By Akpesiri Eghwujovbo
In a critical appraisal of the activities leading to the 2023 Gubernatorial primaries of the Peoples’ Democratic Party in Delta State, the center for Research and Democratic governance did a press release to define the context of zoning and ethnicity as they affect the looming political battle in the State.
According to the release the center said. “We begin this discourse component with an explanation of the protracted subject of zoning and ethnicity and use it as point of departure to analyze the structure of political power, its class content, its implied dialectics of opposites, the nature of society and the mutual influence of the social political behaviors that devolve from it.”
According to them, “our discourse method has been organized in such a way as to bring into clear sight the logical and historical understanding of what the concepts of zoning and ethnicity entails and by extension their broader impact on the social political and economic life of Delta State. We hope to in this manner avoid treating the concepts of zoning and ethnicity as fossilized political realities but rather as an evolving opposites which is in process, which has become an endemic part of our body polity and will perhaps not pass away.” In setting a platform for their position, they said “We hold that the contradictions that arise from the failure to understand the separate roles zoning and ethnicity play in the management of the social relations of productions and balance of power account largely for the inequalities and imbalance that has led to the many conflicts in political evolution.” They said “Zoning as a concept often employed by many peremptory political prognosticators in both its theoretical and practical category, is a negative phenomenon that convey the ideological notion of a hegemonic superstructure. As an errant factor that exerts a nauseating pressure on the cause of societal evolution, it acts to promote the aggregation of idiocy, hedonism, apathy, arrogance, intolerance, anti- intellectualism, authoritarianism and parochialism. It prevaricates on the pursuit of sectional rather than group interests. Its value index oscillates on the acceptance of things as they are and the lack of willingness to transform them into what they should be and above all perhaps, it is fundamentally premised on lack of respect for truth and justice and the rights of other people.”
They argue that “implicit in the context of zoning is the capitalization of artificial political will engendered often to truncate the natural process of historical devolution.” And according to them, “in human society once this process is altered, it is easier if cruder to think that it would affect the social relations of production attached to it.” They said “Although it has been assumed that the politics of the ruling party in Delta State had thrived on the foundations of zoning, that is rotation of power around senatorial Districts, it is difficult to see the salient features of zoning in the character of its elective, the ruling Party’s primaries.” They insist that “What is apparent is that the assumptive nature of that foundation continues to present a congruence of activity which in itself belie the organic composition that should be visible in a zoning formation.”
They argue that the “very idea of zoning in Delta State conflicts its known characterization with a content only attuned to the realization of the objectives of a single individual. It was never designed as a consensus of vested stakeholders who were equally more concerned for an upward, high scale development of personnel and infrastructures of Delta State with Asaba as capital.” They insist that “Its intrinsic value was merely to emphasize the superiority of an agenda which demands unalloyed submission and obedience with the propensity to press for unquestionable collaboration with a prebendary and patronage strangle hold.”
According to the center in its press release they said zoning conceives of power as a political inheritance mechanism which should exclude groups and social classes from effective and full participation in political and elective activities. The essential highlight of this characterization was to inculcate an intended tradition which puts political power in a zone and continuously so, while Asaba thrives in the illusion of a State capital that is largely left undeveloped and denied access to fitting infrastructures.” They said that it was only “after Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa’s government was elected that the State began to experience some vestige of civil and infrastructural life in Asaba.” They argue that “construction of a maze of road for the capital city as well as drainages which should naturally attract governmental intervention, for a state capital that share a similar geographical destiny with lokoja kogi State, only began with the government of Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa. This obvious indifference to Asaba,” according to them. “reflects the idiosyncratic attitude of what the zoning agenda was intended to accomplish.”
The center became critical with the views expressed by Prof Oyovbaire, a former Minister of Information who said that “Governor Ifeanyi Okowa emerged as the Governor of Delta State not just because he was competent, focused and an ika man, but because it was the turn of the North” They insist that this “hypothesized retort only reflects the methodology of the zoning agenda.” They said “Oyovbaire whose Okpe people are victims of the dominant Urhobo hegemony seemed to have been unaware of an Urhobo Progressive Union Delta 2015 Governorship “Uvwiamuge Declaration we stand.” They referred to a significant section of the Declaration signed by its 2015 publicity Secretary Chief Mike Okenini JP, which according to the center “made no pretense of its preferences when it declared inter alia”
We have serious concerns about the events of the past few weeks in the race to succeed the Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Udughan in 2015. That is why it has become necessary to reiterate our position on this very important issue that will determine the future of our dear State.
The Declaration went further to accentuate its derived political authority when it unequivocally made the point that;
the present National Executive Council of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) was elected by delegates drawn from all the kingdoms of urhobo land to a free and fair poll, so adjudged by all contestants (winners and losers alike), thereby conferring on the UPU EXCO the powers to represent the Urhobo people and to speak on their behalf on all matters bordering on their welfare, be it traditional, political and social economic.
The center insisted that “to the extent that this derived authority conferred on it the rights to make declaration that is binding on the Urhobo nation, the Uvwiamuge Declaration asseverated its agenda which seemed to be at variance with the contrived emergency retort of Prof Oyovbaire” Quoting this 2015 Uvwiamuge Declaration;
In pursuance of the above mandate expressly and freely given to us, we after thoroughly evaluating the position of the Urhobo people in the present Delta State and Nigeria, held a meeting on Friday March 28 2014, at the UPU cultural center in Uvwiamuge Agbarho, with traditional rulers and representatives from all the kingdoms, political class, businessmen, youths, and women in their thousands, issued a communique in which we make a solemn declaration that the Urhobo nation will produce the Governor of Delta State in 2015.
The center argues that “importantly and without further exerting pressure on this point, and tried as it has done to blur its epistemological posturing implicated in the discursive bridge between its reactionary political ideology and its present attempt to play to an imagined political gallery, it is usually difficult for quasi authoritarian sentiments to conceal its hideous extra sectional and petty allegiances and loyalties.”
Embarking on a rundown of cases of political party representation in Delta State, the center held that “beyond the PDP we see the Urhobo hegemony play out in the choice of political capital among other opposition parties in the State, where the pattern of representation has continued to reflect the urhobo belief that while Asaba holds out as a nominal undeveloped State capital it will not relinquish its hold on the Gubernatorial seat to any other group.” The center further makes the case that “What is also apparent and what we can infer is that this urhobo reactionary appeal evinced in its textual position, resembles what we can refer to as a heightened form of command architecture which pleads to sectional sentiments,” a tendency it said had been aptly captured by Zeleza Tiyambe to facilitate “the production of power by the political class through fostering the divisive power of communal consciousness and foreclosing the disruptive power of class and other solidarities while threatening the integrative imperatives of nation building.”
They insist that “the context and contour of this Urhobo rapacious political banditry, which is premised on politics of marginalization, that is that which consigns the political future of other ethnic people, only as a footnote to Urhobo history or as victims of politics provided the basis of the appropriation of ethnic nationalism sentiments.” Making a case for people to have a rethink on the subject of ethnicity, the center held that “different as its structures and content portends, ethnicity micro manages group recognition in the context of dispersal among dominant groups.” They argue that “ethnicity is not tribalism. It is about identities built on the construct of solidarity, consensus and socially developed hierarchies where its power of subsistence evolves from society.” They said “Ethnicity is the product of actions undertaken by ethnic groups as they shape and reshape their group definition.”
According to the center, “Ethnicity is never about subjection or manipulation or even still the preponderance of self over the whole, ethnicity recognizes servant leaders and leans to them for political direction. It utilizes identity and culture as basic building blocks for both national and sub national development.” They said that “What makes the issue of identity particularly acute is that it touches not only on politics but also on economics and the organizational capacity for a self-generating and sustainable development from within.” They insist that “through the construction of identity and culture, ethnicity attempts to address the problematics of ethnic boundaries and meanings and by so doing universalize representation to ethnic category in which every people no matter their size and distribution can a play a constructive role in the development of the state in a way that would significantly reduce tension, foster cooperation and facilitate the process of sub national development.” It is in this context that the center said that “ethnicity serves as a dynamic, constantly evolving property of both individual identity and group organization.”
Concluding its analysis of the structure of zoning and ethnicity, class content, implied dialectics of opposites, the nature of society and the mutual influence they foist on social political attitudes, the center for research and democratic governance, observed that “it is apparent that the claim that Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa emerged as a product of a 2015 PDP zoning is fraudulent.” They said “Gov. Okowa’s was a product of the aggregation of a political will exerted by a renascent group who see Urhobo continued claim to the gubernatorial seat as a threat to civilized political permutation and who in its wisdom thought that after power had revolved around the circus of a biological family for sixteen years, it only makes a case for equity to allow that power to devolve to the Ika ethnic bloc, who as a border people on the boundaries of Edo State, rightly deserves the seat as conciliatory to the discursive political bridge it has maintained between Anioma, as boundary to Anambra State and the rest of us.
Dr Akpesiri Egwhujovbo is Executive Director, Centre for Research and Democratic Governance.