By Dons Eze, PhD
The defection of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the All Progressives Congress (APC), may have thrown up new challenges for the APC in Ebonyi State.
Before the defection of Governor Umahi to APC, the party in Ebonyi State, had as its leader, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, a first class graduate, who was the first Executive Governor of Abia State, from 1991 to 1993.
Dr. Onu who was a founding member of the then All Peoples Party ( APP), later changed to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was also APP’s first Presidential Candidate in 1999. He was the national leader of ANPP before the party merged with other political partes to form the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.
Before David Umahi left PDP for APC, Ogbonnaya Onu, as the highest ranking APC political office holder in Ebonyi State, was the leader of the party in the state. But following Umahi’s defection, the Governor automatically becomes the new leader of the party in Ebonyi.
That was why the national leadership of APC wasted no time in ordering the dissolution of the party leadership in Ebonyi State, no doubt, to accommodate David Umahi and his group. A caretaker committee has been set up to oversee the affairs of the party in the state, pending election of new officers.
What this portends is that while the national leadership of APC may be doing all it could to accommodate its new bride, David Umahi, those who long have been labouring for the party in Ebonyi State are now going to be relegated to the background.
David Umahi is known to be a hawk, over-ambitious and self-centered. In the PDP, which he has just jettisoned, apart from being the Governor of Ebonyi State, one of Umahi’s brothers was the National Vice Chairman of PDP, while his other brother, was Ebonyi State Vice Chairman of the party.
As Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi was not so much in consideration over who could succeed Martin Elechi as Governor of the state in 2015. Most people, both within and outside Ebonyi State, had looked towards the direction of Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health under President Goodluck Jonathan administration, whose popularity soared so much due to the excellent way he handled the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
But through sheer manipulation and sly, David Umahi wangled his way up the ladder to emerge as the Governorship Candidate of PDP in Ebonyi State, to the surprise and consternation of his principal, Governor Martin Elechi, who had no other way of showing his displeasure other than to change political camp.
Ogbonnaya Onu, on the other hand, is said to be gentle, smooth-sailing political operator, who hardly ruffles feathers. He is equally known to be a consistent and calculative politician who knows his right and where he is headed to. Ogbonnaya Onu is one of the few politicians in the country who never jumped ship since the return of democracy in 1999. He has remained loyal to the political party he started with.
With the new political development in Ebonyi State, some people are beginning to ask, what would be the relationship between a hawk and a dove in the state? In other words, is it possible for a gentle politician like Ogbonnaya Onu, to stay together with a hawkish politician like David Umahi? Can two of them be in one roof?
That is to say, will APC in Ebonyi State comfortably accommodate both Ogbonnaya Onu and David Umahi, or is one going to be sacrificed for the other? Is the new leadership of APC in Ebonyi State going to be a family affair as was the case in PDP when David Umahi was in charge? We look forward to unfolding events in the next few months.
Incidentally, both Ogbonnaya Onu and David Umahi come from the same old Afikpo zone of Ebonyi State, as against the old Abakaliki zone that determines the political direction of the state. In other words, these two top notchers of APC in Ebonyi State would be shopping from the same political market.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the two first chief executives of Ebonyi State, Governor Sam Egwu, and Governor Martin Elechi, come from old Abakaliki zone, and they governed for eight years each. It was only through some gentleman’s agreement, otherwise known as unwritten zoning arrangement, that the old Afikpo zone was allowed to produce the Governor in 2015
For us therefore, we believe that what will determine the political direction of Ebonyi State in 2023 may not necessarily be the political party that is in power at the moment in the state, but the interest of the people of old Abakaliki zone, and the dominant political party in that area.