Re: Enugu 2023: Between Zoning Politics And Ethnic Revisionism By Prof. Oguejiofo T. Ujam: A Rejoinder

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In the wake of 2020, arguments, especially in dailies and on social media, have been shelling like missiles, and have, indeed, opened a new floodgate of questions especially as to where the next governor would emerge from in Enugu state.

This trend, rather than being straitjacketed in objective scale, has assumed emotional blackmail and such tends to upset the relatively established peaceful political atmosphere in the state.

I have read, and would continue to be awash with genuine concerns and craps alike. That’s normal in a democratic setting where every opinion is accommodated. After the first quarters of the year, the arguments, in a dramatic turn, seemed to have been abated. However, little did one know that the insidious political shelling was only swinging in abeyance waiting to be triggered. And so it was.

Few weeks ago, Enugu people were yet again, stirred into the premature parturition of political ethnicisation of who gets what, when and where in the scheme of Enugu state politics especially as interested parties have surreptitiously entangled themselves in the web of political arm-twisting even when the incumbent is still striving to maintain an altitude of political consolidation and strike a balance in the three senatorial zones in terms of infrastructure and quality representation which have writhed in patent deficit. The first missile, however,

subtly lodged in an opinionated posture, was driven, perhaps, by a torturous search for “equity and fairness” in the political landscape of the state. This assertion was made by one Professor Oguejiofo T. Ujam of the Department of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

The said professor had captioned his two-pronged narrative work, “Enugu 2023: Between Zoning Politics And Ethnic Revisionism”, where he had argued from historical perspective and established pattern of political engineering, that the highest seat, being the position of the governor, has always gravitated to zoning arithmetic. From the first limb, the erudite author made a far-reaching observation as to why the Enugu East Senatorial zone should be consensually, to the exclusion of other senatorial zones, allowed to produce a governor in 2023.

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To capture the apprehension the author had exercised against those he referred to as “overzealous politician”, he fretfully submitted “…the strenuous efforts being put by some politicians to redefine the zoning arrangement in Enugu State have become worrisome and deserves (sic) that well-meaning stakeholders speak out to nip the dangerous narrative in the bud”.

One would wonder who the overzealous politicians could be. But the professor did not mince words. He succinctly referred to Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his cronies. Whether the Ike’s factor is playing out to unsettle the political permutations long enjoyed remain, to some political watchers, a mere speculation.

This assumption is becoming too deafening to be true. Would Senator Ekweremadu give the state’s top job a shot? It’s within his right if he decides to join the race. Would he respect the zoning arrangements that he has immensely benefited from? That’s a big question for a gentle and honourable man. Character. Integrity. Principle. All these would play out before 2023 general elections.

On the other limb, the writer narrowed his argument within the microcosm of Enugu East senatorial zone, and in a concision, left no one in doubt as to his stand: “Most importantly, democracy being a game of numbers, it is not in doubt which area presents the bulk of Enugu East electorate and political actors.

Any attempt, therefore, to micro zone to Isi-Uzo within the Enugu East Senatorial District would be an invitation to the climate of confusion and mutual suspicion that zoning in Enugu State sought to obliterate.”

The writer had defined the Isi-Uzo people as a people with both cultural and political incongruities. This alleged ambivalent nature has left analysts queried where the Isi-Uzo people tilt as their cultural orientation and social behaviour are inclined to the Nsukka cultural group. However, politically, they have found ties with the Nkanu and Enugu East senatorial permutation. Whether this position is true is left for readers.

While reactions were trailing Prof. Ujam’s assessment of Enugu zoning impression, a particular reaction had caught the attention of many. The spectacular “riposte” purportedly attributed to one Ifeanyi Ogenyi, Esq., to say the least, captured the political tempo of many from Isi-Uzo enclave as timely.

The author, in his rejoinder, had accused Prof. Ujam of “Intellectual and character bankruptcy” for taking a stand on the swinging political pendulum. He further tagged him and perhaps, his “sponsors”, as political bigots for arguing against the “micro zoning” of the governorship seat to Isi-Uzo local government area. Learned counsel had brandished the erudite professor’s work as:

“…a jaundiced analysis, so disjointed such that I considered the writer as a double-tongued man who has a slanted sense of justice and equity. It became clear from the article that some persons are endowed with extra mouth and tongue to talk to those who could not hear from the front. It is this anomaly against humanity for one person to have two mouths and tongues that has compelled me to respond to Mr. Ujam’s skewed analysis and his slanted sense of justice, particularly his illusive remarks about Isi-Uzo people.”

Presumably, the author, Ogenyi, could be a practicing legal professional. His employment of diction could not have betrayed that. However, rather than tackled the issues raised by Mr. Ujam from detached viewpoint, learned counsel took a swift recourse to tantrums, perversion and irascible bearing.

Learned counsel, I must confess, missed the track and went wild. We must learn how to be tolerant with divergent ideas and creed. That is the fundamental symbol of democracy. Issues must be decided with constructive arguments, and stronger argument, to me, be revered rather than willful attacks on the individual person. At the end, the learned counsel had, obviously landed himself in the same pitfalls he had presumably set out to fill.

The framing and understanding of the precept of zoning by the two authors were largely contextualized according to political exigency and clannish persuasion. While the authors believed the top job be zone to Enugu East Senatorial precinct, both radically departed as to which local government area to “micro zone” the job.

While I would deliberately not be swayed by emotion or parochial interest, I would note, in the course of making depth analyses of the two works presented by the authors above, that while Ujam attempted to warn against particularising the slot to Isi-Uzo alone, considering that such decision might exclude other disadvantaged local government area(s) from the same zone, Mr. Ogenyi was authoritatively conclusive in his view: Isi-Uzo local government area or nothing. Quite interesting arguments.

Both scholars had referred to “equity, fairness and justice”. But learned counsel, Ogenyi, would argue vehemently that Prof. Ujam was bereft of “any sense of justice” for not being at home with the projected decision that the chick should come home to roost at Isi-Uzo. He went ahead and argued that the said Isi-Uzo belt was the “most unfairly treated local government council in the zone since 1999 till date in power sharing”.

This is interesting and calls for further evidence to substantiate the claim. I would not want to dabble into that long journey, but feelers from various media space had described this view as false and calculated at hoodwinking those with poor sense of history.

Interestingly, Mr. Ogenyi did not stop at the above destination. He joggled up, citing intriguing examples of those position clinched by the Nkanu East local government occupiers. Sadly, Mr. Ogenyi who had accused Prof. Ujam of lacking sense of justice and fairness, in a clandestine attempt to play the victim’s role and conceal reality, deliberately kept mute as to whether or not Isi-Uzo local government area has ever been a beneficiary of political benevolence and zoning permutations.

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That’s a smart design by a learned friend who had arrogated intellectual autocracy and repository of knowledge upon himself. He failed to submit the uncomfortable fact that the present Enugu state People’s Democratic Party Chairman, is from Isi-Uzo. There was also a botched attempt by him not to set in motion the fact that an Isi-Uzo man was once a Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan when the latter was in power. Many more examples abound.

Penultimately, it would make more sense, as against what the erudite professor had submitted that zoning should be prioritized based on numbers, to consider local government areas that are still disadvantaged more than others and have them jostle for the ticket if, at all, the zoning principle would be respected.

Fervently wrapping oneself in an enigma of political primitiveness and selfish disposition to counter a better view that allows for eclectic consideration and displacing it with a constricted opening, is the lowest ebb of political thinking and ethnicisation as suggested by Mr. Ogenyi.

Finally, from the legally and politically conjunctive words of “justice, equity and fairness” employed by the two writers above as their guiding principle, if these two local government councils of Nkanu East and Isi-Uzo are to be considered, it would naturally make sense to allow democratic dictate of non-politically motivated primaries, either direct or indirect, to determine which sides the pendulum swings.

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