THIS REPUBLIC BY SHAKA MOMODU Shaka.Momodu @thisdaylive.com
A wide range of emotions is provoked in a democracy. They range from fear, hatred, envy, contempt, absurdity, awe, anger, hope, promise, inclusiveness, tolerance, freedom and much more. Of these, we have witnessed more of the bad and the ugly under the current dispensation.
The sad truth, however, is that since our return to democracy, most of those who presented themselves for public offices are unfit for leadership positions. Some of the so-called democratically elected governors and other “selected” representatives have turned themselves into brutal dictators. Any way, they emerged as governors through a deeply flawed leadership selection process that primes negative attributes over good virtues and character. All sorts of ill-mannered, pompous, boastful, fraudulent individuals and certificate forgers are rigged into public offices to exhibit their malevolent character in the leadership space.
Enter the world of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State. At first glance, he looks harmless, calm, amiable, unambitious, and maybe somewhat physically presentable. But that is where the good attributes end. Not long ago, the news from the state was not pleasant to the ears. The governor was hopping from one egregious behaviour to another, climaxing in him seizing the air space to ridicule the fourth estate of the realm.
Umahi has excitedly positioned himself for a spot in the hall of infamy in his anti-democratic behaviour that scorches the core of our democratic heritage and values. His follies stand him out as one that will not advance the values of democratic governance; rather they forewarn us of his treachery and the danger he poses to our values.
It appears Ebonyi people are in a terrible bind. Governor Umahi is a malignant narcissist who is not ashamed to exhibit his madness in public or use the power of his office wilfully, malevolently, or vindictively. In the process, he has forgotten that power comes with responsibility. He has forgotten how transient power is and that at the end of his tenure in office, he will revert to being an ordinary citizen of his state.
How else does one explain that a governor with a term limit, whose second term would end in less than three years, imposed a life ban on two journalists from covering the state’s activities or being seen in any government facility? By doing a statewide broadcast pronouncing the sentence, he exhibited drunkenness of power in a most indecorous manner. It was a grotesque spectacle painful to watch.
Umahi had ordered the arrest of Mr Chijioke Agwu over a report he did on the Lassa fever outbreak in the state, as well as one Peter Okutu. Here is a summary of his exact words as reported: “If you think you have the pen, we have the koboko. Let’s leave the court alone. Ebonyi people are very angry with the press and let me warn that I won’t be able to control them or know when they unleash mayhem on you, if you continue to write to create panic in the state.” That was an open incitement to violence against journalists for doing their work.
When Umahi is not threatening journalists with a ban or violence, he is praising President Muhammadu Buhari to the skies. At every turn, he has tried to be more Buhari than Buhari himself and proudly calls himself a Buharist, whatever that means. Whatever tickles him about the president must be a strange enticing admiration for the absurd, rooted outside the scope of human understanding. It obscures the reality of Buhari’s deeply flawed persona, or even elevates mediocrity as an article of faith or creed. The reality of the situation of Nigeria today is that, the country is more divided than at any time in its chequered history under Buhari. Is this what tickles Umahi?
The country is more insecure under Buhari than at any time ever – banditry, kidnappings, death and destructions – are rife across the landscape with a complete breakdown of law and order all over the country while the president remains aloof and unbothered. Is that why Umahi admires him?
Nigeria under Buhari won the disgraceful label as the poverty capital of the world; is this its leader for?
Unfortunately, this is the man some heretics and nitwits claim to be his fans. I can bet my bottom kobo that Buhari himself must be aghast at Umahi’s outpouring of love towards him. He must be laughing almost to stupor this strange affection showered on him. I dare say he might even begin to see himself as extraordinary . Of course, he is not.
It was grotesquely tragic to watch Umahi romanticizing the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party he has now defected to, to conclude the horror show. His defection is a manifestation of a political death wish. Of course Umahi’s defection is the climax of a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt our politics continue to play out, consciously and subconsciously. Over-ambition has become the trajectory of the pestilence on the road to 2023.
When Gaius Cassius was trying to convince Marcus Brutus on why he should join the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar, he made the following argument: “Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Well, to be greedy is not in Umahi’s star. The fault is in him.
But I don’t know if there is a Cassius goading him on, or he is merely exhibiting the traits of the usual suspect, greed. But there is hardly any energetic difference. In his calculations, joining the APC would give him the leverage to get the ultimate prize – the presidential ticket for 2023. Forget about that talk of the PDP marginalising the South-east. No, far from it. It is all about Umahi and Umahi alone despite his best effort to package himself a new champion of the South-east.
In 2018 when the rumour started to make the rounds of him romanticizing the APC, the governor had this to say: “Mr. President or any APC person has never asked me to come to APC, and they will never ask me. And there is no reason for me to leave my party, PDP, of which I was the party chairman, deputy governor and now governor.
“I have always insisted in (sic) character. People that jump from one party to the other should examine their characters, except if there is any problem within your party. As of today, till tomorrow, until Christ comes, there is no crisis in the PDP. Even if there is a need for me to leave the PDP, I can never leave the PDP to the kind of APC in Ebonyi State because with the kind of leaders in Ebonyi APC, leaders that have failed Ebonyi State, I can never be on the same political platform with them.”
Well, two whole years is like an eternity in politics. Umahi has seen the light and has eaten his words and converted. After repeated denials, Umahi has finally made good what has long been suspected, that his heart was in the APC all along. But what took him so long, some may ask?
He has finally freed himself of the burden of hiding behind a finger and defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC on Tuesday, November 17. He said this in his declaration: “I don’t want the PDP to collapse in the South-east but it can collapse itself in the zone if it does not heed to the peoples’ advice to entrench justice, fairness and equity. The PDP should be bold to declare its stand on zoning of the presidency to the South-east and if it cannot, should tell us why we are not capable of holding such a position but will come for our votes during elections.”
Umahi said the decision to leave the PDP was not about leadership but about patriotism, justice, fairness and the overall interest of the people. “I am not vying for any position in the APC so anybody who does not like me over the defection will be fighting the air. Nobody has promised me anything. I will instead play the fatherly role of guiding anyone who wants to vie for any position because it is a waste of time for any governor to seek replacing himself. When you are looking for everybody to be loyal to you in politics, you might not get to your destination because destinations are not straight but full of obstacles,” he said.
Umahi said that he will not be disturbed if the APC fails to zone the presidency to the South-east but will depend on God to determine the matter. If one may ask Umahi, if the South-east doesn’t get the presidential ticket in PDP in 2023, why not stay in PDP and leave the matter to God?
According to Umahi, “The APC, however, appears to be amenable towards working with the South-east even though the South-east never supported it the way it supported the PDP since 1999. We would be 24 years with the PDP by 2023 and Ebonyi, under my administration, will testify to the numerous feats we have attained with the support of my friend and father, President Muhammadu Buhari. I will have no regrets if our agitations are not met in the APC as it will be on record that a governor was sacrificed for the betterment of his people on what is rightfully, their due.”
So he left PDP because the APC “appears to be amenable towards working” with the South-east? Take note of the phase , “appears amenable”. Only a clown would take this to the bank and especially in our brand of politics that is as fluid as we know it.
Does anyone really believe this colourless politician with a history of doublespeak? Does anyone consider him serious at all? Well, some may, and would even go to the extent of providing some banal justification for his move. But clearly, his attempt to use the marginalisation of the South-east as a rallying cry is not going to fly.
If as he claims the PDP marginalised the South-east as his reason for leaving the party, is it not strange that he defected to a party which made marginalisation of the South-east a state policy – with its well stated and implemented policy of 97 percent to 5 percent sharing formula? His “father and friend” Buhari is the father of marginalisation, ethno/religious bigotry and nepotism. He has clearly mismanaged our diversity.
It bears recalling here that Umahi was one of those PDP governors who secretly worked for Buhari’s second term. It was not a mere coincidence that three of the South-east states, including Ebonyi, “gave” Buhari the constitutional 25 percent spread threshold to enable him win the 2019 presidential election. His treacherous reaction to Atiku Abubakar’s choice of former Governor Peter Obi, a fellow South-easterner, as his running mate in the 2019 presidential election said it all.
He, alongside his fellow South-east governors worked against the PDP and Peter Obi, Atiku’s running mate, suppressing the votes of the party in cahoots with the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), to give Buhari the advantage. Was that in the interest of the South-east? What has the South-east gained under Buhari and his APC? When he helped Buhari to get 25 percent of votes against his fellow kinsman, what was he thinking – advancing the interests of the South-east or marginalising those interests in the most treacherous manner imaginable?
Having delivered, he went on to nominate a candidate for ministerial position but was rebuffed by Buhari’s cabal. That rejection has not taught him any lesson. So let no one be deceived, Umahi and co. are perpetual schemers and they always bring up group or ethnic interests to insult our intelligence. In any case, Nigeria does not need people of this brand of politics for its rebirth.
He is not an advocate of South-east interests, he is a schemer and a pretender and must be called what he is. These people change colour, shape and appearance, depending on where they think the bread is buttered better. Buhari’s lopsided appointments since assuming office that have ensured near-total exclusion of South-east from federal appointments and even siting of projects, mean nothing to this new champion of South-east marginalisation movement.
Even though he knows clearly he is unelectable, not because of where he comes from but clearly because of who he is – a selfish man – his ambition blinds him to the reality that he cannot win the ticket to run for president anywhere even if it was zoned to the South-east. There are far more qualified people with character than a man who betrays the interest of his people in one breath and then turns around to pretend he is their champion. How foolhardy can a man not be when greed takes control of him?
How many people know Umahi’s name in Sokoto or Kano or Maiduguri or Lagos or Oyo? How many people remember him for any noble position he has taken on any contentious national issue? What are his antecedents to be found worthy of a presidential ticket? This was a man who to appease the president, invited marauding Fulani herdsmen to Ebonyi State and offered them grazing lands despite their history of wanton killings and destruction of properties in the state. Even as agitations reach a crescendo, Umahi has not taken a position on restructuring of the country to make it work better for all its component units ostensibly not to offend Buhari who is dead against restructuring.
The state of the country has progressively gone from bad to worse under his idol, Buhari, a president that has largely aggravated the fault-lines in the country.
How on earth does Umahi think Nigerians will be receptive to a man who calls himself a Buharist – which to many is akin to an attempt to create a myth out of the worst form of incompetence and failure of leadership ever seen in this country, but pathetically elevated by Umahi and fellow travellers as an article of faith.
History teaches us that men are more likely never going to learn lessons from past experiences and mistakes of others. Umahi’s love for APC will explode in his face very soon. He should ask former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who left his father’s house to live with strangers even when the house was not leaking, what happened to him in the APC. Just two years in the APC, Uduaghan realised its dysfunctional nature. Consistently treated as an outsider, a leper, it dawned on him he was never really going to blend in with a tribe of strange bedfellows. Well, he soon came to his senses and ran back to the PDP a few weeks back.
Umahi should ask former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Dino Melaye, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Aminu Tambuwal, and many others who had decimated their own party, the PDP to hand power to the APC, what their experiences were in that party. If still in doubt, he should consult his kinsman, Rochas Okorocha about the level of injustice in the APC. Okorocha declared recently there was ten times more injustice in the APC than any other party.
I am not going to waste my time believing that he is a reasonable person because the reasons he has given are not reasonable. Like a fly which follows a corpse into the grave, Umahi is irrevocably committed not to learn any lesson from the mistakes of others. He is set on a path to his own political destruction. I actually think Nigeria will be the better for it as we count them out, one by one.
But no one should be fooled about the dangers these unscrupulous elements pose to our democracy. But we should at least be grateful that they are consigning themselves to oblivion, thereby reducing their number.