As stakeholders prepare for 2023 governorship election in Abia State and some interest groups suggest fresh zoning formula in order to produce Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s successor, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports that Abia North Senatorial Zone leaders and other patriots in the state are bent on sustaining the Abia Charter of Equity
Although the 2023 General Election is still over a year away, the political atmosphere in Abia State has become intriguing. This is primarily because of underground moves over the successor of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, a second term governor who will no longer contest in 2023.
The intrigues became tangible following recent reports that some political leaders and professionals from Ngwa in Abia South and Abia Central, are meeting and strategising to produce the successor of Governor Ikpeazu, who is from Abia South Senatorial Zone.
The plan of some politicians to demand disruption of the zoning arrangement became concrete when a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker and member representing Umuahia North State Constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon Kelechi Onuzuruike, told a national news medium that he would want the 2023 race to be flung open to all the three senatorial zones of the state.
Onuzuruike, who is the Abia State House Deputy Chief Whip, added that “since all the three senatorial districts of Abia North, Abia South and Abia Central have taken turns of two terms each as governor, the next election can start from any of the zones, including Abia South where the current governor hails from.
This, according to some sources, did not sit well with stakeholders from Abia North Senatorial District and other patriots, who contend that it is the turn of Abia North to produce the next governor of Abia. They based their contention on the rotational basis that has been on since the return of civilian democratic governance in 1999.
It would be recalled that at the return of civil democracy in Nigeria in 1999, after a prolonged military incursion, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia North became the elected governor. He governed for eight years and in line with the rotational formula ensured that power shifted to another senatorial zone. That was how Senator Theodore Orji, from Abia Central Senatorial Zone emerged the next governor of the state. He governed for eight years and personally ensured that power shifted to Abia South. That was how the current governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, emerged the state governor. Since the three senatorial zones have had a shot at the governorship position, Abia North leaders and many other Abia State patriots contend that power should, in 2023, shift to Abia North for equity sake.
One of the groups from the zone currently spearheading the move is Abia North Unity Group (ANUG), a sociopolitical organisation, whose current primary interest, according to an insider source, is to “unify and pursue the interest of the zone ahead of 2023 governorship election.”
The source, a member of the group, who pleaded not to be named since he is not the spokesman of the group, told The Nation during the week that Abia Unity Group is not limited to a particular political party. “This is not a party thing,” he said. “The group is only interested in ensuring that the right thing is done in 2023. The right thing is to respect the existing zoning formula and ensure that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s successor in 2023 is from Abia North Senatorial Zone. The current governor is from Abia South. His immediate predecessor is from Abia Central. So, there is no doubt that the right thing to do in 2023 is to allow Abia North to produce the next governor. That is what Abia North Unity Group’s interest is today. We are working hard to ensure justice prevails against the ploys of some divisive elements, who, in a bid to destroy the brotherhood and peace currently existing in Abia State, are suggesting that Governor Okezie, who is from Abia South, should be succeeded by another Ngwa man or woman from either Abia South or Abia Central. Such a suggestion and plot can only be aimed at disrupting the peace in Abia State because it was Abia Central that handed over power to Abia South,” the source said, adding that “fairness demands that power should go to Abia North before Abia Central.”
The Nation also learnt during the week that ANUG’s membership today actually cuts across political divides. It features former public office holders in the state from Abia North, including elected lawmakers at local, state and federal chambers and other known political figures from different political parties.
Explaining the modus operandi of ANUG, the source hinted that the group would urge all the political parties to give their tickets to aspirants from Abia North. He said, “already, the group has held meetings with and secured the support of traditional rulers from the three senatorial zones, top political leaders from most of the political parties, town union leaders, women leaders, youth leaders and youth groups and religious leaders, who unanimously said that ‘equity and fairness are needed’ to maintain peace and sustained development in Abia State.” The activities of ANUG formally caught public attention in February, 2021, when it commissioned its secretariat at 197 Arochukwu Rd, Elu Ohafia in Ohafia Local Government Area. The event attracted so many political heavyweights in Abia State, especially former elected public officials and top office holders from Abia North in previous administrations in Abia State, thus sending out the signal that a major political pressure group had emerged on the scene.
In a statement he released earlier to announce the commissioning, Barrister James Okpara, a former Commissioner in Abia State, had explained that the office, which was billed to be dedicated by His Lordship Bishop Dr. Sunday Onuoha, the Founder and President of Vision Africa, “will serve as the take off point for the group and the venue for meetings and other activities of the group, which is to ensure that a son or daughter of Abia North, irrespective of party leaning, emerges the governor of Abia State come 2023.”
Many members of the group, who spoke in confidence, confirmed that the group has since then been on the move to ensure it achieved its aim, which is to ensure that Abia Charter of Equity is not truncated. “It has been hectic, but successful so far,” said one of them, adding, “As you know, the political campaign has not yet been lifted officially, so most of our activities have been discreet and mainly one-on-one persuasion of key stakeholders.”
Not all of the activities of the group have been behind the scene. It would be recalled that before the inauguration of its headquarters office, a delegation from the group paid an official visit to Abia State House of Assembly where they formally interfaced with legislators from the zone.
The delegation was received by the Deputy Speaker Abia State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Uchendu and all the members from Abia North extraction in the state assembly. According to the leader of the delegation, Barr James Okpara, the mission of the group is simple “to invite our spokespersons in the state legislature to the dedication of our office and to formally inform you of our existence and agenda.”
Members of the delegation included, former Commissioner for Housing, Barr. James Okpara, former Military Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency (Rtd.) Captain Chris Osondu, former Leader, Abia State House of Assembly, former PDP State Chairman, Chief Ndidi Okereke, Hon. Chief P.C Onyegbu, former Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mazi Donatus Okorie, former ASOPADEC Commissioner, Chief George Nnanna Kalu, former Commissioner for Boundary And Conflict Resolution, Chief Imo Mascot Obike, a former Leader In Ohafia Legislative Council Hon. Edward Okocha and the Deputy Chairman, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Abia State, and Publisher Abia PulseNews, Comrade Ugochukwu Nwankwo.
During the interaction, the group got the support of virtually all the elected lawmakers from Abia North. The lawmakers that openly declared support for the agenda of the group included the member representing Isuikwuato State Constituency, Hon. Emeka Okoroafor, who advised the group to ensure equitable representation across party lines, the member representing Bende North State Constituency, Hon Chijioke Chukwu, and Hon. Abraham Oba, the member representing Aba Central State Constituency.
A former leader of Abia State House of Assembly, Hon Chief P.C Onyegbu was also quoted as saying “it is time for all the sons and daughters of the zone, irrespective of political party, to come together and speak with one voice, so that no one or group will succeed in truncating the Charter of Equity.”
Today, some other political leaders in Abia State have also made public comments on the need to ensure that Ikpeazu’s succession does not destroy the existing peace in Abia.
One of the latest political chieftains that were quoted as commenting on the issue is Okechukwu Apugo, a PDP chieftain, who advised all to note that zoning has come to stay in Abia. He said no section of the state would be allowed to scuttle existing zoning arrangements for the 2023 governorship election in the state.
In a statement he reportedly released in Umuahia this month, March, Apugo said “power shifts among the three senatorial districts had come to stay in the state.”
Reacting to recent claims in the state that the next governor of the state would not be determined by zoning, Apugo said “zoning would help promote greater peace, unity and political stability in the state.
“Power rotation has become sacrosanct and must be respected by all political parties and aspirants in line with the Abia Charter of Equity,” he said.
He added that “it would amount to political betrayal for those that had benefited from power shift to turn around and campaign against it.”
He explained that the governorship position has rotated among the three senatorial districts in accordance with the spirit of the Charter of Equity and should not be truncated.
Advising aspirant nursing governorship ambition in 2023 outside Abia North “to wait for their turn,” he said,
“Equity demands that power should return to Abia North in 2023 in the interest of peace, unity and fairness.”
According to him, “those behind the plot to disrupt a smooth power shift to Abia North are greedy and selfish and not having the interest of a united Abia at heart.”
The tension is high. It remains to be seen how the matter would be resolved.
© The Nation