Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State in Eastern Nigeria, the hotbed of Biafra agitation, is plotting to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023.
But, his presidential ambition is likely to hit the rocks as some powerful interest groups in the party are bracing to move against him.
Forces from Northern and Western Nigeria have been working silently backstage to wrestle the APC presidential ticket.
Already, some party chieftains who are pro-Bola Tinubu, have started to say in guarded whispers that Umahi will be walking a tight robe as far as his presidential ambition in the APC is concerned.
Contrary to Umahi’s claims, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State says the Ebonyi governor defected to the APC because of his quest to be the presidential candidate of his new party, and not alleged injustice meted on the South-East by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While Wike said committed members of the PDP were not surprised that Umahi on Tuesday formally defected to the APC, which he has for a while been fraternising with, PDP on its part says the Ebonyi governor left the party for personal reasons, which Nigerians will come to know at the fullness of time.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement says the party thanks Umahi for services rendered to the people of Ebonyi, as the State Chairman of Ebonyi PDP (2003 to 2007); Deputy Governor of Ebonyi (2007 to 2015) and two term governor of Ebonyi (2015 till date), all elected on the platform of the PDP.
‘’As we wish Governor Umahi all the best in his adventure, we call on the members of our party to remain calm and committed to the ideals of our party as no individual is bigger than the PDP’’, the party said.
Continuing, Wike said ordinarily he will not have been perturbed by Umahi’s decision to defect to the APC. ‘’I feel offended by his attempt to justify his decision on the purported injustice meted on the South-East by the PDP’’, and accordingly accused Umahi of being unfair to the PDP which gave him governorship ticket in 2015 against all odds, and repeated same feat in 2019.
He notes that while 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.
“My friend, Umahi wants to be president. There is no problem about that. You have a right to be president. Nobody can stop you. You are educated. You have been a governor for two terms, so you are qualified to say I want to be president of Nigeria.
‘’But, that does not mean, that you have to blackmail your party, and tell lies to the people you are leaving the party because of the injustice meted against the South-East, that is not correct.”
Wike is demanding that Umahi should retract the statement that the PDP has not been fair to the South-East, arguing that under the PDP, the South East has produced Senate Presidents; National Vice Chairman of the PDP and Secretary to the Federal Government.
He said it was erroneous for Umahi to accuse PDP of injustice, when he had unilaterally imposed his younger brother as South-East zonal Vice Chairman of the PDP. “In life, power is sweet, but conscience is important. It is most offensive and insulting for a man to lie against his party because of power.”
The governor said though APC has not yet told Nigerians where it will zone its presidential ticket, Umahi presumptuous move might be too hasty and will ruin him politically. According to him, assuming the APC decides to zone its presidential ticket to the South East where the party has no formidable base, what is the guarantee that Umahi will secure the ticket.
“My reaction to Governor Umahi’s defection is not that he has no right to defect, but to say he is defecting because of injustice meted to the South East that is insulting to the South East.”
The Governor urged the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee of the PDP to take decisive steps to ensure that PDP does not die in Ebonyi.