Nothing in recent time has generated as much discussion in Nigeria as the defection of one of the best performing Governor’s in Nigeria and unarguably, the best in the South East, Engr David Nweze Umahi from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressive Congress, APC. Not even the defection of a sitting Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and his National Assembly counterpart, Hon Yakubu Dogara, also the sitting Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, from the ruling APC to PDP generated half the interest the Umahi defection has stirred.
It is certainly not because Umahi is a sitting Governor as some may want us to believe. In no too distant past four (4) sitting Governors of the APC defected to the opposition PDP, namely; Ortom of Benue, Ahmed of Kwara, Tambuwal of Sokoto and recently, Obaseki of Edo, without raising sustained dust as the Country did not give much more than a whimper. It is equally not because Umahi had benefited a lot from PDP as even those who had occupied positions as Nigeria’s no 2,3 and 4 citizens through the PDP platform are known to have jumped ship.
The most ridiculous of the reactions is from those who purport that Umahi had no right to defect from PDP. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it is within the constitutionally enshrined rights of Governor Umahi to choose who to associate with. Below are others who had exercised this right before now, the aforementioned inclusive, they are: Ohakim of IMO State who left PPA for PDP, the former Governor of Abia State Theodore Orji, who dumped PPA for PDP as well as Akpabio that left PDP for APC. Whether Governor Umahi is right in his political choice and preference is a verdict that lies in the bowel of time. But one thing we cannot deny him is the right to his choice.
The attempt by some to discredit Umahi’s reason for leaving PDP by willfully and inaccurately quoting him as saying that the South East has not benefited from PDP and going ahead to lists positions held by South Easterners in PDP is puerile logic, bad politics and a momentous lie concocted to divert attention from the real issue. Governor Umahi only faulted the PDP for not zoning her Presidential ticket to the South East.
Whatever the official position of PDP, the irreducible truth is that the party lost a big fish in Gov Umahi, a fact that was affirmed by no less a personage than President Buhari who had the humility to acknowledge that Umahi’s defection is a great boost to APC. It is the enormity of the PDP loss that is responsible for their angst against Umahi.
The anger over the defection of Governor Umahi has made many people to suspend reason, thereby opening themselves to inconsistent fictions. The truth remains that Gov Umahi in the last five years as the Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman South East Governors Forum, has remained the voice from the wilderness calling for a more equitable Nigeria, especially as it concerns Ndigbo in general and Ebonyi State in particular.
Genuine Ndigbo and well meaning Nigerians in and outside PDP, should concern themselves with the substantive merits of the Umahi protest – full integration of Ndigbo in Nigeria by ensuring that all the major political parties zone their Presidential tickets to the South Eastern Zone, an action that is long overdue.
The PDP, haven been formed in defiance to a dictator and his regime of terror ought to be a bastion of liberation, Democracy, reformation and justice. In view of the above, it can be inferred and correctly too, that Governor Umahi has done the PDP a world of good by waking her up to her responsibility, historic role and mission of ensuring a greater degree of social equity, the fact responsible for the inclusion of zoning in her constitution. When a body betrays her beliefs, historic roles and mission, it withers and die. This is because when a group shows gives itself a historic mission that is not shared by other competitors, the group is immediately held in high standard and therefore judged harshly when they fail to uphold those standards.
It is evident to the discerning that the Umahi activism has birthed a great stirring among Nigerians on the injustice of not allowing the South East, a race that has demonstrated a genuine belief in the unity of Nigeria, to occupy the biggest position in the land. By his defection and adduced reason for doing so, Gov Umahi has authored a new chapter of political inclusion in Nigerian game of power. Until now, discussions on ceding power to the South East were in hushed tones, as the issue was considered infra- dig for national discussion in many quarters.
Today, the discussion of Nigerian President of South East extraction has gained currency and vibrancy as it is no longer a muted issue. For weeks now the issue has dominated Television Talk Shows, Political Platforms, Newspaper Editorials, Commentaries and Interviews with overwhelming majority saying that the time to zone the Presidency to the South East is now. The call will be louder in the weeks and months to come, a development that will culminate to the major political parties in Nigeria reserving their Presidential tickets for the South East.
By all reasonable metric, the Umahi activism is yielding the desired results.
Ojukwu Innocent Ene, a Media Practitioner and Political Commentator writes from Abakaliki.