•Party dissolves state, zonal excos
•Umahi left for personal reasons, says Wike
Gbade Ogunwale, Jide Oritunsin, Abuja and Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki
THERE was disquiet in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Tuesday, following the defection of Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was learnt that the defection unsettled the party’s leadership after making a last-minute effort to dissuade Umahi from leaving its fold.
The party said it will not panic over anyone’s defection
“For us, the PDP is a well-structured political party with an experience of nothing less than 22 years in the political firmament of our nation.
“We are not a party that will be responding to issues on impulse. We are not a party that will be pushed around by any individual”, Spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said, adding: “no individual is bigger than the PDP.”
Ologbondiyan explained: “Umahi served as the State Chairman of Ebonyi PDP (2003 to 2007); deputy governor of the state (2007 to 2015) and two term governor of Ebonyi (2015 till date), all elected on the platform of the PDP.”
While wishing Umahi the best in his adventure, the party called on it members to remain calm and committed to its ideals, saying, no individual is bigger than the PDP.
The opposition party hurriedly convened an emergency meeting of its National Working Committee (NWC), where a decision was taken to dissolve the ward, local government and state executive committees of the party with immediate effect.
It also dissolved the Southeast zonal executive.
Mr Ologbondiyan said “these decisions are pursuant to the powers conferred on the NWC by the PDP Constitution”.
The move, according to a source, was to prevent the defection of party officers to the APC along with the governor.
Umahi alleged that the PDP failed Southeast people.
He also accused the party of injustice, lamenting that the PDP had refused to zone its 2023 presidential slot to the region.
But, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike disagreed, saying Umahi left for personal reasons.
Wike said Umahi lied by saying that his action was premised on injustice to the Southeast by the PDP.
He said the Ebonyi governor should predicate his defection on his future political ambition and not blame the PDP.
The Rivers governor, who spoke in Port-Harcourt, said Umahi’s defection did not come as a surprise to committed PDP members because he had been fraternising with the APC.
Wike said although he was not perturbed by Umahi’s decision, he felt offended by his attempt to justify his decision on the purported injustice meted out to the Southeast by the PDP.
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The Rivers governor accused Umahi of being unfair to the PDP, which gave him governorship ticket in 2015 against all odds, and in 2019.
He noted that while Umahi had a right to move to the APC, his attempt at blackmailing the PDP and painting it in a bad light was mischievous and unacceptable.
Wike said: “My friend, Umahi wants to be President. There is no problem about that. You have a right to be President. Nobody can stop you. You are educated. You have been a governor for two terms, so you are qualified to say I want to be President of Nigeria.
“But, that does not mean, that because you want to blackmail your party, and tell lies to the people you are leaving the party because of the injustice meted against the Southeast that is not correct.”
Wike, who demanded that Umahi should retract the statement that the PDP has not been fair to the Southeast, pointed out that under the PDP, the Southeast had produced Senate Presidents; National Vice Chairman of the PDP and Secretary to the Federal Government.
He said it was erroneous for Umahi to accuse the PDP of injustice, when he unilaterally imposed his younger brother as Southeast PDP Zonal Vice Chairman.
He added: “In life, power is sweet, but conscience is important. It is most offensive and insulting for a man to lie against his party because of power.
The governor said although APC had not told Nigerians where it will zone its presidential ticket, Umahi’s presumptuous move may be too hasty.
He warned that the hasty move may ruin him politically.
Wike queried: “Assuming the APC decides to zone its presidential ticket to the Southeast where the party has no formidable base, what is the guarantee that Umahi will secure the ticket.?
“My reaction to Governor Umahi’s defection is not that he has no right to defect, but to say he is defecting because of injustice meted to the Southeast that is insulting to the Southeast.”
Wike urged the NWC and the National Executive Committee of the PDP to take decisive steps to ensure that PDP does not die in Ebonyi state.
On Monday, The Southeast APC Caucus, which had anticipated the defection, met in Abuja to brainstorm on strategies for repositioning the party in the zone for effective participation in national politics
The caucus met at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, for over two hours.
The meeting, which was hosted by Governor Hope Uzodimma, was attended by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Nigige, Minister of State for Education Okechukwu Nwajiuba, former ministers, former federal lawmakers, Director-General, Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, former National Organising Secretary Senator Osita Osinaso, and serving and former national officers.
Sources said the main agenda was how to boost the numerical strength of the APC in the region.
The caucus leader, Dr. Onu, told reporters that APC leaders from the zone were interested in the reintegration of the zone into mainstream politics.