Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, on Thursday, finally defected to the All Progressives Congress, putting an end to weeks of speculation.
However, the decision did not sit well with the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who warned Umahi not to allow his alleged quest to become Nigeria’s President to destroy the South-East zone politically.
This was just as indications emerged that about 10 members of the National Assembly from the South-East zone elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party might dump the party for the APC.
Speaking during his formal defection to the APC at the Ecumenical Centre, Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, Umahi, who thanked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) for playing a vital role in the development of the state, stated that it was time for the state to fully get involved in the politics of the centre so as to benefit from the dividends of democracy.
He said he was moving to the APC with all the state executive council members, chairmen of the 13 local government areas, liaison officers, board members, political appointees and coordinators, among others.
The governor had during an interaction with journalists, on Tuesday, said he was leaving the PDP because of injustice, noting that he could not be part of a system where fairness, justice and equity were not taken seriously.
A visibly happy Umahi said on Thursday, “It is time to go. We have dwelt so much in one political party and it is better to go to the centre. We want to appreciate Mr President, who has helped us to develop Ebonyi State. The help from the President has transformed the state.
“We want to thank the national leaders of the party, the governors, my deputy, my exco members, the state House of Assembly members and the Ebonyi people. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for following me. Thank you for standing by me.
“My National Assembly members are my children. They are looking for something. When they get it, they will soon come back. Do not castigate them. We have three members of the Elders’ Council, do not castigate them. They are my children. Do not castigate them. They will come back. We are together.
“This is a new house that is built on God. It will accommodate all of us. I have dissolved the Elders’ Council to accommodate our brothers and sisters who are coming from the APC.
“In the South-East, we have to move to the centre. We are tired of empty promises. We want action now. Today, as my deputy has said, we have moved to the APC. The governor and the deputy governor united, together with 106 exco members; 1,200 appointees made up of executive assistants, senior executive assistants and technical assistants; and 374 liaison officers are with me on this movement.
“We have 400 appointees into boards and commissions, 506 management committee members, 130 supervisors, all local government area chairmen and all the party chairmen and the legislators. We are all in agreement on this movement.”
In his remarks, the Chairman, Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee, APC, Mia Mala Buni, who applauded Umahi for taking the bold step of defecting to the party, added that his action would pave the way for more democracy dividends for the people of the state.
He said Ebonyi people would benefit more from Federal Government schemes like the Anchor Borrowers’ programme, among others.
“Ebonyi is now closer to the centre and as such, will benefit more as an APC state in the South-East zone,” Buni stated.
Don’t allow your presidency ambition to destroy S’East, Wike tells Umahi
Reacting to the Ebonyi State governor’s defection, Wike said while no one could deny Umahi the right to pursue his political aspiration, he should be mindful of the political future of the South-East region.
Wike, who stated this during a live television programme monitored by one of our correspondents and later through a statement by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, said Umahi had shown himself as an ungrateful man for saying he left PDP to protest alleged injustice the party had meted out to the South-East region since 1999.
Wike stated, “Before the PDP left office, the South-East had Senate Presidents. It had the national chairman of the party and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. It had the Minister of Finance. Now, tell me what the APC has given to the people of the South-East since 2015 – Minister of Labour, Minister of Science and Technology and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“Three senators from his (Umahi’s) state said they have seen the need for the South-East to produce the President. However, it is not the way their governor is going about it. This is not a personal thing. Your ambition should not destroy the entire South-East.”
The Rivers State governor alleged that one reason why Umahi was unhappy with the PDP was that Peter Obi was chosen as Atiku Abubakar’s running mate in 2019.
He said, “When we (PDP) had the 2018 convention that produced our presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, he consulted widely and came up with Peter Obi as his running mate; Umahi was livid because he wanted to choose or be the vice-president.