Umahi’s magnanimity and quest for second term -By Muhammad Ajah

Filed under: Life And People,Political Issues |

David Nweze Umahi

The governor of Ebonyi state, the salt of the nation, David Nweze Umahi, recently thrilled the traditional rulers of the state with car gifts – Innoson Jeeps – to facilitate their jobs as custodians of ethics and cultures in their domains. This is in recognition of the tremendous support the leaders have given to his government which has made visible prints in transforming the state. The traditional rulers have been partners in progress with the state administration, helping in curbing crimes in their localities. Umahi has also shown the political will to carry the youth along. Furthermore, he has displayed maturity in Nigerian politics by supporting the President of the Federal Republic despite being a member of the opposition, though there are indications that he may join the ruling party.

The gifts, as it were done to the state lawmakers, were received by the traditional leaders with joy and promise to intensify efforts in assisting the government achieve its mandate for the people of the state even beyond 2019. Though the number of beneficiaries is unannounced, there were speculations that they were up to one hundred. The distribution exercise spanned over a year as the cars were received from the producers batch by batch.

The jubilation that greeted the governor’s gesture permeated all corners of the state, making other traditional leaders to be hopeful that theirs will reach them as soon as possible. The governor handed over the cars to them with a note that the vehicles were provided especially to enhance their commitment in the agricultural activities of the state and also elevate them to the required standard of rulers.

I thank the governor on behalf of my people for counting my traditional leaders amongst the beneficiaries. It is a good initiative that should be extended to others who are willing to key into the state’s community development activities. The leaders have been appreciative and seem ready to mobilize the citizens to ensure Umahi’s continuity.

Nay, Umahi wants a second term. It is supposed to be an undisputable gentlemen agreement due to the fact that each of the two former executive governors from the other senatorial zones had their uninterrupted eight year-leadership of the state. So, why should his be different, coming from the Ebonyi south senatorial zone where powerful national politicians such as Ogbonnaya Onu and Pius Anyim, come from. However, there is still a big question mark about how Umahi mesmerized his former boss to emerge flag-bearer of the PDP and subsequently won the 2015 gubernatorial poll with what some political analysts described as “by all means”. That is politics. Politics is a hard business in Nigeria, most especially at the grassroots. His predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi, must have put down memories of his encounter with Umahi in his diary. At the build-up to 2015 governorship elections, Elechi had strongly opposed the candidacy of Umahi to succeed him in preference for Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, a former Minister of Heath. That generated the glacial relationship between Umahi and Elechi.

Elechi, as well as other players in the Ebonyi political field, must realize that there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics even in developed climes. What is paramount is permanent interest. Umahi may have realized the 2015 encounter and seems ready for reconciliation. He has extended a hand of friendship to Ebonyi political bigwigs, Elechi, Senator Sam Egwu, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Chief Pius Anyim, amongst others, to join him in the effort to develop the state. During the 2018 Democracy Day celebration at the Abakaliki Township Stadium, Umahi expressed readiness to honour them for their contributions to the upliftment of the state.

But this extension of the olive branch and acclaimed love for Buhari and APC could not withstand the time. Umahi banned the APC from using the stadium of the state capital city, Pa Ngele Oruta Abakaliki Township stadium, for its South East mega rally for Buhari ahead of the 2019 general election, a gathering which is expected to have the National Chairman, Comrade Adam Oshiomohole and other top party regional and national stalwarts in attendance. Although, the APC state chairman, Hon. Nwachukwu Eze vowed that nothing can stop the rally which did hold on Saturday August 4, 2018, the mere opposition of Umahi to the Buhari rally engendered a controversial signal and double standard against all his political proclamations in favour of the President.

Notwithstanding all these, are these politicians ready to join Umahi’s second term pursuit, especially now that speculations are on that he wants to dump PDP for APC? Not long ago, Umahi had accused Onu and Elechi of high level propaganda against his administration by contracting young men to dish out falsehood on the social media. Umahi had assured of retiring all his opponents in 2019 general elections as he did in 2015. He had exploded in one occasion, saying: “Let me challenge Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. When he was a governor, there was nothing Ohaozara people or old Afikpo people could show for it. There is nothing Elechi can say is his legacy in this state, why don’t you leave us alone? Let me assure you that by the powers that brought us to power, we shall retire all of them in 2019”. He challenged them to a debate even at the APC national party secretariat. He had insisted that the duo have nothing to offer the state, describing them as so frustrated citizens who are “digging and burying their destinies.”

In his article: “Ebonyi spoils for 2019 hostilities”, Leo Sobechi recalled how Umahi fought for his political future under Elechi and his chances in the forthcoming elections. The writer explored the implications of the resignation of Umahi SSG, Prof. Odoh and the high disaffection amongst the executive members of the state. Umahi is feeling the betrayals he had in 2015. But he is quick to recover some level of confidence, saying: “When I received the heaviest dose of betrayal in 2015, I had no Executive Council, House of Assembly and even SSG to say the least, presently these organs are in place. I am sure to have at least five faithful followers in an EXCO of 60 and would therefore not retreat or surrender.” According to Leo, the battle cry for 2019 has sounded. What remains is to see the combatants, their battle gears and battle positions.

Amidst this opposition, some groups in the state, including Umahi Continuity Initiative 2019 believe that only the governor’s achievements will campaign for him in 2019. The group’s coordinator, Chief Enyinnaya Egwu, noted that the governor has fulfilled all his campaign promises in office through infrastructural development, human empowerment, security and prompt payment of workers’ salaries, payment of arrears and pensions of retired civil servants in the state from 1996-till date, amongst others. Founder of a non-governmental organization, David Umahi Nweze Akubaraoha Ebonyi Transformation Agenda (DUNAETA), Lady Monica Ada Eze, launched a campaign for Umahi’s reelection. Special Adviser to Umahi on Capital Territory, Hon. Stanley Okoro, declared that projects have been executed across the 13 local government areas of the state, recalling some landmark projects commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari, a visit he described as a testament to the good work of Umahi.

James Ezes featured some merits and demerits of Umahi’s government that should be the yardstick for his second term quest. Areas of positive impact on Ebonyi people by the Umahi administration, he observed, include: road construction, education, health facilities, agriculture and workers’ welfare. On the other hand, according to the analyst, Umahi has over taxed the citizens of the state, reduced workers’ salaries, taken governance as family business, encouraged illegal fees in schools and some levels of wastage of public funds.

With all likelihood of Umahi retaining power beyond 2019, it is definitely going to be a rocky race. The likes of Engr. Paul Okorie, Senator Sonnie Ogbuoji as well as Ogbonnaya Onu, look on to their emergence from the APC. Okorie is a close ally of the two former governors of Ebonyi, Egwu and Elechi, having served as commissioner in their regimes. It was alleged that Umahi masterminded Okorie’s exit from Elechi’s second term administration to pave way for his, Umahi’s, governorship bid.

Ogbuoji, a one-time council chairman of old Afikpo Local Government in the old Abia state and Commissioner in Ebonyi state during Elechi’s first tenure, worked with Onu as governor of old Abia state. Elected into the 8th Senate under PDP, his defection to the APC is believed to be linked to an agreement between him and Onu towards 2019 elections. As for Onu, the APC members in Ebonyi seem to look at him as their preferred governorship candidate. Although he is still silent, the victory of his Ekiti state colleague in the federal executive, Kayode Fayemi, who defeated an opposition governor, may spur him to contest the Ebonyi number one citizenship in 2019.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

 

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