By Vincent Kalu
When the Federal Military Government, led by General Ibrahim Babangida, announced the creation of Abia State on August 27, 1991, the people of Aba, Bende, Isuikwuato, and Afikpo zones rejoiced, because it signaled a further advancement of governance closer to the people.
It meant that residents of the region would no longer have to travel between Owerri and far-flung areas like Ohafia, Arochukwu, Ukwa etc, to interact with the state government. It was a relished scenario. The creation of the state, on the other hand, created a new dimension of relationship, which is proclivity for conflict, rancor, and bitterness- a natural trapping of agglomerating culturally and traditionally different people under the same political unit. However, the founding fathers of the state, through their stunning and uncommon wisdom, embarked on an ingenious political engineering and created a template for upholding fairness, equality and for avoiding domination and alienation in both infrastructural and political development to promote peaceful co-existences among the formation units of the state of Abia.
This was expressed in what is today widely known as the Abia Charter of Equity.
The Charter was intended to promote even development and equitable distribution of amenities and political positions in the new state. The Charter stipulates, among other things, that the Abia governor and his deputy must not be from the same senatorial zone; that the governor and State Assembly speaker, as well as the governor and secretary to the state government, must not be from the same senatorial zone; and that the chairman of the civil service commission and the head of service must not be from the same senatorial zone.
Therefore, it is obvious from the foregoing that the document envisages sharing and distribution of power based on senatorial zones which remains the prevailing political division of power on the state level in Nigeria. Each of the 36 states in Nigeria has equal representation at the Senate, which is why each state produces three senators for the Federal Republic of Nigeria without prejudice to population and year of creation.
However, there have recently been deliberate and/or calculated ploys to obfuscate Abia citizens into misinterpreting the document in order to either hold on to power or lay claim to the Abia governorship position in 2023.
In order to retain power in 2023, the Ukwa Ngwa Clan, for example, has incorrectly asserted that the Charter envisages power rotating between the Old Bende and Ukwa Ngwa clans. In their mendacious prevarication, they are consolidating the terms held by both former Governors Orji Uzo Kalu and Theodore Orji to mean 16 years for the Old Bende division, arguing that the Ukwa Nkwa (which is the Aba division), should also do 16 years.
Furthermore, the Isuikwuato axis has falsely claimed that the Charter contemplated power sharing among the zones that comprised the ABIA acronym.
That is a blatant lie.
It would have been more auspicious for the axis, which rightfully belongs to Abia North, to unite voices in advocating full adherence to the spirit of the Abia Charter of Equity, rather than exuding staccato voices.
While there may have been drawbacks in putting the Charter’s philosophies into practice, it has been meticulously followed in the election of Abia Governor since 1999. Senator Orji Uzo Kalu (Abia North) was in charge from 1999 to 2007, Senator Theodore Oji (Abia Central) was in charge from 2007 to 2015, and Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (Abia South) assumed control in 2015 and will serve until 2023. This has been the well-ordered pattern for the past 21 years, and it has not been disrupted. When an attempt was made to disrupt the sequence, the voice of reason and caution rose. On August 27, 2018, during the 27th anniversary of the State’s creation held at the International Conference Centre Umuahia, the then Chairman of the Abia State Advisory Council, Ezeogo Dr. Anagha Ezikpe, who was one of the Abia State founding fathers and the Secretary of the Stakeholders Forum that agreed on the Charter, stated unequivocally: “…in the spirit of the charter of equity, political power in the state had rotated around all three senatorial districts, with Abia North taking the first shot, followed by Abia Central and Abia South, where it now resides.”
If we are to maintain equity, fairness, and inclusiveness, the current agitation by both the Ohafia and Isuikwuato clans for Abia Governorship in 2023 is legitimate to the extent that the two communities are part and parcel of Abia North senatorial zone. However, when a sore-legged group is designated for an assignment based on their condition, they reselect and reassign roles to themselves, based on the severity of their ailment as well. If Abia North believes that equity and fairness are what is needed for them to take another shot at the governorship in 2023, then they should be bold enough to accept that fairness and equity should also be used to determine which clan will produce the next Abia State governor.
The Isuikwuato clan has held several political positions in contemporary Nigerian government and politics. In 1976, the late Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu was the governor of Old Imo State. In 1984, Retired General Ike Nwachukwu also governed the Old Imo State. He was Minster of Foreign Affairs and a Senator representing Abia North from 1999 to 2003. Captain Osondu was appointed military administrator of Cross River State. Retired General Ihejirika was a Chief of Army Staff, and currently, Dr. Sampson Uche Ogah from Uturu is holding the Abia State slot for the Ministerial position.
For Ohafia, the late Chief Ojo Maduekwe was probably the only political officer that Ohafia has gotten in the contemporary Abia politics. Chief Ojo was the minister of Transport, Culture and Foreign Affairs. So, let equity run its full cycle, let fairness complete its turn. Only in this way can we successfully pursue this quest.