By our Correspondents |
The South-East geopolitical zone is presently on the spotlight with the defection of Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, to the All Progressives Congress (APC), a development that has intensified agitation for Igbo presidency in 2023.
While the Progressive Governors’ Forum are presently converging today in Abakaliki, capital of Ebonyi State, for the formal declaration of the former Peoples Democratic Party governor as APC member, top political leaders, particularly from the South-East, have been reacting to Umahi’s defection, insisting that the ‘Igbo Presidency’ is not negotiable.
Governor Umahi who is also the chairman of the South-East PDP governors on Tuesday said he defected to the ruling APC because the PDP has not being fair to the zone since inception in 1999.
He also said his decision to defect should be seen as sacrificial and not for any personal gain.
But the Senate Minority Leader and Senator representing Abia South at the National Assembly, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while dismissing the argument proffered by the governor stressed that Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is not negotiable come 2023.
He also vowed to remain in the Vanguard for the agitation of Justice, equity and fairness for the South-East in national affairs despite all odds.
He argued that giving up the agitation to accord the zone equal opportunities with other parts of the country would deepen their already existing pitiable condition and thus subject her people to second class citizens.
The Senator who stated this after being presented with a legacy merit Award as the “most outstanding performing senator in the Southeast 2020” by the NUJ, Imo state council insisted that the quest for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 was non- negotiable.
Represented by his Aide, Chief Chijioke Ukoh, the senator however enjoined the Igbo not to relent but to remain firm, resolute and undaunted in the face of legions of challenges, assuring that light would definitely appear at the end of the tunnel one day.
According to him, “Igbo president of Nigeria of extraction come 2023 is not negotiable and the time has come for the Igbos to close rank, work as united force in collaboration with other geo-political zones of the country, so as to realize this ambition.”
The Minority Leader of the Senate, on another occasion, said the PDP was not in any way disturbed with the exit of Governor Umahi.
In a statement issued by his media adviser, Uchenna Awom, in Abuja, Senator Abaribe said the party had before now adverted her mind to the fact that, Governor Umahi was already in his new party, the APC in spirit before his formal announcement on Tuesday.
He said while the PDP is unfazed and will surely not be affected negatively or its membership eroded, the fortunes of APC will not be enhanced by Umahi joining of the party.
He also faulted Umahi’s reasons of injustice and lack of fairness as the reason he left the party, saying that it is all glaring with clear indices that the PDP has been very fair to the South East in all its dealings since inception.
“It is not true and very unfortunate for the governor to characterise the PDP in such light. Examples are legion, which shows that our dear party has reciprocated severally the support of the South East, meaning that the party is not taking the support of Ndi-Igbo for granted. It is inconceivable to perceive the position of Presidential photographer, which Ndi-Igbo currently occupies in the villa as fairness,” Abaribe said.
Nonetheless, Senator Abaribe said Governor Umahi is well within his right as an individual to change position, but such in this circumstance must be hinged on very altruistic reasons other than allegations of injustice and unfair treatment of the South East by the PDP.
Also reacting to the issue of Igbo presidency in 2023, former governor of Imo State and Senator representing Imo West senatorial district, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, said the Igbos alone cannot produce the president of the country.
Okorocha spoke when eminent Igbos, operating under the aegis of Movement for the Actualization of Nigeria President of Igbo Extraction (MANPIE) visited him at his Owerri residence to urge him to run for the office of President in 2023 and to also inform him that they had adopted him as a consensus candidate.
The former governor remarked that the Igbos need the supports of the rest of Nigerians to realise their dream or aspiration of seeing an Igbo man, woman elected the president of the country in 2023.
Okorocha stated that although he had run for the presidency on two occasions before 2015, he ran that of 2015 on the platform of APC to send out a message that the Igbos are major stakeholders in the new party, and that he achieved that goal, to a very large extent.
He explained that he has every reason to believe in the nation called Nigeria because he was born an Igbo man, brought up in the North and empowered economically by the West.
The former governor stated: “It is true that Igbos are highly misunderstood, but allow me to say that, Igbos are the most peaceful Nigerians and wherever you find them, they are building bridges of peace and economic developments. The Igbos are the only people that have invested more outside, than what they had invested in their own land.”
Senator Okorocha also expressed gladness that the governor of Ebonyi State, Dr David Umahi has joined the APC and said that, the governor had taken the right action.
In their reaction, the PDP National Assembly caucus also yesterday declared that Governor Umahi was on his own following his defection.
The Ebonyi State federal legislators stated this in a press briefing at the Senate wing of the National Assembly to clear the air over speculations of plans by some of them from the state to join the governor in the ruling APC and to state the position of the party following the development.
In a statement signed by Senator Sam Ominyi Egwu, Senator Obinna Ogba, Senator Mike Ama Nnachi, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga, Hon. Igariwey Iduma Enwo, Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku, Hon. Edwin Anayo, and Hon. Livinus Makwe, the Ebonyi federal legislators who were also accompanied by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Aberibe, said no Ebonyi State PDP caucus of the National Assembly was planning defecting to the APC.
They further declared that the lawmakers remain proud card-carrying members of the PDP, the platform under which they contested and won elections in 2019.
They also frowned at the major reason given by Governor Umahi for defecting from the PDP to the APC, saying they consider it impolitic, indecent and unwise for him to give ultimatums and conditionalities in a bid to secure zoning.
“Indeed, if there is any Ebonyi person who should remain eternally grateful to the PDP, that individual ought to be Governor David Umahi; a man who was appointed the Ebonyi State Chairman of the PDP, made deputy governor of a PDP administration, and was elected for two terms under the banner of the PDP. As Governor, his two younger brothers were elected to principal offices of the PDP; one (Mr Austine Umahi) as the national vice chairman (South East) and another (Mr. Maxwell Umahi) as the deputy state chairman of the PDP.”
The legislators said while it is Umahi’s right to freely associate, they are also aware of the position of the Supreme Court on defection.
They stated: “As democrats, we concede Chief Umahi’s right to join any political association of his choice. However, as federal lawmakers we are not unaware of the Supreme Court’s decision that candidates are products of political parties. What it means is that political office holders are not at liberty to migrate from one political platform to another, particularly when there is no division in their party.
“We wish to use this opportunity to thank the leadership of our grate party, the PDP for their prompt action in dissolving the ward, local government, state and zonal structures of the party in Ebonyi State, and their announcement of a state caretaker team. We also wish to thank teeming members and supporters in our various constituencies who have remained undaunted and committed to their membership of the PDP. We also wish to thank the South East caucus, and indeed the entire PDP family of the National Assembly”.
Similarly, the Party’s Caucus from Ebonyi state led by Senator Egwu, said the National Assembly members from the state, would not abandon the PDP because of Umahi.
“We remain proud card carrying members of the PDP, the platform on which we contested elections in 2019 and won,” he said.
Egwu while reading the text of the press conference, said, “For the sake of clarity, we wish to state that not a single member of the Ebonyi State PDP caucus of the National Assembly is defecting to the APC.
“While we support that it is the turn of the South East to fly the Presidential flag of any of the major political parties come 2023, yet we consider it impolitic, indecent and unwise to give ultimatums and conditionalities in a bid to secure zoning.
“Indeed, if there is any Ebonyi person who should remain eternally grateful to the PDP, that individual ought to be the Governor David Umahi; a man who was appointed the Ebonyi State chairman of the PDP, made deputy governor of a PDP administration, and was elected for two terms under the banner of the PDP.”
It would be recalled that the state executive of the Ebonyi PDP was dissolved by the National Working Committee shortly after the governor defected but the Chairman of the dissolved Party State Working Committee (SWC), Barr Onyekachi Nwebonyi has described as laughable the purported dissolution of the State Executive.
Briefing journalist yesterday at the party’s secretariat along the Enugu/Abakaliki Express road, Barr Nwebonyi said that it is laughable to think that the NWC would just get up and dissolve a state executive committee because the governor or few individuals want to leave the party.
He stated that the state executive was still in charge of the party in the State for the next four years having been duly elected pointing out that the tenure of the current executive would elapse in 2024.
He said, “Nobody, not even the NWC has the power to dissolve the State Executives. The purported dissolution is laughable and joke of the century. It is laughable to think that the NWC would just get up and dissolve a state executive committee because the governor or a few individuals want to leave the party.”
On the allegation by River State governor, Nyesom Wike, that the Governor Umahi’s defection to APC is personal and has nothing to do with the South East agitation for presidency in 2023, Barr Nwebonyi noted that on October 20th, 2020, the State Working Committee of the PDP made a press release in which sensitive issues regarding the growth and sustenance of the party were touched.
He said, “We restated our resolve to work assiduously to deliver our party at the polls in 2023 as we have always done, if justice, equity, and fairness would be maintained in the party. We pledged unalloyed support to the party and its leadership under Prince Uche Secondus.
“Prominent among the issues raised was the zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket of the PDP to the Southeast Geopolitical Zone, as the party has been marginalizing the zone since 1999. That was the main reason the governor gave for his intention to leave the party when we approached him.
“So, anyone alleging that it was on selfish interest that Governor Umahi decided to leave the party is being economical with the truth rather it was for the interest of Ndigbo”.
Barr Nwebonyi however urged members of the PDP in the state to disregard the purported dissolution and go about their normal business adding that the SWC would challenge the purported dissolution in a competent court.
Wike’s Dictatorial Tendencies Destroying PDP – Umahi
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State governor, Chief David Umahi, has described his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike as a dictator whose dictatorial tendencies is destroying the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Governor Umahi has also reacted to a statement credited to Wike who said he left the party to the APC because of his desperation to be president of the country.
Umahi spoke on Arise TV interview program yesterday.
He said Wike’s dictatorial tendencies and overbearing influence on the running of the party affairs has made other governors to be unhappy with him.
He warned Wike to desist from attacking him as it would be very dangerous if both of them continue attacking each other.
He said, “I refused to join issues with Wike because he is my friend. But Wike must know that he is a dictator. Wike must know that one person cannot be called a crowd. Wike must know that a lot of governors in PDP are not very happy with him. He remote controls the party.
“He( Wike) said that I made my brother the vice chairman. I fund the PDP South-East from A to Z. And he has forgotten that he singlehandedly made Secondus the chairman. He has forgotten that he wanted to impose one of his own as minority Leader of the House.
“There is nothing that happens in PDP without his authorization. He once said that PDP National Working Committee members are beggars and bribe takers. I have asked him that lets not take on ourselves or else it will be very dangerous.
“So let us face the party, the party does not belong to him. And this is by no means personal and he is demonstrating the dictatorial tendencies in him by taking on me, a fellow governor. And that is very shameful.”
Mr Umahi warned that unless there is a change in the mode of doing things in PDP from a situation where it is being remote controlled, then more governors will likely leave the party.
“APC does more consultation and anybody can contravene this that PDP working committee is being remote controlled and that is the truth and it is very dangerous and all the governors know that.
“You cannot stay in your state and you will be remote controlling what happens in other states. Unless that changes, you will see a lot of governors leaving the party, he warned.
Governor Umahi also said he is not desperate to be president of the country.
He said he will be a happy man if a President of South-East extraction is elected in 2023 even if that person is not him.
PMB Endorses Umahi’s Membership Of APC, Says His Defection Based On Principle, Not Coercion
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday endorsed the defection of Governor Umahi to APC, describing it as a bold move driven purely by principle rather than opportunistic motives.
Reacting to the defection, President Buhari, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said, “I am proud of Governor David Umahi for taking this bold decision in accordance with his conscience and principles rather than any external influence or coercion.
“Good governance is very important to us in the APC, and I’m glad that the governor has cited this as a major factor in his decision to join us. I urge our citizens to pay less emphasis on identity politics if we want our democracy to make a positive impact on our country.
“With men like Umahi, I foresee a brighter future for our democracy because the voters will be more motivated by performance records of parties and their candidates.
“Let me once again; commend the boldness of Governor Umahi for taking this courageous decision in a country where principles are in short supply among many. I know people might call him names, but that is the price men of principles have to pay for acting according to their conscience and convictions”.
Progressive Governors Storm Ebonyi
Meanwhile, all is now set for the official defection of Governor Umahi today.
Caretaker committee chairman of the APC and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, arrived in Ebonyi State yesterday alongside some party bigwigs ahead of the formal defection of Umahi.
Others expected in the state today include APC governors and other national leaders of the party.
It is expected that Governor Umahi would be defecting alongside members of the state executive council, the 13 council chairman, development centre coordinators, Liaison officers and hundreds of thousands of other defectors.
According to a programme of event released yesterday, the progressive governors are expected to hold a crucial meeting with selected members of the PDP and APC at the Christian Ecumenical Centre in Abakaliki.