By Dennis Agbo
Before Governor Dave Umahi defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, on November 19 2020, the Ebonyi state governor was losing grip of his control of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state, and he was at sea on what to do as the 2023 general elections was drawing nearer.
Umahi had, on assumption of power in 2015 arrogated to his immediate younger brother, Austin Umahi, the office of the National Vice Chairman of PDP for South east and another relation, Maxwell Umahi, as the deputy state chairman of the PDP in Ebonyi state. Imposition of Austin Umahi as the party’s national vice chairman caused pandemonium at the Michael Okpara square Enugu, when Mr. Ali Odefa who had served Governor Umahi for many years and was the zonal publicity secretary of the PDP insisted on a due process election instead of selection of Austin Umahi. Odefa was tamed, cut to size and intimidated into submission and acceptance of the Umahi dynasty in Ebonyi state.
Governor Umahi had henceforth enjoyed lavishly the instruments of the party, PDP, further arming himself with the office of the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, SEGF, to become a veritable authority and spokesman of the South East political class.
Umahi has remained Chairman of the South East Governors Forum since 2015 despite having only two years tenure that is not renewable until the position rotates among the federating states of in the forum. Umahi has spent more than six years, denying Enugu and Imo states from exercising the authority that comes with such instrument of power.
It is quite discernible that Umahi loves power and loves to exercise it as it suits him. Under Umahi’s leadership of SEGF, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was proscribed in 2017. Umahi, using his elder brother, Gen. Obi Umahi (Rtd) as the chairman of SEGF Security committee ensured that the Igbo popular choice of establishing a regional security outfit in the like of Amotekun was frustrated. What the Umahis have been talking about since then is community policing that is amorphous and untenable.
Governor Umahi enjoyed and had his ways till 2019 after the PDP national convention in Port Harcourt, when Atiku nominated Mr. Peter Obi as his presidential running mate. Umahi, among other PDP governors and stakeholders in the south east furiously convened in Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s residence in Enugu and rejected Obi with the excuses that they were not consulted before the nomination.
Subsequently, the PDP governors of the zone went into alliance with the APC; pledged and delivered 25 percent votes to President Muhammadu Buhari in their respective states and since then have secretly maintained alliance with the leading party.
Angered by these developments, Governor Nysome Wike of Rivers state kept the PDP Governors of South East at distance from the party’s national leadership. It was not long before Umahi realised that Wike was not like the South East Governors that he could undermine. Love was lost between the Rivers and Ebonyi Governors but they patched up until the EndSARS Obigbo massacre that made Umahi lead a team of South East leaders to Rivers state.
Inside sources in Abakaliki disclosed that Governor Umahi had postulated that so long as Wike’s hand remains a firm grip and control of the PDP, his future political calculations would be frustrated.
“Umahi’s major headache is producing a successor and he is doubtful of doing that in PDP where Senator Obinna Ogba has a large image and Wike is not his friend. That’s why he decided to move to APC to negotiate power from there,” the source said.
However, Umahi’s defection received some accolades across the south east; with some saying that his defection was a bold statement that the South East would settle for nothing except Presidency in 2023. Umahi is being hailed for leading the south east into a protest against the PDP in the event that it has motives of frustrating Igbo presidency. Umahi’s volt face is also interpreted as a sign to the APC that the zone would collapse into the party if it is magnanimous enough to concede the presidential ticket to the south east.
One of the APC stakeholders in Enugu state, Chief Tony Mba said “What the man (Umahi) did is a sacrifice. He discussed it with some people before making the defection. The APC will have no fear now in giving it to us (South East) if PDP will produce an Igbo candidate. Umahi’s defection is a protest and a good one.”
What has however become an albatross to Umahi’s defection is his present attacks on the political leaders in his state who refused to follow him to APC. Interestingly, Senators Pius Anyim and Sam Egwu were instrumental in wresting power from former Governor Martin Elechi to Dave Umahi in 2015, yet today the duo are villains in Umahi’s estimation.
Ever since the Umahi’s ‘kill Anyim, Egwu campaign’ started, the archives were brought forward where Elechi was quoted to have said in 2016 that he has no apologies for objecting to Umahi as successor.
Elechi had said: “Yes, I made my point clear to him (Umahi) as early as September 2014 that I will not support him because my observation showed me that he lacked certain qualities that we hold dear in governance, the spirit of accommodation. That whether you are in opposition or in government, you have a right to say your mind and somebody who opposed you was not necessarily your enemy or opponent. We believe that everybody has the right to differ and if you don’t accommodate people’s quest to differ, it is a major minus to you in governance.”
Accordingly, a former commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Abia Onyike on Thursday announced his defection from APC back to PDP, citing Umahi’s attitude in governance, autocracy and dictatorship as reasons he cannot accommodate himself in the same political party with Governor Umahi.