In the second week of October, 2020, the political atmosphere in Ebonyi State was charged as the news of the planned defection of Governor David Umahi from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) filtered in. Our correspondent examines the intrigues.
The scenario began to play out on October 19 when 24 members of the state House of Assembly gathered at the official residence of the Speaker, Rt Hon Francis Nwaifuru and issued a 7-day ultimatum to the National Working Committee of the PDP to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South-East geopolitical zone or risk mass defection.
The lawmakers insisted that their request for the presidential ticket was the yearning of the people of the region.
They further explained that since the return of democracy in 1999, the zone always voted massively in favour of PDP.
The lawmakers, however, advised the party not to sack its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
Nwaifuru, who read out the feelings of his members, also argued that the region had presidential materials for the 2023 election.
“The unity of our beloved country has always been hinged on the principles of equity, justice and fairness. It is on such conventional wisdom that the country has striven to grow and develop equally across all her geopolitical zones.
“In furtherance of the above principles, members of the Sixth Ebonyi State House of Assembly wish to draw the attention of our great party, the PDP, to the rightful yearning of our industrious and peace-loving people of the South-East, that the position of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be zoned to the South-East come May 29, 2023.
“Since the return of this democracy, the zone has paid its dues, having worked assiduously and massively voted for all the presidential candidates of our great party.
“In 1999 and 2003, the people of South-West contested for the presidential seat, the people of North-West in 2007, the people of South-South in 2011 and 2015, and the people of the North-East in 2019.
“It is on record that since the return of democracy in this country from 1999 till date, the five states of the South-East have always delivered the presidential candidates of our great party, 100 per cent.
“So it is only appropriate, in the spirit of democracy, equity, justice and fairness, that the position of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be zoned to the South-East come 2023,’’ he said.
He continued, “The South-East has presidential personalities who are globally renowned, reliable, acceptable, tested and trusted, having discharged their duties efficiently and effectively in the positions they held before now.
“We have persons like Peter Obi (former PDP vice presidential candidate in the 2019 elections and former governor of Anambra State), Sen Anyim Pius Anyim (former Senate president and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation), Sen Ike Ekweremmadu (three-time deputy president of the Senate), Sen Theodore Orji (former governor of Abia State, Achike Udenwa (former governor of Imo State), and a host of others.
“So we have qualified people who are very much available for this position.
“We did not mention our governors, not because they are not qualified, but these highly qualified persons are not holding positions currently and there are other eminently qualified Igbo leaders as well who are trusted, competent, capable and reliable. Our party should not turn this request down.
“On this note, we are giving our great party a 7-day ultimatum to zone the position of the president to the South-East, especially as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has officially announced the date of the presidential election.
“In no minimal measure, this will further develop and unite our dear country. Equally, the party should not contemplate removing the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus.
“Failure to adhere to these kind requests will cost our party heavily. Members of the 6th Ebonyi State House of Assembly will leave no stone unturned in taking decisive actions to ensure that traditions and dividends of democracy are respected in our party,’’ he said.
The 7-day ultimatum gathered further great momentum when the state leadership of the PDP, led by Onyekachi Nwebonyi, joined in the struggle.
Nwebonyi categorically informed the national working committee to prepare to face the consequences if their demands were not met in one week.
“In the event that these demands are not met, the Ebonyi State chapter of the PDP will not accept any other arrangement as that might cause apathy among the teeming supporters of the party in the state,’’ he explained.
He said they would not allow the aspiration of the zone to be swept under the carpet.
A political analyst and leader of the Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth, Worldwide, Mazi Okechukwu Isigusoro, who spoke to Daily Trust, said Governor Umahi decided to join the APC as a result of bottled grievances, distrust, nepotism, betrayal and hatred in the PDP.
Isigusoro accused the PDP of trying to thwart the existing zoning arrangement of the party when it is obvious that the presidential ticket should go to the South East.
“The Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide is in support of Governor Umahii to join the APC because the PDP is not honouring its zoning accord.
“We are also calling other three governors of the zone and Ndigbo in general to join because it is our right to produce the president, come 2023. We have the population and support from other regions. We also have saleable presidential candidates,’’ he said.
The 7-day ultimatum has since expired and the National Working Committee of the APC has officially informed the leadership of its Ebonyi State chapter of the planned defection of Governor Umahi.
The state chairman of the party, Eze Nwachukwu, disclosed this to Daily Trust, saying, “I am just coming out from a meeting where I was officially informed of Governor Umahi’s plan to dump the PDP for our party.’’
It could be recalled that on Tuesday, Governor Umahi met with the leadership of the PDP National Working Committee in Abuja, where he officially announced his decision to dump the party.
Daily Trust gathered that since then, there has been a series of meetings to fine-tune the success of the defection ceremony, which is expected to hold at the popular Pa Ngele Oruta Township Stadium, Abakaliki.
Some members of the APC had met at the Salt Spring Hotel to discuss the success of the planned event.
Another meeting of 13 council chairmen and 64 coordinators of development centres in the state was also held.
According to the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ebonyi State, Mr Chika Nwoba, the plan for the governor to join the party started before the 2019 general elections.
However, Daily Trust learnt that some people in the governor’s cabinet, those in the state House of Assembly and National Assembly members are not willing to join the train.
Our correspondent also learnt that federal lawmakers from the state had met severally in Abuja to discuss ways to continue with the structure of the PDP and possibly make it stronger.
According to our source, “They are just waiting for Umahi to move. But that will not be easy for them because I was told that he would still remote-control the activities of the PDP in Ebonyi.”