By Ori Martins
Historically, Abia and Anambara state are both strategically located in the framework of Igbo affairs and they are symbolically situated as a mark of a people’s ingenuity and heroism.
In the events leading to independence and afterwards, two prominent politicians emerged in the political horizon namely, the Great Zik and the Enterprising Okpara. Zik was the governor general/ president, while Okpara was premier, Eastern Region. Zik was Anambara, Okpara was Abia.
Following the January 15, 1966 crisis and its aftermath, two astonishing military men sauntered into the scene to wit: the Patriotic Ironsi and the Legendary Ojukwu. General Ironsi, the supreme commander, was the head of state and he hailed from Abia. Colonel Ojukwu who later became the General of the People’s Army, was the military governor, Eastern Region, and he was from Anambara State.
There have been two celebrated Central Bank of Nigeria governors from the South East – the ingenious Paul Ogwuma from Abia State and the cerebral Charles Soludo of Anambara State.
Certainly, Ndigbo are remarkably identified with two cities as a mark of their hard work and abiding spirit of creativity and industry: the commercial city of Abia and industrial hub of Onitsha. Displace these two cities and virtually every Igbo family is severely affected.
The foregoing dramatically explained why then President Olusegun Obasanjo inadvertently looked the other way when some political jobbers unleashed terror and mayhem on then governors Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia and Chris Nwabueze Ngige of Anambra State.
Of course, Enyimba of Aba sensationally broke the elusive CAF Champions League jinx when they lifted the most prestigious club trophy in Africa in 2003 and defended it back to back.
As a matter of fact, Anambra State does have an outstanding team but it must be recorded that Emmanuel Ifeajuna, that time, an undergraduate medical student at University College Ibadan, put the country on the global sports map when his jump of over six feet won gold in the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada. It was magical, sensational and historic.
Abia’s Enyimba got it continentally in football, Anambra’s Ifeajuna did it globally in athletics.
The Government College Umuahia, in particular, played a heroic and leading role in producing what Achebe called “Pioneers of modern African literature”. The list included Chukwuemeka Ike, Chris Okigbo, Elechi Amadi, I.N.C.Aniebo, Chike Momah, Gabriel Okara and Ken Saro Wiwa.
Government College Umuahia also produced respected names in fine arts and what readily comes to mind here is Ben Enweonwu., and in politics, Jaja Nwachuku, Nigeria’s first speaker of the House of Representatives., Okio Arikpo, and N.U. Akpan.
Umuahia gave us the globally known agronomist Prof Bede Okigbo, First Republic Minister of Health Dr J. O.J. Okezie, Chu Okingwu, Laz Ekwueme and few others.
And do not forget, Ojukwu’s famous bunker was located in this town called Umuahia.
Obviously, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, knew these background facts about Umuahia and Abia State as he campaigned in the city yesterday, Saturday, February 11, 2023.
Clearly and cleverly taking note of the hitherto Olympic record of Umuahia and Abia State, Atiku said “We shall return this great state and its wonderful capital to greatness”.
Yes, returning Umuahia and Abia to greatness means industrialization which is what the Igbo aspire for and also represent. It means that Aba, once the commercial gate of West Africa will come back to life.
Aba as you know was the commercial capital of Eastern Region. It was the Dubai of West and Central Africa. Aba bubbled with commerce, industry and other business activities. Atiku is a businessman and so he understands the practical importance of promoting and encouraging an environment where business activities will strive.
In line with that, it was in Aba that Dick Tiger Ihetu, the only African to have been inducted into the famous Boxers Hall of Fame, took of from Aba. The highlife maestro, Oliver de Coque was an Aba boy and it was in Aba, at Unicoco, he got the name “Oliver di ka – okwe” which he turned into “Oliver De Coque”. The evergreen Voice of the Cross Gospel Music Band that brought sucour to Ndigbo after the civil war, was an Aba brand.
Restoring Abia State to greatness means bringing back the Igbo greatness and Atiku who, like Ndigbo, has suffered acute political betrayals, blackmails and backstabs, is equal to the task because he is a victim. And so he knows how Ndigbo feel.
Atiku’s pledge of returning Abia to greatness is a demonstration of his avowed preparedness of restoring the dignity and pride of Ndigbo in the forefront of Nigeria’s socioeconomic as well as political sphere.
When Atiku talked of returning Abia to greatness he remembered and was actually paying tributes to the memories of Chief Jerry Enyeazu, the phenomenal sports administrator who coined the National Sports Festival, created the National Institute of Sports and founded Rangers, Spartans now Heartland, Enyimba and Grasshoppers International Handball.
As Atiku stated that he was hell bent on returning Abia to her ab initio glorious heights, he understood that some of Nigeria’s greatest men and women either hailed from that state or took of from there.
And the list included but not limited to General Azubuike Ihejirika, erstwhile Nigeria’s army chief., General Ike Nwachukwu, former GOC, First Mechanized Division, Kaduna., navy man, Ndubuisi Kalu, first military administrator, Imo State as well as the man who set the standards in the Ministry of Health as minister, Dr Okezie. That was when Ndigbo showed capacity, sagacity and professionalism and Atiku has promised to play it back.
You see, about 20 years ago when Atiku was the vice president of Nigeria, his Umuahia visit would have witnessed the presence of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, late Vincent Ogbulafor, late Ojo Maduekwe, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Ukasanya and few others.
But it was not to be. Kalu who donated N500, 000 to PDP in 1998 at its formation is now in APC. Abaribe who gave Ndigbo a sense of belonging in the senate chamber is now in APGA while Senator Uche Chukwumereije who would have provided all the humour is late.
Thank goodness Atiku still met an Adolphus Wabara who was the senate president while he was the vice president. From the look of things, Abia is PDP because it has always been an umbrella state.
Why not, Abia has letter A, Aba stars with letter A as well. Atiku’s two names commence with letter A, and A stands for distinction, excellence and beautiful result. Case concluded!!!