatures)