The Ibibio people were first believed to have populated the state around 300AD, but were pushed out by the Igbo. In precolonial times the Arochukwu Kingdom (founded between 1650 and 1700AD) was a prominent source of slaves who were traded at the port of Old Calabar (in current day Cross River State).
Abia became part of the Southern Protectorate under British colonial rule following the Aro-Anglo War of 1901-1902, and was part of the Eastern Region in the three-region structure of 1954. In 1967, with the creation of twelve federal states by General Yakubu Gowon’s military government, it was part of the East Central State. In 1976, the military government of General Murtala Muhammed created nineteen states out of the existing twelve; at the time, Abia was a part of Imo State. In 1991, the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida established Abia State as its own entity.
The Igbo are the majority ethnic group in Abia State and Igbo is the main language spoken there. The name Abia is an acronym formed from the first letters of Aba, Bende, Isuikwuato, and Afikpo – believed to be the first Igbo groups to inhabit the state.
The dominant religion in Abia State is Christianity, although a certain amount of traditional religion is still practised. There are also a number of Muslims living in the state.
Jaja Anucha Wachuku (1918 – 1996), a native of Abia State, was the first Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, as well as the first Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He was also the first Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs.