After his woeful performance at the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. David Umahi, has ditched his clamour for South-east presidency. Ejiofor Alike reports that Umahi’s curious U-turn was borne out of selfishness and insincerity
Before the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held their presidential primaries, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. David Umahi was one of the greatest advocates of South-east presidency. When he defected from the PDP to the APC in November 2020, he told journalists in Abakiliki, the state capital that he moved to the APC because of “injustice” meted out to the South-east by the PDP, which was the refusal of the main opposition party to give the presidency to the geo-political zone since 1999.
“Since 1999, the South-east has supported the PDP. At a time the five states were all PDP. One of the founding members of the PDP was from South-east, the late former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
“It is absurd that since 1999 going to 2023, the South-east will never be considered to run for presidency under the PDP. And this is my position and will continue to be my position. It had nothing to do with me or my ambition,” Umahi had reportedly claimed.
In what was perceived as a sign of genuine agitation for the interest of Ndigbo, Umahi had also promised that he would continue to agitate for the interest of the South-east in or out of office.
He said he had decided to become the “sacrificial lamb” that would be crucified for the interest and good of the South-east as a zone.
Umahi had further noted that despite his movement to the APC, he would not castigate the PDP, expressing the hope that the PDP would still consider the region and zone the Presidency to South-east for equity and fairness. He seized every opportunity to make case for South-east presidency.
He argued that Nigerians from other regions of the country should not be afraid of Igbo Presidency. At a reception organised on his behalf at the Christian Ecumenical Centre, Abakaliki, last January, the Ebonyi State governor had noted that Ndigbo are not known for causing destruction but growth and development in any society. He insisted that the Igbo man with lots of investments in different parts of the country was better equipped to develop the economy of the nation.
While addressing the APC delegates from the South-east in Owerri, Imo State capital, shortly before the party’s presidential primary, Umahi, who was a presidential aspirant on the platform of the ruling party, said the country needed a president that could provide development and security to Nigerians.
“Let me tell Nigerians that there is nothing to be afraid of in an Igbo man becoming president. We need to be wise and stand together.
“We have property and investments everywhere; so, when people tell you about Biafra, it is not about seceding at all.
“We want one Nigeria built on the platform of equity, fairness and justice; the Igbo man will do better under a united Nigeria. We want to be fairly treated,” he reportedly explained.
The former presidential hopeful said the 2023 election was a time for Nigerians to prove the ‘no victory, no vanquish’ declaration that was made after the civil war.
“My position is that our brothers from the South-South and South-West should give us a chance on the same platform upon which we demand that the presidency should come to the South-east,” Umahi reportedly added. Despite the several odds against the South-east, which were caused by the refusal of his party to zone the presidential ticket to the region, coupled with the refusal of the South-south and the South-west to cede the presidency to the South-east geo-political zone, Umahi still contested the presidential ticket of his party, and recorded a very poor outing.
Expectedly, he came a distant sixth position after the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu; immediate past transport minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
Following his poor performance, which was caused by his failure to read the handwriting on the wall, Umahi tongue-lashed the Igbo’s apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, blaming the leadership of the body for his shameful outing at his party’s primary. He accused an innocent President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor, of playing politics with the clamour for Igbo Presidency in 2022.
Addressing the people, who received him in Abakaliki, the state capital on arrival after the APC primary, he said he was dismayed with the attitude of political actors from South-east zone for not justifying the agitations against the marginalisation of Ndigbo.
“Prof. Obiozor could not stand for Igbo when it mattered so much, it is a very big shame, I have no confidence in him and he is no longer my President. In the comity of South-east, Ebonyi people are not regarded; I continue to say that Ebonyi will never be Biafra.
“I weep for our leaders, we are now regarded as people that will sell anything for the sake of money, it is about equity, justice, and fairness upon which I continue to shout for the unity of this country,” an angry Umahi was quoted as saying.
Sources within the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation alleged that Umahi’s grouse against Obiozor was due to his alleged refusal to present the Ebonyi State governor to President Muhammadu Buhari as the consensus candidate of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
According to one of the sources, Umahi had allegedly invited Obiozor to Ebonyi State during President Buhari’s visit to the state to raise his hand as the consensus candidate of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. But Obiozor was said to have politely declined to do his bidding and reminded him that there were other South-east aspirants in APC, PDP and other parties.
So, when he lost the election, he poured his venom on Obiozor. How presenting him to President Buhari could have made him to defeat the likes of Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi and other better-equipped aspirants still beat one’s imagination,” the source said.
To demonstrate that Umahi’s clamour for South-east presidency was borne out of selfishness and lack of sincerity, he went further to urge voters in the state to reject the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi during the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
Speaking during the swearing-in of five commissioners, two Special Assistants and six development centre coordinators, the former champion of South-east presidency urged the people of the state not to vote for the Labour Party.
“We will not vote for Labour Party, we will only vote for APC. Our vote is for APC and not for Labour Party,” he reportedly said. There is no doubt that Umahi, as an APC governor is expected to work for the success of his party at the presidential election. But the way he championed the clamour for the South-east presidency gave the false impression that he would support any presidential candidate that would emerge from the South-east in any of the major political parties.
His curious U-turn only showed that his clamour was borne out of insincerity, selfishness and hypocrisy. Umahi has confirmed the claims by his critics that the only presidential aspirant he wanted as president to fulfill his desire for South-east presidency was himself.