Hon. Nicholas Ozonsi, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State, in this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, discusses some burning national issues and Enugu politics of power rotation. Excerpts:
How do you see the zoning controversy among the three senatorial zones of Enugu State?
In terms of zoning in Enugu, the state has three senatorial zones and if you will recall that since 1979, Enugu East Senatorial zone has produced Senator Jim Nwobodo, Chief C. C. Onoh and Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. Enugu North Senatorial Zone produced Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Enugu West has produced only Barr Sullivan Chime. There has been a lot of deceit and misinformation in terms of where people come from and it is because some people have taken a larger number of leadership position in Enugu State. That’s why they don’t want to talk about when democracy started since 1979.
What is the implication of what you have explained as regards the 2023 governorship election in the state?
It’s a clear evidence that if Enugu East senatorial zone is allowed to produce another governor, it means that they have produced four and if they produced four, then Enugu North have produced two; then Enugu West has produced only one. It’s unfair and if you allow Enugu North to produce again it means that the zone has produced three, then Enugu East three, and Enugu West has only one. We are not talking about who gets the ticket from Enugu West, people were trying to misinterpret this rotation thing in Enugu West senatorial zone, maybe where one or two influential persons are; it’s not about them. If I’m allowed, I want to go to Senate.
There are many other competent persons from Enugu West senatorial zone, who could be governor of Enugu State if they are given the opportunity to become governor. So, it’s not all about one person. Well, Greater Awgu is crying that it’s their turn; some are saying their son is worthy.
There are indeed many from that axis, who are qualified to be the governor of Enugu State if you look at it. But this time around what people are fighting for is to ensure that it gets to Enugu West senatorial zone; whoever Enugu West senatorial zone decides to give the ticket, the person can have the ticket, that’s my analysis of the whole thing.
So, you are among those who believe or think that after the incumbent governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, power should shift to Enugu West senatorial zone?
I am not among those who believe or think, I’m among those who are affirming that conviction based on these evidences that after the second tenure of Governor Ugwuanyi, it is the turn of Enugu West, so that people can take the mantle to where it stopped. The governor has done so well in terms of security and development. Though he didn’t engage me, he has my unflinching support, he has the unflinching support of people of Enugu West and the unflinching support of the people of Udi Local Government. And then he is also standing upright, standing tall above the campaign promises he made, he is showing Nigerians that a politician can make a promises and stand by his promises. By the time he finishes, Enugu State will be in another class where a new governor will have to go for tutelage to start off.
How do you juxtapose the quest by Ndigbo to produce the next president of Nigeria and the recent suggestion by President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura that instead of power rotation, competence should determine who becomes the next president?
With regards to Mamman Daura’s comment relating to rotation at the national level, permit me to say that Daura has his own opinion and he has the right to air his views, he has right to make suggestions even to the president. But I think to a great extent, what Mamman Daura said, if viewed in correct order, it’s in order when you are talking about competence. But the competence issue did not start early enough because it should have started earlier before President Buhari became the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If it had started from there, people would have known whether even the president himself is competent.
Then we move to the senators and members of House of Reps and find out who and who is competent and from there to the governors, local government chairmen and councilors. So, there should have been a parameter for which to determine whether competence will have a role to play by 2023. Now, having said this in terms of competence, let’s look at why rotation is very important if it is actually a rotation. Rotation is a situation whereby people are given the chance to play politics of ‘it’s our turn’ not politics of ‘you are competent.’
Rotation also allows people to have a sense of belonging, rotation allows distribution of developmental projects and even appointments, and rotation also brings a lot of things to correction like the Federal Character Commission which is supposed handle issues of engagements between the government and different states or regions.
If rotation is allowed to continue, some of these things will equally be put to order. Now, if you look at this rotation in a very strategic view starting from 1960 till now. You will agree with me that in 1960 Nnamdi Azikiwe was not the actual president of Nigeria but a ceremonial president, Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa was in charge. After that, there was Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi from 1966 to 1967. He spent few months as military head of state. After Aguiyi- Ironsi till this period, the Igbo have been rejected, they have been relegated and in fact there is nothing to show that we are operating one Nigeria again.
The issue of no victor no vanquished is no longer playing out. If the issue of no victor, no vanquished is playing out, it means that whatever goes to one region should go to the other region and vice-versa. If you look from the time of Murtala Muhammed till now, it has always been the Hausa/Fulani, so the South-South, South-East and South-West should be given the opportunity to have their people in government. But if you are talking about South, the South West has had a chance, they occupied the office of president through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; the South-South also did through Goodluck Jonathan. Now, it is the turn of the South-East. Assuming rotation is anything to go by, it’s the turn of the South East to produce the next president of Nigeria. But unfortunately, let me put it this way, the rotation per se may not work out.
It may not work out because there is a plot by the North to draft somebody from APC from the South-West, South-East or South- South and then they will bring out somebody from another party to run for the presidency and they will vote massively for that person.
You know that Bola Tinubu from the South-West is also scheming for the position and he has heavy influence on South-West politics. You also know there is always this rivalry between the South-West and South-East and that the South-West hardly votes for people from the South-East. However, the Igbo man is the most liberal minded person in Nigeria.
The South-East voted massively for Chief MKO Abiola and they also voted massively for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. So, ordinarily, 2023 should have been payback time by the South-West to the South-East by supporting them to produce the next president of Nigeria, but I can prophesy that Tinubu’s ambition might not allow that.
What’s your reaction to the recent comment by the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike that PDP should be more concerned about winning the presidency first than zoning, and that it is the APC that has the luxury of discussing zoning because they are in power already?
I align with Gov Wike’s view. This is because if APC decides to field a Northern candidate with an Igbo running mate; that Northern candidate will likely win because Igbo vote will be divided. Some people will be saying after all the Vice presidential candidate is our son. Remember how Ndigbo voted massively for PDP in 2019 presidential election because Peter Obi was picked as running mate to Atiku Abubakar. So, for me, PDP should just watch the APC to make a move as regards to where their presidential candidate is going to come from and then take a cue from that to know where to zone its ticket.