• You are unfair to PDP, says Wike
After several denials, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, yesterday, said he was joining the All Progressive Congress (APC) because of the “injustice meted to South East by the People Democratic Party (PDP)” which include not zoning the party’s 2023 presidential ticket to the zone.
He added that the ruling party was better disposed to the interest of the five states in the region, stating that he neither had presidential ambition nor was he promised by anyone.
Addressing reporters in Abakaliki, Umahi said contrary to insinuations, he was not leaving the PDP on account of a failed deal to get its presidential nomination, insisting that he would decline if offered.
The governor maintained that the political party had been unfair to the zone despite having the late Vice President Alex Ekwueme as a foundation member.
Faulting the remarks by PDP Board of Trustees Chairman, Senator Walid Jubril, that South-East never demanded for the party’s presidential ticket, Umahi argued that the over 50 organisations, State House of Assembly and the State Working Committee of the main opposition party in Ebonyi State canvassed for the slot to be conceded to the zone.
His exit, he added, was to actualise the emergence of a Nigerian of Igbo ethnic stock as the nation’s next chief executive in 2023.
Umahi explained that having been successful as re-elected governor and businessman, he would return to the latter at the completion of his political voyage.
“I am not driven by selfish interests, but we need to protest against marginalisation. We have benefited more from the APC government. I didn’t start this protest today. I have no regrets. In life, you have to be courageous,” he stated.
The governor regretted that in spite of its near devotion to the PDP, the South East had not been “considered fairly in the polity.”
MEANWHILE, PDP said it was not aware of the reported defection.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiya, who was fielding questions yesterday from reporters yesterday in Abuja, said: “There is nobody that is moving from PDP to the APC to the best of our knowledge. We have not received any resignation from any notable member of our party. Until that is done, we believe that all these are speculations.”
He explained that the leadership had met with Umahi to address the issue, but was yet to receive further communications from him.
HOWEVER, Governor Wike in a statement through his Special Assistant (Media) Kelvin Ebiri, noted that Umahi’s quest to be APC’s presidential candidate prompted his defection “and not alleged injustice meted on the Southeast by PDP.”
Wike remarked that committed PDP members were not surprised that Governor Umahi formally defected to APC, saying that the Ebonyi governor had been fraternising with the governing party for a while.
The Rivers State governor said he would ordinarily not be perturbed by Umahi’s decision to defect to APC, but felt offended by his attempt to justify his decision on the purported injustice meted on the Southeast by the PDP.
While accusing Umahi of being unfair to PDP, Wike recalled that the party gave him governorship ticket in 2015 against all odds, and repeated same feat in 2019.
He stated: “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 because you want 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 urged Umahi to retract the allegation that PDP has not been fair to the Southeast, contending that under PDP, the Southeast has produced Senate Presidents; National Vice Chairman of the PDP and Secretary to the Federal Government.
Maintaining that it was erroneous for Umahi to accuse PDP of injustice, when he had unilaterally imposed his younger brother as Southeast zonal Vice Chairman of the PDP, Wike declared: “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 Rivers State governor noted that although the APC has not yet told Nigerians where it will zone its presidential slot, “Umahi presumptuous move might be too hasty and will ruin him politically.”
“Assuming the APC decides to zone its presidential ticket to the Southeast, 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,” Wike stated, even as he urged PDP National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee to take decisive steps to ensure that PDP does not die in Ebonyi State.