By Uzokwa Ebere
The inauguration of Okezie Victor Ikpeazu Ph.D as the executive governor will ever occupy a prominent corner in the historical rendition of Abia State. After decades of political struggles from the days of old Imo State, Dr. Ikpeazu from Obingwa in Ngwa-Ukwa region of the God’s Own State democratically climbed the gubernatorial throne on May 29, 2015.
The quest for the governorship power by the people of Ukwa-Ngwa had been a protracted struggle that took rigorous dimensions. Upon creating Abia on August 27, 1991, from the old Imo State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu on January 1993 took office as the first executive governor under the platform National Republican Convention (NRC).
On May 29, 1999, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu after his election also took oath of office as the second executive governor. That came after military incursion as Onu’s tenure was undemocratically terminated via coup d’tat on November 1993. The Bende-born businessman cum politician managed the affairs of the state for an uninterrupted eight years of two consecutive terms.
Upon completing his terms, Kalu, who hails from Abia North senatorial district, handed over to Chief Theodore Orji, popularly called ‘Ochendo Abia’ in the political arena. Ochendo is reputedly an illustrious son of Ibeku in Umuahia North LGA, Abia Central senatorial district. From May 2007, Sen. Theodore Orji now representing Abia Central in the red-chamber senate of the National Assembly, also governed the state for another uninterrupted eight years of two straight terms.
The gubernatorial advancement as at 2015 had unequally separated Abia South, originated by Ukwa-Ngwa people as the only senatorial zone left without occupying the coveted governorship position of the state. Nobody military officer from that axis was either appointed a military/sole administrator of a state while the military held sway.
As Ochendo was exiting from government house, the intrigues for power shift and democratic succession enveloped Abia polity thus creating an atmosphere of uncertainty for the politically traumatised Ukwa-Ngwa nation. Ochendo as then leader of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) was confronted with the onerous challenge of adopting an equity-driven and politically acceptable succession plan that will retain his party into power.
While equity and natural justice favoured Abia South, a segment of Ukwa-Ngwa nation comprising Isiala-Ngwa North, Isiala-Ngwa South and Osisioma that found themselves in Abia Central logically clamoured for inclusion. But, the leadership of PDP in Abia under Ochendo’s direction cleverly ruled against such extension on the grounds that such could domicile the governorship beyond 2015 to Abia Central after enjoying it for eight uninterrupted eight years (2007-2015).
A this point, the exiting Ochendo had already been cornered by some gubernatorial aspirants outside Abia South with some variables of advantage. Apparently relishing on their financial war chests and contacts, these aspirants pressurised Ochendo seeking that the gubernatorial contest be thrown open to all zones. Dr. Uche Ogah, an Abia illustrious son from Isuikwuato, Abia North, ignored all appeals and ended up contesting the 2015 PDP governorship primaries. Dr. Alex Otti, who combines Arochukwu in Abia North and Isiala Ngwa South in Abia Central origin, resigned his plum job as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer and contested the governorship under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) after he decamped from PDP.
Meanwhile, Ochendo, who today is prided as the father of modern Abia, affirmed his support for the people of Abia South stands on the grounds of equity, Justice and fairness. As then sitting governor, Ochendo cleverly directed and steered the PDP into toeing the honourable of path of equity and natural justice. In the end, the PDP officially proclaimed and zoned the 2015 governorship to Abia South.
The support given by other members of Ochendo’s family and kinsmen to the people of Ukwa-Ngwa towards clinching the governorship in 2015 was equally immeasurable. His son, Engr. Chinedum Orji, greatly influenced other Abia stakeholders including Abia youths into reaching a consensus at supporting Ochendo and the PDP in their passionate quest to have an Ngwa man become a governor in the history of Nigeria. Through the Abia Charter of Equity, Ochendo and Engr. Orji, also known as ‘Ikuku Abia’, mobilised well-meaning Abia stakeholders and electorate into supporting Abia South as well as voting Dr. Ikpeazu, who hails from Obingwa, Abia South.
This decision and uncommon display of statesmanship by Ochendo have largely stabilised and promoted Abia as an equity-governed state. A combination of honour and sincerity by father and son simply evolved a political process that created an opportunity for Dr. Ikpeazu and Ukwa-Ngwa nation to clinch the governorship of Abia State.
It is totally gratifying as history today projects Ochendo as the father of modern Abia who politically salvaged and emancipated the people of Ukwa-Ngwa after an excruciating disappointment by Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. As a region that counts 9 local government areas out 16 in Abia, the people of Ukwa-Ngwa supported Kalu in anticipation that he (Kalu) would endorse and support their 2007 governorship bid. Ex-Governor Kalu reneged as he settled for Ochendo.
But Ochendo being a man of his words and honour, insisted on shifting power to Ukwa-Ngwa by outrightly dismissing all that could have politically induced and arm-twisted him into toeing that Kalu’s dishonorable path. He entirely rejected Ogah and Otti as he starved them the ever precious ‘gubernatorial backing’. Standing firmly on the principles of equity, Ochendo unshakably stood with the people of Ukwa-Ngwa providing all forms of support and logistics to ensure that Dr. Ikpeazu democratically succeeded him as governor of Abia State.
Ochendo today is adorably respected and regarded by the people of Ukwa-Ngwa for the wonderful show of support and magnanimity. This accounts to the real reason the three Ngwa local government in Abia Central of Isiala-Ngwa North, Isiala-Ngwa and Osisioma have vowed to reward him with another round of electoral support as he seeks reelection to represent the people of Abia Central in 2019. In the same vein, Dr. Ikpeazu and other Ukwa-Ngwa leaders had equally chorused and agreed to give Ochendo all deserving support and strong political backing expected to sustain and keep him afloat in Abia’s political stream.
That is why the recent ‘Thank You’ rally which took place at Ngwa High School, Aba, was strategically staged to provide that window of reassurance hence Ukwa Leaders proclaimed their gratitude, love and endless support for Ochendo.
Recall that an Abia elder statesman and the leader of Ukwa-Ngwa, Elder Emmanuel Adaelu, had while delivering the message of his people thanked Senator Orji for standing firmly in the spirit of charter of equity to ensure an Ukwa/Ngwa son emerged in 2015.
Adaelu summarised his massage as thus: “We, the people of Ukwa/Ngwa are thanking you for standing firmly on the existing chapter of equity in ensuring that Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, a son of Ukwa/Ngwa emerged Abia governor in 2015 election.
“This is first of its kind in the history of Abia state that an Ukwa/Ngwa son became Governor of the state. For this singular gesture, we have resolved to massively support you, (Orji) for reelection in 2019 to continue your good and quality works in Abia central zone and the senate at large.
“Also for ensuring our son, Governor Ikpeazu emerges Governor in 2015, we will not relent in our support to ensure he is returned in 2019 to consolidate on the gains made so far him.”
That was exactly what Ochendo wanted to hear as preparations and intrigues for 2019 general elections gather momentum. The former governor will ever remain a happy man not necessarily for his kind and equitable gesture, but for the mere fact that his beneficiaries have genuinely continued to show appreciation as well as uphold that sense of gratitude. It is indeed a thing of joy that Ochendo Abia is democratically rewarded for sticking to equity. Abia shall remain God’s Own State.