By: Israel Umoh
Two prominent Igbo kinsmen from the same local government area in Ebonyi State left their first love- Engineering profession- and sauntered into the murky political waters to ply their trade. They are Ogbonnaya Onu and Dave Umahi.
Onu who hails from Uburu in Oha Ozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi graduated with a first-class honours degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos. Dr. Onu who is the Minister of Science and Technology was elected the first Governor of defunct Abia State in 1991.
Umahi, on the other hand, equally comes from Umunaga, Uburu in Oha Ozara Local Government Area in the same state. He read Civil Engineering from Enugu State University of Science and Technology. He was a deputy Governor to the then Governor Martin Elechi. In 2015, he mounted the saddle as Ebonyi Governor and renewed the mandate in 2019.
These two political birds have soared to appreciable heights. It is not known what they have in common except that they are politically conscious and ambitious individuals. While Onu may be seen as a settled political housewife in that he is a staunch member of All Progressives Congress based on his antecedents in attempting to grab a top political seat. In 1999, he flew the flag of the then All Peoples Party, APP, which was later known as the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP as the first Presidential flag-bearer.
But Umahi is still on the prostitution spree of a party. He rode on the wings of Peoples Democratic Party to become a governor. Still angling for much political waters, he defected to APC last week to further his ambition, which is still unclear to ordinary folks.
It is not a bad thing for Umahi who is almost serving his second term in the office to have defected to the ruling party; after all, this is the past time of most politicians in the country. Once a politician is denied ticket in his party in the morning, he quickly defects to another in the evening. If he is still uncomfortable, he can jet to another in the morning.
The merry-go-round politics continues until the politician is satisfied that he can accomplish his mission there. To him, ideology (non-existent) of a party is unimportant. The programmes and wishes of the electorate are insignificant. What is important to a typical Nigerian politician is the fact he is able to prosecute his personal agenda and drive his mission to a logical conclusion. Once his interest is accommodated, the game is fair.
Since his defection, he has gotten more brickbats and jeers, undeservedly, from political friends and foes alike. Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike mocked him for leaving to APC to pursue his presidential mission and Umahi, at the same time, lashed at him for being a ‘liar and arrogant.’ Dr. Sam Egwu, the then Ebonyi Governor now a Senator in the state announced that they (Senators and House of Representatives members from Ebonyi) would not join Umahi’s new party. Ohaneze chief executives did not attend the defection party organized for him. Primate Elijah Ayodele said that Umahi was jumping into his political grave. Cynicisms and doubts still trail Umahi’s defection.
As a journalist, I became concerned about his political future. Few days ago, I sat on a hard plastic chair gazing into the blue sky. Suddenly, I fell into a deep sleep. In the dream world, I saw James, my father who joined his ancestors 22 years ago. He looked at me and retorted “Why are you worried about someone’s political future? Are you a beneficiary of his political largesse? Are you from his family or state?” He held his breath.
I could not mutter a word immediately. Later, I summed up courage and responded thus: “I am a journalist. I wanted to analyse the defection, but I do not know how to go about it. He nodded his head. “I can see. Now, you are talking. Listen, my son and take deep thoughts about what I want to tell you. Do not anxious over the matter only be hopeful.”
Continuing, he said “Umahi is a governor and is almost serving his term of office. He has nothing to lose if his ambition is unaccomplished. Again, he is of age. He knows the history of Nigeria and his supposed ambition.”
I cut in, “Yes, I am of aware of that. Perhaps, he is not aware of the implications of defecting to another party after dinning and supping with PDP, which gave him wings to fly to a higher altitude.”
He giggled hysterically. “The Igbos fought Nigerian civil war. Fifty years after, there is no Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation (Rs) promised by the Federal Government. Their abandoned properties seized have not been returned by the government. The South-South and South East people who got millions of Pounds in their bank accounts collected a paltry 20 Pounds. We are talking of injustice that is not addressed.
“The ENDSARS protest that has been rebuffed by government is a pointer to politics of exclusiveness. Some people do not want to talk about restructuring and True Federalism and other issues that would enhance peace, unity, harmony and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.
“Before we go on, let me tell you that in the prevailing circumstance Igbo presidency looks illusive. They are qualified for it, but some privileged Nigerians are not interested in doing justice and equity. Going to APC is like moving from frying pan to fire.
“More importantly, a typical Fulani does not trust an Igbo man. The Fulani are power brokers and are in power. How will this be possible for the Igbos if proper reconciliation is not done and the past is buried? It is good for Umahi to take a plunge, but he must look at the ground to avoid stepping on banana peels. From home, there are banana peels. Outside, they are there too. Among the old party men from other regions and tribes, he has many battles to contend with,” he recounted.
I was terrified. He looked me and tried to douse tension. Hear this one. “Before the civil war, Anglophone South Western Cameroon was in Nigeria. Have you not heard of National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), a Nigerian political party from 1944 to 1966, during the period leading up to independence and immediately following independence and led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo? There was a time a referendum was conducted for the people to Nigeria. But as minority, they were oppressed by the ruling Eastern Regional government and they opted to join the Francophone. Today, the people are suffering and dying in the hands of the Francophone Cameroon government. Our brothers- Igbos- have to apologise for allowing those people to go back. Not only them, other minorities in the Eastern Region suffered oppression and victimisation.”
Immediately, my late father hammered on some key national issues, I became more curious to fire more questions to hearing more from him. Suddenly, I woke up and discovered that it was a dream.
Apart from the fears expressed by the deceased which, to a large extent, may not hold water, Umahi has a long rope to climb in his political odyssey. He is coming from the embers of people who are Republican in nature. So, the people may not want him to detect to them on the political route to follow in 2023 presidency.
The Onus, Okorochas, Uzodimas and Nwajiubas, among others are on ground as far as APC is concerned. From the national level, Tinubus, Akpabios, Amaechis, and Oshiomholes and others are brandishing their swords. So he has to gird his belt well. Form home front, he looks like a commander without troops. It is difficult to wage war against enemies particularly when the foot soldiers are not there to mount sentry for him to launch assault.
Whether Umahi is kind to Muhammadu Buhari is not the issue. If he does not criticize President Buhari, the matter goes beyond that. Let him play a good boy to the personage and presidency, when the chirps are down, he will know that he is a lone ranger in the strange political field laced with mines and him alone has to fight the battalion.
Like a woman who clocks menopause, Umahi is heading to his political precipice. Menopause is natural cessation, or stopping, of a woman’s menstrual cycle and marks the end of fertility. Only through divine intervention and alternative medication, the woman can bear a child or children. The Ebonyi chief executive is in a period that looks like menopause, political transition stoppage time. Already, he has taken what looks like an irreversible decision.
No one, except him, knows the extent he had consulted before he bolted out to the new house. If he is not careful, his decision or indecision may be his political death-knell. Most of his disciples are in a fix and are finding it difficult to change the tune of music to APC- new bride. APC is not a political bedfellow in Ebonyi, an Igbo enclave. For him to start the gospel of telling his kinsmen to embrace APC is an uphill task. It could be more betraying if he does not produce a successor in 2023.
He has come to a point of no-return. It would be politically disastrous if after his tenure as a governor and defection to another party, he does not grab or notch any plum position at the national level. He will be more frustrated and despised and dejected. Though he could return to his first party, it would be a shameful (if Nigerian politicians know anything called shame). Like a toddler, he will start like a mere member to climb the ladder again. So, let Umahi go to bed with his thinking cap as he embarks on political journey in a new-found family.