By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
Barely 24 hours after the national leader of the All Progressives Congres, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu informed President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention to contest for 2023 presidential election, the governor of Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi, on Tuesday also told the President that he would also run for the presidency.
The governor also said he supported the Southeast leaders on the need for a political solution in the case of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who is standing trial in the Federal High Court and being held by the Department of State Service, DSS.
Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Governor Umahi said he discussed the issue with the president who he said told him to go and seek the support of the people.
The governor, who said he was not fazed by Tinubu’s entry into the race as he believes that the contest is not about might, added that if the APC throws the race open, he would contest for the presidency so as to replicate the infrastructural development in the state to the country.
Recall that Umahi left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC with the claim that the former ruling party was not ready to cede the 2023 ticket to the southeast.
The governor said at the closed-door meeting with the President, he discussed politics and security in southeast.
Asked whether he discussed his presidential ambition, he said, “Well, generally, yes and no. We discussed politics as the growth of our party, APC, in Nigeria, and southeast. And, of course, you know, the interest of southeast, for the seat of presidency in 2023.
“I told Mr President, that without prejudice to whatever will be the decision of the party, which we shall abide by, that if the party throws the ticket open or zoned to southern part of Nigeria that I believe that with what I have put in place in the past six years plus, that I’ll be running for presidency, on the platform of APC.
“So I told him and of course, he believes that whoever wants to run for president of this country must have to consult widely, go to all the leaders and that we must do everything to remove ethnicity and religion in our politics. So that this country can grow.”
Also asked what was his chances of emerging as the presidential candidate of the APC bearing in mind that he left the PDP because it did not zone the presidential ticket to the southeast and the entrance of Asiwaju Tinubu in the race, he said he was not in the contest with anybody but himself.
According to him, “The Bible that I swore with a section of in 1 Samuel says that by strength shall no man prevail, and power and might belong to God. He chooses whomever he wills and he will do that in 2020.
“I’m not in contest with anybody I’m in contest with myself.”
Fielding question on whether he has consulted widely for the realization of his ambition, he said he wouldn’t have done that without first clearing with the President.
“I wouldn’t have done that without first come in to clear with Mr. President that there is this feelings in Southeast that have not been president and that people feel that those of our leaders in the various political parties should indicate interest to contest.
“And this is fair, this is important. But at the end of the day, it is God Almighty and the political parties that will also decide.”
Further asked whether the APC governors would likely meet to discuss the party’s convention on February after the Sunday meeting announced by the plateau state governor, Simon Lalong could not hold, governor Umahi said.
“I’m not Mr. President who must have the final say on the date for convention. And I don’t believe that the governor you mentioned should have spoken for the party because if it is APC governors forum, we have a leader, the chairman who is the His Excellency, the governor of Kebbi State.
“He wasn’t even aware of the meeting when I called him. And if it is the party administration, we have His Excellency, the governor of Yobe state. And I think these two would have been able to speak to the press, if we’re going to have such a meeting on Sunday. So I was not aware but I had to inquire from the chairman of APC Governors Forum who wasn’t also aware. So I’m not sure the meeting held.
“But I read on a newspaper sometimes when the party leadership came to brief Mr. President, and they told him February convention. Mr. President said yes. He is not a man that says yes and says no, at the same time. He is a man of integrity, he is a man of his words. So I believe that if he ever said February that is going to stick to that February. I am very sure of that but it is for him to speak or for the party leadership to speak. I speak for my state.”
On whether he has informed the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo of his ambition, he said that the Ohaneze should not be involved in politics.
He said, “Ohaneze leadership should not play politics. Yes, they can speak for the interest of the southeast, they can speak for fair treatment to southeast as people but as a matter of equity, justice and fairness, and leaving a level playing field for all the political parties and the aspirants.
“They should not dabble into politics or whom to support or whom not to support. I think that they will hear it just like they heard from the other political parties aspirants. We will also write them to notify them that yes, they have capable sons and daughters that if God wills, that could do this job.”
When asked what Umahi Presidency would be bringing on board, he said, “Yeah. God willing, and if it’s the wish of the people of this country, Umahi’s presidency, we’ll be looking at the same thing we did in Ebonyi state.
“Before we came on board, we were a state written off, we had nothing to write home about infrastructure. But I must commend the first two civilian governors Dr. Sam Egwu and Chief Martin Elechi, they did quite a lot, because they came in the midst of the dust of the nation, Ebonyi State. And so they had quite a lot of challenges. So I can say that they laid the foundation upon which I started to build. And so there are a lot of things that we have done in Ebonyi.
“We have the best government house, you can see anyway, we have the best Exco chamber and the largest you cannot see anyway. And so we intend to replicate the same thing.
“And I believe that with the little resources we have and people have been asking us how did you do it? Or how do you do it? And it’s all about patriotism. It’s all about fear of God, it’s all about bringing in our experience to be bear.
“I have been into construction since I graduated. So I have a lot to give in terms of how to run governance as business because you have to have the heart to help the people and that’s what we’ve demonstrated in Ebonyi.
“So we want to treat the nation if God permits, that what we’ve done becomes a microcosm of the macrocosm, of which we expect. We also believe strongly that we’ll be able to continue with what Mr. President has done. One of the greatest problems we have in this country is ethnicity, religion, and unpatriotic features of a lot of people. And I think that there is a need to engage starting from where Mr. President would have stopped.
“Let me also add that as the chairman of Southeast governors forum, that I support a political solution to our insecurity problems in southeast. And of course, I mentioned it to Mr. President
“You see, political solution does not terminate the judicial process. And if you know, Mr. President, very well, he has always said, and has always demonstrated that he wouldn’t interfere with any judicial process, everybody knows him for that. But you remember very well, that if agreement is reached between parties, you don’t expect Mr. President to be the negotiator, there are a lot of federal, government officials.
“And so I believe strongly that as southeast, is proposing for political solution, they should be able to engage the federal government. After all, there’s always what is called out of court settlement, but it is for our people, and, our brother Kanu to be willing for us to truly engage so that we can find true peace in our region because the activities there have destroyed, a lot of the economy of southeast a lot of lives have being lost. And when we were shouting it that it wasn’t going to benefit (anyone) because agitation shouldn’t have gone the way it did.
IPOB fighting criminals
“Today, the matter has gone beyond them. You know, every criminal, kidnapper, armed robber tend to claim IPOb and IPOB in turn is fighting them. But I think, it is late. So we desire peace, we desire to save the lives of our people. And so we are willing to engage, to see that we have, you know, an amicable settlement. And you know, rebuild the economy of South East.”
Reminded that this should be the starting point of his engagement, he said, “You see the leaders of southeast, of course, not all of them, they must be selected leaders, and they already Ohaneze and Chief Mbazurike Amaechi is already in the forefront, and we can find true peace in our region.
“They have always been briefing me and so I’ve joined them together without this governors. So that could be the starting point, and we will be able to know what we want, we want peace. And so there are things we must give up in order to acquire that peace.
“Because if we are not being fairly treated, and some people feel we are not being fairly treated, we should be able to, constructively show to the federal government, the areas we think that we are not being fairly treated, not through hate speeches, not through violence. I don’t believe in these things because even in homes, in families, the wife or husband or children, we still have one thing or the other against the family, but they should be able to discuss.”
Asked if he shared his thoughts with the President on the IPOB leader issue an what was his response, he said, “If you listen to me very well, Mr. President has never been in disagreement for peace, or anything that will bring peace.
“But you must allow him, you know, for what he believes in and for his pedigree and integrity, not to interfere with the judiciary, but it is up to us because the byproduct of our discussion and negotiation is such that we can now go to the court and seek for out of court settlement, and whatever is the agreement becomes the settlement of the court.
“So I believe strongly that a political solution, would be far better than the process which may last for very long time.”
Speaking on why he was at the State House, he said, “Recall that in September, I came to see Mr President to invite him to Ebonyi states to commission some of our completed projects, and lay foundations stones for some of our ongoing projects, especially the Ebonyi State International Airport.
“But while we were in Paris together, I asked him to defer the visit to the first quarter of 2022, which he graciously approved for me. So today, I came to re-invite him to come and commission our numerous projects in Ebonyi State in Southeast for March 15 ,2022. So we are working on that.
“I also briefed the President on the ongoing international airport of Ebonyi State of which I requested for his assistance, it’s taking due process. And I believe that, Mr President, if he finds merit in it will definitely assist us to purchase airport equipment to enable us commission the airport about end of May 2022.”