•Says he’s not in contest with anybody
•Hopes to consolidate on president’s achievements
•Seeks political solution to Kanu’s incarceration
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The race for the 2023 presidential ticket in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is gathering momentum as Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State yesterday declared his interest in the nation’s number one seat.
Like former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was at the State House, Abuja, yesterday to inform President Muhammadu Buhari about his ambition, Umahi also met with the president at the villa and sought his blessing for his presidential ambition.
The governor who spoke with newsmen after a closed-door meeting with the president said he had fruitful discussions with president Buhari on politics generally and security challenges in the south-east, “which was the major reason for the visit.”
On politics, Umahi disclosed that the discussion centred on the progress of the APC as well as the 2023 general elections and his interest to run for president.
He also stated that having performed well as governor in more than six years, he was in good stead to run for president on the ticket of the APC.
“We discussed politics as the growth of our party, APC, in Nigeria, and south-east. And, of course, you know, the interest of south-east for the seat of presidency in 2023. And, of course, I told Mr. President, that without prejudice to whatever will be the decision of the party, which we shall abide by, that if the party throws the ticket open or zoned to southern part of Nigeria that I believe that with what I have put in place in the past six years plus, that I’ll be running for presidency, on the platform of APC.
“So I told him and of course, he believes that whoever wants to run for president of this country must have to consult widely, go to all the leaders and that we must do everything to remove ethnicity and religion in our politics. So that this country can grow.”
He also clarified that he was not contesting with anybody when asked if he didn’t feel threatened by the interest of Tinubu in the same presidential ticket.
He said: “I’m not in contest with anybody, I’m in contest with myself.”
While backing his ambition with a Bible passage, Umahi added that God’s wish would definitely prevail at the end of the day.
His words: “The Bible that I swore with in a section of in 1 Samuel says that by strength shall no man prevail, and power and might belongs to God. He chooses whomever he wills and he will do that in 2023.”
On what he has to offer Nigerians as a presidential aspirant, the governor stressed that he would continue from where president Buhari would stop in 2023.
“So we want to treat the nation, if God permits, that what we’ve done becomes a microcosm of the macrocosm, of which we expect. We also believe strongly that we’ll be able to continue with what Mr. President has done.
“One of the greatest problems we have in this country is ethnicity, religion, and unpatriotic features of a lot of people. And I think that there is a need to engage starting from where Mr. President would have stopped.
“God willing, and if it’s the wish of the people of this country, Umahi’s presidency, we’ll be looking at the same thing we did in Ebonyi state. Before we came on board, we were a state written off, we had nothing to write home about infrastructure.
“But I must commend the first two civilian governors, Dr. Sam Egwu and Chief Elechi, they did quite a lot, because they came in the midst of the dust of the nation, Ebonyi State.
“And so they had quite a lot of challenges. So I can say that they laid the foundation upon which I started to build. And so there are a lot of things that we have done in Ebonyi”.
The governor also said he spoke with the President about resolving the security crisis affecting the south-east region of the country through political solutions, to which he said could be achieved by getting consensus and out of court settlement.
“Let me also add that as the chairman of South-east governors’ forum, that I support a political solution to our insecurity problems in the south-east. Of course, I mentioned it to Mr. President. You see, political solution does not terminate the judicial process and if you know Mr. President very well, he has always said, and has always demonstrated, that he wouldn’t interfere with any judiciary process.
“Everybody knows him for that. But you’ll remember very well that if an agreement is reached between parties, you don’t expect Mr. President to be the negotiator, there are a lot of federal, government officials.
“So, I believe strongly that as south-east that is proposing for political solution should be able to engage the federal government, after all, there’s always what is called ‘out of court settlement’, but it is for our people and our brother Kanu to be willing for us to truly engage so that we can find true peace in our region because the activities there have destroyed a lot of the economy of south-east, a lot of lives have been lost. We were shouting it that it wasn’t going to benefit, because agitation shouldn’t have gone the way it did.
“Today, the matter has gone beyond them. Every criminal, kidnapper, armed robber tends to claim IPOB and IPOB in turn is fighting them, but I think, it’s late.
“So, we desire peace, we desire to save the lives of our people and so we are willing to engage, to see that we have an amicable settlement and rebuild the economy of south-east,” he said.
When asked what he thought should be the starting point of engagements for political solution to the south-east security challenge, the governor said, “leaders of south-east, of course, not all of them, must be selected leaders, and already the Ohaneze and Chief Mbazurike are already in the forefront and they have always been briefing me and so I’ve joined them together with Southeast governors.
“That could be the starting point and we will be able to know what we want. We want peace and so there are things we must give up in order to acquire that peace.
“If we are not being fairly treated and some people feel we are not being fairly treated, we should be able to constructively show to the federal government the areas we think that we are not being fairly treated.
“Not through hate speeches, not through violence, I don’t believe in these things because even in homes, in families, the wife or husband or children, we still have one thing or the other against the family, but they should be able to discuss”, he said.
Asked if he had reached out to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the governor categorically said the group ought not to be getting involved in party politics.
“I wouldn’t have done that without first coming to clear with Mr. President that there is this feeling in the south-east that have not been President and that our people feel that those of our leaders in the various political parties should indicate interest to contest and this is fair, this is important.
“But at the end of the day, it is God Almighty and the political parties that will also decide. Ohaneze leadership should not play politics. Yes, they can speak for the interest of the south-east, they can speak for fair treatment to south-east as people, but as a matter of equity, justice and fairness, and leaving a level playing field for all the political parties and the aspirants, they should not dabble into politics of whom to support or whom not to support.”
Reacting to an information last week by the Plateau State governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, that the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) ought to have met last weekend, Umahi described it as misinformation.
According to him: “I’m not Mr. President who must have the final say on the date for convention and I don’t believe that the governor you mentioned should have spoken for the party because if it is APC Governors’ Forum, we have a leader, a chairman who is His Excellency, the governor of Kebbi State. “He wasn’t even aware of the meeting when I called him and if it is the party administration, we have His Excellency, the governor of Yobe State.
“I think these two would have been able to speak to the press, if we’re going to have such a meeting on Sunday. So, I was not aware, but I had to inquire from the chairman of APC Governors Forum who wasn’t also aware. So, I’m not sure the meeting held.”