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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Opinion Polling and Awka Leadership Crises

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Awka Times has introduced an opinion survey program to measure popular sentiment and ensure that the unfiltered voice of Awka people comes through amid the paroxysm of leadership rivalries wracking the Awka political class. These rivalries prevent this class, for the most part it seems, from pursuing an enlightened and dutiful engagement of the people’s business. We share here the initial results of our opinion survey, which will remain a running program across all of our platforms.

By Chudi Okoye

It is astonishing that in the maelstrom of political conflict that has engulfed Awka town for the better part of seven years (much longer, depending on who is counting), no one has yet tried to take the pulse of the people through anything resembling scientific measurement. In most civilized societies, periods of political uncertainty elicit frequent polling of popular opinion to ensure that the choices made by the political actors reflect the reality of community sentiment. In Awka, however, a confused community struggling to cope with the instability of its leadership institutions is left poorly informed and befuddled, often more cajoled than consulted on the issues of the day.

The political battles are being fought through concerted conspiracies, in the courts and in the media, with a razzle-dazzle of public relations and citizen allurement. But no one to our knowledge has asked the masses how they are doing, or what they think. At least, not in a statistically calibrated manner.

There are of course the occasional Izu Awka meetings convened amidst the raging battles, ostensibly to update and educate the public. But these forums have themselves apparently become gerrymandered, for the most part simply convened to advance some partisan agenda.

There is thus at least a theoretical need for an alternative means of measuring the opinion of the public, shorn of partisan orchestration, to allow for the glorious intrusion of popular sentiment into Awka political discourse.

Awka Times Magazine (ATM) is taking the first tentative steps to make this a reality. We have initiated a polling program to sample the opinion of Awka people on a range of contemporary issues. Of course, most Awka social media forums feature a fervent fare of opinionating on current issues, and these are arguably an important source for assessing public opinion. But Awka Times is attempting to formalize the process of opinion sampling.

The results of our first survey are illuminating.

Before sharing the results, however, it is necessary to say a word about the survey methodology. This is an opinion survey deployed on the Awka Times website and mobile app, and also extended to accessible social media forums. For this first study, we netted out at a self-selected, non-probability sample of 200. The survey engine is optimized to accept singular responses. Device browsers are stamped with identifier cookies when survey responses are submitted. These cookies are like digital signatures which are immediately detected if a repeat survey completion is attempted; the repeat attempt is nullified. In this way, we are able to forestall any round-tripping attempt.

However, while our survey respondents are unique, the demography of the sample subjects is unknown, beyond their attributes as online users.

Given the above, the results of our survey can be said to have mainly directional validity. We can use the results as pointers to popular sentiment. In due course, as the Awka Times survey program becomes better established, it will be based more on probabilistic sampling which will allow us to extrapolate our findings to the population with greater confidence.

Results of the Awka Times Opinion Survey

Many of the findings in the Awka Times survey are surprising. One of the most astonishing is the apparent attitude of Awka people to the very idea of a monarchy. For millennia, Awka community leadership was based on a kind of meritorious aristocracy blended with gerontocratic ideals which saw the Otochal Awka as the symbolic head of Awka political community. The idea of kingship was anathema to classical Awka society. But it seems now that the idea of having a monarchy, at least in the constricted construction of it in the Awka Traditional Ruler Constitution, has percolated into popular consciousness.

When asked if they support the idea of Awka having a traditional ruler in the form of an Eze Uzu, an eye-popping 87%, as seen in the chart below, affirm their support for the idea. Awka people appear now to be amenable to the idea of kingship. Only 11% are categorically opposed to the idea, with the rest unsure.

Perhaps, part of the reason for the overwhelming support for the traditional ruler institution is that Awka people have a specific idea what role they expect the institution to play. About 35% percent of the people consider that the most important role of an Eze Uzu is to promote unity among the indigenes. This is certainly an indictment of the divisive conflicts currently consuming the Awka traditional ruler institution.

A similar proportion, 34%, say that the role of the Eze Uzu is to promote Awka culture. This is instructive for those seeking undue Christianization of the Awka monarchical order. The Eze Uzu institution is seen as an embodiment of the people’s culture, the people as a kaleidoscopic entity. It is not there simply as a pedestal for the private beliefs of the Eze Uzu. The occupant of the Awka Stool should acknowledge and reflect the spectrum of Awka culture, according to this poll result, and not insist on their own parochial beliefs. A case is sometimes made that the Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and therefore that the Eze Uzu is free to practice his faith. That may be true, but it seems that Awka people are saying that one is free to practice one’s faith as a private person. But if one aspires to occupy the Awka Stool, one must be a cultural ambassador for Awka, and not instead use the Awka Stool to the benefit of a foreign culture, especially foreign religious beliefs.

One other finding from this survey question is that nearly a quarter of Awka people (22%) expect their Eze Uzu to help to drive Awka development. This is an important result, given the seemingly divergent opinion of the incumbent Eze Uzu and his challenger. When interviewed by Awka Times, the incumbent stated that he should not be expected to play a role in Awka development since he is not the governor of Anambra State (see Biting Words from Fighting Lords in this edition). He said that Awka people should aspire to attain that office in order to foster greater development of the town. The insurgent claimant of the Awka Stool however appears to believe the exact opposite. From his responses in the interview with Awka Times, he seems to see a more activist role for the occupant of the Awka Stool in development matters. This view seems to be in line with our survey finding.

Amid the roiling crisis of the Awka kingship institution, it is perhaps unsurprising that Awka people, having articulated their expectation of the monarch, resoundingly condemn the performance of the institution so far. Over 80% of the people rate the performance of the institution to be either “very poor” or “somewhat poor”. Only a meager 19% rate the institution’s performance to be “somewhat good”, and not even up to a percentage point rates it to be “very good”.

Given this verdict, it is perhaps not surprising that a significant majority – 66% – believe that Awka has not benefited from having a monarch, even though a vast proportion of Awka people support the monarchy.

Perhaps this is part of the reason for the split of opinion among Awka people when asked to state whom they regard as the legitimate current Eze Uzu. A plurality, 44%, say it is Eze Uzu II, Gibson Nwosu. But a close 39% insist that it is Ozo Austin Ndigwe who asserts a claim as Eze Uzu III.

Although it seems to be a close call in terms of whom the Awka people consider the legitimate Eze Uzu, there is no equivocation when it comes to the matter of Ozo institution. In the ensuing drama of Awka kingship crisis, which involved in part confrontations between Eze Uzu Gibson Nwosu and the ancient Ozo Awka society, a cast of characters in Awka leadership straggled off to form a new groupoid named Ozo Ivhe. This entity is now registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, whereas the ancient Ozo Awka society is still without statutory imprimatur.

Nevertheless, about two-thirds (66.7%) of Awka people consider the ancient Ozo Society as the legitimate Ozo grouping in Awka. The primordial Ozo Awka society no doubt has an advantage of familiarity whereas Ozo Ivhe branding is nascent. Not surprisingly, a miniscule 14% acknowledge both of the Ozo groupings as legitimate.

Similar to the views on institutional matters, Awka people are unequivocal on the issue of development. In fact, they are downright disparaging. Infrastructure is a particularly vexing issue for Awka people. Asked to assess the state of Awka infrastructure, a whopping 94% scored it to be “very poor”, and yet another 4% think “somewhat poor”. Awka people are thus almost unanimous in condemning the state of their town’s infrastructure.

The result is unsurprising given what Awka Times investigation uncovered. This edition of the magazine reports our findings (see Road Infrastructure Decay in Awka City, Policy Failure and the Slumification of Awka, and Interview With MD ACTDA). We have posted a gallery of professional pictures depicting the sordid state of Awka inner city. And a video documentary is also being packaged to further dramatize the dilapidation of infrastructure in the Awka capital city.

With Awka infrastructure in shambles, it is not surprising that Awka people have become doubtful about the benefits accruing from Awka status as a state capital. There had been much expectation of rapid development 28 years ago when Awka was selected as the capital of Anambra State. There was much jubilation. But today, as much as 78% of Awka people feel that the town has not benefited from being a state capital.

It is a dismal statistic. And the people are clear whom to blame for the abandonment of Awka town. Some 7% of Awka people do blame the successive Eze Uzus for the sorry state of the town they have led. But a vast majority, 66%, place the blame squarely on the state government which makes endless promises about the transformation of Awka but fails to fund the vision or fully execute the plan. But that still leaves a sizeable number not blaming the government. In fact a full quarter of Awka people, 25%, rather blame Awka Development Union Nigeria, the body tasked with driving Awka development. For years now, the union has been navel-gazing, mired in its own leadership squabbles while the town itself suffers. Evidently distracted by the fierce contest for power, those in the ADUN leadership have failed to mobilize Awka people or indeed to put pressure on government to get on with the development of Awka town. There is no coherent agenda for Awka transformation, or so it seemed from interviews with the principals in the ADUN palaver, save for their own personal contributions towards Awka affairs. Personal philanthropy is laudable, and those leaders who give of their personal purse must be commended. However, philanthropy should be a complement to, and not serve as a substitute for, a coherent policy agenda. Such clear-eyed policy agenda is urgently needed, complete with detailed studies and formalized blueprints for the development of Awka town.

But it does not seem, from our investigation, that the imagination of the ADUN leadership contenders currently rises to that level of policy sophistication. Perhaps this is the reason why a vast majority of Awka people, 77%, rates the performance of ADUN to be “very poor” or “somewhat poor”, and why a majority, 55%, does not believe that Awka has benefited at all from having ADUN.

With such heavy disapprobation, it is not surprising why a majority of Awka people do not countenance any of the current contenders for ADUN leadership. When asked whom they consider to be the President-General of ADUN, a question that has seen much litigation and caused much instability in Awka politics, a clear majority of the people, 55%, dismiss all the contenders and say that ADUN has not extant PG! Only 21% acknowledge Dr Amobi Nwokafor as PG, while only 14% regard Engr Tony Okechukwu as such.

It is clear that the leadership contest within ADUN is bothering the people of Awka who see the protracted squabble as the major obstacle to Awka development. A majority of the people cite solving the ADUN crisis as the most important factor to promote Awka development. A smaller but significant proportion, 18%, cite the resolution of the kingship crisis.

Waiting until an Awka person becomes governor is seen as a far less important variable for near-term development of Awka town. This finding contradicts the statement of the incumbent Eze Uzu to the effect that Awka development must await the installation of an Awka person as governor of the state.

The data from Awka Times opinion survey tells the story of a disappointed populace, hurting from the neglect of their town by the state government, and the apparent focus of the political gladiators on their personal hurts and their own careers rather than rolling up their sleeves to bat for the town.

Awka Times will continue to survey the people’s opinion. Hopefully, in some small way, this could change the focus of the political contenders and their rabble of unquestioning supporters.

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