By Samuel Onyeodiwe Ekeke
As the countdown to the February 16, National Assembly Elections draws near, one place that would be a centre of action and attraction is the Abia Central Senatorial Zone of Abia State where the incumbent senator and former Governor of Abia state, Chief Theodore Ahamaefula Orji will slug it out with former senator Nkechi Nwaogu and Chief Chidi Onyeukwu Ajaegbu.
Chief Theodore Ahamaefula Orji popularly called Ochendo by his numerous admirers is an incumbent senator contesting under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while his other opponents, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu is of the All progressives Congress (APC) and Chief Chidi Onyeukwu Ajaegbu is contesting under the flag of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA)
Chief T.A Orji is from Ibeku in Umuahia north local government area of the state while Senator Nkechi Nwaogu and Chief Chidi Ajaegbu are both from Osisioma Ngwa local government area of the state.
The trio are successful men and woman who have made their marks in both politics and their chosen careers.
Chief T.A Orji was the chief of staff to the former governor of Abia state Dr.Orji Uzor Kalu between 1999-2007 and later succeeded his principal to become a Governor of the state where he served for eight years between 2007-2015 and became the first politician in the state to have transited to the senate after being a governor in 2015, a position he has held till date.
His other opponent, Senator Mrs Nkechi Nwaogu was in the House of Representatives for eight years between 1999-2007 representing Osisioma , Ugwunagbo and Obingwa federal constituency before ascending to the senate for another eight years where she represented the people of Abia senatorial zone of the state. In all she was in the National Assembly for sixteen years.
The third contender for this position is Chief Chidi Onyeukwu Ajaegbu, a former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). He also played prominent roles in the politics of the state where he has helped many of the successful politicians in the state but is contesting for elective position for the first time.
Abia central senatorial zone is made up of six local government areas of Ikwuano, Umuahia North, Umuahia South, Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South and Osisioma. Three of the local governments are of the Umuahia extraction while the other three are of the Ngwa extraction.
And since the inception of the present political dispensation the position of the senate for the zone had rotated between these two ethnic nationalities of Umuahia and Ngwa. In 1999, Senator Bob Nwanunnu from Ngwa land represented the people of the zone at the senate and after a term he was succeeded by Senator Chris Adigije from Umuahia who also spent a term in the senate between 2003-2007.
Then Senator Nkechi Nwaogu from Osisioma in Ngwa land took over in 2007 and represented the zone for eight years of two terms breaking the jinx of one term syndrome due to the political rearrangement and movement that happened in the state in 2007 when the former governor of the state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu left the PDP and formed the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA). It was a consensus agreement between the political leaders of the zone then that Senator Nkechi Nwaogu had to do two tenures which terminated in 2015.
And in 2015, the senatorial slot of the zone moved back to the Umuahia clan and that threw up the incumbent Senator and former governor of the state Chief T.A Orji from Ibeku in Umuahia presently representing the zone in the senate.
And that same year, 2015 saw the emergence of a governor of the state Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu from Ngwa land for the first time since the creation of the state over twenty two years ago due to the dogged support of the former Governor: Chief T.A Orji who stood vehemently firm in the spirit of Equity as enshrined in the Charter of Equity by the founding fathers of the state that the governorship slot of the state rotates every eight years amongst the three senatorial zones of the state.
This singular decision of the former governor of the state Chief T.A Orji to allow a governor of the Ukwa Ngwa extraction to emerge in the state clearly made Senator T.A Orji outstanding as leader in the state as he was given the acronym, “Abia father of equity”.
It is crystal clear that no former leader of the state who had believed or agreed that an Ukwa Ngwa man could become the governor of the state and this was evident due to the avalanche of men of timber and caliber that came out from the Old Bende zone of Abia north and Abia central zone that jostled to arm twist the former governor’s stance of his position but chief T.A Orji resisted all the pressure and stood his ground that an Ngwa man must succeed him.
Even as the election of 2019 approaches, the Old Bende zone of the state, that’s Abia North and Abia Central are still averse to that decision that is why the present governor of the Ngwa extraction still detest them leading to the emergence of governorship candidate of both the APC, Dr. Uche Sampson Ogah and APGA, Dr. Alex Oti, all from the old Bende out 2 019 against an Ngwa governor of the PDP, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
For an Ukwa Ngwa man, Chief T.A Orji remains their hero and leaders of the state in Umuahia and Ukwa axis that make up Abia central of the state have unanimously endorsed senator T.A Orji to return to the senate while their son, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu from Ngwa land is wholly supported to return for a second term as a governor in the state to complete his eight years as was enjoyed by his counterparts of the Abia North and Abia Central senatorial zones.
So the odd overwhelmingly favours Chief T.A Orji to do a second term in the senate while an Ngwa man completes a second term as governor. The other two contenders against the incumbent senator can see the handwriting on the wall.
One other thing that would remain a puzzle in the eyes of the other political game watchers of the state is the continued popularity being garnered by Senator Theodore Orji since he went to the senate in 2015.
However, the reasons for this may not be farfetched because apart from his monumental achievements as a governor of the state for eight years, his outstanding performance in the senate for the past three and half speak volume as a leader with the interest of his people at heart .
It is on record that the Senator T.A Orji is the first in the country to publish a score card of his numerous achievements in the senate so far. It is obvious that the six local government areas that make up Abia Central senatorial zone have benefitted from his outstanding performance in the senate and the works are there to speak for themselves.
When he entered the senate, Senator T A Orji established a scholarship scheme under which he gives ten10 students from each of the six local governments areas of his senatorial zone scholarships every year and as at today 180 university scholarships have been given by the senator and the beneficiaries have formed an association for themselves. This is a legacy that would outlive the senator as the educational empowerment would continue to speak for him for eternity.
The senator also established an Eye Clinic in Umuahia where over 670 successful eye surgeries have been conducted and people suffering from glaucoma and cataract are being treated free of charge up till date.
And in Osisioma Ngwa where two of his opponents are from, Senator T.A Orji has provided six functional bore holes, a transformer and a skill acquisition program me under which beneficiaries where energized with over N87 million cash to start different businesses and trade.
There are also many primary and secondary schools renovated by the senator across the senatorial zone while he constructed a road at Ikwuano local government area with another at Ameke in Umuahia north local government area of the zone with a bridge which is expected to be commissioned soon.
He has also done electricity projects in Umuahia north, Isiala Ngwa north and Isiala Ngwa south local government areas of the state.
In fact Chief T.A Orji has two awards from The Authority and Blueprint newspapers as the most productive senator and for good representation in the state.
At the senate , Senator T.A Orji has to is credit one of the greatest bills that have made not only the people of his senatorial zone but the entire state happy and that is the bill to make Abia State Polytechnic, a federal polytechnic. That bill has been passed at the senate and is just waiting for the assent of the president. This is among other bills which the senator has presented in the senate.
Like or hate him, Senator T.A Orji believes in the words of Mother Theresa who once said, “life not lived for others is not worth living.” This singular philosophy drives Ochendo’s magnanimity and philanthropic disposition such that the low, high, and mighty, the dark and fair, male and female have all benefited from the numerous empowerment programs of the senate.
Apart from human calculation, Chief T.A Orji appears to be a man of destiny so like William Shakespeare said, “what can be avoided whose end is proposed by the mighty gods” no wonder many attest to the fact that the senator is a character extraordinaire whose influence radiates across the length and breath of the west African sub-region.
The testimonies have made many people across the state to align with Senator T.A Orji in all his aspirations and political adventures.
For Dr. Obike Onyejiofor, a university don, he described the former governor as a man of rare exemplary qualities. He said, “I met him when he was a governor and unlike what is obtainable in most African society, Chief T.A Orji has exhibited high level of humility. He is assessable, dedicated and pays attention both to the rich and the poor. He is one politician whose mobile line is in the market square, he replies all his SMS no matter the content whether negative or positive, so why won’t people love him.”
He said, “Chief T.A Orji has performed well as senator and every odd favors him well for a second term as his programmes and achievements are obvious for all to see. What else do you need in representation that he has not achieved within the last three and half years?”
Barrister Mike Nwankudu who hails from Isiala Ngwa North local government area of the state, said, “You don’t change a winning team. Senator T.A Orji is an epitome of good representation and as I talk to you the 180 students enjoying his scholarships in various tertiary institutions of Nigeria are all over the field campaigning for him, you can understand the multiplier effect of that.”
He said, “the other contenders for the position are also good and qualified but Senator T.A Orji stands poles above them and in a free and fair election, he will certainly emerge as the winner and our people have resolved to stand by him and vote massively for his re-election.”
He stated that, “there is no way an Ngwa man will corner the two positions meant for them and their Umuahia brothers by taking both the governorship and the senatorial position .”
Whatsoever the case maybe, the electorate and the performance and political pedigree of the contenders will determine and shape the outcome of the election.