2O23: Gov Umahi’s defection and Igbo presidency

The defection of the Ebonyi state governor, Dr. David Umahi, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has elicited a lot of reactions which point to his perceived 2023 presidency. TOPE SUNDAY writes.

Before his official defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the governor of Ebonyi state, Dr. Dave Umahi, had not for once denied his affection and respect for President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the APC. His open display of respect had made political observers to insinuate and predict that he may soon dump his party for the ruling APC.

Umahi’s soft spot for Buhari

Blueprint Weekend recalls that Governor Umahi on September 26, 2019, declared that he would sack any of his aides who insulted President Muhammadu Buhari. Also, he warned that any of his appointees who insulted any governor or downplayed their achievements would have his or her appointment terminated.

The governor in a statement issued by his special assistant on new media, Mr. Francis Nwaze, said: “The Ebonyi state governor, David Nweze Umahi, has prohibited any of his political appointees from castigating or abusing the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari. Doing such to any government or any governor in this country has no value to add to his administration.”

 “The governor has advised that anyone who wishes to throw unnecessary stone against any of the above mentioned leaders, should, in his or her own best interest, get ready to leave his government as such will attract immediate sacking.

“Any posting, henceforth, against the president, any governor or government from any of his appointees will attract immediate termination of appointment by him.”

The defection

After many months of suspense, political alignments and re-alignments, the governor dumped the PDP and moved to the ruling APC, citing ‘injustice his former party allegedly meted out to the South-east geo-political zone as his reason for leaving his former party.

He said he had no deal with the APC or any member of the party with regards to the zoning of the presidential position to the region.

 “I want to clear the air that I never sought PDP presidential ticket and I will not. So, whoever that said that I moved to APC because they refused to zone the ticket to me is being very mischievous.

 “There are a lot of qualified persons from South-east. Some people say I was promised lots of things by the APC, there was no such discussion. APC never promised me any position; they never promised South-east any position.

“However, I offered this movement as a protest to injustice being done to South-east by the PDP. Since 1999, the South-east has supported the PDP. At a time the five states were all PDP. One of the founding members of the PDP was from South-east, the late former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme.

“It is absurd that since 1999 going to 2023, the South-east will never be considered to run for presidency under the PDP. And this is my position and will continue to be my position. It had nothing to do with me or my ambition,” he said.

The criticisms

The new political move by the Ebonyi governor is seen and perceived as a personal ambition that devoid of the collective interest of the Igbo nation. The people of the South-East geo-political zone are amounting agitation for their chance to produce the next president of Nigeria. They argued that in the last twenty years, they are neither the president nor vice president of Nigeria.  

But despite their arguments and agitation and Governor Umahi’s cross-carpeting to the ruling APC, the Rivers state Governor, Mr. Nyosom Wike, who had been a leading voice of PDP in the recent time, said Governor Umahi defected to the APC because of his presidential ambition.

Wike, whose stance is contained in a statement by his special assistant (media), Kelvin Ebiri, also accused Umahi of being unfair to the PDP.

 “Committed members of PDP were not surprised that Governor Umahi on Tuesday formally defected to the APC, which he has for a while been fraternising with. My friend, Umahi, wants to be president. There is no problem about that.”

He said Umahi was wrong to accuse the PDP of injustice when he had imposed his younger brother as the South-east zonal vice chairman of the PDP.

Another member of the PDP, a former governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose,  while reacting to Governor Umahi’s defection, said the governor had long time ago defected to APC, but only formalised it on Tuesday, adding that his new political move had nothing to do with the interest of the Igbo nation.

In a tweet, the former governor wrote: “Governor Umahi defected to APC long ago before this unjustifiable move, which clearly has nothing to do with the interest of the Igbo nation.”

Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s take

While others perceived Governor Umahi’s defection to the APC as a calculated attempt to clinch the party’s presidential ticket in 2023, the president-general, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, is of the opinion that the governor’s defection was an act of exercising his fundamental rights as a politician.

The elder statesman, who said it was not in his character to determine for a politician on what platform he or she could operate from, said Umahi “is free to do what he likes and is convinced about.”

“It is not in my face to determine for a politician what platform he will like to operate from. That is his fundamental right. He is free to do what he likes and what he is convinced about.

 “When it comes to the time when the Igbo will decide which side to go to, then you will have my view if I am still in office,” he said.

But the publicity secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said there was nothing surprising in what the governor did, saying that is largely about personal interest.

“Well, politicians have their ways. But the truth of the matter is that fundamentally, the political parties we are having now, there is no much difference between them.

“That is why it is very easy for somebody to be APC in the morning, PDP in the afternoon, another party in the evening. It is not about principle; it is about interest the politicians are pursuing. So there is nothing surprising in what Umahi has done,” he said.

The defection of Governor David Umahi to the APC, has swelled up the number of the governors the party has in the South-east geo-political zone, which is perceived to be the stronghold of the PDP. As it stands, APC has governors in the two states of Imo and Ebonyi. The region has five states. Now, the governors of Enugu and Abia are of the PDP, while that of Anambra, is a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Will the defection of Governor Umahi change the narrative in the South-east, does he have the popularity and structure to prosecute his ambition if he eventually declares interest? 

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