Abia guber zoning controversies

By Ochereome Nnanna on

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As the nation inches closer to the 2015 general elections, the issue of zoning of the gubernatorial seats in the states has thrown up complex political intrigues.
The case of Abia State is very interesting indeed. Like every other state, it is divided into three senatorial districts: Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South. But before the senatorial zones were carved out, what is today known as Abia State was composed of two provincial blocs: Bende and Aba. Bende is the home of the pan-Umuahia communities: Bende, Ozuitem, Ugwueke, the Akoli clans, Isuikwuato, Umunnato (Igbere, Alayi and Item), Abiriba, Nkporo, Ohafia, Abam, Ututu, Ihechiowa and Arochukwu. The Aba group consists of the seven local government areas populated by the Ngwa people and two others belonging to Ukwa people. The Aba group as a political bloc is also known as “Ukwa-Ngwa”.
Since Abia State was created in 1991, the Bende section has produced the two governors that have served the state since 1999: Chief Orji Kalu and the incumbent, Chief TA Orji (Ochendo Global). By the unwritten but well-acknowledged “Abia Charter of Equity”, well-meaning Abians who are committed to justice and unity of the state are unanimously agreed that it is now the turn of the former Aba Province (the Ukwa-Ngwa people) to produce the next governor of Abia State. In fact, the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State, Governor Orji, went to Aba on February 3, 2014 and officially declared that the next governor of Abia State will come from the old Aba Province, home of the Ukwa-Ngwas. He said Abia will stay true to its zoning formula. “That being the case”, he pledged: “I reiterate that the next governor shall come from the Ukwa-Ngwa … this is the time for the freedom of Ukwa-Ngwa people because they are the only group yet to govern the state”.
The Governor added a very useful piece of advice: “Just go and organise yourselves for this cause. I would not like to have problems among you. Organise yourselves”.
The Governor gave this wise counsel in view of the fact that the Ukwa-Ngwa people of Abia State, with their nine out of 17 local government areas, have failed to “grab” the governorship (as the North and Umuahia area of Central were able to do) due mainly to infighting, pettiness, divisions, pull-him-down syndrome and politics of mutual exclusion which their political elite have always played. The Ngwa person has always been his own greatest political enemy.

Sadly, these tendencies are already in play in Ukwa-Ngwaland. It comes in two forms. The first is that the political interests in the Abia South Senatorial Zone have been claiming that the governorship was zoned to them. In other words, they would have it that the people of the three local government areas in Abia Central, who are also of the Ukwa-Ngwa stock, are no longer eligible to vie for governor since Governor Orji is from Umuahia (Bende) clan of Abia Central.
Two major political actors, Dr .Alex Otti (who is speculated to be interested in running for governor on the PDP platform and Senator Nkechi Nwogu (who has already publicly declared her ambition for the same post) will be “disqualified” from the race if the people pushing this agenda have their way.
Isiala Ngwa is said to be the cradle and ancestral homeland of all Ngwa people. It does not make sense to exclude them from the privilege reserved for all Ukwa and Ngwa people simply because of the political convenience of lumping them with Umuahia people in the same senatorial zone. It will reduce them to a perpetually marginalised artificial minority in Ngwa politics. Since the zoning formula is to give the entire Ukwa and Ngwa people the opportunity to present the next governor of Abia State, the ploy to exclude the Ngwa people in Abia Central will create a new crisis point in the state if allowed to stand. I will explain shortly.
The second leg of this emerging politics of exclusion is that Dr. Alex Otti, who hails from Umuoru, Umuehim in Nvosi, Isiala Ngwa Local Government Area, is being portrayed by some political groups in Ngwa as ineligible to vie on Ukwa-Ngwa platform because his ancestors were originally from Arochukwu! Alex’s father, Pastor Lazarus Otti, a cleric of the Seventh Day Adventist and school teacher, was born in Umuoru, Umuehim Nvosi, Isiala Ngwa. He spent all his life in Ngwa, where he worked and raised his family. He never visited Aro even one day. When he died he was buried in Umuehim. So was his wife. Alex was also born, grew up and schooled in Ngwa and Aba. He did not leave his homeland until he went to the University of Port Harcourt.
When he became a prominent banker, Aro people lobbied him to come and build a house in Arochukwu, the original land of his ancestors, which he did. Today, he has also built a bigger house on his father’s land in Umuoru, Umuehim, Ehi Na Uguru where he hosted guests who attended the grand reception staged for him by the 145-strong Oha Ngwa Council of Traditional Rulers in Isieketa, Isiala Ngwa recently.
In spite of Alex’s affirmation by his 78 year-old traditional ruler, HRM Eze Edward Emenelu Eluwa and other royal fathers as a “freeborn” of Ngwa, and reaffirmations on radio by the Ukwa-Ngwa Victory Youth Movement that Alex has the blessing of Ngwa people to pursue his ambition as a true Ngwa son, some political interest groups have continued to dub him as an “Aro man” with a view to excluding him from the governorship race.
These shadowy groups seeking to exclude certain Ukwa Ngwa sons and daughters for their selfish interest must bear two things in mind.
Number one is that they will not be the people to choose for Abia who will be their governor. Rather, it is the entire Abia people, through stakeholders in the various political parties that will choose from among Ukwa-Ngwa people, the person to succeed Governor Orji. They will choose THE MOST QUALIFIED Ukwa-Ngwa candidate WITH PROVEN TRACK RECORDS, who will unite the state and build upon the solid foundation that Governor Orji, is laying.
Secondly, apart from the Ukwa-Ngwa section of the Abia community, we still have the Old Bende section, as well as the non-indigenes constituency. These two sections will not allow any Ukwa or Ngwa “hawk” to become their governor. Those engaging in politics of exclusion are presenting themselves as “hawks”. The Old Bende and non-indigenes are wary of electing an Ngwa extremist who might turn Aba into another Port Harcourt, where Ikwerre people, who now say they are not Igbos, have turned Igbos into strangers in Port Harcourt; a city built with the wealth and sweat of Igbo people.
The fear of Aba under an Ngwa irredentist governor is real, based on recent unpalatable experiences. It pays all Ngwa politicians to set everyone at ease both within and outside their homeland in order for them to produce the next governor of Abia State. If, due to their political indiscretion the Isiukwuato candidates out-manoeuvre them, they will only have themselves to blame!


Posted on July, 22 2014

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