Barring last minute change of mind, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State may have concluded plans to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to reports, Umahi sealed his impending move to the APC during meetings in October 2020 in Abuja with APC leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari.
Umahi was elected governor on the platform of the PDP, and currently serving his second term.
The member representing Ikwo/Ezza South Federal Constituency, on the APC platform, Hon. Chinedu Ogah, was the first to break the news in a statement commending Umahi for the “bold move”.
Umahi’s action confirmed the rumour when he, on arrival from Abuja, held separate closed-door meetings with members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, council chairmen, and PDP state executives among others, during which he reportedly briefed them on his planned defection to APC.
Apparently acting out Umahi’s script, members of the Assembly the following week held a press conference and gave the national leadership of PDP seven days to convoke NEC meeting and zone the party’s 2023 presidential position to the South East, warning of “dire consequences” if the party failed to comply.
The Ebonyi State Working Committee (SWC) of PDP 24 hours later (Tuesday, October 20, 2020 to be precise) also held a press conference making the same demand from the PDP national leadership. It warned that no other arrangement would be acceptable.
On why the demand was coming so early, the Ebonyi State PDP Chairman, Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi, said the body languages of the powers-that-be in the PDP had shown that they had no plans to give the presidential position to the zone.
The demands by the two institutions, analysts say, is a smokescreen to prepare ground for the impending exodus from PDP to APC in the state.
Nocturnal meetings at various levels in the camps of both APC and PDP have also been going on aimed at tightening loose ends in preparation for Umahi’s defection.
For instance, some APC stakeholders met recently in the Abakaliki at the residence of the member representing Ikwo/ Ezza Federal Constituency, Hon. Chinedu Ogah, to discuss among other issues, UMahi’s impending defection to APC.
Ogah was quoted to have said during the meeting that Umahi’s defection to APC would bring good tidings for the party ahead of the 2023 governorship election in the state.
Not done, the APC stakeholders last Sunday held another meeting at Saltspring Hotels Abakaliki, where they officially confirmed to party members in attendance that Umahi’s move had been concluded.
Senator Julius Ucha, the member of the National Assembly Service Commission, the convener, said it was held in conjunction with APC South East Mandate. He explained that the South East Mandate was a pressure group negotiating for the rightful place of the South East region in APC.
Ucha, a Senator who represented Ebonyi Central Senatorial district for eight years, told the gathering of APC stakeholders that “Governor of Ebonyi State is on his way to APC.”
He said: “When Mr. President of the Federal Republic visited Ebonyi State, I made a presentation to him that governors are very powerful, and it is difficult to underrate a governor in any state and my recommendation is that Mr. President should urge South East Governors to declare for APC. That was around 2016 or 2017. But today, I want to graciously announce in this APC gathering that the Governor of Ebonyi State is on his way to APC.
“This is not a joke; and that is why I said there is need for us to continue to pray that nothing will stop it.”
Also, speaking, Senator Anthony Agbo corroborated the statement of Ucha that Umahi was on his way to the APC, and described it as a big catch to the party in the state and at the national level.
“Ebonyi State has made a big catch; the APC in the South East has made a big catch; and the APC, in Nigeria has made possibly the biggest catch and that is why these leaders of South East Mandate is also invited to be present.
“And what is that biggest catch? That His Excellency the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, imminently, is crossing from PDP to APC,” Agbo emphasized.
Agbo, who was the Director General of the State APC Governorship Candidate in 2019, said Umahi was the best performing governor in the present dispensation.
“This is evidenced in the achievements of his administration in all ramifications. Whether it is road construction and whether it is in any manner of infrastructure and in any manner of leadership indexes. He is supposed to be the best Nigerian governor in this dispensation. And if we have such a governor and providence makes it that he has decided to crossover to our Party, APC, it is something that is worthy to be celebrated.
On his part, C. C. Ubah, the Chairman of South East Mandate, who hails from Imo State, said members of APC in Ebonyi State would soon begin to enjoy like their Imo State counterparts when Umahi would officially join the party.
Also, in a communiqué read during the meeting by the former Chairman of Ohaozara LGA, Mr. Chaka Nweze, the APC stakeholders resolved to give Governor Umahi a red carpet welcome to the party.
They described his imminent defection to APC as a welcome development and noted that they were eager to receive him. They also urged APC members in the state not to panic over the development as their interests would be fully protected.
On Tuesday, two very close aides to Umahi held a meeting with the 64 development center coordinators in the state, where modalities for the defection were discussed.
Sources at the meeting, disclosed that no date was fixed for the defection, although they were told that it was imminent. The coordinators were also told that there was no going back on the defection.
The coordinators reportedly pledged their support and that of their supporters in their various domains to the governor in whatever step he takes.
Also, the 13 local government chairmen who were present at the meeting also reiterated their support and readiness to defect with the governor.
It was gathered that the council chairmen and coordinators agreed to go back to their various councils and centres to begin consultations on the issue immediately.
“Wherever the governor and our leader goes we will go with him. We are very loyal and committed to the project,” one of those at the meeting said.
However, the PDP National Working Committee same day (Tuesday) moved to stop Umahi from leaving the party.
The NWC held a meeting with Umahi in Abuja apparently to persuade him from leaving the party.
But, sources revealed that the PDP NWC couldn’t persuade Umahi to rescind his decision, adding that the defection plan was still on course.
Umahi was reported to have told the PDP national leadership during the meeting that he was leaving for the APC, which he allegedly claimed, would protect the interest of the South East in 2023 presidential election, and that his decision was irrevocable.
Eze Nwachukwu Eze, the APC state chairman in the state, when contacted, said the party had been officially informed of Umahi’s plan by the Buni-led APC Caretaker Committee during a meeting attended by national leaders in Abuja.
He said: “I’m just coming out from a meeting held in Abuja where I was officially informed of Governor Umahi’s plan to dump the opposite party, the PDP for our ruling APC. So wait till the details will be made known to you in Ebonyi by tomorrow (Thursday).”
Sources claimed that Umahi had since obtained his APC membership form in his ward. But, the APC chairman in the governor’s LGA, Ohaozara, Victor Nnachi, in a chat with Sunday INDEPENDENT said he knew nothing about the alleged registration of Umahi in APC in his ward.
“As for the defection plan of Governor Umahi, I have heard about it but I’m yet to be officially contacted for his registration at the ward as required in the party constitution,” he explained.
Umahi, according to sources privy to the development, insisted that the 2023 presidential ticket of the PDP be zoned to the South East in the spirit of equity and fairness, but power brokers in the party seem to have a different plan.
The angry Umahi was quoted to have said: “He won’t remain in a party that has no future for the South East,” hence he has concluded plans to dump the PDP for the ruling APC.
The governor reportedly briefed his cabinet members in the last executive council meeting about his move to APC.
He was quoted to have told the council members that he would not force anyone to join him, but directed that those that wish to remain in PDP should resign their appointments.
Consequently, the Commissioner for Inter-governmental Affairs, Hon Lazarus Nweru Ogbee, on Thursday resigned. Ogbee was also the immediate-past House of Representatives member, representing Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency.
Investigations further revealed that Umahi would have since made his planned defection official, but for the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protests, which made the last one month a very odd time to undertake such a political move.
Another report has it that the planned defection has been blocked by the South-East bigwigs of the ruling party.
The move, it was gathered, was plotted by some members of the National Assembly and ministers from the South East.
These stakeholders were said to have made it clear to the Ebonyi State governor that the APC presidential ticket was not for grabs by him.
A source close to the Mala Buni-led APC was reported as saying that though the Ebonyi State governor is welcomed to the party, the APC cannot just give him the presidential ticket, adding that nothing indicates that the APC ticket has been zoned to the South-East.
The source said Umahi should be mindful of the treatment given to him when he purportedly nominated his brother, Austin Umahi as a ministerial nominee in 2019 and was dropped at the 11th hour, stating that the same fate might await him.
It was reported that the governor could be making a gradual U-turn to remain fully in PDP since APC leaders, both in the state and in the South-East caucus are not enthusiastic about receiving him.
It was reported that the APC leaders in the region like the Ministers of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, from his state; Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, from Anambra and Minister of State for Education, Chief Emeka Nwajiuba, from Imo State and others felt slighted as they were not consulted.
Members of National Assembly from the South-East also reportedly echoed the same sentiment of not being considered for consultation over the movement to the ruling party.
Whether Umahi is defecting to APC or remaining in his PDP will soon be known by everyone as the political drama unfolds.