In its supremacy, the supreme court of Nigeria rose to the occasion to allow justice and equity to reign by setting aside the verdict of the Appeal Court and upholding the election of Ikpeazu as Governor.
The world, in the absence of justice, would not be differentiated from the animal kingdom where bruteness and cruelty are the order of the day. In fact, the world would have been epitomised by the survival of the fittest syndrome had there been no justice. A civilized society is one in which people are guided by the rule of law. In such a society, citizens do not take laws into their hands as they repose confidence in the ability of the judiciary to address whatever wrong that they are confronted with. The ancient Greek Philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, placed emphasis on the essentialism of justice in human society.
Abia state was created on August 27, 1991 from the Old Imo state by the military administration of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Before the creation of the state, the people of old Aba and old Bende Divisions had come together in agitation for the creation of the State. In their wisdom, they settled for the acronym ‘ABIA’ as an inclusive reflection of the component units of their proposed state; A for Aba, B for Bende, I for Isikwuato and A for Afikpo.
From the conglomeration, it was evident that four different groups of people were coming together for the creation of Abia State. They were; (1) the people of old Aba Division, (2) the people of old Bende division, (3) the people of old Isikwuato District and the people of old Afikpo District. But broadly-speaking, the Abia agitators saw themselves mainly as old Aba Division, comprising the very largely populated and gregarious Ngwas and the constitutionally balkanized but highly nature-favoured Ukwas of Asa and Ndoki and the old Bende, which had supposedly subsumed the old Isikwuato and Afikpo districts.
The protagonists of the creation of Abia state; which included Dr M.I. Okpara, Dr Moses Agbara, Dr Anagha Ezeikpe, His Eminence, Eze (Dr) Benard Enweremadu, His Imperial Majesty, Eze Isaac Ikonne and Nze Paul Ogbonna, thought it wise to put in black and white the ideological frame-work of their dreams of a prospective Abia state in a paper aptly captioned Abia Charter of Equity. The motto of Abia Charter of Equity was ‘Onye aghala nwanneya’. The interpretation of this motto in English language is ‘let everybody be given a sense of belonging in a state where everyone would regard the other as a brother or sister.
Abia, being a state that was created by the military, was, at one time or another, governed by the military; Frank Ajobena, August 28, 1991 to January 1992, Chinyere Ike Nwosu, December 9, 1993 to September 14, 1994, Temi Ejoor, September 14, 1994 to August 22, 1996, Moses Fasanya, August 22, 1996 to August 1998 and Anthony Obi, August 1998 to May 1999.
Ogbonnaya Onu was the first civilian governor of Abia state and reigned from January 1992 to December 1993. He came from Afikpo area, which was assumed to have been subsumed by the old Bende. It would be interesting to mention here that during the primary election of the defunct National Republican Convention, the Party that produced Dr Ogbonnaya Onu as governor, a political Chieftain of the Old Bende Division, Chief B.B Apugo, had deployed undemocratic methods to create tension and confusion, which ended up scaring away the supporters of two prominent Governorship aspirants of the party from the Ukwa/Ngwa group of the state; Dr. Gershion Amuta and Chief Lambert Nmecha. Apugo manipulated the result of the primary election in favour of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
On return of democracy in 1999, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, from Igbere in Bende Local Government Area of Old Bende, became governor of Abia State. He ruled the state for eight consecutive years. Orji Kalu was one politician that never wanted to imagine, not to talk of seeing power shift to the Ukwa/Ngwa Zone of the state. By the underlying principles of the Abia Charter of equity, power should have rotated to Ukwa/Ngwa after the eight years by Orji Kalu. But being an Old Bende irredentist, Orji Kalu made sure that power was handed over to his former Chief of staff and a scion of the Old Bende, Chief Theodore Orji. Chief Theodore Orji governed the state from 2007 to 2015, being eight years. This means that Old Bende had governed Abia State for sixteen unbroken years as at May 2015, to the exclusion of Old Aba Division.
Going by statistics, the Old Bende is made up of only eight local government areas while the old Aba Division is made up of nine local government areas. Out of these nine, two, Aba North and Aba South are fully commercially urbanized, three; Osisioma, Obingwa and Ugwunagbo are partly urbanized, with potentials for rapid expansion and development. Ukwa-West is the only oil bearing and producing local Government Area, as a result of which the state had drawn billions of naira from the Federal Government’s constitutional thirteen percent oil derivation fund. Ukwa-East is the only hope of the South East being linked to the Atlantic Ocean.
These sixteen years of marginalization, deprivation and utter disgust influenced the mindset of the people of Ukwa/Ngwa when it was time for the next election in March/April, 2015. The people, unlike what had happened in the past, resolved, without necessarily coming together, to take their destiny in their hand. As God of equity would have it, an indisputable fine gentleman, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, an erudite academic that had obtained his doctorate degree before his thirtieth year anniversary, had been elected, courtesy of the support of the incumbent governor, Chief Theodore Orji, as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State.
The people of Ukwa/Ngwa worked, individually and collectively, tirelessly, with the support and encouragement of patriotic and equity-friendly Abians from the other divide, to make sure a jinx of one hundred and one years in Nigeria’s history was broken.
Ordinarily, it was expected that Abia South would be allowed to produce the next governor of the state without candidates appearing from other senatorial zones of the state. But Dr Alexander Otti, an indigene of Arochukwu in Abia North, just from the blues, threw his hat into the ring, falsely claiming indigeneship of Ngwa.
The governorship election in Abia State took place on the 11th of April, 2015, during which Okezie Ikpeazu clearly and superiorly defeated Otti but the election was declared inconclusive because of some manipulative scheming by some power blocs that would not wish an Ukwa/Ngwa indigene to be governor of Abia State. A rerun election was held on 25th April, 2015. Again, the voting pattern of the people evidently showed that they were not only tired of being terribly marginalized but were vehemently determined to re-write their story. Okezie Ikpeazu overwhelmingly dusted Alexander Otti of Arochukwu.
Ikpeazu’s victory was upheld by the Governorship Election Tribunal that sat at Umuahia, having been dragged to it by Alexander Otti. Ironically and cynically, the court of Appeal that sat at Owerre, for reasons that can only stem from unprofessionalism, nullified Okezie Ikpeazu’s election and, embarrassing to the judicial system or process, ordered that Alexander Otti be sworn-in immediately. This judgment, for all intents and purposes, was bizarre.
The world over, the judiciary is the last hope of man; many say it is the last hope of the common man. In its supremacy, the supreme court of Nigeria rose to the occasion on Wednesday 3rd February, 2016 to allow justice and equity to reign by setting aside the verdict of the Appeal Court and upholding the election of Okezie Ikpeazu as the Governor of Abia State. The Court, indeed, saved the state from upheaval and violence that would have erupted as a result of inequity and injustice against the people of Ukwa/Ngwa.
As Governor Ikpeazu rightly put it, this victory is a manifestation of the will of God and the mandate of the majority of Abia electorate. Okezie Ikpeazu, Ph.D., should continue with the good work he has been doing in the state, especially in Aba that was deliberately neglected for sixteen years. As for gullible members of the People’s Democratic Party who had secretly gone to pledge allegiance to Otti after his unsustainable victory at the court of Appeal, they should bury their heads in shame and forever remain ashamed.
Scripted By Don Ubani