Planning to Decamp: the Politics of Gov Dave Umahi

Chief Dave Umahi, the Governor of Ebonyi State, and the Chairman of the South-East Governor’s Forum told Prince Uche Secondus, the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party and members of the National Working Committee of the party of his intention to defect to the ruling All
Progressive Congress. Sources noted that the PDP NWC came to visit the Governor in order to persuade him to remain in the party and to impress upon him the unpopularity of the APC in the South East and in the country. For Umahi, he believes that the APC would advance the political destiny of the SE in the 2023 elections. Governor Dave Umahi had earlier informed the PDP that he would remain in the party if the party zoned the slot of the presidential candidate to the SE. It is no longer news that Governor Dave Umahi aspires to the coveted position of the President in 2023.

Governor Dave Umahi had earlier denied having any intention of decamping from PDP to APC despite the fact that Chinedu Ogah, an APC member of the House of Representatives had disclosed in October that Governor Dave Umahi had defected to the APC. The news of his defection came to fore after he reportedly had a meeting with leaders of the APC. Ogah said, ‘Governor Umahi’s defection to our great party, APC, is a step in the right direction. We cannot afford to remain in opposition. We must join the ruling party to reap the dividends of democracy. I am calling on other South-East governors to toe Umahi’s line. We have to be at the centre. We have to join mainstream politics for the overall development of our zone and the country in general. President Muhammadu Buhari has done well. Everybody should join APC to encourage him. However, Governor Dave Umahi has issued a statement through his spokesperson that such claims of defection were a figment of the imagination of political detractors.’

Meanwhile, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) has advocated that the South-East Governors should decamp from the PDP to the APC for the region to have a stake at the 2023 Presidential Elections. Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the President-General of the group, and Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, the Secretary, made this known on Tuesday. They showed solidarity for Governor Dave Umahi who recently revealed his intention to defect to the APC. The statement described the move to persuade Governor Dave Umahi not to defect as the ‘last kick of a dying horse’. The group noted that the PDP was expected to zone the Presidential Ticket to the South East Zone but had planned to hand the ticket to a Northerner contrary to the PDP’s zoning formular.

Senator Julius Ucha, the Convener of the meeting and Chieftain of the APC in Ebonyi, had welcomed the proposed defection of Governor Dave Umahi who will be bringing to the fold members of his State Executive Council, State House of Assembly, and PDP State Executive Committee, all of which will further embolden the presence of the party in the South-East.

Governor Dave Umahi is known for a myriad of governance achievements. He has been celebrated by the residents of Ebonyi for his intervention in constructing over 20 roads in Abakaliki, the State Capital. Governor Dave Umahi was also able to activate the Universal Basic Education fund by providing the counterpart funding which enabled the reconstruction, management, and revatilisation of schools in the state.

The Governor has built general hospitals in the state and has gone ahead to build the first virology centre in the SE. He has also improved agriculture in the state by encouraging oppourtunities in the agricultural sector through soft loan programmes and machinery for rice production in the state through strategic Federal Government partnerships. Unlike many states whose workers continue to lament on the non-payment of salaries and pension, Governor Umahi’s administration has begun paying a backlog of gratuities, while still paying current pensions and salaries in a seamless and timely manner. These and many more achievements make him a ‘product’
with the ‘unique selling points’ that would endear many South-Easterners to his Presidential bid.

A counterforce had advised Governor Umahi not to be fooled by an expected presidential ticket from the APC. The source warned the governor to be wary of ‘greek gifts’ because the party’s ticket is being keenly contested by both North, East, and Western political actors who are given a level playing field to pull their weights within the party. This perhaps debunks the rumours making the rounds that President Buhari had promised the APC Presidential ticket to the South East or to Dave Umahi.

Many of those who are pleased with Governor Umahi’s proposed defection rely on the words of an Anambra Billionaire who told them during the 2019 elections that President Buhari would back their son, Governor Dave Umahi, to succeed him as the President of Nigeria if the stakeholders in Ebony State-supported Buhari for President in 2019.

There have always been speculations about the possible defection of Governor Dave Umahi. Four years ago, the governor asserted that contrary to speculations he was not going to abandon the PDP for the APC because he had benefitted politically from the party through the positions of State Chairman and Deputy Governor which he held at different times of his politically active engagements.

When Femi Fani-Kayode heard about Governor Umahi’s defection, he pleaded with the PDP leadership to prevail upon Governor Umahi to rescind his decision. Fani-Kayode described it as troubling because of Umahi’s tremendous ‘contributions to the success of the PDP in the last 20 years’. He described the governor as a good friend and a loyal fighter advising the PDP not to be an opposition to Umahi’s government because of his fearless and courageous disposition. Fani-Kayode expressed grave fears that the defection of Governor Dave Umahi could lead to the decampment of other governors in the region because of the friendly influence
he wields amongst his counterparts.

While the PDP is making frantic efforts to woo Governor Dave Umahi to stay within the PDP fold, stakeholders of the APC in South-East are reportedly planning to block him from joining the party. Some stakeholders of the Ebonyi APC suspect that Governor Dave Umahi may be coasting to the party to use the party machinery for his presidential ambition. Unfortunately, Governor Dave Umahi seem to have come to an agreement with the APC in Abuja during a closed-door meeting. The top hierarchy of the APC, headed by Mala Buni within the Presidency, are Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology; and an Ebonyi politician, Dr. Chris Ngige from Anambra State; and Emeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education from nearby Imo State. It is reported that these ministers may be aggrieved that they were not consulted concerning Governor Umahi’s defection. The three blocks of the APC, the ACN Block, the CPC block, and the New PDP block are skeptical of having Governor Dave Umahi slug it with them against their favourite presidential candidates come 2023. Dave Umahi may also have to contend with Senator Rochas Okorocha, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu if the party zones the presidential ticket to the South East.

Unfortunately, the pessimists may be right about the APC in the South-East. The party is largely in disrepute in Imo State where Governor Hope Uzodinma, the Governor of Imo State and the only governor who won using the platform of the APC, continues to struggle with good governance in the state. Despite this reality, there are factions and internal wranglings within the Imo State APC that may make the state less favoured by the people. The Igbos do not mince words in stating that they feel marginalised under a President Buhari administration. This hostility may have created distrust with the Hope Uzodinma government and such attitudes may be extensively expressed to those who decamp to a party of the APC in the South-East.

Femi Morgan

Photo Credit: Vanguard

Categories: Politics

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