November 27, 2020

AfricaTopForum

AfricaTopForum – News Around Africa

2023: Umahi’s defection raises presidential zoning stake

11 min read

By Raymond Mordi; Sanni Onogu, Victor Oluwasegun, Tony Akowe, Jide Orintunsin, Abuja; Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt; Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki and AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna

  • Governor urges APC, PDP to zone ticket to Southeast

  • Wike knocks colleague as Buhari applauds action

Which zone takes the presidential ticket of the major parties in 2023?

This question has been taken to the front burner by the defection of Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Umahi is serving his second term having been elected on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Southeast Governors Forum Chairman said he defected from the PDP to safeguard the interest of the region which is taking a shot at the Presidency in 2023.

Umahi urged the APC and the PDP to zone their ticket to the Southeast in 2023.

“For fairness, equity and justice, the Southeast should be allowed to take a shot at the Presidency.

“It’s an appeal. It’s negotiation. We appeal to Nigerians to allow the Southeast to fly the flag of a major party,” he said.

Umahi said he would be happy if an Igbo man succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari even if he is not that person.

“If it is another Igbo man, I will be very happy,” he said, emphasising that he was not desperate to be president.

“I didn’t join APC because there was a promise made to the Southeast,” he said.

The governor, who spoke on Arise TV, said he left the PDP because of injustice in the party and because the APC “does more consultation”.

But Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike faulted Umahi’s claim, saying neither the APC nor the PDP had zoned their Presidential ticket.

He said Umahi’s claim that he left the PDP because he cannot realise his presidential ambition in the PDP was not tenable.

Wike, who spoke on a Channels programme Politics Today, said: “If there is any person, who has supported Umahi very well, he knows it is me. But he cannot threaten the party or dictate to the party.

“He came to me. He even spoke to me two days ago. He even sent me a text. He said he wants to run for President. He wants to be President of Nigeria, which he has the right. But do not threaten anybody that if we don’t give you this, this will happen.

“Politics is dialogue. Politics is diplomacy, discuss with people. Nobody threatens anybody because you want to be somebody.

“If he had not been working with APC, how will he know that there is more consultation in APC than in PDP?

“I am not saying that he shouldn’t be a President, nobody is God to say he will be President and who will not.”

‘Wike is a dictator’

Umahi said he left the PDP because it has been hijacked by “one or two” individuals, one of whom he said is Wike.

“APC does more consultation than the PDP,” he said, alleging that the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) is being remote-controlled by Wike, who he said “single-handedly installed” PDP National Chairman Uche Secondus.

“One or two people are controlling the PDP. I cannot belong to such a party.

“Somebody wanted me to work against a sitting governor in Bayelsa. You cannot stay in your state and be remote-controlling other states. It’s very unfortunate and uncalled for.

“I refused to join issues with Wike because he is my friend. But Wike must know that he is a dictator.

“Wike must know that one person cannot be called a crowd. Wike must know that a lot of governors in PDP are not very happy with him. He remote-controls the party.

“He said that I made my brother the Vice-Chairman. I fund the PDP southeast from A to Z. And he has forgotten that he singlehandedly made Secondus the Chairman.

“He has forgotten that he wanted to impose one of his own as minority Leader of the House.

“There is nothing that happens in PDP without his authorisation. He once said that PDP National Working Committee members are beggars and bribe-takers.

“I have asked him that let’s not take on ourselves or else it will be very dangerous. So let us face the party; the party does not belong to him.

“And this is by no means personal and he is demonstrating the dictatorial tendencies in him by taking on me, a fellow governor. And that is very shameful.”

Umahi warned that unless things change, more governors will leave the party.

‘Umahi wrong to call me a dictator’

Reacting when he appeared on Politics Today, a programme on Channels TV, Wike wondered when he became so relevant that he could hijack the party’s leadership.

He insisted Umahi was pursuing his selfish interests and asked him to concentrate on realising his ambition instead of claiming to be fighting for Igbo interest.

The governor said Umahi told him point-blank that he wanted to run for President, adding that the Ebonyi governor, though in PDP, was engaged in anti-party activities.

He said: “PDP has not come out to zone the Presidency for 2023. Meanwhile, the party he is defecting to has not come out to say they are zoning Presidency to the Southeast.

“On the other hand, he said one of his reasons is that Wike is a dictator. Which one do we take now? Was Wike in charge since 1999? When did Wike become relevant?

“If you remember, I did say that there are some governors who go to the Presidency in the night and that I am among those who go in the day time.”

Wike said the roles he played for the emergence of former Governor Peter Obi as the running mate to former Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar would never translate to hijacking the leadership of the party.

He said: “It is not correct that I have hijacked the leadership of my party. On the choice of Peter Obi, Saraki was there and many people were there. So it had nothing to do with me. Everybody was contributing. And I contributed.

‘In any case, you know that a presidential candidate may have had in mind who he wants to run with. The party cannot impose a vice-presidential candidate on any candidate”.

On Secondus, Wike said: “He (Umahi) said I singlehandedly imposed Uche Secondus. With all due respect, I am from Rivers State and I want good things to come to Rivers.

“If somebody from my state is running an election, what stops me from lobbying my colleagues to support that candidate?

“Also, he came from the Southsouth which has contributed enormously to the progress and success of the PDP than any other zone. The PDP was in the opposition.

“Would it not be better the zone that has produced the President and has given PDP support should be encouraged to produce the chairman?”

Ebonyi caucus disowns Umahi

Ebonyi State PDP caucus in the National Assembly disowned Umahi over his defection.

Chairman of the caucus and former Ebonyi State Governor, Senator Sam Egwu, at a press conference in Abuja, said though Umahi has the right to join any political party of his choice, the reasons he advanced for his defection were untenable.

He said the National Assembly members from the state, would not abandon the PDP because of Umahi.

Egwu said: “We remain proud card-carrying members of the PDP, the platform on which we contested elections in 2019 and won.”

The caucus said the governor should be the last person to jump ship having benefitted immensely from the PDP.

Egwu said: “For the sake of clarity, we wish to state that not a single member of the Ebonyi State PDP caucus of the National Assembly is defecting to the APC.

“The three Distinguished Senators and five House of Representatives members remain proud card-carrying members of the PDP, the platform under which we contested and won elections in 2019.

“The major reason given by Chief Umahi for defecting from the PDP to the APC is now in the public domain which is that the PDP has not been fair to the people of the Southeast on the issue of zoning the Presidency and Vice Presidency.

“While we support that it is the turn of the Southeast to fly the Presidential flag of any of the major political parties come 2023, yet we consider it impolitic, indecent and unwise to give ultimatums and conditionalities in a bid to secure zoning.

“Indeed, if there is any Ebonyi person who should remain eternally grateful to the PDP, that individual ought to be the Governor David Umahi; a man who was appointed the Ebonyi State Chairman of the PDP made deputy governor of a PDP administration, and was elected for two terms under the banner of the PDP.

“As Governor, his two younger brothers were elected to principal offices of the PDP; one (Mr Austine Umahi) as the National Vice Chairman (South East) and another (Mr. Maxwell Umahi) as the Deputy State Chairman of the PDP.

“As democrats, we concede Chief Umahi’s right to join any political association of his choice.

“However, as federal lawmakers, we are not unaware of the Supreme Court decision that candidates are products of political parties.

“What it means is that political office holders are not at liberty to migrate from one political platform to another, particularly when there is no division in their party.”

The text of the press conference was signed by Senator Sam Ominyi Egwu, Senator Obinna Ogba, Senator Mike Ama Nnachi, and House of Representatives members Sylvester Ogbaga, Igariwey Iduma Enwo, Chukwuma Nwazunku, Edwin Anayo and Livinus Makwe.

Abaribe: PDP unperturbed

Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who was at the caucus briefing, said the PDP was not disturbed by Umahi’s defection.

In a statement by his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom in Abuja, Abaribe said Umahi’s spirit was long in the APC before his formal announcement of his defection.

On the governor’s reasons, the Senator said: “It is not true and (it is) very unfortunate for the governor to characterise the PDP in such light.

“Examples are legion, which shows that our dear party has reciprocated severally the support of the Southeast, meaning that the party is not taking the support of Ndi-Igbo for granted.”

Fayose chides governor

Former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose chided Umahi, saying he cannot be the defender of Southeast’s interest.

He said in a statement: “Umahi defected to APC long ago before this unjustifiable move, which clearly has nothing to do with the interest of the Igbo nation. This is a reflection of the type of leadership our country parades.

“Though his action dampens hope for liberation, I’m sure Nigerians will laugh last because sometimes, it will appear to have got so bad before it will begin to get better.”

PDP constitutes Ebonyi caretaker Committee

The PDP has constituted a Caretaker Committee for Ebonyi following the dissolution of the State Executive Committee by the NWC on Tuesday.

PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said in a statement: “Following the dissolution of the Ebonyi State Exco of our great party, the NWC has constituted a state caretaker committee to pilot the affairs of the party in Ebonyi state in line with the provisions of the constitution of the PDP.”

Members are Fred Udeogu (Chairman), Luke Nkwegu (Secretary), Dr Gideon Osi (Publicity Secretary), James Alaka (Organising Secretary), Amaka Igboke (Women Leader), Mudi Irenede (Legal Adviser), Mr James Onah (Assistant Secretary); and Monday Chukwu (Treasurer).

Chairman of the dissolved State Working Committee, Onyekachi Nwebonyi, said the dissolution was illegal.

“Nobody can dissolve a duly elected PDP State executive committee in Ebonyi State under my watch. The purported action of NWC if true is illegal, unconstitutional and of no effect,” he said.

Okechukwu, Northern group welcome defection

Director-General of Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, believes Umahi’s move will guarantee the popular agitation for a president of Igbo extraction.

He said: “It will more than any alchemy facilitate it, more so when he is the pilot of a gale of defections we are expecting from the region to APC.

“As the chairman of Southeast Governors Forum, Umahi is opening the gate for his brother governors. Don’t forget that the Zikist Eagle alliance actually began during the build-up to the 2019 presidential election.

“Or, how do you explain that, for the first time in the history of presidential polls, our great party, APC, exceeded the 25 per cent threshold in three out of the five Southeast states?

“Politics is a game of numbers, today Ebonyi has filled the void left by our loss in Edo, and tomorrow we are expecting Enugu and others. Nigerian electorate is watching the renewal of APC.”

The North East Professionals Network, (NEPN), a political pressure group, said Umahi’s defection was a “bold step”.

Its Coordinator, Alhaji Mohammed Yusuf, said in a statement: “It will only take a man of courage and vision to accomplish such an unprecedented feat since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999.

“We equally congratulate the people of Ebonyi and the entire Southeast who stand to benefit immensely from the wise and patriotic decision of Governor Umahi.”

Ebonyi indigenes warn APC

The Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in the Diaspora (AESID) warned the APC to be wary of Umahi, describing the governor as “controversial”.

Its President, Ambassador Paschal Oluchukwu, in a statement, recalled that Umahi once boasted that he was “100 per cent PDP and 100 per cent APC”.

The group praised some state lawmakers and cabinet members who refused to follow the governor to the APC.

“This is a very defining moment and a period of a great test of integrity for some politicians in our dear state and exhibition of downright foolishness laced with cowardice on the part of those who are still clutching to Umahi’s straws despite his starvation rate of pay.

“We commend the over eight members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly who chose not to abandon their people and the political platforms that brought them to power despite threats, pressures and even suspensions from Umahi hirelings,” the group said.

Ohanaeze Youths fault Wike

The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide faulted Wike’s comments on Umahi.

Its President-General, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro and Secretary-General, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, accused Wike of being among those bent on denying the Igbo a shot at the presidency in 2023.

“The plot to deny Southeast the Presidential ticket is a high profile mistake that PDP would live to regret. PDP is heading for her doom and self-destruction in the Southeast.

“It is a miscalculation for the PDP to believe that it can win 2023 Presidential election without Igbo votes”.

“PDP National Caucus and Board of Trustees should revert to zoning formula enshrined in her constitution.

“Our eyes are on the outcomes of the meetings of PDP BOT and NEC members, and any contrary expectations towards reverting to zoning formula will certainly prove PDP’s deceit.

“The outcome will definitely lead to more Southeast governors defecting to APC,” the group said.