Swelling rumour around Umahi’s defection

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Umahi
Umahi

Whether it is true or not, a rumour has sprouted on the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi’s purported plan to defect to the ruling All Progressives Congress, Benjamin Nworie writes…

In Ebonyi State, there are two dominant political parties. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which is the ruling in the state and the All Progressives Congress, the opposition party. Since in 1999, PDP has continued to dominate and occupy the political space in the state.

Though before the merger of the ANPP, ACN and CPC to form the APC, the defunct ANPP had attempted an inroad to the state by capturing a seat in the House of Representatives and two in the state House of Assembly – it still did not alter the equation as to which party is grounded in the state.

That was in 2011, when opposition parties in the state made some

breakthrough and schemed itself into the governance of the state. But rather than consolidate on the successes made in 2011, APC was riddled with internal crisis that produced three factional chairmen. And as the crisis lasted, PDP seized the moment to woo some aggrieved party members and mended its ways towards building common fronts ahead of the 2015 general election.

Yet, the PDP too was not completely free from its own challenges, but the Ebonyi people seemed to have a lot of confidence in PDP than any other political party, at least to their level of political consciousness and participation.

With the governorship election contested and won by David Umahi, the attention has since shifted to how to queue properly in the APC federal government, due to the failure of President Goodluck Jonathan. It was hoped and envisaged that the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari would once again revive the fortunes of APC in Ebonyi but the party is still embroiled in leadership crisis.

The APC is yet to liberate itself from the factional crisis, which according to analyst, was borne out of desperation by its members to strangulate the party for selfish interest. Against this backdrop, observers have fingered the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr.

Ogbonnaya Onu for the unfortunate crisis in Ebonyi APC, alleging that the party was factionalised at his instance.

It was expected that Onu would have observed his party’s supremacy that ratified the state congress held on April, 29 2014, and led by Princesses Adesola Ndu, producing the state chairman, Hon. Ben Nwobashi, for peace to reign in the party.

It was recalled that Onu, during his perceived struggle and lobby for the position of Secretary to the federal government co-opted the state Vice chairman, Pastor Eze Nwachukwu Eze to be his factional chairman and equally accorded him the respect that follows same against Ben Nwobashi led executive.

Eze’s faction would later team up with members of the Labour Party to organize civic reception in honour of Onu and championed that Onu should be given SGF.

At that time, speculations were rife that Onu would be named SGF in a matter of time. Some, according to feelers, had prepared their congratulatory and goodwill messages. But the certainty gradually evaporated when after one to two weeks of high expectations, no appointment of such was forthcoming. This may have informed or triggered off the attack on the lucky SGF, David Babachir Lawal by Onu’s loyalists.

Onu’s loyalists saw Lawal’s appointment as an affront and total betrayal of Onu. In a recent publication, some “faceless” APC stakeholders attacked the SGF for visiting Ebonyi to commission projects. The same publication also commended Onu for his resolve to revive the moribund ministry of Science and Technology.

The attackers alleged that Ebonyi State government covertly worked against the appointment of Onu as SGF in preference to Lawal. And based from the foregoing, it was rumoured that Lawal’s visit was to perfect Umahi’s defection plan.

Even before Lawal came to Ebonyi on his one day working visit, where he inspected some ongoing projects and commissioned the renovated ultra-modern Governor’s lodge, speculations and rumors had gone virile that Umahi was no more in PDP. Some even claimed that he had concluded plans to publicly defect to the APC to avoid being in opposition against the federal government, and perhaps to ensure his re-election in 2019.

But if Umahi’s re-election was given as a reason for his rumoured defection, the initiators may not have been abreast with the growing goodwill, popularity of the governor, who in every sense is believed to have performed beyond expectations to the extent of his endorsement by the different interests in the state for a second term.

Umahi’s critics were bothered more about why he should be the first PDP governor to visit Buhari in Aso Rock and other stalwarts of the APC shortly after APC’s victory. Some also conceived that Umahi’s visit to the Internally Displaced persons in Borno and other Northern states was part of his plans to woo the hearts of the northern people towards reaching and romancing the presidency.

Others questioned why the governor did not choose the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremmadu or any other top ranking member of the PDP to commission his projects, instead of inviting the SGF. The latest factor being highlighted was the bankruptcy of the PDP in the state even to fund its activities and pay workers’ salaries since June last year.

People argue that the governor is starving the PDP to make it redundant and insolvent. It was alleged that the governor no longer pays attention to the party, whether it is sinking or not. The promoters may not have devoted time to ponder the covenant of the governor, where he specifically vowed that he would not commit a dime of the state government other than to the development of the state.

In all these, one thing has remained certain in the political life of Umahi: the governor believes in the unity of the country, no matter the political divide one finds him or herself. At the inception of his administration, Umahi admitted that he was the first governor to visit the President because it was needless to criticise and oppose the federal government.

In many quarters, Umahi has continued to stress that he remains a PDP member. As critics are yet to fathom the basis of his Abuja visit, they know it was entirely to champion, discuss and solicit the way forward for the development of Ebonyi.

But the governor gave an insight to his visit, when he said “Within the month of June and by the Grace of God, I was the first governor to meet with Mr. President. I presented five roads and made a demand to allow us do these roads and the federal government will refund us.

“Because of schedule, it took time for him to send the letter to the Ministry of Works and Transport but unfortunately, I discovered that Works and Transport advised against allowing us to do as requested. The decision came because all over the nation, federal government owes states the total of 526 billion naira, so it has to pay the states before asking them to do another one, and Ebonyi is being owed ten billion naira.

“Based on that, we didn’t know what to do but to advertise the federal road projects and made it known that any contractor handling the job will have to give us time to complete the payment later, after such projects must have been completed. What we did was to advertise for a section of Nkalagu federal road. And we are also making efforts to conclude it immediately so that we can start the remaining. That’s what we will do there,” Umahi explained.

He admitted that some lobbyists had been wooing him to defect to the APC, but he maintained that his party remains a veritable platform for the development of the state hence his administration and the PDP in the state would not engage in “senseless opposition” against the Buhari-led administration.

“We like what he is doing in the fight against corruption. You can see honesty in his administration and his commitment to rebuild Nigeria. I share certain virtues with him. We, as a state will continue to support him. To oppose him is to oppose the truth but as we support him, we have to support our party, the PDP, so that together we can stand.

“We will not engage in needless opposition to the FG. When election comes, we can divide along party lines but immediately after, we can come together as a people to build the nation. Ebonyi State has a lot of challenges and we will not engage in senseless opposition to thecentral government,” he said.

Assuming the political realignment creeping into the Nwobashi-led APC in the state is anything to go by, the PDP should tighten its belts in subsequent elections in the state, especially the local government elections, if the agitation for its conduct scales through. Indications have emerged that strong forces are aggregating to fight Umahi to a standstill. With the failure of the Labour Party to sack Umahi in the marathon legal tussle, attention of the opposition is now geared towards causing disaffection in the state and against the presidency.

The fear in some quarters is that should opposition sprout against Umahi’s administration, it may not augur well with the governor because of the “bad eggs” in his cabinet. Some of his cabinet members have been accused to be agents of the opposition, allegedly divulging official secret of the state government, which became evident in the attack against the recent SGF’s visit to the state.

This is however not surprising to observers because of the mentality of “Ebonyi” politicians, who can betray or sell his brother in anticipation of political compensation and accommodation, for as long as the price is right. This also brings to fore, the attitudes of members and composition of the PDP Elders’ Council, who are mainly following Umahi for self aggrandisement and not because of the governor’s transformation of the state.

Whichever way the Umahi administration is analysed, it might be unfair if the achievements evident in almost all sectors of the economy are not brought to bear. This, perhaps, was believed to have prompted the SGF to declare categorically that Umahi has performed more than many APC governors. In fact, Lawal noted that he was surprised that a governor like Umahi is still found in PDP.

But the only cankerworm that may discredit Umahi’s administration, no matter the level of development, is the enforcement of the new tax law. Though Umahi is in a hurry to develop the state and to prudently utilise the meagre federal allocation accruing to the state, opinion in many quarters is that the application of the new tax policy should be progressive to avoid forcing the people to untold hardship.

Observers have advised that if the old tax can still be enforced and adequate measures are put in place to ensure that the monies are not diverted, it would still beef up the internally generated revenue.

A notable PDP elder was alleged to have threatened to oppose the new tax regime because Ebonyi people will not pay with their blood. The stalwart described Umahi as a special gift but was furious on the economic hardship in the state because, according to him, the governor has chosen to undertake all the projects through direct labour, thereby enriching only himself. (Thisday)

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