By Samuel Agunwa
THE year 2018 comes to a close today and in early 2019, Nigeria’s general elections will be conducted. By the end of February, a new dispensation would have emerged in the country. Of the contenders to the Presidency, the pair of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi has generated much racket from a few Igbo politicians.
The disconcerting observation is that the hullabaloo was in opposition to Obi’s choice as Vice-Presidential candidate, which was reportedly championed by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in cahoots with Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State. Millions of Nigerians have wondered: Why the fuss over nothing? Was Atiku constitutionally- and electorally-right in his decision? Yes, he was in his rights and did not breech any known law in his choice of a running mate.
It was soon revealed that Dave Umahi was incensed that neither his brother and Zonal Chairman of the PDP, Deacon Austin Umahi nor any of his stooges in Ebonyi was chosen; despite counting on Ekweremadu to present them to Atiku. Then, came the outburst that they were “not consulted” before Obi was named as running mate. The irony in that rant is that Umahi did not consult anyone in Ebonyi State or elsewhere before picking a running mate for Governor. As a matter of fact, he has polarised the opposition in his state to ensure he returns for a second term; yet nobody is singing anti-Umahi songs.
In spite of Umahi’s needless vituperations designed to trigger hatred against the Atiku-Obi ticket, the glow on the faces of Ndigbo over the choice of Obi has not dimmed. Rather, Umahi’s campaign of calumny has energised true democrats resident in Igboland, Ndigbo in the Diaspora and well-meaning Nigerians to support the ticket to its logical conclusion – The Presidency. Indeed, the generality of Ndigbo and Nigerians at large look forward to an Atiku/Peter Obi presidency as a matter of singular option in a free and fair poll. It is also hoped that INEC’s public assurances – albeit under domestic and international pressure – that the 2019 general elections would be free and fair, would be sustained.
Still on what’s fair to all, how come the Umahi family has the domineering privilege of providing a State Governor and a Zonal Chairman under the same platform? Does it mean no other person but the Governor’s brother is the most qualified? Since he is bandied as a man of equity, fairness and justice, why has he not asked his brother to resign his position? Of course, he won’t do such thing at all. But, when an elder statesman like Atiku nominates Obi as his choice of running mate, Umahi should be consulted and if not, he should mobilise party members to work against Atiku/Obi’s emergence as President and Vice-President in 2019. Non-sycophants close to Dave Umahi should caution him against playing God. He should not forget too easily how he went cap-in-hand begging powerful PDP party chieftains for their intervention to get the PDP governorship ticket against the choice of his predecessor. They generously gave him their support in cash and logistics. Typically, Umahi has since abandoned his main benefactor then. Just last month, Umahi received a huge financial support from a leading Igbo politican for his re-election campaign, with his traditional rulers receiving millions of Naira as well. Well, who did this top Igbo politician consult before donating such whooping sums to Umahi and his band?
Though Umahi’s dissent gave the opposition some feeble shots at the Atiku-Obi ticket, the hullabaloo ultimately served to further boost the impressive stature of the duo as successful administrators, entrepreneurs and economic managers. Atiku and Obi really constitute the rock on which Nigeria needs to stand and survive.
On his part, Deputy Senate President, DSP, Ike Ekweremadu has been in the Senate for 15 years to date; representing Enugu West Senatorial zone. He is also one of the longest-serving presiding officers in the National Assembly; with eight years as DSP [2007-Date]. The PDP needs to ascertain who Ekweremadu is working for, given his alleged sponsorship of hate-campaigns against the party’s preferred running mate. To the best of our knowledge, the party chieftains do not begrudge Ekweremadu the continued incumbency of a position zoned to the South-East.
It is also curious that the dissent-champion, Dave Umahi has not been clamouring for another Senator in Enugu, Ebonyi State or the South-East to take over as DSP or even cede the position to other zone. If Ekweremadu’s constituency has consistently chosen him without protest from elsewhere, how come Atiku’s choice of Obi is burning up Dave Umahi and his cohorts?
On behalf of millions of Ndigbo and well-meaning Nigerians, we appeal to Umahi and Ekweremadu to, as a matter of public importance, shed their dissent against Peter Obi, rein in their media goons, and mobilise support openly for Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi for this epoch-making 2019 General Elections or live to regret acting as cogs in the wheel of their party’s and indeed, Nigeria’s progress.
It also needs re-emphasizing that as opposition is raised against the Atiku/Obi ticket, so do their ratings soar. The Mbaka episode and EFCC alleged account freeze are clear indications to that effect.
Indeed, 2019 is going to be memorable.