By Kalu Anaga
We are in a democracy. That entails freedom of speech, association and religion. Democracy guarantees us the right to vote and to be voted for. The 1999 Constitution (as amended) has set out the relevant qualifications for contestation of various elective offices. In other words, nobody who is qualified under the law is barred from contesting any office. But the electorate reserve the right to elect or not elect the person.
That being the case, the brouhaha being orchestrated by our Ngwa brothers in the run-up to the 2023 governorship election in Abia State appears to be totally unnecessary. We are not in a war. Contrary to the submission by a faceless group calling itself Umunneato Ngwa Vanguard, nobody from Abia North or the old Bende Division has ever stopped any of them from running for the office of the governor, from 1991 to date. As the group unwittingly admitted, Ngwa people have been contesting the Abia governorship seat even when there had been zoning among the various political parties. Although the group acknowledged that the Ngwa sons had lost because of lack of resources and connection, it turned around to blame their failure on sitting governors, thus playing the card of victims. That was a low low for a people canvassing to be considered for the plum post.
It is unfortunate that even when the Constitution recognises zones, the Ngwa irrendentists are hell-bent on dragging us back to the era of divisions for the purposes of administration and allocation of seats. The divisions were all abolished in 1960. What is made of Abia North today comprises old Bende Division, Isuikwato Division and Arochukwu, which was in Enyong Creek Division, under Calabar Province. Are our Ngwa brothers arguing that both Arochukwu and Isuikwato cannot produce the governor since they are not part of the old Bende and Aba divisions? I don’t think so.
I don’t also think that greed and intoxication of power are driving the Ngwa area to repudiate the Abia Charter of Equity, which favours Abia North in producing the next governor. Although it may be said that zoning is unconstitutional, but it was initiated by both political parties and elders of states and senatorial zones to peacefully rotate power for the interest of justice, equity and development. Anyone in Abia who feins ignorance of this for political expediency simply wants to destroy the state.
Indeed, as soon as the state was created in 1991, the elders came up with the Abia Charter of Equity. In 1999, the contest for the governorship was an all-comers affair. People from the three senatorial zones of Abia North, Abia South and Abia Central contested. Contrary to the submission of the Ngwa group that their people made sacrifices, nothing of such happened. In PDP, Orji Uzor Kalu overwhelmed other aspirants, including Dr. Sampson Esochaghi from Umunneato Ngwa. Prince Vincent Ogbulafor from Abia Central triumphed in APP. At the main election, Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia North won.
No sane person can blame Orji Uzor Kalu for the political failure of any group. In truth, the former governor started the holistic implementation of the Abia Charter of Equity while his successor, Senator T.A. Orji consolidated it. Orji Uzor Kalu publicly declared that the next governor of the state ought to come from Abia Central. That included the Umunneato Ngwa of Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South and Osisioma. At no time did he exclude any of the local governments from the zone.
It is very instructive that when T.A. emerged as governor, he had taken the slot of Abia Central. That was why he categorically declared that, after him, the next governor would come from Abia South senatorial zone, hence the emergence of Okezie Ikpeazu. Even with these smooth transitional arrangements, Ngwa people sought to torpedo them by presenting themselves at any of the elections. Comrade Chris Akomas and Reagan Ufomba contested against T.A. Perhaps they failed because they lacked the resources and connection, as admitted to by the Ngwa group.
Incidentally, it was the connection of the so-called Bende people in the person of T.A. Orji that made it possible for their son to become governor in 2015. It is still fresh in the minds of Abia people how the Ngwa bloc remonstrated to their brothers in Abia North and Abia Central to support Ikpeazu for a second tenure in 2019. Their political leaders and traditional rulers signed documents affirming that power should go to Abia North in 2023, if Ikpeazu is allowed a second tenure. They worshipped on the altar of Abia Charter of Equity. Today, they have run to a strange god of old Aba Division. Today, they have become the proverbial monkey that refused to release the cup with which he was served water.
But no problem. They are boasting of having nine local governments, as against eight from Abia North and part of Abia Central. They are also boasting of having more than one million registered voters. But what they fail to realise or what they conveniently forgot is that half of the registered voters they bandy about are from Abia North, Anambra, Imo and Ebonyi states. They also forgot that non-indigenes have always won elections in Aba North and Aba South local governments. If they had that power, how come they could not produce the governor of the state until T.A. stepped in in 2015 to beg people to cede power to Abia South? At any rate, I believe that 2023 will settle the matter once and for all as regards who is who in Abia.
But it would be a mistake on the part of His Excellency, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, to allow his people to goad him into repudiating the Abia Charter of Equity. They are rumours that he favours Abia Central but wants Umuahia North excluded. That would be unjust and a direct attack on his benefactor. If it must go to Abia Central, then all the six local governments there must contest. Those who are inciting the governor to commit political suicide do not love him. Their prurile argument is that Ikpeazu has nothing to lose. That’s not true. He will have a lot to lose, if his integrity and political future are sacrificed on the altar of ethnic jingoism. But His Excellency will leave a legacy of peace and stability, if he upholds the Abia Charter of Equity, which ushered him into office, by supporting Abia North to succeed him in 2023.
•Anaga writes from Ohafia