Prior to the creation of Abia State from old IMO State in 1991, it was difficult for various groups to agree on which new state to create and the name to adopt. Majority of those from former Aba Division of East Central State wanted Aba State with Capital at Aba whereas their brothers from former Bende division wanted another state with capital in Umuahia. It is important to note that Isuikwuato area was a district in old Okigwe division of East Central State while Afikpo in present day Ebonyi State which was carved out of Abia State was in Afikpo Division of East Central State. Isuikwuato was later to join their Bende neighbors and since then became grafted as old Bende people.
The major challenge for those who were promoting different state movements was the fear of domination by one group in the sharing of power and state resources. Meanwhile it was also clear to the promoters of creation of different states that only one could be carved out of the old Imo State then.
To overcome that challenge, the founding fathers who were promoting creation of different states decided on a power sharing and rotation arrangement that would ensure that no part of the emerging new state was dominated by others. That understanding and agreement later gave rise to the “Abia Charter of Equity” which stipulates that governance of the new state MUST be rotated among the groups that came together to form the state and also that in the distribution of key political offices all the associating groups must have one key office, at any point in time, such that while the Governor is from bloc A his Deputy must be from bloc B while the Speaker should be from bloc C.
Having agreed on equitable rotation and sharing of political offices, the next challenge was what to call the new state. It was suggested that they use the first letter in each division’s name to form the name. When they combined A (Aba Division) B (Bende Division) and A (Afikpo Division) they got ABA which was what one group originally proposed. To avoid one group feeling that they won what was supposed to be a win-win arrangement, it was suggested that since Isuikwuato district has joined the coalition from Okigwe Division the “I” in Isuikwuato be grafted in even though they are not coming as a former Division like others.
ABIA was accepted as the name of the new state by all parties along with the the endorsement of the CHARTER OF EQUITY.
With the creation of Abia State on August 27, 1991, by the Ibrahim Babangida military administration, the first democratic opportunity came to put the charter to work. While Abiriba people of old Bende presented a good governorship candidate in the person of one Mr Egwonwu the community and others from old Bende division who also presented candidates were asked to drop their candidates to enable old Afikpo division people take the first shot. Consequently, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu of former Afikpo Division was literally head hunted from the department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Port Harcourt and backed by major political actors of Abiriba, old Bende and Aba extraction to become the first democratically elected Governor of Abia State.
Incidentally Onu’s administration lasted for less than 2 years as he was sworn in January 1992 and the military struck again in November 1993 to terminate the 3rd Republic with Onu and other Governors replaced with military administrators till 1999 when the 4th Republic was born. By October 1st, 1996, Ebonyi State was created from Abia and Enugu States with people of old Afikpo Division joining the new state.
After the exit of Afikpo Division, Abia State was left with only people from old Aba and Bende divisions but by 1999 when the 4th Republic was born, a new geopolitical structure emerged to divide the state into 3 senatorial zones of Abia South, Abia North and Abia Central. While the people of the old Aba Division were mostly located in Abia South and part of Abia Central, the people of Bende Division were mostly located in Abia North and part of Abia Central senatorial zones of the state.
Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia North senatorial zone became the Governor of Abia State in 1999 and governed for 8 non stop years. He was succeeded, amidst protests from people of old Aba Division, by T A Orji of Abia Central zone who also governed for 8 uninterrupted years. Both equitably selected their Deputies and Speakers of the House.
The protest against the emergence of Ochendo T A Orji of Abia Central was mostly from the people of old Aba division who felt that on the basis of the charter of equity they should have produced the Governor after Abia North as Ochendo is from the same old Bende Division with Orji Uzor Kalu.
In order to maintain the sanctity of the charter of equity, living founding fathers of Abia State such as Ezeogo (Dr) Anagha Ezikpe, Chief Bob Ogbuagu and others insisted that power must rotate to Abia South Senatorial district in 2015 in the spirit of EQUITY and then Governor T A Orji was mandated by Abia elders to ensure that happened at all cost.
It was consequently decided by Abia elders and major stakeholders that only candidates from Abia South Senatorial Zone should contest the polls but when desperate individuals from other zones decided to try their luck, Abia voters were strongly advised by state traditional rulers, elders and the political leaders of the state to go to the poll and vote for the candidate from Abia South.
That was how Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu from Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia South Senatorial zone emerged in 2015 as the first Ukwa/Ngwa man to be Governor of Abia State.
…..To Be Continued….
John Okiyi Kalu