Governor Dave Umahi
By Abia Onyike
On the 10th of February, 2022, some of my friends and political associates drew my attention to a news story that was trending in the Opera News platform. The title of the news which was presented as features was, “Tension in Ebonyi over Governorship zoning”.
The reporter/writer of the features article cited many sources including myself, but I noticed that I was not only quoted out of context, he probably distorted some facts to arrive at his pre-mediated conclusions.
The fact however is that I promised some of those who called me that I will clear the air on my thoughts regarding the build-up to the 2023 general elections.
This my write-up is not only a rejoinder to the article in question but an expose of my own views on the subject matter which may have been distorted beyond comprehension by the article under reference.
Gov. Umahi’s ‘Executive Order’ on zoning of Governorship
Gov. David Umahi, in his usual manner of talking, adumberated his thoughts on the zoning argument two weeks ago when he ordered that the ban on politics had been lifted.
He spoke through the State Commissioner for Information, Barr. Uchenna Oji.
The governor was quoted to have “expressed his determination to consult widely especially with the House of Assembly, the Exco, Elders Council, Founding Fathers, Women Organizations, CAN and other relevant groups with a view to getting opinions on where the governorship position shall be zoned to”.
After stating the above, the Governor contradicted himself by stating that: “Ebonyi South having benefited from the principle of zoning, shall not be allowed to contest”. Then he threatened that his “administration’s support shall be for Abakaliki block”. This is Umahi’s typical style of selling out his people on a sycophantic style to curry the favour of others.
His statements are neither logical nor consistent. Ebonyi Central recently benefited under former Governor Martin Elechi, who handed over to Governor Umahi in 2015. But Umahi never consulted Ebonyi South leaders before his careless talk, which has become his stock in trade.
After all, as Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, he has a terrible reputation as someone who easily sells out Ndigbo for his selfish aggrandizement.
Who gave Gov. Umahi the authorization to decree on the issue of zoning. Is he the political party? Or was he speaking for APC? Can he also speak for PDP or other parties in the state?
Even at that, he has banned Ebonyi South but finds it difficult to say which zone, between North and Central, should produce it. He is being economical with the truth.
He is afraid to hit the nail on the head. He lacks the moral authority to stand firm, hence he prefers to prevaricate.
The truth of the matter is that Umahi’s resort to block politics will create new problems if he doesn’t watch his utterances.
It can remind people of the old Abakaliki and Afikpo blocks and resurrect the unresolved issues sorrounding the Ebonyi Charter of Equity.
In their seperate comments on the zoning issue, two former governors, Sen. Sam Egwu and Chief Martin Elechi, have been reported to support a return to Ebonyi North zone, from where the zoning arrangement started in 1999.
But Sen. Obinna Ogba, in his New Year Press Conference on 1st January, 2022, said that the zoning arrangement could not be seen as sacrosanct and that “it cannot be binding as the aspirants were at liberty to contest”…
My own contribution was that we should all be mindful of our political history in all that we do or say. Dr. Sam Egwu and Chief Martin Elechi are quite right in their support for Ebonyi North and it is difficult to debunk them, if we are to remain logical in our sequencing of events.
However, if you support that view, then it means that even Ebonyi Central may be disqualified from contesting. But politics is not as straight forward as mathematics.
The journey so far
Since 1999, it has proved difficult to confine the political contest to particular zones. In the 1999 Guber election, Dr. Sam Egwu of PDP defeated Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu of APP.
In 2007, Chief Martin Elechi was declared winner against Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu of ANPP. Even in 2015 when Engr. David Umahi of PDP won as governor, his opponent was Chief Edward Nkwegu of APC.
Based on these narratives, it is self-evident that it has not been easy to decree on issues relating to jungle politics. Nobody can succeed in suppressing the innate political desires and aspirations of the people. Is it not better to allow for open contest than to bottle up political agitations?
It is my considered view that even if you come up to say that it is the turn of Ebonyi North zone, you may not succeed in stopping everyone from the Central Zone from contesting. And if you cannot stop anyone from Central, then you cannot summon the moral strength to argue against an aspirant from Ebonyi South zone.
Echoes of Ebonyi Charter of Equity
Just last week, some Elders of Ebonyi South zone met and made a vigorous argument that the Ebonyi Charter of Equity is yet to be implemented as envisioned by the Founding Fathers of the State.
According to their Press statement, the Charter was drafted and documented but not signed. It was based on a gentleman agreement that power shall rotate between Abakaliki and Afikpo blocks.
According to them, when Ebonyi State was created on 1st October, 1996, Abakaliki had six LGAs while Afikpo had four LGAs. Later on, three new LGAs were created, namely Ebonyi, Ezza North and Ivo. So, Abakaliki had eight while Afikpo became five. Abakaliki was later split into two Senatorial districts.
In the current debate over the zoning if the Governorship seat, echoes of Ebonyi Charter of Equity have started to rent the air. As someone who was active in the last stanza of Ebonyi State Movement (1994-96), I was privy to certain meetings where efforts were made by the Leaders of the Movement to have the Ebonyi Charter of Equity endorsed so as to become a working document. But that did not materialize.
In the last two meetings held at the residences of Chief Anthony Ekoh in Abakaliki and Chief Chris Nwankwo in Enugu in January/February, 1996, the leaders agreed on virtually everything but could not append their signatures to the draft on the Charter of Equity which was painstakingly produced by the Committee which included Chief Okeagu Ogada, Chief Hyacinth Ikpo etc. etc. So, Ebonyi State Movement with Chief Martin Elechi as Chairman and Dr. Ikechukwu Igbo as Secretary, managed to secure the creation of the state with the powerful inputs and influence of other prominent sons and daughters of Ebonyi such as the late Ezeogo Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Dr. Offia Nwali, Senator Chris Nwankwo, Senator Andrew Nwankwo, Chief Francis Oji, Chief Anthony Ekoh, Dr. Agom Eze, Osuu S.C.Oduko, Dr Chigozie Ogbu, Dr. Emmanuel Oko Isu, Chief Lawrence Nwuruku, Chief Frank Nchita Ogbuewu, Dr. Selina Oko, Dr. Uche Azikiwe, Princess Alu Ibiam, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, S.O. Mgbada, Chief Aja Nwachukwu, Chief Henry Ude (Ajimbest) etc. etc.
Though the document on the Charter of Equity was not endorsed, there was an agreement that if Abakaliki became the capital of the new state, the first civilian Governor would come from Afikpo block.
However, when the state was created with Abakaliki as capital, new political maneuvers took over. Incidentally, Abakaliki block produced the Governor for 16 years before the present Governor (from Afikpo block) was elected in 2015. Based on this reality, there are those who believe that it may not be out of place to allow another person from Afikpo block to do another tenure.
In a democracy, all voices are allowed to ventilate their feelings. My message to all politicians and leaders is that they should moderate their actions and utterances with a modicum of responsibility.
Those who ignore the lesson of history are bound to repeat it or in the long run, are often ignored by history itself.
.Abia Onyike, a chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Commissioner of Information in Ebonyi State, writes from Abakaliki.