Several weeks after Governor Dave Umahi dumped the Peoples Democratic Party for the All Progressives Congress, there is still tension among party bigwigs in the state.
The recent defection of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress has left on its trail tension in the South-East geopolitical zone.
Ebonyi became the second state in the region to declare for the APC, following a similar move by Imo State under ex-governor Rochas Okorocha.
Since the days of Umahi’s predecessors-Sam Egwu and Martin Elechi-the state has been known for its stand for the PDP.
However, this did not stop the incumbent from making what has been described as an audacious move
Justifying his defection, Umahi had said, “I offered this movement as a protest against the injustice being done to the South-East zone by the PDP. Since 1999, the people of the South-East have supported the PDP in all elections and at a time, the five states in the zone belonged to the PDP fold and one of the founding fathers of the PDP, the late Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme, was from the South-East.”
But the defection has split the PDP leaders in the state and fuelled crisis in the APC alike.
According to observers, Umahi’s journey to the APC may have altered certain political equations in the state, and perhaps the entire South-East zone.
The governor’s defection has led to sharp disagreement between him and some key political players who reportedly supported his governorship bids in 2015 and 2019.
Stakeholders said the faceoff could leave the state more divided than ever, as political gladiators deploy fresh schemes to actualise their aspirations ahead of the 2023 elections.
Meanwhile, Umahi and a former President of the Senate and one-time Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, as well as some other key political players have exchange derogatory comments publicly.
Specifically, a former governor of the state, Dr Sam Egwu, and the governor are believed not to be in good terms over the latter’s move.
Anyim reportedly supported Umahi’s bid to become governor. Umahi, it was learnt, also used his influence as governor to ensure that most of the serving NASS members from the state, secured their tickets and were returned for the second term in 2019.
Speaking on the development, a top PDP chieftain, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “Anyim supported Umahi’s bid to become governor. Anyim backed Umahi to secure the PDP ticket that allowed him to become the governor in 2015. There was a period between 2014 and 2015 when it appeared everyone had deserted Umahi. The then governor of the State, Elechi had allegedly fallen apart with Umahi and decided to support another man, who is not from the southern part of the state, for the governorship.
“Everyone who believed in the principle of equity, said no; they insisted it was the turn of the southern part of the state to produce the governor. The former SGF took it upon himself and ensured Elechi’s alleged move to deprive the South the opportunity to produce governor did not work. Anyim and other stakeholders pursued the dream to the letter until Umahi became governor. Forget politics, let’s face the truth.”
The source added, “Also, most of the senators and House of Representatives members from the state wouldn’t have made it in 2015 without Umahi’s effort. Umahi also used his goodwill to help them go back.
“So, the rift among them (Umahi, Anyim and others) now is understandable. It’s obvious that someone just wants to foist his will on the people and others are insisting that it won’t happen. That’s what is playing out in Ebonyi State currently.”
However, other stakeholders believe the dispute surrounding Umahi’s defection was as a result of envy by his political associates.
The Chairman, Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Mr Eni Uduma-Chima, said, “In my opinion, what triggered the face-off between Governor David Umahi and Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Dr Sam Egwu and others has to do with political interests. There are top politicians who have various interests which they believe will not be protected with the governor’s defection to the APC. These people are also fighting with him.”
In his own view, a political observer and doctoral student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Mr Nwachukwu Ani, said, “Before this defection, these political leaders pursued their interests harmoniously. The point of departure was the governor’s defection which was unpopular among the federal legislators and other stalwarts of the PDP. Don’t forget that the governor himself publicly expressed optimism and that the federal legislators would join him in the APC at a later date. This did not and has not happened.
He added, “As a result, there have been allegations and counter-allegations. On the part of the governor, he must clear the air because he is a public servant answerable to the electorate. On the part of Senator Anyim, he is a statesman by the virtue of the previous positions with the Federal Government of Nigeria. As such, there should be better information to the public on his defence that the governor is a ritualist or that he organised a ritual dinner accompanied by mysterious deaths. Whatever the issues are, governance must not suffer because that is the primary thing.”
However, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Ebonyi PDP, Fred Udogu, said Umahi’s attitude towards political leaders in the state had made the matter worse.
He said, “The governor has the mindset that he is and above everybody in this state, which is not true. Yes, Ebonyi is a young state, but there are a lot of people who have held so many positions before him. There are people who have been governors before him. The fact that he is the governor of the state, does not mean he is the father of everybody here. The issue of the governor being the father or mother of anyone does not come in here, because he is not.
“He has no right to force anybody to join him in the APC. The people he is now calling names and abusing, including my very self, are older than him in politics. He just came into politics. Look at the likes of Sam Egwu, who was one time a commissioner, governor, minister and currently a senator. Are these not the people the governor is saying he is their master? Chief Anyim Pius Anyim was once the Number 3 person in this country; later he became Secretary to the Government of the Federation. In the South-East zone, Anyim is the highest ranking man politically. Umahi claims he is the master of these people. We voted for him twice, first in 2015 and second, in 2019, just to defend our party. So, it’s an anomaly for the governor to wake up and say someone who is supposed to be his grandfather, is his son.
Udogu further explained, “If the governor didn’t attack Anyim, Anyim wouldn’t have attacked him; if he didn’t attack Egwu, Egwu wouldn’t have attacked him. If you have been following the trend in the media, you would find out that these two masters only responded to what he did to them. They never attacked him first, and from day one, we said we would be following his tracks.
“The governor has really harmed himself and the entire state by his attitude. The effects of what he is doing to Anyim, Egwu and other national assembly members are telling on his government. People are no longer comfortable with him. Many are being forced to work with him and outsiders see him as a selfish person and people no longer believe in his government and are yearning for a change of leadership.”
The Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC in Ebonyi State, Stanley Emegha, however, disagreed with this view.
He explained, “What is happening in the state is just a little misunderstanding which bothers on the best way to go politically in the state. There is a saying that a tree that is taller than the others, sees farther than the others. The governor has seen farther than all of us and we should not allow pettiness to come into it.
“Anyim’s outburst is that of pettiness. I am saying this because the former Senate President has grace and age that is different from that of Umahi. Anyim served this nation when he served it. He should know that the realities on the ground currently are different from what obtained during his time.
“The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation should even be happy following Umahi, because should the governor decide to contest for Presidency and wins, he is going to be the most beneficiary because of the respect the governor accords him. Egwu has spent more than 20 years in power- as commissioner, governor, minister and senator.”
Emegha added, “As for the NASS members who are not happy with the governor, If they know that they are important and are loved by the people here, let them come to Ebonyi State and contest elections.”
Although Umahi has sued for peace, analysts believe the political intrigues will continue for a while.
But pressure has continued to be reportedly mounted on other PDP governors in the region to join Umahi in the APC.
But the PDP has also made moved to keep its governors in the fold.
Whether some PDP leaders being targeted by the APC will yield to the pressure has yet to be known.
However, stakeholders believe political realignments ahead of the 2023 general elections are just beginning.