Umahi: A Knife or a Knead on Southeast APC

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ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES

Ordinarily, the defection of Engineer Dave Umahi to the governing All Progressives Congress, should elicit jubilation within the ranks of the APC leadership in the Southeast, but, it appears, with the loud silence among key leaders and careful utterances by some, it is not all joy within the Party's leadership in the zone, and it could be assumed or rather affirmed that it is not all enthusiasm within the rank and file of the Party in the zone.

Umahi, no doubt, a workaholic governor and an experienced political operator, should be an instant hit within the APC, especially, given the fact that he is coming from a zone that has been numerically underprivileged within the ruling Party for as long as that Party has been in power. However, if the pictures that came out from his official defection ceremony, beamed live on some television channels, are anything to judge with, then, the Ebonyi governor will need to begin a a carefully planned and creative consultation with his fellow Southeast leaders in the Party, so that the zone would be the better for it in his audacious detection to the ruling Party.

At the Ebonyi governor's formal defection rally, some notable leaders and founders of the Party from the zone were conspicuous in their absence. Was it a boycott or an absence predicated on unavoidable circumstance? Truth is, there are events that a normal politician would drag him or herself to, even if it means driving him there in an ambulance. The defection of Umahi was such an event for Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, a founding father of the Party in the Southeast and a son of Ebonyi State. If the governor took the correct routes to the Party, then, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu would have been glad to take the glory for "netting a big fish" for the Party in the zone and Nigeria. His absence and his silence over his younger brother's defection to a Party he helped found, would only be waved off as an insignificant coincidence by the politically naive or intentionally delusional politicians.

Chief Ogbonnaya Onu has remained one of the most consistent moderate leftists since the return of civil rule in Nigeria. A presidential nominee on the APP ticket, then national Chairman of the successor to the All Peoples Party, the All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP) for many years. He signed the documentations that made the All Progressives Congress, a political Party, having led incumbent governors, national Assembly members, State legislators and the entire Party apparatus into the biggest merger in Nigeria's political history. If we must give credit to whom it is due, then, it must be stated that politician in the Southeast has more stake in the formation of the APC than Chief Ogbonnaya Onu. Chief Ogbonnaya Onu should naturally be the undisputed leader of the APC in at least, Ebonyi State, if not the Southeast. Was Umahi drafted in to whittle down the influence of the Minister of Science and Technology? We wait to see.

Another significant absence at the Umahi rally is the former governor of Imo State and current Senator of the Federal Republic, His Excellency Distinguished Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha. After Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is the second most important leader in the Southeast APC. He played a prominent role in that Party's formation by taking a most audacious step of moving a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance to join the merger. He was also the politician with the most successful set of results for the APC in the entire Southeast in both 2015 and 2019. His influence and dedication to the Party's interests were most empirical and undeniable. While the APC did not win any of the Southeast States in the presidential election, Okorocha's influence ensured that the PDP did not run away with such huge figures as they did in 2011. Had that happened, we would definitely not have an APC government in Nigeria today. And Umahi and many others who are today struggling for the front seats in APC wouldn't have seen this Party as an attractive option.

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Orji Uzor Kali, though a late entrant to the APC, is a foremost political leader, by virtue of his position in the Senate, his precedent as a former governor and his undeniable clout in the Nigerian political space, at the moment. Overtime, the man nicknamed; "Action Governor" by his estranged ally, President Olusegun Obasanjo, has become a more moderate politician. He seems to have made a decision not to be at parallels with the system, hence, his careful moves and measured speeches. He has quickly welcomed Dave Umahi, but that does not make his absence at the Umahi rally, less significant. If Orji Uzor KALU was taken into confidence like one expects, he would have been at the front rows in the welcome party. But, it seems that OUK heard of Umahi's defection the same time and through the same medium as the ordinary man heard it.

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Chief Hope Uzodimma, the only governor on the APC ticket in the Southeast was also conspicuously absent at the Umahi rally. Even though, he had taken to his Facebook page to 'congratulate' his counterpart on his defection. But every political analyst worth the description would know that the Imo governor was not privy to whatever discussions that fetched him a brother-governor. But, it was both politically correct and expedient that he took the credit. If things had gone thr way it should rightly do, Engineer Umahi would have paid a visit to his Imo counterpart and the latter would have been the one to lead him to the Party secretariat. That is after the consultations with other Southeast leaders would have been concluded, starting of course, with Chief Ogbonnaya Onu.

What about Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, a former governor, a former Senator, the first and only Senator elected on the platform of any of the legacy Parties in the Southeast, one of the founding fathers of the APC and a sitting minister from the Southeast? What about all the other ministers and appointees of the President from the Southeast? What about the APC leadership in the Southeast? What about the Southeast APC caucus in the National Assembly? How come, there was not a single member of the national Assembly, elected on the platform of the APC from the Southeast that attended the governor's defection?

Were APC leaders in Ebonyi consulted? Why did the Party leadership at the national level find it difficult to believe that the State leadership of the Party would work with the governor, hence, the illegal decision to dissolve an elected executive of the Party across the State? The act of dissolving a Party's elected Exco because of the defection of one man or a group of people, is the biggest indictment on our pretensions to internal democracy. A political Party is an institution that should be respected and not a movable furniture to be sold or bought at the whims and caprices of a power bloc.

In his broadcast preceding his formal defection to the APC, the Ebonyi governor castigated the PDP for failing to zone its presidential ticket to the Southeast, even though that Party is yet to deliberate on that issue at any level of its meetings. Umahi wanted us to believe that his defection was in defense of Igbo interest and in defiance of a supposed hegemony by a section or a class of fellow Nigerians. While, it is the way of politics for one to play to the sentiments of a people while pursuing his personal interests, Umahi would have made his defection story a little more believable by according respect to Southeast leaders of the APC.

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The Southeast APC already has much crises to contend with for Umahi to add to our troubles. Anyone who means well for the Party in the Southeast would avoid any action or utterance that would further divide the Party. If Umahi is really sincere about his struggle for the presidency to be zoned to the Southeast in 2023, then he should, from onset work with other leaders of the Party to form a common and formidable front, and not prove those who see him as a stooge of the Northern establishment right, by working at cross-purposes with fellow leaders in the zone. Nothing can most guarantee the Southeast's chances of producing the President than unity of purpose among gladiators from the zone..

By unity of purpose, I do not anticipate nor advise that Southeast leaders with presidential ambition should drop their ambitions for one person, but for none to go behind to negotiate for anything lower than the presidency. There are people who believe that some Southeast leaders will be using their purported presidential candidacy to negotiate for vice-presidency or even the position of the SGF.

OMOKOSHABAN

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