Dave Nweze Umahi: When luck is over-stretched

‘The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” 

–Theodore M. Hesburgh

Daniel Kanu

After months of political intrigues and several denials concerning his defection rumour, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, on Thursday, November 19, jumped ship, leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), two days after officially addressing newsmen to confirm his new political alignment.

Umahi raised a lot of concern on why he exited, especially on how the PDP had been unfair to the Southeast zone despite having the late Vice President Alex Ekwueme as a foundation member of the party. 

He said that the move was more of a protest against the injustice meted out to the Southeast region by the PDP which includes not zoning the party’s 2023 presidential ticket to the region. 

The governor also noted that the ruling party was better disposed to the interest of the five states in the region, explaining that he neither had any presidential ambition nor was he promised by anyone contrary to the allegation making the rounds. 

Expectedly, members of his new party are commending his latest move, including President Mohammadu Buhari who hailed it as a masterstroke, describing it as a bold move driven purely by principle rather than opportunistic motives.

Despite the excuses made by Umahi, members of the PDP felt  that he was economical with the truth, saying that he is yet to tell Nigerians the real reasons behind his exit, which they claimed was powered by his inordinate political ambition.  

Governor Nyesom Wike, for instance, who was visibly angry during a live interview broadcast with the African Independent Television (AIT) on Thursday, saw Umahi’s reasons as lame  

Also,  in a statement through his Special Assistant (Media) Kelvin Ebiri, Wike re-echoed that Umahi’s quest to be APC’s presidential candidate prompted his defection and not his alleged injustice meted out to the Southeast by the PDP. 

Wike remarked that committed PDP members were not surprised that Governor Umahi formally defected to APC, saying that he had been fraternising with the governing party for a while. 

The Rivers State governor said that he would ordinarily not be perturbed by Umahi’s decision to defect to APC, but felt offended by his attempt to justify his decision on the purported injustice meted out to the Southeast by the PDP. 

While accusing Umahi of being unfair to PDP, Wike recalled that the party gave him governorship ticket in 2015 against all odds, and repeated the same feat in 2019. 

“Umahi has a right to move to the APC, but for him to attempt to blackmail the PDP and paint it in a bad light was mischievous and unacceptable,” he said, adding that the Ebonyi governor has unknowingly committed political suicide. 

Perhaps in a show to disregard Umahi’s political strength and any grip on the party, Ebonyi State National Assembly Caucus of the PDP on Wednesday disowned him, saying that he is on his own. They vowed that no single lawmaker in the National Assembly will follow him as they remained full-blooded and loyal PDP members. 

Former governor of the state and a ranking senator, Sam Egwu, who made the disclosure in company with other lawmakers, said they considered the decision of the governor as impolitic, indecent, and unwise.

Most political commentators who spoke with Sunday Sun said that Umahi was not strategic in his movement, just as they argued that there was nothing altruistic about it as he claimed. 

Presently, there seems to be a strong feeling among the Igbo going by the Sunday Sun checks that Umahi may be swimming against the tide.

A top Southeast politician, who preferred anonymity, told Sunday Sun: “I do not want to talk about the issue of Umahi’s defection. He has a right to do what he did, including giving wrong reasons he left. I only hope he will not regret it in the near future because I am yet to see what the APC has done for the Southeast in terms of giant steps to fix the zone. None. APC and its leadership have not shown through any decisive positive action that they care for the Southeast. 

“Umahi was lucky to have been made a governor of his state despite other more competent persons that abound in the state, so he should be politically careful not to draw his luck too far. He should not promote himself out of his competence because that is the danger I see coming. Does it not bother him that none of his senators or members of the House of Representatives joined him, which shows wrong political calculation.”

There are strong assurances from top party leaders in Ebonyi State that the state would remain a PDP state despite his exit, just as the PDP national political machine has equally boasted that its fortunes in the state and the entire Southeast would remain intact. The die is cast. 

 Whether Umahi will add any tonic to his “new found love” or whether he would end up a colourless politician in his new political experiment is in the womb of time.

Born January 1, 1964, Umahi attended Government Secondary School, Afikpo and Enugu State University of Science and Technology. He graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering.

He entered public service in 2007 as the acting chairman of the Ebonyi State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party and later served as state chairman of the party. In 2011, Umahi became deputy governor of Ebonyi State on the ticket of the then Governor Martin Elechi.

Umahi was elected the governor on April 12, 2015 in an election that was challenged by the Labour Party, All Progressives Congress, and All Progressives Grand Alliance on the basis of “widespread irregularities, killings, and wanton destruction of property”. But in October 2015, the legitimacy of the election was upheld by the Governorship Election Tribunal. On the 16th of March, 2019, he was re-elected as governor of the state. He is the chairman, Southeast Governors Forum.

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