Save for the unintended, Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, is already out of the Peoples Democratic Party, writes Benjamin Nworie
It appears shocking and incredible but a fact that must be accepted. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might have lost one of its prominent members to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Only time is being awaited for the big catch to be unveiled officially.
The rumour of the defection of Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, from the PDP to the APC is already gathering momentum. Though Umahi has not officially declared his intention to leave the PDP, his decision to join the APC seems irreversible and irrevocable.
The political environment in Ebonyi is quite confusing for members of the PDP, who believe that the governor’s planned defection offers no clout to them in the new party.
However, with the expiration of the one week ultimatum issued to the National Working Committee of the PDP by members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and the State chapter of the PDP led by Barrister Onyekachi Nwebonyi, for the presidential position of the party to be zoned to the Southeast, it appears that the defection plan has been stamped and sealed.
Many people feel that the PDP has not been fair to the people of the South East zone and Umahi wants to use himself as a sacrificial lamb to score a patriotic point to Ndigbo. Since 1999, PPP has not considered the Southeast region for the presidential position and this development might have angered Umahi on his courageous decision to abandon the party.
But, whether there’s another agreement anywhere that might have necessitated Umahi’s defection, it has set a new agenda that would correct some imbalances meted out against the Ndigbo in Nigeria’s politics. More so, the interest of the Southeast would not be relegated to the background again in the scheme of things or national politics.
Observers see it as a starting point for the emancipation of the Igbo race if stakeholders and personalities could subdue their personal interests to set a new course for their people. Indeed, Umahi’s position was considered as a courageous and patriotic adventure.
They hinted that though Umahi might have presidential ambition, his defection to the national ruling party would position him and the Southeast region for more chances and opportunities in national affairs. As a good advocate for equity and fairness to Ndigbo, the decision to join the APC might be condemnable but good for the overall interest of the Southeast zone.
Ndigbo has been complaining of criminal marginalisation and neglect, but it seems that personalities from the region have no clout to protest or obviously self-centered. Perhaps, this may not be unconnected to why some members of the APC from the region are restless over Umahi’s defection to the party.
The fear is that with the leadership credentials and impressive performance of Umahi, he might become a beautiful bride in the zone if APC decided to zone the presidential ticket to the region. But this development is not palatable with a few people, including the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnay Onu.
Umahi and Onu hail from the same Uhuru community in Ohaozara Local Government. So, the defection was naturally a nightmare for Onu, who feels that Umahi might force his national relevance to extinction. But Onu is like a proverbial prophet not known in his hometown. The Minister may have national recognition but politically irrelevant in his home state. This is why some of his APC members often chastise him that he can’t win any electoral booth in the state.
Though there were reported moves by some bigwigs in the PDP to prevent Umahi from leaving the party, some analysts contended that it was safer for the governor to join the APC than reverse his decision. Already, the 24 members of the House of Assembly, the 13 council chairmen, 64 Development Center Coordinators might have also made up their minds to go to the APC with him.
It’s still not clear whether the Nine members of the National Assembly would be convinced on the need to join the new party but it was said that the governor had briefed them on the development. Expectedly, some PDP members, who may refuse to defect to the APC, might form alliances to fight Umahi.
These alliances might have started to emerge. The likes of Senator Obinna Ogba, Senator Sam Egwu and others may also draw a battle line if they were not convinced about joining APC with the governor. But Ogba is a number one person that would not join the APC.
He feels that the vacancy that may be created if the governor exits would automatically make him the leader and strong voice of PDP everywhere. Ogba also stands a better chance of “hijacking” the PDP structure in the state, which he might use to prosecute his rumoured governorship ambition.
But if that happens, there might not be hope of reclaiming the State by the PDP. The reason is not farfetched. Ogba is from a minority clan. But if Ogba can sacrifice his governorship ambition and support the populous Ezza clan for the governorship seat whereas he secures his return ticket, the APC would have to fight hard to retain the seat.
Ucha’s Hope of Redeeming Ebonyi APC
The chief protagonist of the new political movement in Ebonyi is Senator Julius Ucha. Ucha is a chieftain of the APC in Ebonyi state. He is the initiator and convener of the Southeast Mandate, a political movement for Igbo Presidency in 2023. He was a two-term Senator and pioneer Speaker of Ebonyi State house of Assembly.
Since 2014 after the merger that birthed the APC, Ebonyi State chapter of the party had known no peace. The APC was fractionalised. One faction was loyal to Onu and the other was loyal to Ucha. This development has dealt a big blow to the fortunes of the party in the State.
With Ucha’s high political relevance in the state, the defection of the governor seems to be his pet project and mission that must be accomplished. Unlike Onu, Ucha is highly working hard to drag a sitting governor to APC.
At a stakeholders meeting held at Salt Spring Hotels in Abakaliki, the state capital, Ucha urged members of the APC to go into fervent prayers as he announced that the Party has made a big catch in the Southeast with the imminent defection of Umahi.
Ucha said: “For the first time, APC will be in control of governance in the state and will make governors of other south east states declare for the party. I told President Muhammadu Buhari during his visit to the state in 2017 that governors are very powerful individuals, who could not be ignored in any way.
“We should continue praying that nothing stops this move, because the world’s greatest wireless connection is prayer. The struggle for party leadership does not make sense as I have been struggling since I left the PDP for the defunct ANPP. The struggle in most cases has been in vain and I will not continue to struggle or be interested in factions. Party faithful should also ensure they register in the forthcoming party’s registration exercise, because overtaking is allowed in party affairs.”
With the new political alignment, Ucha’s hope of redeeming APC has started to work out.