OPINION: Old Bende, Ukwa/Ngwa and realities of primordial configuration in Abia State
By Don Ubani
Man, by his nature, is an inconsiderate opportunist of extreme dimension. He considers issues from a parochial self-centered perspective. As long as he is concerned, nothing is worthy that does not translate to direct benefit or profit to him.
This is why he speaks from the two sides of his mouth. Hardly is he associated with consistency in character and deeds. He tries, as much as pleases him even though in vain, to shy away from reality.
In Abia State, like in many other States, there are well known geopolitical settings. In the case of Abia State, sentiment or no sentiment, there exist Old Aba Division, otherwise known as Ukwa/Ngwa and Old Bende Division. Both Divisions were in Bende Province of Colonial Administration.
For political opportunists who would attempt to wish this clear cut geo-cultural distinction away, they should be reminded that even as this feature is being read, history has it that late Eze Hope Onuigbo of Umuahia-North Local Government Area was once Chairman of Old Bende Council of Traditional Rulers.
Currently, Eze Nwabiaraije Eneogwe of Obingwa Local Government Area is Chairman of Ukwa/Ngwa Council of Traditional Rulers.
These two Traditional Rulers’ Councils are clearly indicative of the existence of the two geo-cultural descriptions of the State. While Old Bende Traditional Rulers’ Council is made up of Traditional Rulers from Arochukwu, Bende, Ikwuano, Isuikwuato, Umuahia-North, Umuahia-South and Umunneochi Local Government Areas, Ukwa/Ngwa Council of Traditional Rulers consists of Traditional Rulers from Aba-North, Aba-South, Isialangwa-North, Isialangwa-South, Obingwa, Osisioma, Ugwunagbo, Ukwa-East and Ukwa-West Local Government Areas.
In 1982, when I was teaching at Ihie High School, formerly Adventist College, Ihie, I had the privilege of being among the young men that were drafted into the formation of the organization known as Ukwa/Ngwa. Our meeting venue was the Royal Palace of His Eminence, Eze(Dr) Bernard Enweremadu of Ngwa-Ukwu.
The aim was to bring the peoples of the nine indigenous local government areas of Old Aba Division together so that they could speak with one voice even on matters concerning the Old Imo State then.
In 1999 when I was a Member of Abia State Unified Local Government Service Commission, Chief M D Ofor, who was the Chairman of the Commission, was the Secretary of Old Bende Union. Late Chief Bob Ogbuagu was the Chairman.
Dee Bob, as late Chief Ogbuagu was fondly called, almost frequently visited Chief Ofor in his office, for routine tete a tete. It was generally speculated that both Chiefs Ogbuagu and Ofor, under the auspices of Old Bende Union, wrote and handed a Memorandum to the then Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, in which they strongly advised him to give all sensitive and juicy State Appointments to people of Old Bende.
According to intelligence available then, Old Bende Union insisted he should learn from the mistake(s) of their late son and first Military Head of State; Major-General J T U Aguiyi Ironsi, who trusted outsiders only to his own supreme detriment.
They advised him to surround himself only with people of Old Bende. Any body reading this piece who knew the style or pattern of governance of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu would certainly have something to recollect after reading it.
Today, as I write, there is a social cultural political organization known as Ukwa/Ngwa Nation. It is headed by a veteran journalist and astute politician, Chief Eziuche Ubani.
There is hardly any prominent politician of Ukwa/Ngwa extraction that is not a member of Ukwa/Ngwa Nation. In that organization the collective interest of Ukwa/Ngwa is dispassionately discussed.
Any person that strays into the social media or any other platform to create the impression that there is nothing like Old Bende and(or) Ukwa/Ngwa, such a person is on a mission of self-deceit.
By highlighting this fact as it is, I do not, in any way, intend to insinuate division or segregation. It is only to awoken our consciousness that there are two major blocs in the geopolitical firmament of Abia State.
It, therefore, follows that where there are two principle or presiding positions in the State, each of the two geopolitical blocs should, by virtue of equity and purpose of peace and stability in the polity get one. The point being made here does not, in any way, suggest not taking cognizance of the constitutional existence of the three Senatorial Districts of the State.
Even at that, will any bloc take kindly to a situation where the position of Governor and Deputy Governor are consigned to one particular bloc on pretenses of Senatorial differentials?
To make the point simpler, what would have been the reaction of the people of Old Bende had Governor Ikpeazu chosen his running-mate from either Isialangwa-North, Isialangwa-South or Osisioma-Ngwa, even as each of the three local government areas is Abia-Central District while the Governor hails from Abia-South?
Governor Ikpeazu, even if he knew he could be reelected with majority votes from his Ukwa/Ngwa electorate, would still not have picked his Deputy from that part of Abia-Central because it would be immorally lopsided.
In the same vein, the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, being the only two Presiding Officers in the House, should not be assigned or zoned to only one of the two blocs in the State.
If the position of Speaker should go to Old Bende, for instance, that of the Deputy ought go to Ukwa/Ngwa. This is the arrangement even in the outgoing 6th Assembly of the State. While the Speaker is from Ukwa/Ngwa, the Deputy is from Old Bende.
Any arrangement that fails to take into consideration the very deep natural sensitivity associated with this unavoidable balance of power, is inconsiderate, thoughtless and an avoidable pilling of a cake of explosive gun powder.
If there were provision for three Presiding Officers of the House, the issue of three Senatorial Districts would come to play. In its absence, the two positions should be shared among the the major blocs of Old Bende and Ukwa/Ngwa.
The consciousness of the existence of these two distinct blocs should not be lost on privileged Abians. Being constantly aware of its existence will always guide our leaders to adhere to the tenets of equity.
As it is today, any set of legislators from any of the blocs that fails to successfully demand that one of the Presiding Officers of the House should be occupied by one of their own, would be dismissed and discarded as a set of legislators that was not worth its salt.
How would they, in the first instance, come home to tell their constituents that out of two Presiding Officers of the House, they naively failed to secure one?
Any person preaching against consciousness of existence of Old Bende and Ukwa/Ngwa, is just being unrealistic. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe; Zik of Africa, was more Nigerian than Igbo.
Today, what is the plight and fate of the Igbo in Nigeria? Unlike Zik, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was roundly committed to his people of Yoruba nation and today their plight is, by far, better than the Igbo’s. We should not gloss over realities and peculiarities of our dear Abia State.
In concluding this piece, which I am writing wholly in my personal capacity as one of the twenty-two Political Leaders that, not only founded but also Convened the Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State in 1998, I frankly and wholeheartedly submit, unequivocally, that if a legislator from the Old Bende will occupy the position of the Speaker of 7th Abia State House of Assembly, an equally competent legislator of Ukwa/Ngwa bloc should, in adherence to equity which is fast gaining grounds in the State, occupy the position of Deputy Speaker.
Any thing short of this arrangement will amount to insensitivity and travesty of justice.
Okwubunka of Asa.