Funso Adeolu refocuses the debate the proposed zoning of the governorship in Abia State has generated
The recent pronouncement by the Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, to the effect that he would support the Ukwa/Ngwa zone of the state to produce the next governor of the state is already generating ripples. The governor had promised that he would support the candidature of anyone from that zone that aspires to the office of the governor come 2015.
As expected, this has drawn different reactions from all Abia people across all political divides. There are those who see the pronouncement of the governor as one which would cement the peace and harmony of the state and there are those who feel the governor must have made that declaration in good faith. But as the cacophony of conflicting voices threaten to drown the silent sound of reason, perhaps it may be pertinent to look at the different shades of opinion on the matter.
‘Time for Ukwa/Ngwa Governor…’
One of the very first groups to react to the governor’s pronouncement was a group by the name Ukwa/Ngwa Grassroots Youth Forum. In a full page advertorial in the Vanguard Newspaper of Monday October 21, 2013, the group had thanked the governor for his promise to support that zone to produce the next governor of the state come 2015. The advertorial, signed by Hon. Okey Nwachukwu and Ngozi Nwadeyi, national president and deputy national president respectively, of the Forum, claimed that the state had only two recognised political blocs since creation in 1991.
These, according to the group, were Old Umuahia Division (Old Bende Bloc) and Old Aba Division (Ukwa/Ngwa bloc) and the group therefore, called on “old Bende political bloc to respect and honour the Abia Charter of Equity which the founding fathers of the state met and decided for the purposes of peace, equity, justice and fair play in Abia State.”
The Forum submitted that it was misleading to arrange political blocs in the state on the basis of senatorial districts, claiming that some local governments within these two political blocs (Old Bende and Old Aba) actually fall within different senatorial districts which the Forum claim was electioneering delineations only. The Forum stated that senatorial delineations do not preclude local governments like Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South and Osisioma Ngwa from being part of the Old Aba political bloc.
According to the Forum, it was time for the old Bende division “to reciprocate our long standing gesture of patience by supporting our governor’s stand in having Ukwa/Ngwa person to become the governor of the state come 2015.”
The Forum claimed that political power has been within the eight local governments-Bende, Arochukwu, Ohafia, Isikuwato, Umunneochi, Ikwuano, Umuahia North and Umuahia South- since the creation of the state 22 years ago. It reminded the people of the state that no one from Ukwa/Ngwa has been elected governor of the state since its creation by the Ibrahim Babangida military administration in 1991.
Abia is More than Two Political Blocs…
As convincing as the argument of the Nkwa/Ngwa Grassroots Youth Forum in supporting the stand of Governor Orji on the next governor of the state sounds, there are those who are picking holes in it and also of the opinion that the next governor of the state should be based on merit alone and not about where the man or woman who is the governor comes from.
An indigene of the state who does not want his name in print explained that then name ABIA came from four names being abbreviated. These names, according to him, were Afikpo, Bende, Isukwato and Aba. He stated that, contrary to what the Ukwa/Ngwa Grassroots Youth Forum wanted the rest of the world to believe, it was agreed that the governorship of the state would be rotated within these four blocs and not two as the youth forum claimed.
“As at today, Afikpo had produced and also was Bende. Even if we are to follow those names in alphabetical order, then the next governor should come from Isukwato and not Aba. It is after this that an Aba person will become the governor.”
He claimed that an Afikpo person had ruled and also Bende, whose indigenes had had the governorship of the state for a combined 16 years. These were people like former governor Ogbonnaya Onu, the first civilian governor of the state, Orji Uzor Kalu and the incumbent, Theodore Orji.
Yet there are those who felt it should be on the basis of senatorial districts. A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the state, Chief Charles Nwangwa, has also rubbished claims that the 2015 governorship in the state has been zoned to either old Aba Province or Ukwa Ngwa. To him, it was the turn of Abia South Senatorial District to produce the next governor of the state, in line with the rotation arrangement of the party. While he admitted that it should come to Ukwa/Ngwa zone, it has to be the south senatorial district that should produce the candidate.
“People who are saying that it is not the turn of the Abia South Senatorial zone to govern the state in 2015 are conscious collaborators against the Ngwa people, which had been the bane of the Ngwa man. Equity, justice and fairness require that the next governorship seat goes to the Abia South senatorial zone. Abia South is now completely the Ukwa Ngwa stock.
The people who have been empowered all along are the other half. We have only had a federal appointment after 44 years. Since the creation of Abia State, no Ukwa Ngwa has ruled the state. In this Fourth Republic, the first governor of the state was Orji Uzor Kalu, who comes from Abia North. Currently, the governor is from Abia central. In 2015, the zoning is slated for Abia South senatorial district, which comprise of six local government areas.”
Quality, Not Zoning…
In all this, there are some voices of reason and caution, insisting that Abia State should start seeing beyond where the governor of the state comes from but rather look for quality candidate provided he or she is an indigene of the state. Amongst these voices is that of a prominent indigene of the state who does not want his name in print.
He said while he does not want to be drawn into unnecessary argument on the matter, it would be misleading for anyone to say that the Ukwa/Ngwa people had willingly conceded the governorship of the state to other zones in the state.
“That is not true,” the elder statesman stated, adding that “The fact of the matter is that each zone has always produced governorship candidates any time there is an election, including Ukwa/Ngwa people, thereby rubbishing the spirit of the rotation. So it is not correct that they have always conceded the seat to others. What Abia State needs now is the best and the right candidate to take over from the current governor.
The state needs to rise up to the 21st century development challenge. Let the best candidate with a proven track record of achievements emerge, sell his agenda to the people and if they find him worthy, elect him. We are tired of this rotation thing that produces mediocre candidates that are forcefully railroaded into office on the basis of godfatherism. ”
He further submitted that what has always been the bane of the Ukwa/Ngwa area of the state is that they always have selfish leaders who only see what will benefit them and not the common good. While he claimed to have nothing against the area, to him, Abia deserves better than zoning the governorship to any particular zone in 2015.