Ahead of the 2019 general elections, stakeholders in Ebonyi state, have tipped Governor David Nweze Umahi, to win the poll, and even some members of the opposition parties in the state, agree that the governor deserves a second term in office, reports FELIX UKA, in Abakiliki.
As the country inches forward to the 2019 general elections, political parties in Ebonyi state, big and small, are devising strategies to become the next tenant of Government House, Abakaliki, the state capital.
Even political parties that merely exist in name – without any landmark to point at – are openly boasting that their governorship candidates are battle ready to oust incumbent Governor David Nweze Umahi, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from office.
Nevertheless, the truth is that the contest is between the PDP and the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Indeed, few months to the general elections, the opposition elements have woken up from their seeming slumber. And they are strategizing almost day and night, on how to wrest power from Governor Umahi.
Their calculations and intrigues come in varied forms, albeit they seem to be confused about the appropriate steps to adopt to achieve their political objective, thus committing many flip-flops in the process.
For instance, a party like the APC seems not to have shown any seriousness about producing the next governor of the state in 2019 following the inability of party leaders to forge a common front in their bid to upstage the Umahi-led administration.
Nevertheless, despite the disagreement amongst the APC leaders in the state, the party is confident of victory during the next governorship poll in the state.
Not a few leaders of the party boast openly that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration would place the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies at the beck-and-call of the state chapter of the party during the elections.
Indeed, rumours are rife that the leadership of APC in the state prevailed on the police authorities in Abuja to effect the transfer of former Ebonyi state Commissioner of Police, Lamorde Titus, because they perceived him as one who might not dance to their tune during the forthcoming general elections.
Nonetheless, the new Commissioner of Police in the State, Musa Kimo, had said shortly on arrival that his responsibility was to provide security of lives and property in the state without fear and favour.
But not a few members of the PDP say that given the chummy relationship between Governor Umahi, and President Buhari, it would be difficult if not impossible for anybody to use the ‘federal might’ to thwart the will of the people in the state during the general elections.
The PDP members also hold the view that given Governor Umahi’s superb performance since he assumed office on May 29, 2015, the electorate would have no option but to give him another four years to consolidate his developmental strides in the state.
The PDP faithful further argue that since the creation of the state, the Umahi-led administration has a record of appointing the highest number of public functionaries who were drawn from almost all the communities in the state, saying that 2019 would be a pay-back period.
Specifically, the administration’s employment of youths as Technical Assistants (TAs), and Special Assistants (SPAs); the governors men argue, has reduced criminal activities in the state, adding that the introduction of empowerment programmes for widows, civil servants, and even the clergy, had endeared him to the people.
That is not all. The Umahi-led administration has given traditional rulers across the state brand new jeep, in addition to increasing their monthly allowance from ten thousand naira to one hundred thousand naira.
Thus, the opposition parties may have difficulty asking the traditional rulers to support their governorship candidates at the expense of their benefactor – Governor Umahi.
In fact, the Vice Chairman of Ebonyi state Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Eze Romanus Iyioku, narrated his encounter with Senator Sonni Ogbuorji, the APC governorship candidate, when he came to his palace to inform him of his 2019 governorship bid.
He said: “I asked him (Ogbuorji) whether another state has been created out of Ebonyi state. I told him that as a Senator, he failed to give acceptable representation to his constituents. I told him that Governor Umahi has done so much for our people, and that he should be encouraged to do a second term.”
There is no doubt that Governor Umahi is enjoying a groundswell of support from even some members of the main opposition party, and some other minor parties in the state in his quest to do a second term in office.
The AUTHORITY gathered that Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the minister of science and technology, who is Umahi’s kinsman, once told his party members that the best bet for the APC was for him (Onu) to contest the governorship slot against Umahi, saying he would face the wrath of his people should he support another candidate of the APC from any other part of the state.
In this circumstance, the Party in a tight situation, and left them more confused. Eventually, Onu, backed one Ogbonna Obasi, a fledgeling politician from his community for the APC governorship primary, who of course lost the contest to Senator Ogbuorji.
It was gathered that the plot by the opposition APC to install a governor in 2019 from Ebonyi Southern Senatorial zone where Umahi comes from failed because the Abakaliki bloc, which includes the Ezza and Izzi people considered the move as treacherous.
In the opinion of the people of Abakaliki bloc, if the plan to supplant Umahi with somebody from Ebonyi South sails through the beneficiary may likely want to spend eight years in office, thus making the zone hold power for 12 years consecutively.
In an attempt to scuttle the second term bid of Governor Umahi, the opposition even went further to allege that he (Umahi) reached an accord with Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, who also hails from the same Ebonyi South that after his (Umahi’s) first tenure, Anyim would step into his shoes as governor.
And no matter how anyone looks at it, with Anyim in the race, he could create more hurdles for Umahi, being a former Senate President, and also Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF).
But to the chagrin of the opposition, Senator Anyim endorsed Governor Umahi for a second term on Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, during a well-attended rally organized for Umahi at Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of the state – Anyim’s LGA.
According to Senator Anyim, “I want to say that when you (Umahi) go to other places, they will receive you with a rally but when you come to your home, Ivo, they will only celebrate you.
“I want to say and say very clearly that the event of today is not necessarily preparatory to 2019 because, for us, your 2019 is guaranteed.
“You Excellency, you know how we do it. When we lead others will follow, so we want to assure you today that for 2019 Ivo will lead and we are sure others will follow.
“So, for us that is really not an issue. Today, we are pleased to have you at home to celebrate you, to celebrate your achievements and celebrate your government.
“Your becoming Governor of Ebonyi state is remarkable in many areas. The most important is that you are the first Ebonyi state man to come from Afikpo zone as a governor.
“So, certainly you are our own and I want to say that I have always said that the people who have governed before you, they governed for eight years.
“Ebonyi North governed for eight years, Ebonyi Central eight years, Ebonyi South where you come from will govern for eight years.
“We have something to show for your four years and because we have something to show for your four years, we can proudly say that you deserve a second tenure.”
When Prof. Bernard Odoh, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) who defected to the APC bought form for the governorship primary, a number of observers in the state described his aspiration as a dangerous plot.
The fear was that should Odoh get the governorship ticket to run, his Ezaa kinsmen, and probably the Izzis could support him to the hilt, despite the quantum projects Governor Umahi has executed in the area.
Nevertheless, some political analysts in the state described Odoh as a political neophyte, who lacks what it takes to even win a ward election and therefore dismissed his aspiration to unseat Umahi as untenable. But the fear of Odoh getting the APC ticket to contend with Governor still persisted.
However, relief came when. Odoh lost to Ogbuorji during the APC governorship primary, a development which elicited prolonged celebration in Governor Umahi’s camp.
And barely four months to the general elections, is the coast clear for Governor Umahi to do a second term in office?
Like Senator, Anyim pointed out, Governor Umahi’s victory at the 2019 poll is guaranteed. Majority of the people, who spoke with The AUTHORITY here, said that he had tried in the past three-and-half-years, to put Ebonyi state on the path of growth and development despite the relatively meagre financial resource available to his administration.
Besides, the governorship candidates of the opposition parties are said not to have endeared themselves to the people, having no known history of achievements.
Therefore, many believe that if the governorship election should come tomorrow, Governor Umahi will win his opponents with a wide margin.