As Austin Umahi Continues to Sacrifice for His Governor Brother…
Benjamin Nworie writes that apart from his influence in the present administration of his elder brother, Austin Umahi, seems to be facing some political upheavals in Ebonyi State
Mr. Austin Umahi was the former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the South zone. He was not a regular name in Ebonyi politics before 2014. However, his appearance in politics started in 2014 during the struggle to actualize the governorship ambition of his elder brother, Mr David Umahi.
After the emergence of his brother as the governor of the state in 2015, Austin became one of the most influential politicians in Ebonyi state. Many still see him as running the affairs of the State.
In 2016, against all odds and protest, Austin emerged the National Vice chairman of PDP. His ambition generated bad blood even amongst Governor Umahi’s allies who felt that the choice of his younger brother was parochial and sentimental. Many political bigwigs from the State opposed the choice of Austin but Umahi saw the agitation as an affront to him and his office.
Like Austin, it seemed to be a norm that in every administration in the state, certain individuals use to wield powerful influence, that usually compete with that of the Chief Executive.
In the administration of the first civilian Governor of Ebonyi State, Senator Sam Egwu, his Personal Assistant, Mr Collins Agbo, was then addressed as defacto governor.
In the time of Governor Martin Elechi, the likes of Commissioner for Grant Donors, Mr Fred Udeogu; the commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy Matters, Cele Nwali and the National President of Ebonyi Youth Assembly, Comrade Chinedu Ogah,acted as Defacto Governors.
These “defacto governors” were very powerful and wielded too much influence in the administration. First, they manned any favourite ministry where they were in charge of people and funds.
In the administration of David Umahi, Austin is at the heart of the government. In some quarters, people still believe that Austin’s influence and activities have diminished the relevance of the office of the Deputy Governor. This influence has grown to a level that he receives the credit and blame of good and bad policies and decisions of Umahi’s government.
Maybe he should also be responsible for the blame game against some allies of the governor who felt abandoned or those who are aggrieved that they have been benched, but the truth being told is that if you are not in a good book of Austin, nothing for you in Umahi’s government.
No matter how one looks at it, with the closeness to his brother’s government, many felt that Austin supposed to have played a “unity role” in making sure that the core- political associates who dared all odds to ensure that Umahi emerged in 2015 are sustained in the good books of the administration. Majority of top government functionaries were recruited after the struggles of the two governorship elections that produced Umahi.
Some of these associates were either denied tickets, denied commensurate appointments and or abandoned totally. This may not be far from the sudden fallen aside of one of the closest ally to the governor, who is now the National chairman of the PDP in the South East, Chief Ali Odefa.
The sudden parting of ways between Odefa and Umahi is still shocking to many. This ugly development punctured Umahi’s administration because of the “flavour” which Odefa provided when he was with Umahi.
Among all his brothers, Governor Umahi seems to have loved Austin than others. Eventually when Umahi joined the All Progressives Congress, Austin lost his position and quickly followed his brother to the new party.
It appeared like a compensation when Austin declared for Ebonyi South Senatorial position. Though, it was rumoured that Governor Umahi planted him on the position which he would relinquish if the governor’s Presidential ambition couldn’t materialize. Before the presidential politicking, Umahi had strongly denied the speculation that he also had senatorial ambition.
It was however surprising to onlookers when it was heard that Austin had withdrawn from the race to face his “business” to pave way for governor Umahi to replace him. To this end, an overnight rescheduled primary was conducted where Governor Umahi emerged the Senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South.
This political arrangement triggered off mixed reactions from the public especially when the ticket became subject of litigation. Some people felt that there was nothing wrong if the Governor can allow his younger brother to go to the Senate, afterall, he has meritoriously served as Governor for two terms.
And the litigation has become subject of worry and humiliation for the governor, to be competing “dirtly” with the claimant of the ticket, Mrs Ann Agom-Eze. A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki presided over by Justice Fantua Riman had declared that Agom-Eze should be recognized as the authentic candidate for the position, and as well, ordered for a fresh election where new aspirant can be admitted.
This contradiction was a new subject of legal tussle, as Agom-Eze has filed a fresh suit at Court of Appeal to interpret the judgement of the lower court. Her argument was that since the winner has withdrawn from the race, she should automatically emerge as the candidate having scored the second highest number of votes in the primary election.
Since the “withdrawal sacrifice”, many questions have been on the lips of political watchers in the state.
One, how can Austin be placated? Two, did he voluntarily withdraw or muscled? Three, is he really happy over the withdrawal? Four, how are the family members feeling on the development?
Worst still, all political breakthroughs of Austin Umahi have been cut short. His former position as NVC of PDP, South East, was cut short due to Umahi’s defection to APC. His ambition to be a Senator was also cut short by the failure of his brother to clinch the presidential ticket of APC. It has been sacrifice for a brother.
Some of these questions and concerns were partially addressed last week when President Muhammadu Buhari announced Austin Umahi as the Secretary of Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Few hours later, when people started sending their congratulatory messages on social media platforms, Austin quickly replied, thanking them for their ‘best wishes”, but announced that he has declined the appointment as the job is best for “job seekers and retired civil servants” and not for someone like him.
Austin Umahi said: “Let me deeply appreciate each and everyone of you that sent his or her congratulatory message& numerous calls for my appointment as the RAMFC Secretary.
“I am honestly humbled by this show of love, however I regret to inform you that I declined the appointment because it is at best for job seekers or retired civil servant or better still anyone who loves the job and secondly, I am convinced that at my age and work experience it is not in doubt that I know what I want in life.
“Please if you are interested in the position do not hesitate to approach our indefatigable governor to do the needful because as far as I am concerned, the position is still vacant. Thanks and God bless”.
Meanwhile, Governor Umahi has said that his brother’s rejection of Buhari’s appointment was because the APC needed him at the home front.
The Governor who spoke through his spokesman, Chooks Oko, stated that the insinuations making the round that the younger brother to the Governor rejected his appointment was far from the truth.
According to him: “The true position is that the All Progressives Congress (APC) family in Ebonyi state noted Chief Austin Umahi’s important role in the campaign council both at the state and national levels at the just concluded presidential primaries and deemed it necessary to appeal to Mr President for a replacement via a letter dated July 25th, 2022 as his services are more needed in the state at this point.
“The Ebonyi state government remains grateful to Mr President at all times for his kind disposition towards the affairs and progress of the state.
“The general public is advised to ignore the news making the rounds as it is the handiwork of mischief makers.
“Those who erroneously started indicating interest in the position are to note that a replacement has been sent to the President but they would be considered in subsequent appointments both at the state and national levels”.