•Buhari hails defection
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday launched a counter-attack to rebut an allegation made by Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi, that it has been unfair to the South-east, one of its strongholds.
Umahi, who defected on Tuesday to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had cited alleged injustice being meted out to the zone for dumping the party under which he was state chairman, deputy governor for eight years and elected twice as governor.
But the PDP faulted Umahi’s allegations, saying it has been fair to the South-east, which, among others had produced Senate presidents, deputy president of the Senate, deputy speaker, and chairmen of the party, and in the last presidential election, the running mate of the party’s presidential candidate.
Defending itself, the PDP released a document detailing top political posts held by the Igbo under the party’s successive administrations from 1999 to 2015 when it was the ruling party.
In the document compiled by the publicity department of the party and released in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP listed the various offices that the Igbo had occupied since 1999.
The list showed that the South-east produced five Senate presidents (Senators Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and Kenechukwu Nnamani); one deputy president of the Senate (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who held the position for 12 years); deputy speaker of the House of Representatives (Hon. Emeka Ihedioha) and party chairmen (Chief Vincent Ogbulafor and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo).
It said: “Under the PDP, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika was Chief of Army Staff. Under the PDP, Dr. Charles Soludo was CBN Governor. Under the PDP, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was Minister of Finance.
“Under the PDP, Prof. Maurice Iwu was the INEC chairman. Under the PDP, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim was Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF).
“Under the PDP, Governor Dave Umahi was acting state chairman, state chairman, deputy governor and now governor for two terms.
“Under the PDP, Governor Dave Umahi’s younger brother, Chief Austin Umahi was national vice-chairman, South-east.
“Under the PDP, Mr. Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, was made the PDP vice presidential candidate in 2019 general election.”
It asked: “What has the APC done for the people of the South-east?”
Buhari Hails Defection
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday welcomed Umahi’s defection to APC, describing it “as a bold move driven purely by principle rather than opportunistic motives.”
The president, in a statement by one of his spokesmen, Malam Garba Shehu, said he was proud of Umahi for personally taking the decision without any external influence.
“I am proud of Governor David Umahi for taking this bold decision in accordance with his conscience and principles rather than any external influence or coercion.
“Good governance is very important to us in the APC, and I’m glad that the governor has cited this as a major factor in his decision to join us. I urge our citizens to pay less emphasis on identity politics if we want our democracy to make a positive impact on our country,” he stated.
The president added: “With men like Umahi, I foresee a brighter future for our democracy because the voters will be more motivated by performance records of parties and their candidates.
“Let me once again commend the boldness of Governor Umahi for taking this courageous decision in a country where principles are in short supply among many.
“I know people might call him names, but that is the price men of principles have to pay for acting according to their conscience and convictions.”
We Won’t Defect, Say Ebonyi Federal Legislators
The eight PDP legislators from Ebonyi State in the National Assembly have faulted Umahi’s defection to the ruling APC, saying he was wrong to have moved to another party when there is no crisis in the PDP.
The lawmakers led by a former Governor of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Egwu, told reporters in Abuja that they remain in PDP.
They also cited an earlier Supreme Court decision that candidates are products of political parties.
“What it means is that political officeholders are not at liberty to migrate from one political platform to another, particularly when there is no division in their party,” they stated.
Other lawmakers at the briefing were Senator Obinna Ogba, Senator Mike Ama Nnachi, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga, Igariwey Enwo, Chukwuma Nwazunku, Edwin Anayo and Livinus Makwe.
They wondered why Umahi who has been the most favoured by the PDP in Ebonyi State will now jump ship.
“Indeed, if there is any Ebonyi person who should remain eternally grateful to the PDP, that individual ought to be Governor David Umahi; a man who was appointed the Ebonyi State chairman of the PDP and was made the deputy governor of a PDP administration as well as 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. Austin Umahi) as the national vice-chairman (South-east) and another (Mr. Maxwell Umahi) as the deputy state chairman of the PDP,” they said.
The legislators explained that they remain, members of the PDP on which platform they were elected in 2019, adding: “We wish to state that not a single, member of the Ebonyi State PDP caucus of the National Assembly is defecting to the APC as the three senators and five House of Representatives members remain proud card-carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which we contested and won elections in 2019.”
They said as much as they support Umahi’s position that it is the turn of the South-east to produce the president in 2023, they consider it impolitic, indecent and unwise to give ultimatums and conditionalities in a bid to secure zoning.
PDP Names Caretakers for Ebonyi Chapter
In another statement yesterday, the PDP unveiled members of a caretaker committee to run the affairs of the party in the state in the interim.
The committee is headed by Hon. Fred Udeogu as chairman while Mr. Luke Nkwegu is secretary. Members of the committee include Dr. Gideon Osi (publicity secretary), Hon. James Alaka (organising secretary), Mrs. Amaka Igboke (women leader), Mr. Mudi Irenede (legal adviser), Mr. James Onah (assistant secretary) and Mr. Monday Chukwu (treasurer).
It explained that the decision of the NWC to set up the caretaker committee was pursuant to the powers conferred on it by the provisions of the PDP Constitution (2017 as amended).
Meanwhile, a former Commissioner for Information and State Orientation in Ebonyi State, Chief Egwu Chima, has said Umahi’s defection from the PDP to APC will not add value to his new party.
According to him, the defection will undermine the integrity of the party rather than enhance its fortunes.
Chima, a chieftain of the APC and one-time chairman of Afikpo South Local Government Area, said, however, that Umahi’s mission in the APC was known only to him.
He said: “While in the PDP, Umahi’s love for President Muhammadu Buhari was a sing-song though Buhari has lost every election in the governor’s polling unit, ward and local government. Now that he is in APC, we are going to win elections in these otherwise weak areas.
“With the governor now in our party, Ebonyi will be counted as an APC-controlled state and no longer in opposition.’’
He also told reporters that there was no leadership vacuum in Ebonyi APC and that Umahi’s claim that he will take over the leadership of the party in the state and reposition it is a farce.