11 November 2017 | 6:35 pm
The news that the governor of Ebonyi state, Engr. Dave Umahi has declared support for the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari in the next presidential polls of Nigeria come 2019 came to me as grandeur per excellence. Worthy to note is the fact that the governor was elected into office under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is currently the opposition party in the country. The President is a member of the All Progressives Party (APC) and as millions of voices of Nigerians continue to beseech him, may seek reelection under the party which I personally describe as the “demystified cosmopolitan apparatus” reinvented to change Nigeria.
Since 2015 after settling down in office, Gov. Umahi has never hidden his political susceptibility for President Buhari. He once declared that if only one vote will be cast in favour of the President in Ebonyi state in 2019, the one vote will be from him. However, the governor could not have forgotten that people like my humble self voted in the 2015 presidential polls. Verily, my vote was one of the thousands of votes from Eboyians for the President. Furthermore, notwithstanding the true understanding of events, the Igbo people largely could not have resisted to accept the leadership of Buhari except for the opposition to remain live and firm in a democracy. But on a more serious note, this declaration of solidarity shows the level of “the goodwill Umahi has for Buhari”. And if not for the power-play within and outside the state, maybe the governor would have been proudly carrying the broom around. Time will tell, though.
Umahi’s endorsement of the President for 2019 can be based on conviction of his performance, qualification, honesty and statesmanship. It cannot also be unconnected to political realignment towards the 2019 general elections which the governor shows keen interest to re-contest. The governor prides, and truly it is creditable, of a lot of projects lined up for commissioning in the state, projects that he has executed within the past two and half years. To mention few are the three twin flyovers built across the African trans-Atlantic road running from Enugu to Cameroon passing through Ebonyi state. There is also the Ebonyi Mall that is modeled after the famous Dubai Mall. Mr. President is expected to commission them.
It is in the media that the President is billed to tour the Southeast region. If that is to be carried out personally, it will give the President the opportunity to visit his new political admirer, Umahi. While in the government house, Abakaliki, the duo can talk more on the alliance. Then the President will feel the taste of the salt without which no ditch is complete. I am sure the cultural beauties of the state will be displayed with the “Umu Agbogho Dance” which captivated the great late Zik of Africa into marrying a damsel of Afikpo, Professor (Mrs.) Uche Azikiwe, now lecturing in the Nigeria University, Nsukka (UNN). “Afikpo my Afikpo”, I yearn.
This medium is apt to appeal to President Buhari to visit the home of the former governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, Ezeogo Isiala 1 of Unwana, Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam, in Unwana of Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state. The Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwana, is a federal institution that requires federal government attention for enhanced schooling facilities. Besides, it is the home of the former renowned peace preacher, Sheikh Ibrahim Okpani Nwagui of Enohia-Itim in Afikpo, a man who prominently contributed in no small way to the ethno-cultural and religious beatitude and diversification of the region.
Mr. President can visit these two places and see what of federal presence in terms of roads, schools, development of beaches and human capacities can be granted the entire ancient city of Afikpo whose cultural heritage is second to none in the nation. The fantastic “Iyi Eke” fishing festival can be upgraded to a national status like the Argungu festival. Other phenomenal attractions abound in the city that blocked Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka, the killer of the former late Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed. Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo visited this great city on 24th December, 2001 or thereabout and luckily, I was at home and observed all the beautiful side attractions and hospitality accorded him.
Ebonyi state would have had Afikpo as its capital city. Carved from the Old Imo state to Abia state, then to Ebonyi state, Afikpo is a very unique city in Nigeria, thanks to its rocky-water-meadow landscape. It is also a home of unique people who understand all the Igbo dialects but whose own dialect is hardly understood by other Igbo linguistic groupings. Many of the Igbo inadvertently or otherwise regard the Afikpo dialect as Cross River’s.
Engr. Umahi is the third executive governor of the state having taken power from his boss, Chief Martin Elechi who was bent to frustrate his deputy’s – Umahi’s – political ambition to succeed him. Simply, Umahi defeated incumbency just like President Buhari did at the federal level. Between 1999 and 2007, Senator Sam Egwu governed the state. All did try their best by laying the foundation upon which Umahi is remodeling, expanding and requesting federal backings. Senator Egwu from Ebonyi North governed the state for eight years; Chief Elechi from Ebonyi Central had his eight years too. For equity and fairness, Engr. Umahi from Ebonyi South should be supported to have his eight years, though on merit, as his works are speaking for themselves.
Again, with this frank and valiant support of a governor who supports the developmental strides and democratic norms of a leadership of another party, it is clear that love of personality should overpower mere party affiliation for the nation to grow. Being only an opposition bereft of ideological propositions retards growth and engenders waste cogs in the political machinery of governance. Therefore, if it is possible to accept the governor into APC without causing disaffection in the party polity, let it be done. That will be after scrutiny of genuine interest. The governor is performing and Mr. President, though observant, is encouraged to support him to perform maximally.
It is well known that Ebonyi is the recipient of the lowest allocation from the federal government. I stand tall to value the efforts of the governor in utilizing the little monthly allocations from the federal revenue. In his empathy and zeal to put the state ahead of all its peers created on October 1 1996, the governor has taken frugal measures in expenditures and courageous steps in enhancing internally generated revenue, though not enough due to acute infrastructural viability. That is why interventions from the federal government are exigent to boost the aspirations of this most performing governor of the Southeast.
I laud this bold stand of my governor in supporting the President. Though I do not pray that Ebonyi becomes a two-party state like Anambra that was APGA in disguise but PDP in practice during the PDP leadership of the country, it is rare to find very strong politicians like Gov. Umahi who can stand for what they really believe in despite political name callings and distractions. It is the truism in politics of no perpetual enemy or friend but permanent interest.
On the other hand, I resist the belief that the political wave sweeping through the southern regions is wholly responsible for the governor’s romance. APC took over Edo state in a grand style. It grabbed Ondo state too, though with much difficulties. Ceteris paribus, it is in all probability in the process of adding Anambra state to its fold. Ekiti state may just be waiting for the broom to sweep the government house in Ado-Ekiti. And if that happens, the powers of the PDP will continue to dwindle. I wish that all the remnants of PDP governors will not, afterwards, queue to be given the broom to sweep their states because, at least, the country needs an opposition party.
Once more, I thank my governor for his liking for President Buhari. It is my heartfelt desire that this political development translates into huge benefits from the federal government for the people of my state. And welcome anytime, Mr. President, to the salt of Nigeria!
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]