Benjamin Nworie writes on fresh hurdles before Governor David Umahi to clinch APC’s Ebonyi South Senatorial ticket after losing the party’s presidential ticket
In November 2020, Ebonyi state governor, Mr David Umahi started restrategizing on how best to position himself for another political aspiration, after the expiration of his two-term as governor.
He felt that one of the best ways to set the ball rolling was to quit his former political party, the Peoples Democratic Party to join the ruling All Progressives Party.
Umahi cited many unfair treatments against the people of South east by the PDP as his reasons for quitting the party. Umahi’s departure from PDP fuelled agitations for the Presidency of Igbo extraction.
It started like a selfless agenda to score a high point on why the people of the south east zone should be considered as flag bearers of the two dominant political parties.
First of all, Umahi said he was not defecting from the PDP because of his presidential ambition. And at many fora, he reiterated that whether his new Party, APC, gave ticket to any person from his zone or not, he would not have any grudge against the Party, with the conviction that if the people of the south east had invested in APC like they did to PDP since 1999, the APC ought to have considered the zone for the presidential position.
Months after his defection to APC, Umahi declared his intention to fly the presidential ticket of the party in his vigorous campaigns and agitations. He consulted wifely principally on the sentiment of addressing Igbo marginalization.
Indeed, Umahi’s presidential ambition became a tall agenda and near realization, especially as many Nigerians commended his transformational strides in Ebonyi state. It appeared from testimonies of people that if the South east should be considered for the exalted seat, Umahi should be the topmost capable and competent person to lead the nation.
Technically, Umahi received one of the loudest ovations to clinch the APC ticket. In less than six months in the All Progressives Congress, he became too powerful in the party with his popularity soaring unhindered, even outshining old members of the party.
These elevations almost came to a nought when the entire five states in the zone abandoned him and voted massively for the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu during the presidential primary. Out of the 39 delegates from Ebonyi state, Umahi got 38, showing that other states in the zone didn’t vote for him or any other contestant from the zone.
Enraged by this humiliation and sabotage, as he described it, Umahi said it was crystal clear to him, that the greatest enemy to the emancipation and growth of the South east zone are Nidgbo.
The leadership of OhanaezeNdigbo was not exempted from Umahi’s wrath. Consequently, he announced the disownment of the apex sociocultural group led by Professor George Obiozor for his alleged inability to use the organization to rally around his presidential ambition, or to an extent, champion the Igbo presidency.
Like a wounded lion, especially as he has activated an elaborate contacts across the Niger on how he would garner support from Northern politicians, Umahi said he has abandoned the “Igbo agenda”.
However, his sincerity on Igbo presidency became doubtful to critics who viewed the governor’s outburst against Peter Obi’s Presidential ambition in Labour Party as mischievous, selfish and diversionary. Umahi declared openly that Ebonyi people wont vote for Labour Party in the presidential election.
Many people started wondering why Umahi who had been an advocate of Igbo Presidency can surreptitiously oppose Obi’s ambition instead of pulling his weight behind him to succeed in the spirit of his “Igbo Agenda”.
Though, the State Government via a statement by the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, MrUchenna Orji further exonerated Umahi, adding that what the governor actually meant was that, as a loyal APC member, that he would support and vote for his party in the elections.
Orji said: “Umahi never said that Obi was going nowhere and that he (Umahi) does not believe in the nation’s president of Igbo extraction.
“The governor is a member of the All Progressives Congress and shall support the party in all their state and national elections as a good party man.
“He beliefs that political party members should defend their parties during elections and people will freely vote for candidates of their choice,”
But, no matter how anyone sees it or the interpretation given, the crux of the matter is that Umahi has been politically wounded even in the home front.
The senatorial ticket which everyone felt was a walkover for him has become another threat and hurdle against his ambition.
Shortly, after the presidential primary whichUmahi lost to Tinubu on June 8, a new political compensation was initiated for him to pick the senatorial ticket of Ebonyi South. Whether pre-planned or anticipated that the presidential ambition may flop, Umahi’s younger brother, Austin, emerged the APC senatorial candidate, with Mrs Ann-AgomEze as the second runner -up.
Austin Umahi emerged the Senatorial candidate on May 28. A day after the APC presidential primary, Governor Umahi participated and won the rescheduled senatorial primary for Ebonyi South.
Two reasons were given to have necessitated the reconduct of the primary. First, a letter signed by the APC National Chairman and National Secretary, Senator AbdullahiAdamu and Senator IyiolaOmisere respectively which was addressed to the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission alleged that the earlier primary of Ebonyi South senatorial district was disrupted.
The letter read in part: “in furtherance to our earlier letter dated 23rd May, 2022 with Ref No: APC/NHDQ/INEC/19/022/59, we write to notify the commission of the reconduct of the senatorial primary election for Ebonyi South Senatorial District in Ebonyi State scheduled for Thursday, 9th June, 2022. This is arising from the disruption of the process at the earlier scheduled date”.
The second reason given however contradicted the position of the alleged disruption of the primary. The chairman of APC in the state, Mr Stanley Emegha-Okoro adduced that the winner, Austin and his second runner up, MrsAgom-Eze, have allegedly withdrawn. He said INEC’s omission of Governor Umahi’s name in the senatorial list was an “oversight”, which which has been ratified.
Emegha said: “It is not a substitute, it was a re-conduction of primaries, he said it will tie his business down. It’s not writing a letter. I went there, it was a minor error from the INEC side and it has been corrected. The necessary things were done. The stepping down of the two candidates that contested for that senatorial election was there with the party and INEC”.
“INEC was invited for the re-conduction because there was enough time for the party to re-conduct another primary election that will usher in another person. And the time was actually meant. The re-conduction of the election was done. All the necessary security agencies and the ministries that were supposed to be there were there on the day of the re- conduction of the senatorial candidate primaries of APC in Ebonyi South.
“And then a panel was set up at the national secretariat, Abuja and they arrived. We took them to Afikpo which is the venue for such conduct. They did all the necessary things. The delegates that were supposed to participate in the primaries were all there.
“Mind you and watch very well that the particular column was blank, so there wasn’t any issue. Anybody carrying any news is carrying it on their own. But I went to Abuja, I called them and asked them why I’m seeing and hearing such stories on social media, they traced it and saw where it was coming from and it was immediately corrected”.
To further buttress the conviction that MrsAgom-Eze actually discontinued her ambition, there was a letter which has been circulating on social media on her purported withdrawal.
According to the letter which was addressed to the National Chairman of the APC, it reads: “I, Princess Ann Agom-Eze, having contested for the senatorial seat of Ebonyi South Senatorial zone and having come second in the contest hereby for the interest of our Party, the All Progressives Congress withdraw. Mr. Chairman sir, I wish to assure you that the unity and interest of the Party supersedes every other interest”.
It was however surprising to political watchers how MrsAgom-Eze, in a twist, approached the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, that she should be joined and recognized as the authentic candidate, in a suit filed by Governor Umahi compelling INEC to enlist him as the authentic candidate of Ebonyi South Senatorial zone.
Delivering judgement in the case on Friday, July 22, 2022, Justice FatunRiman, cited section 115 of the Electoral Act 2022, saying the governor was not an aspirant and cannot participate in the election or pre-election matters of the All Progressives Congress as regards the Ebonyi South zone, whose primary held on the 28th day of May, 2022.
According to the above section of the new Electoral Act, the governor neither procured forms for nor participated in the election and cannot claim any right based on the primary election.