As the 2019 election approaches, Obinna Ogbonnaya examines the chances of Governor David Umahi to a secure a second term in office, as opposition mounts from APC in the state
As the 2019 general election gathers momentum, the incumbent Governor in Ebonyi State, Chief David is seeking a second term in office while the leading opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is seeking to ensure that the party produces the next governor. Some political analysts in the state believe that contrary to the Governor’s pronouncement that there are no strong opposition to his reelection bid, Umahi’s second term bid may face tough opposition from the APC.
Governor Umahi in 2015 ran for the governorship position on the platform of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) with stiff opposition from his predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi but won the election against all odds. although the then candidate of the Labour Party in the 2015 elections, Chief Edward Nkwagu approached the court seeking the nullification of the election following alleged, eventually the Court held that the election was free and fair confirming the mandate of Governor Umahi.
Since his emergence as the governor of the state, there has been allegations and counter allegation that Governor Umahi in his bid to secure a second term in office has continued to muscle the opposition APC having fully engaged youths numbering over 400 as Technical Assistant and Senior Technical Assistants to the Governor who have commenced deep grassroots penetration across the length and breadth of the state mobilizing support for the governor second term ambition. Apart from the TAs and STAs, the Governor has strongly supported another organisation, Akubaraoha Youth Assembly, (AYA) which is a replica of the then Ebonyi Youth Assembly spearheaded by Chinedu Ogah during the administration of Chief Elechi. Apart from the appointees and the support group, the Governor also recently set up a security committee codenamed Ebonyi Neighbourhood Security Watch with the mandate of fishing out criminals from the different communities.
However, the opposition APC in the state alleged that the different groups are Governor Umahi’s army recruited to muscle the opposition party in the state. The APC recently accused the governor support group, Akubaraoha Youth Assembly of being responsible for the attacks on some APC supporters. The recent attack on a governorship aspirant, Dr. Paul Okorie and 3 other supporters of the party was attributed to the group who they said are the group being used to intimidate and harass the opposition.
Political analyst in the state are of the view that Governor Umahi’s re-election bid may not be an easy ride without stiff opposition as the governor is making people to believe. There is no gainsaying that there are strong forces against the governor re-election bid. It is also believed that in 2015, Umahi’s election success could be partly attributed to his relationship with the powers that be in the center and the question on the lips of many political pundits in the state, is now that PDP is no longer at the center, what becomes of the governor?. A political analyst in the State, Chief Wilfred Ogbu in an interview with Leadership opined that; “Governor Umahi is a politician of note, he understands the intrigues of Nigerian politics unlike many others in the state, he understands that, it is now an APC Government at the centre and a greater percentage of those opposed to his bid, are hoping to cling to the Centre to oust him out of office come 2019.”
According to Ogbu, Umahi has greater chances of remaining in Ebonyi State government House till 2023. According to him, there have been protest here and there against some of his policies but the fact remains that the Governor has changed the status of the state capital and the 13 local council areas.
Meanwhile, the APC has continued to criticised his policies describing them as cosmetic and not appropriately prioritised to suit the needs of Ebonyi people. Been that as it may, it is also not in contention that many roads in Abakaliki the capital city have been rehabilitated and made motorable by the Umahi administration under what it Christened Urban Renewal Policy of his administration. The streetlights adorning every corner of the state has given the state a face-lift, the 3 flyovers, the constant public water supply from the Ministry of Water must be commended.
Stakeholders in the APC has also attributed the crisis in APC to the governor alleging that the governor is the brain behind the fractionalization of the party in the state. Yet, there is the determination within the APC camps that they would use all the federal powers in their arsenal to sack Umahi come 2019.
Surprisingly, the close relationship that exists between President Mohammadu Buhari, his kitchen cabinet members and Governor Umahi has continued to be a source of worry to the APC leaders in the state. Many APC stakeholders rely on the Hon. Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who incidentally hails from the same Uburu community with Umahi to make any meaningful impact come 2019. It is pertinent to note that Gov. Umahi and Dr. Onu had been at opposing ends in the business of politics since Umahi’s entry into the game in 2007. Surprisingly, Onu’s bitterness against Governor Umahi was Umahi’s support for Governor Elechi in 2007 governorship election against his kinsman, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu which led to the burning down of his home and hotel all located in the village. Although, the coast is not yet very clear as to who will stand against Governor Umahi within the APC, there are speculations that Dr. Onu may attempt his third time to govern Ebonyi state.
Dr. Onu’s during a New Year party with APC Stakeholders in his Uburu country-home vowed to end PDP’s ‘Rigging Machine’ and ensure that the APC wins the state in 2019. Onu to a large extent in Uburu is seen as a demi god being the first person to get to such exalted position. Hence, to political analysts, the governorship ambition of Dr. Onu will bring about renewed political rivalry between the two brothers. Chief Ogbu stated further that to forestall the use of the center to oust him out of government house in 2019 that Governor Umahi was fast to declare his support for Buhari for 2019.
In another development, the crisis rocking the APC in Ebonyi state is also viewed as a major setback to the chances of the party in the state. Rather than strive hard to achieve a united party in the state, the APC is neck deep in leadership crisis which has continued to dwindle the chances of the party in the forthcoming election. Unfortunately, Dr. Onu who was seen as the leader of the party in the state and expected to unite party members pitched his tent with a faction led by Eze Nwachukwu Eze. The party conducted parallel congress in the just concluded ward and local government congresses.
Analysts also believe that Umahi stands greater chance of securing his second term bid should the party fail to resolve its crisis and becomes one. While a faction led by Senator Julius Ali Ucha has declared support for Adams Oshimole, Dr.Onu’s group is said to be strongly in support of the continuation of Oyegun leadership. The outcome of the convention would make the coast further clearer in Ebony APC leadership crisis.
Some critical and objective stakeholders in the APC are however of the view that to defeat Umahi in 2019, the APC must not only be united, but must work very hard. They believe that Umahi is an intelligent and smart politician who is capable of planting moles in the APC to reveal the strategies of the party to him.
Pundits also believe that with the infrastructural development of Governor Umahi in Uburu, Ohaozara Local Government, stakeholders from the community may advise the Minister to support Governor Umahi rather than allow the position leave the community. It is also believed that the endorsements of Governor Umahi for another term in office by many groups and individuals and his style of governance and generosity, including the donation of Sports Utility Vehicles to Traditional Rulers, women empowerment programmes , empowerment projects for youths and civil servants in the state and his further promise to enact laws that would enable government to pay former national, state and council lawmakers in the state, he is further enhancing his chances of possible return to the Abacha House in 2019.
Despite the intimidating credentials of Dr. Onu and his political standing in the country, Chief Ogbu said since the inception of the current democratic dispensation, there is a common belief in Uburu and other parts of the state that Dr. Onu’s intimidating credentials and successes have not translated to electoral victory even in his Polling Unit in any political contest. Many, including his ardent followers, are of the opinion that he is yet to adjusted to the realities of modern-day politics in Nigeria which to them is “Money makes the way”.
According to Ogbu; “it could be recall that he had vied for the Governorship of Ebonyi State upon the return of Democracy in 1999 under the platform of APP but could not make history in the election that returned Dr. Sam Egwu as the first civilian Governor of the state. Although the opposition rejected the result of the election alleging irregularities, nothing has changed as the PDP began its hold in the state”.
“Dr. Onu took another shot at the Governorship of the state in 2003 and could not make it the second time. Even in the present day politics, Onu unlike modern day politicians does not believe in using money to actualize any political ambition. His inability to compromise standard, empower his supporters financially and toe the line of modern politics has consistently resulted him into been rigged out during elections. He has maintained the position of telling his supporters to let peace reign and accept the outcome of any election exercise in good faith”.
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