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Umahi Versus Thickening Opposition

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Governor David Umahi’s government in Ebonyi State is riding on the crest of a huge support base from the masses, but the opposition APC in the state, led by Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, minister for Science and Technology and former governor Elechi Amadi is doing all it can to see if can battle the governor out of power in 2019. Obinna Ogbonnaya writes.

The political atmosphere ahead of the 2019 general elections is gathering momentum in Ebonyi State as different Governor David Umahi political support groups, communities, council areas, political appointees including the People’s Democratic Party all during their Yelutide visited to the governor to endorse him and to further declare that he is their consensus candidate for the governorship position in the state.

Though the governor is yet to declare officially his intention to seek re-election, it is very clear that he would not just be seeking re-election but is determined to win following some landmark achievement credited to his administration. Governor Umahi in 2015 had to go through serious troubled waters to emerge the governor of the state and a man. Because Governor Umahi would certainly seek a re-election, he is seen as not leaving anything unattended to towards 2019. It is widely believed that the governor  has transformed the state capital and the 13 local government areas within two years in his office.

Whether he has declared or not Umahi is believed to have assembled all arsenal to ensure that anything that would jeopardize his political ambition is tackled head on before the general election. Unlike the former Governor Elechi’s who according to observers was insensitivity to the yearnings and aspiration of the people, especially civil servants as well as his failure to heed to wise counsels caused him to lose the 2015 gubernatorial primary, Umahi understands the rules of engagement. Ex-governor Elechi also undermined the influence of key stakeholders, opinion leaders as well as political arrangements which eventually consumed his political ambition to return as governor in 2015.

Governor David Umahi, having carefully studied and understood the mistakes and misfortunes of his predecessor decided to avoid taking such wrong steps that may work against his second term agenda.

In understanding the importance of the civil servants in determining who becomes the governor of the state, he engaged the workers and after several negotiations and consultations his government began the payment of leave allawance and pension, while paying workers salary on or before 15th of every month.  The result is that organized labour in the state, made up of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JPSCNC) and National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) endorsed Governor Umahi for a second term in Abakaliki Township Stadium at a function organized in his honour. The leaders of the labour unions while speaking at the event said since assumption of office, Umahi has maintained regular payment of workers’ salaries and introduced 13th month salaries into the state civil service.

The NLC, led by the state chairman, Comrade Leo Nkah noted that Governor Umahi has paid 2016 and 2017 promotion and leave allowances of all civil servants in the state in addition to payment of retired civil servants. “As we speak now, alerts  for gratuities are being received and confirmations gotten. In just this December, your excellency have caused a sort of ‘money rain’ on the workers’ two years arrears of leave allowances, December salaries, promotions arrears etc.

“This action is also on the heels of expedited action being taken on yearly increment with the implementation of Gen. 35. This has been the dream of the workers, ”he said. The governor ahead of the Christmas celebration paid N10,000 to every civil servant in the state to use in the celebration of the Yuletide period. On the January 5, he would pay every worker in the state,  50 per cent of his basic salary as take off cash for the year while their monthly salary would still come before the 15th of the month.”

According to the labour leaders,  we don’t have any doubt about the good intention of the governor to all of us and like he has always said,  he is not a politician but God-sent to the state.  We would give him all the support in 2019 despite any opposition though we are not expecting any because he has covered all grounds.

Apart from the endorsement from the workers, the people of Ebonyi State during last year Christmas paid homage to the governor and unanimously urged him to seek re-election and endorsed him for another tenure. According to a member of the Federal House of Representive, Hon Lazarus Ogbee,  “Umahi has demonstrated commitment towards the development of our state and our people, and he has achieved more than any administration has achieved since the creation of the state and we have collectively put it to the governor that he must not only contest the general elections but must stand as the sole candidate representing the aspirations of the entire state.

It would also be recalled that another member of the House of Representative,  Hon Linus Okorie, representing Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituency during the visit also observed and with the due consultation with various communities that came in thousands during the Christmas and New Year visit of homage to the governor, said that Governor Umahi must not only stand for the second term in the 2019 general elections, but must be the sole candidate of PDP and other progressives parties desirous of the greatness and future of Ebonyi State.

Ebony South Development Public Officers Forum made up of all elected and appointed politicians in the state led by the state’s assembly deputy speaker,  Hon Odefa Obasi Odefa during their visit to the governor stated that if the feats of Governor Umahi in less than two years in office are anything to go by he should stand as the sole candidate of all the functional political parties in Ebonyi State during the 2019 gubernatorial elections.

“The fact remains that we in Ebonyi State are not only blessed through Umahi who has exposed our state to unprecedented revolution and transformation of our dear state, but we can proudly stand before any state in the federation in terms of having a visionary leader whose impact is very visible, even to the blind.”

In a similar development, the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP,  Chief Onyekachi Nwaebonyi during a media chat with journalist in Abakaliki said “We are happy with the governor. Your second tenure is assured. We can only disagree with you if you refuse to present yourself. But I know the good Lord will guide you in all your dealings.” He noted that Umahi had given the state a facelift within a short space of time, and urged him to come out for a second term in office.

However, members of the All Progressive Congress, APC, especially the Pastor Eze Nwachukwu Eze-led faction believes that the endorsements do not mean electoral victory at the polls.  While the opposition party accepts that the state governor has performed in the area of infrastructural development and human empowerment it thinks that the APC would have done better if in the position. The state governor unlike the past administrations has been facing serious criticism from the opposition APC, especially on social media attacking all his programmes and policies. The APC which parades the likes of the minister for Science and Technology,  Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, immediate past governor of the state,  Chief Martin Elechi among others believes that come 2019, the votes would swing in the favour of the APC.

Just as it is believed that the recent defection of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar would affect the APC in the center,  it is believed that the recent defection of the Senator Representing Ebony Central zone,  Senator Sonny Ogbuoji would affect the PDP in the state.  Many believe that the senator who has represented the zone twice would be contesting the governorship position of the state coming from the same zone with Governor Umahi. The APC is believed to be making frantic efforts to woo many PDP national and state assembly members to the party ahead of the election with a promise that they would enjoy federal patronage during the election. There are fears within the circle of the PDP that some other members might still dump the PDP for APC ahead of the election thereby reducing the influence of the PDP in the different local government  and development centers in the state.

It is believed that the different political pamutation would become clearer before the middle of the year when the different political parties must have conducted their parties primaries. Political analysts are of the view that if Governor Umahi defects to the All Progressives Congress APC,  it would be the magic stroke as he would hijack the party structure in APC while those parading themselves as the party leaders would be forced to either dump the party back to PDP where the governor would still control the party structure or would be forced to work for his re-election.

His political antecedents shows that he is a man with wealth of experience both in party politics and human development, so it is widely believed that everything is working in his favour.





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