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    Abia 2023: Of purported endorsements and the zoning debate

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    Apr 9, 2022

    Electioneering periods are always interesting. The periods provide some momentary jobs as faceless groups emerge to endorse purportedly anointed candidates. The recent weeks have been interesting in Abia politics. Speculations have been rife of blessings bestowed on some governorship aspirants. And, as usual, there have been swift visits to these anointed aspirants. This makes the game more interesting as the days unfold.

    Politics cannot be separated from all these. In 2015, similar groups, one under the aegis of Ukwa Ngwa One Million man March also paid a solidarity visit to the then governor, Senator Theodore Orji. If none of these takes place in this current season, something is amiss.

    The groups have resurrected once again. Few days back, a group led by a former deputy speaker of the state, under the aegis of Ukwa la Ngwa Elders, went to prod a former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University to join the governorship race of the state. They said that he is the most qualified candidate for the position. This is simply because of the speculations that the VC has received some anointing from above.

    For this group, it is the normal route and job. They undergo metamorphosis each political dispensation. This qualified as “the road most traveled that leads to nowhere.” It is simply a merry-go-round.

    One issue that has generated serious controversy recently is the purported zoning of the governorship ticket to Abia Central and North zones of the state. The purported zoning arrangement by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as was highly expected, has been trailed by untold negative reactions.

    It has received serious knocks from several prominent quarters. One argument is that zoning of the magnitude should be specific and not ambiguous. Two, according to political pundits, is that the purported zoning was designed to shut down the ambitions of the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe to rule the state in 2023.

    The first to knock the purported zoning is Senator Abaribe. In his reaction: “It is obvious that the statement was merely formulated to exclude me from the contest. By virtue of section 42(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, no person or body can exclude me (Nma Agha Ndigbo) from contesting and winning the 2023 elections in Abia State.

    All PDP members and Abia citizens are therefore urged to remain calm and participate in the forthcoming congresses and primaries where your voice will be heard as we dismantle the cabal that want to keep Abians subjected to further years of imposition. It is only Abians that will decide who will be their Governor in 2023″.

    Senator Adolphus Wabara, former Senate President and Secretary, Board of Trustees (BoT) of PDP, expressed surprise that the party could take such a far-reaching decision without first convening a meeting of the State caucus and party elders.

    In his words: “PDP is a party that has constitution. So, I don’t know where they got the whole idea from. As far as I’m, and many other leaders of this party are concerned, they did not summon a meeting of the caucus.

    “I’m not sure other leaders attended any caucus meeting not to talk of attending any Elders Council meeting where such decisions were reached”.

    Abaribe’s ambition to govern Abia State in 2023 has unsettled many camps, and equally, many nerves are now restless by that ambition. As expected, fears are not borne out of nothing expected because of the calibre of the personality that is behind the ambition.

    Borrowing from the biblical litotes that “Tarsus is no mean city,” Senator Abaribe is no mean personality as long as Nigerian politics is involved. In his home state, Abaribe commands what could be best described as a cult followership. The massive crowd that graced the reception by his kinsmen few days after his formal declaration for the governorship race at Ahiaba High School, Obingwa LGA, is a glaring testimony of his enviable profile.

    There is a consensus making waves currently in Abia that Abaribe has paid his dues as far as Igbo politics is concerned. He has remained a strong and consistent voice in championing the Igbo cause and at any given time, highlighting the injustices meted on the Igbo race. A feat which many political analysts and observers believe has given him far edge among his fellow contenders in his present. For a staunch political analyst and a PDP stalwart in the state, “other contenders have multiple miles to cover.”

    On the other hand, Abaribe’s involvement in the IPOB struggle by standing surety for Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the presently incarcerated leader of the group, is a very big puzzle for other contenders to resolve. This, according to an analyst,” is a mountain too big for any other contender in the race to climb”. It amounts to any contender swimming against the tide. “Abaribe is indeed an iroko,” the analyst explained.

    It will be recalled that from 2002 or there about, some Ukwa-Ngwa nation activists waged a struggle demanding a power shift to the enclave, which they said had not tasted the governorship position in the state right from the military era. The champion of the struggle was Senator Abaribe, who even contested for the governorship position in the platform of All People’s Party in 2003, which was later rechristened All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Abaribe lost in the election, but the spirit of the Ukwa-Ngwa struggle was not lost.

    As predictions and forecasts can never be pushed to the background in the affairs of human beings, politics not in exception, questions have started agitated minds if this is the time nature wants to reward Abaribe for the struggle he initiated years back. On this, let us keep our fingers crossed as events unfolding in the subsequent months will only determine.

    Another argument going for Abaribe is that if he emerged as the governor of Abia state that he is going to adjust a lot of things to the positive angle. It is highly suggested that he is the only character that has the capacity to turn around situation of things in the state presently.

    But like every other argument which must possess a flip side, there are arguments that Abaribe would witness a strong opposition from some powers in state who depend on handouts from state treasury, which derogatorily is referred to as “blood tonic” to survive. But the assumption is that Senator Abaribe has enormous capacity to contain this enormous challenge.

    Argument in favour of Senator Abaribe’s candidacy is stretched to the point that the Igbo nation urgently requires another governor in the mould of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who has just emerged governor of Anambra State, in terms of intellectualism and clout, to strengthen the Igbo nation’s hold in the schemes of political affairs in the country. This they say, Abaribe fits in perfectly.

    Recently, the zoning debate has assumed a sore point in Abia politics. Reacting some media comments credited to Dr. Eme Okoro, Don Ubani wrote:”Intelligence allegedly had it then that three of them had strongly cautioned Governor Kalu never to have any form of confidence in any Abian that was not of Old Bende origin. The same intelligence reportedly reminded Governor Kalu that the late first Nigeria’s Military Head of State, General J T U Aguiyi-Ironsi, an indigene of Old Bende from Ibeku, was assassinated because of his trust in non-Igbo Military Officers.

    “Reportedly, it was the three Musketeers that drew up ‘the Old Bende Agenda’ for Governor Orji Uzor Kalu. The resume of the Old Bende Agenda’, according to their projection, was to hold power in perpetuity in Abia State, not minding what Abia Charter of Equity implied. The goal of that invisible Old Bende Advisory Council was to make sure people from Old Aba Division were marginalized, emasculated and ridiculed in whatever position they were given in Governor Kalu’s Government.

    Read also: Abia 2023 guber race: Aspirant appeals to party leadership to avoid imposition

    “By the dictates of Abia Charter of Equity, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu should have handed over power to a successor from Old Aba Division. Even Governor Kalu openly agreed to this written understanding at Aba Township Stadium about November 2002 when Chief Reagan Ufomba organised a very colourful and well attended Ukwa/Ngwa Declaration. Unknown to the Peoples of Old Aba Division, all was a deceit.

    “Therefore, in 2007, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu perfected the Old Bende Agenda sold to him by the trio of Dr Eme Okoro, Chief M D Ofo and late Sir Bob Ogbuagu. Contrary to the intendment and understanding inherent in Abia Charter of Equity, Governor Kalu enthroned another indigene of Old Bende in the person of Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji, from Ibeku-Umuahia, as Governor of the State in 2007.

    “It would be recalled that Eme Okoro was among those that had fallen out with Governor Kalu before the 2007 Governorship election. He, however, did not deviate from the agenda of holding power in perpetuity by the people of Old Bende. In pursuit of that horrendous agenda, he was a strong pillar of support for the Governorship Ambition of yet another indigene of Old Bende, Onyema Ugochukwu from Ohuhu in Umuahia”.

    What could be deducted by the above statements by Don Ubani is that the “Abia Charter of Equity” is more of a ruse. Because, if as alleged by Don Ubani the likes of Eme Okoro and cohorts ganged and thwarted the power shift to Old Aba division when Orji Uzor Kalu completed his eight years (two terms) in 2007, the good intentions of the founding fathers of Abia was highly defeated and this has rendered any argument proposing power shift to Abia North null and void.

    What is decipherable here is that power should remain in Old Aba Division, comprising the nine local government areas of Ngwa and Ukwa ethnic nationalities. But now, another argument has popped up. And the argument is that while the retention by the Old Aba Division to complete the 16 years the Old Bende did remains non- negotiable, the best hands with the right exposure and intellect should be mobilised for this onerous task despite which section of the divide the candidate is coming from, whether from the Ngwa extraction of Abia Central or Abia South.

    What buttresses this argument is that the Abia situation is critical and demands urgent attention to bail. Like an analyst posits” the situation is critical and demands urgent steps to resolve. What Abia needs in 2023 is a stabilising force that would beat certain things that have gone wrong in the state to shape. What is most important is that there is an unjust status quo in the state that demands urgent dismantling. Abians should vehemently oppose imposition of candidates at all cost because it has remained our albatross and has kept us where we are today.

    “It is only a person like Senator Abaribe who enjoys widespread love and respect among all Abians irrespective of the divide they come from can unite Abians in the quest to uproot the hegemony foisted on Abians since 1999”.

    Flowing from the above assertion, another debate surfaces: Abia is in a serious crossroads and requires a formidable candidate to address. In the midst of this argument, the pointer is looking towards the direction of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.

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