Mr. Uchenna Orji Ebonyi State Information Commissioner tells Udora Orizu that Governor David Umahi’s interest in the presidency cannot be threatened by the quest for the same office by his kinsman, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim
There was a recent report in the social media that appeared to unsettle Governor David Umahi and caused his admirers some concern. What really happened?
The social media post credited to our Governor is fallacious and fabricated and mischievously orchestrated to blackmail a high rising reputation and track record of the Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency David Umahi. Let it be known that the matter has been addressed, that the Governor never at any time before, during or immediately after, commented anything in that regard. That has been debunked by the necessary authorities. We are not surprised by that fabrication because that has been the trend in recent times. Knowing fully well that the Governor has done exceedingly well, anywhere you go they are talking about the Governor of Ebonyi state. For those who think they are playing politics , that the only way to cast aspersions on the name, reputations and track record of the Governor is by sponsoring fake news that he said what he didn’t say. We wish them well, members of the public are aware of the truth and we want to charge every member of the public to beware of these kind of people. We are aware that they are not stopping. But by the power of God, there’s no way all those their orchestrations will in anyway be anything negative on the side of our government.
The result in Anambra, did it surprise you? You can see that in the South-east we have two APC states, Ebonyi and Imo states. One would have thought that the two governors would rally round Andy Uba to close the gap and now have APC win three states. What went wrong?
For me it is a question of the will of the people of Anambra State. Everybody will do their best, political parties will try to do everything within their reach to maneuver but at the end of the day one party will win and in this case APGA has won in Anambra state. For us we wish them well we believe in the credibility of Professor Chukwuma Soludo even though he’s not a member of APC, we wish him well. We can only charge him to know that South-east has a lot at stake in ensuring the security, peace of our nation. We need to do our beat in getting all the leaders to speak in one voice. The south east governors forum, under his Excellency, Chief David Umahi have been doing a lot in galvanizing the support, solidarity and conscience of the people of the south east in ensuring that we get all and sundry within the nation to appreciate the need to concede presidency to the south east. Apart from that, even the yearnings of those who profess IPOB needs to be addressed. This is the doings of the leaders in the South-east and so all there’s for us to have peace, to be properly positioned in the helm of affairs of the nation, as governors in the South-east we need to be together in this, all hands need to be on deck in achieving this.
You talked about peace and security. At a point it seemed that this election wasn’t going to hold , but at the last minute IPOB reviewed its sit-at-home order, with prevalence of peace which made it possible for election to hold, how can we build on this in the South-east as a whole going forward?
The issue of violence, destruction of lives and properties in the south east. Has been a very serious concern to everyone. I think with the way and manner the election was held in anambra state, there was minimal case of attack, I think it goes to show that there’s hope. It showed that process of engagement which the South-east leaders started will help a lot. So I will encourage further engagement processes with the traditional rulers and all and sundry, to talk to the agitators to ensure that they lay down their arms to see how we can move forward and engage constructively on a round table because it’s better to jaw jaw than to war war. JP Clark said that all are casualties of war, so but I believe there’s a sign of hope based on what happened in Anambra election. Hope in the sense that IPOB people are not bandits or terrorists after all, they have a mission, agitation, leadership, people they can talk to. It goes to show that if continue to talk to IPOB people, they will listen to the voice of reason and peace. We have to continue to engage them in this manner. They’ve shown responsiveness in anambra election. I think Ultimately we will get them to appreciate the need to ensure peace in the south east. The Governors of South-east are doing their best . I can say that all that is needed is for those agitating to really come to a round table and submit whatever is the cause of the agitations, whatever is the issue, to the leaders to see how it can be addressed.
In terms of security, what’s the very first thing you expect soludo to do as a Governor
As Governor of Anambra state, it’s expected that Professor Soludo will have synergise with the leaders of South-east, the governors forum, provide his own positive thoughts, not cheap thoughts on how to bring about peace in the South-east. He’s expected to provide job opportunities to ensure that there’s robust development in Anambra state. Job opportunities that will be available to the common masses. Anambra is very sensitive, a state where our fore fathers, the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe came from, it’s expected that he will rise beyond ethnic sentiments, cheap popularity to ensure that we maintain one nation where there’s love and peace. For him to speak together with other leaders to ensure that South-east is made to have opportunity of producing the next President.
Recently, the Governor mentioned that he will begin commissioning projects in the state, when will he start that?
Our Governor is very methodical, systematic. Started in 2015, laid foundations even invited Mr. President to commission some of the projects. Today we have a lot of projects that has been completed, we have got a lot of projects that has made Ebonyi a reference point, a flagship of excellence. For instance, among the 36 states of the federation, Ebonyi ranked first, in network of roads apart from Lagos and Abuja, Ebonyi state has got 13 flyovers getting to 14 making it the highest after Lagos and Abuja, Ebonyi state has got a shopping mall that’s said to be the biggest in Africa, it has got a brand new government house that’s much more beautiful than any other state owed government house in Nigeria. Ebonyi has got an emerging international airport, the construction is going smoothly and it’s part of what we expect Mr President to see and appreciate. I think that the coming of the President will help let the whole world know what the Governor has done. He will commission these projects for them to be put into use by the people of Ebonyi state.
Do you have a date in mind?
The Governor will speak on this.
On the presidency in 2023, recently the North said it is ready to negotiate. This provides a very strong opportunity for your Governor to come forward, however Ohaneze called on all the South-east men and women who have interest to contest for 2023 presidency to come forward, the only person who has come forward so far is Anyim Pius Anyim former Senate President and he happens to come from same state with your governor, do you think that his declaration will diminish your governor’s ambition?
Let me say that Nigerians are getting wiser, and democracy can only be said to be thriving if we do things differently at this point in our history. I tell you we need to look at the track records, the performance indices of every leader. Whether in the past or immediate, it’s very critical. Without sounding rude I want to say that the whole of Ebonyi state if we are looking at what leaders have done you cannot see a single trace of what former Senate President, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation did for Ebonyi state let alone South-east.
I don’t want to talk about issues of complicity and conspiracy that under development of South-east by those who held positions at the national level. Let me say that the people of South-east knows who is a performer they know who can make all the difference. All we need is to show the entire Nigeria that the best can come from South-east. And if you look at what has been done in Ebonyi state within the short time in the history of governance, you can be sure that if you are looking at who will transform Nigeria , Ebonyi state Governor will provide all the leadership. I can tell you that whether or not he has shown interest, the people of Ebonyi and South-east are praying for him. And when the chips are down, God will hear our prayers and bring him out.
This man, when we had issues in Ebonyi, we had no development or infrastructure for 19 good years, God raised him for us, he started by bringing him onboard as state party chairman, he became a Deputy Governor consecutively and when he became, he became one of the best hands of his boss. To the extent his boss promised him that he was going to be a Governor after him, before enemies stepped in. But eventually God crowned him and he became the first Deputy Governor in history to become governor when the establishment said no. As it is he has shown that he can be the best in any position he’s given. If he has the opportunity he will make a great difference in the whole of Nigeria.
We know that Anyim is PDP, your Governor is APC. Don’t you think Anyim’s declaration is going to affect his chances?
I have said earlier that the people are wiser, they know those that were there before and never performed. Instead they have issues of scandals and corruption. They had opportunities of developing their zones, even attracting projects they had to pocket it.
So it boils down to performance?
Yes it’s very critical, and people are wiser. It’s not about coming early to dance . People know those who are dancing well or not. Nigerians must appreciate that at this point in our history, that the best thing to do is to forget about sentiments of brother or sister. They should look at performance, somebody that can help to make Nigeria work again. From the records of Governor Umahi, if he is given the opportunity the people of Nigeria will rejoice.
How far is he reaching out to the other regions of the country? To build some kind of alignment that will take him to his destination.
Governor Umahi is a bridge builder by nature, he’s a nationalist. He believes in one Nigeria. I want to say that when God speaks and directs him, he will do the needful. I think that the wise men are beginning to see somebody from Ebonyi state as the only person from the south east that can give us the best pride of place as a nation and that’s Umahi. We are praying for him to show interest, because he will always tell you that he’s really settled about ensuring how to deliver Ebonyi state into a very prosperous state, to make it as a hub of economy of south east. We are praying that as soon as possible God will direct him to show interest.
We always believe in prayer, but there will be a time when people will begin to see him as a reluctantly aspiring president. Which means that he’s waiting for people to direct him to come. sometimes they say you need to take it by force. Is there any inkling that in the next quarter the Governor will declare for presidency?
I think that the character and personality of the Governor needs to be discovered by the Nigerian people. I also think that in the history of governance especially the presidency hasn’t been a thing of struggle or fighting. It’s been a thing of coming together in a round table looking at the track record of people and thinking that this person can do it better. I only can tell our people that Governor Umahi can do it better than those who have shown early interest. Even the 1979 presidential system and 1999 presidential system of government, presidency has always been chosen and not by personal struggle. I think at this point we should look at the best hands based on track records. Others may have money and contact, but I think that Governor Umahi is an unbeatable candidate should be chosen by the people.
In event that he doesn’t get the presidency, will he be ready to serve as Vice President?
I don’t have any answer. He’s rounding up his eight years mandate with the people of Ebonyi. He has his convenant with God. Whatever God directs him we will know. Governor Umahi will be the best hand to handle Nigeria after President Muhammadu Buhari.
I believe there’s a sign of hope based on what happened in Anambra election. Hope in the sense that IPOB people are not bandits or terrorists after all, they have a mission, agitation, leadership, people they can talk to. It goes to show that if continue to talk to IPOB people, they will listen to the voice of reason and peace. We have to continue to engage them in this manner. They’ve shown responsiveness in Anambra election. I think Ultimately we will get them to appreciate the need to ensure peace in the south east. The Governors of South-east are doing their best . I can say that all that is needed is for those agitating to really come to a round table and submit whatever is the cause of the agitations, whatever is the issue, to the leaders to see how it can be addressed.