Abia State In Nigeria’s Centenary Of Nationhood As Scripted By Chief (Sir) Don Ubani; Ksc, Jp

By Nnaji Obed Asiegbu

Activities marking the centenary anniversary of our great country; Nigeria came to their climax on Saturday 1st March, 2014 during which one hundred Nigerians and foreigners were honoured for having distinguished themselves under fourteen categories.

As it may be appreciated, it is not a mean feat for a heterogeneous country to clock a century of continuous existence. In considering the Nigerian State, two initial factors must not be forgotten. The first was the naming of the country as Nigeria through the suggestion of Miss Flora Shaw. Shaw, who would later become the wife of Lord Frederick Lugard; who himself would become Governor-General of Nigeria, was the Colonial Editor of Times of London and had on January 8, 1897 written a feature in which she had suggested that the territories around River Niger be named Nigeria. Her reason was simple but plausible.

Many parts of the territory that would become Nigeria were, in one way or another, affected, in a very positive manner, by the tributaries of River Niger which were not less than forty-four. The colonial office in London saw reason in Miss Shaw's proposal and adopted the nomenclature as proposed by her. The second factor was the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 by Lord Lugard.

Two reasons accounted for this amalgamation; (1) the threats of First World War, as to be provoked by the Nazi Army under Adolf Hitler had become imminent, forcing the British Colonial Administration to strategically reduce cost of running her colonies and (2) the Northern Protectorate was always having budgetary deficits which made the British Colonial Office think that if the two Protectorates were fused together, the fiscal surplus from the Southern Protectorate would be used to off-set the Northern deficit.

History is one subject that is enshrined in and draws its strength from the virtue of patience. On the 1st of January, 1914 when, either by error of omission or commission, the two different protectorates of the North and South were amalgamated, little did anyone living then would have imagined that single administrative action of Lord Lugard and the British Colonial Office would be a subject of great celebration one hundred years later.

Starting from 1914, Nigeria's march towards its first centenary has been tumultuously chequered. Many constitutional conferences were held before Nigeria's attainment of political independence in 1960. Many coal miners were brutally murdered by the British Police at Enugu in 1949. There was the Aba women riot of 1929, six military coups d'e'tat had successfully taken place while that of Mamma Vatsa was aborted. A genocide had been furiously and heartlessly organized and executed against the Igbo. The Igbo had been forced into a 30-month war of self defence on the platform of Nigeria/Biafra war. The Igbo had had the orgy of having their buildings and other properties confiscated and designated 'Abandoned Properties' in Nigeria. The Igbo have had their territories balkanized and dismembered under the guise of Justice Mamman Nasir (rtd) boundary adjustment vindictiveness.

Chief Moshood Kolawole O. Abiola had supposedly won a presidential election in 1993 only to have the election, widely considered to be the 'freest and fairest' in the annals of Nigerian history, nullified by the Nigerian Military Junta headed by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. President Goodluck Jonathan had won election in April 2011 only for Islamist terrorists, in accordance with pre-election instigation of Major-General Muhammad Buhari, who had lost in the said Presidential election, to launch an unprecedented calamitous attack on innocent, harmless and defenceless southerners, most especially the Igbo in North-East, North-West and some parts of North-Central.

Despite these peculiar dangerous challenges and upheavals, the Nigerian locomotive has managed to arrive its first centenary station.

The question that begs for answer from any Abian is; what has been the contributions of the people of Abia State in this tortuous march of Nigerian nationhood to its first centenary?

As it is known, the taste of the budding is in the eating. That only one hundred persons, including non-Nigerians, were surreptitiously and dispassionately scaled and screened and found worthy of being honoured to mark Nigeria's centenary must have been as difficult as the camel passing through the near-invisible hole ina needle. Amongst the honourees were four illustrious sons and daughter of Abia State; (1) late Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi, late Dr. Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, (3) Mrs. Chinyere Onyenucheya Kalu and (4) Kanu Nwankwo. Ironsi was the first Military Head of State of Nigeria and Supreme Commander of Armed Forces of Nigeria. He hailed from Umuahia-Ibeku. Dr. Jaja Wachukwu was the first Speaker of Nigeria's Parliament and first Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nbawsi in Isialangwa was his place of nativity. Mrs. Chinyere Onyenucheya Kalu was the first Nigerian Female Pilot and is a free-born of Akwete-Ndoki. Kanu Nwankwo; the Papilo, is the most Nigerian decorated and celebrated footballer and hails from Amannagwu-Arochukwu.

That Abia State got four awardees out of one hundred shared by thirty-six states and foreigners explains the strategic contributions the state had made in making the Nigerian state move forward.

The difficulty encountered by the President Jonathan's administration in arriving at the one hundred centenary honourees must be appreciated by Nigerians. Otherwise, how could one explain the absence from that list of such Abians as Dr. Alvan Ikeokwu, his son; Samuel Ikeokwu, Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara and Chief O.C. Emene; whose parliamentary engineering brought about diplomaticrelationship between Nigeria and the former Union of Socialist Soviet Russia; U.S.S.R.

Abia, in the first one hundred years of Nigeria's existence has produced, among other things, two Chiefs of Army Staff; Major-General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika, neither of whom ever contemplated overthrowing anydemocratically-elected government.

Within the same period of time, Abia has produced a quintessential administrator, whose humility, friendly disposition, discipline, transparency, ingenuity and faith in God made him emerge the first Nigerian to win a governorship election while being held in a prison custody. In the same man; Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji, Abia State has produced a leader who has voluntarily made himself an advocate ofpower rotation amongst Abia-North, Abia-Central and Abia-South; just to guarantee equity within the Abia polity. By the year 3014 when Nigeria will be having her bi-centenary celebration, Abia State, whether still the same or as more than one state, would record more awardees. To God be all the glory.

Chief (Sir) Don Ubani; Ksc, JP
(Okwubunka of Asa)

Nnaji Obed Asiegbu
SA e-Governance & Strategy
to the Abia State Governor
[email protected]