May 11, 2024

Lagos-Calabar Highway: Umahi’s dangerous dimensions


Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State

By Emeka Alex Duru

(08054103327, [email protected])

It is good to get many sides of a man before situating his actions. Since a colleague told a story of the minister of works, David Umahi, his journey to the limelight and the point at which he changed direction, it has become easy to understand his fleeting attitude to national issues. It was about Umahi’s predicament at a time he was deputy governor in Ebonyi and what happened after.

He said: “Umahi was a member of my Church-Christ Embassy until 2015. In 2011, he was at our Annual Convention in Lagos, with his wife. He came in tears, crying like a baby, complaining how his principal, Governor Martin Elechi was treating him worse than a ‘shoe-shiner ‘.

“Pastor Chris (General Overseer of Christ Embassy) said we should pray for him. We all did, fervently. He was told that whether Elechi liked it or not, he (Umahi), would succeed him as governor of Ebonyi state. It came to pass. Soon after, unwholesome stories emerged about Umahi. He left the church”.

That speaks on the character of the man – a common trend with gold diggers, who the moment they attain their goal, turn against everyone, including their benefactors.

16th century English playwright, poet, and actor, William Shakespeare, situated such characters in his great work, Julius Caesar. He wrote; “It is a common proof that lowliness is young ambition’s ladder, whereto the climber upward turns his face. But when he once attains the upmost round, he then unto the ladder turns his back, looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend”. That is David Nweze Umahi, a man of brief size and narcissist tendencies.

Ironically, the dubious strategy has paid him handsomely, seeing him survive and succeed Elechi. Next was to descend on all the people he ran to at his moment of trouble. He finally dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform through which he climbed to power, for the All Progressives Congress (APC), on November 19, 2020. Since joining the APC, Umahi has been playing the good-boy role to the power brokers in the party – first to the former President, Muhammadu Buhari and now to President Bola Tinubu.

The hatchet and clowning job has earned him some rewards, first as Deputy Senate Leader, though a first-timer, in his brief stay in the chambers, and eventually, minister of works. But he does not seem to have had enough.

In fact, there are suspicions that he has eyes on higher grounds but chooses doing so stealthily, to remain in the good books of Tinubu. Robert Greene recommends such antic, in his book; The 48 Laws of Power. He advises: “Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defence. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke and by the time they realise your intentions, it will be too late”.

Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, saw this trait in Umahi early enough. At a time when he was the governor, Umahi had accused his predecessor, Sam Egwu, Anyim, his premium benefactor and others, of plotting to instigate a crisis in Ebonyi. “I want the media to note, that I reported an allegation that some Ebonyi people are engaging cultists and according to them, some IPOB members, to start killing and causing crisis in Ebonyi State in the name of fighting Ebonyi State Government and the governor. Their leader is Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and their members are Dr. Sam Egwu, Senator Obinna Ogba, Mr. Ali Odefa and others”, he claimed. These, incidentally were men he ran to when, as deputy governor, he was being strangled by Elechi, the then-governor.

Anyim did not take the allegation lightly. Suspecting Umahi of a sinister mission, he petitioned the then President (Buhari) and Inspector General of Police (IGP), accusing him (Umahi) of being after his life. Umahi levelling the accusation against him and other political leaders in the state, was a prelude to an agenda he wanted to carry out, the erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), reasoned.

Anyim wrote; “People who know Umahi know that he normally starts this way whenever he is hatching a sinister plan. He raises dust, makes wild allegations and accusations against people just to divert the attention of the public before he strikes”. He described the former governor as pitiably delusional, a prisoner of his greed and inordinate ambition.

If you relate Anyim’s summary of Umahi’s antics to his current attacks on the 2023 presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, over the latter’s remarks on the Lagos-Calabar Highway, you can then appreciate his (Umahi)’s motive and what he hopes to gain from it. No project has perhaps generated much controversy since the inauguration of the Tinubu administration as the 700-kilometre Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road, which the government flagged off on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

The federal government estimates that when completed, the road will stand as the largest single infrastructure in Nigeria and will pass through Lekki Deep Seaport, Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa-Ibom States. The duration of the construction is eight years at the cost of N4 billion per kilometre totalling N15 trillion. The superhighway is being built by Hitech Construction Company, which the President’s son, Seyi, is said to be remotely connected to. Many see that as amounting to a conflict of interest in Tinubu.

Critics including the Presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar have also raised questions on the cost and procedure for the contract award. While acknowledging its potential benefits, Obi expressed concern about the timing and prioritisation of the venture, stressing that the fund being earmarked for the project could be deployed to fix the deplorable internal roads all over the country. Obi was simply being patriotic and realistic.

But of all the comments on the project, it was Obi’s harmless observations that Umahi picked, accusing him of inciting the Igbo against the construction. Obi did not allude to nor mention the Igbo or any other ethnic group in his suggestions. Besides, how can the Igbo be against the project, when as a dispersalist population, they stand to gain from it like other Nigerians? Umahi has no points.

He is out for outright mischief – to set up the Igbo of the South East with Tinubu and their South-South neighbours. That is a provincial gladiator at his lowest point.

You may think that Umahi is being naïve in introducing the Igbo dimension to his mischief. No! He understands the weight of religion and ethnicity in activating the fault lines in the country. Newspaper publisher and Tinubu’s media aide, Bayo Onanuga and his fellow bigots, played up those dangerous factors to stimulate animosity against the Igbo in Lagos and some parts of the South West in the 2023 elections.

For Umahi, the race for 2027 and beyond has commenced. Stopping Peter Obi seems his first step. That explains the dangerous dimensions of his politics with the Lagos-Calabar Highway. But he can never estimate the extent he may go in bringing the Igbo factor into the mix.

DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos