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Buhari’s Visit: Umahi’s Political Fate Hangs In The Balance

Ebonyi State for couple of weeks has been the destination of very important personalities in Nigeria, especially top notchers of the All Progressive Congress (APC), in a PDP controlled state. They visit the state for one obvious reason or the other which could be official or otherwise.

The first in recent times was that of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo who honoured the wedding of one of his aides, Ekene Nelson Nwokporo on 4th November, 2017 at Pastoral Centre of the Catholic Dioceses. 

‎No sooner had Osibanjo left the state than the news of the visit of the former President of Nigeria and Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo hit the air waves. Obasanjo’s visit was followed in close succession with the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ebonyi State on a- one- day working visit.

‎One thing is spectacular about these visits in the Salt of the nation. Besides the anxiety mounted by the presence of the August visitors in the state, there was also for the first time in the annals of the state’s politics where some citizens of the state had to differ in their political loyalty.

For instance, members of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state stunned observers during the visit of the Vice President Yemi Osibanjo when they came out in their number against all odds to welcome the number two citizen of the country. They brandished their brooms around Osibanjo while he was being received by the incumbent governor, David Umahi, who was spotted in the midst of the brooms, the picture which has gone viral on the social media placing question mark whether Umahi has defected to the APC.

The APC members were all out to score a political piont as they accompanied Osibanjo to Pastoral Centre, the venue of the wedding where they brazenly displayed their brooms to the consternation of the guests who attended the solemnization ceremony.

Governor Umahi proved succinctly he understood the political gimmick of the opposition APC in the state when he said during his remark in the church that there is only one political party in Ebonyi state. The governor in a subtle way was addressing the vice president to probably jettison the broom carriers who had earlier received him(Osibanjo) when he landed at the Presbyterian Church, Kprikpiri, Abakaliki. But Osibanjo did not also hesitate while addressing the worshippers in the church to thank Umahi for accommodating the opposition parties in the state, especially the APC.

The triumph of the All Progressive Congress members in the state during the visit of Osibanjo was an assurance that they could do far better during the president’s visit. They had mobilized and dared anyone who would stop them form displaying their brooms to receive Mr President. This they had vowed they would do with all bravado. The Umahi-led government was not oblivion of the onslaught of the APC. It consequently acted wisely and refused to join issues with the APC members in the state. 

The visit of Osibanjo was immediately followed by that of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The visit of the former president who had long ago dumped the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) sparked off yet another round of reaction. Though Obasanjo, the chairman of zero hunger forum was in the state in partnership with the zero hunger team which Ebonyi state is a member to collobarate on how to further develop the agro potentials of the state.

However, the visit of Obasanjo had been given different interpretations from political pundits in the state. While some members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, are jittery over the romance between Ebonyi State governor, David Nweze Umahi and top stakeholders of the All Progressive Congress (APC), some have also described as worrisome the parely ahead of the 2019 general election and the fate of the party in the state.

Reacting earlier on the threat by the ruling PDP in the state to stop the APC members from carring broom during the visist of Mr President, Pastor Eze Nwachukwu, APC state chairman, who faulted the plan, said it was wrong for governor Umahi to say there is one political party in Ebonyi state. He said, “the same man comes around to say there is only one political party in Ebonyi State which is wrong. So, APC is making frantic effort to come out en mass with our brooms. We the members of APC in Ebonyi is to make sure that we propagate the ideals in Ebonyi. And there is no way we can be intimidated. Anybody who conceived that should have re-think and his mental system checked”, he advised.

As a ploy of ensuring that the impact of the APC was not felt in the state during the President’s visit, governor Umahi tactically avoided the use of his party symbol. There was no any trace of the ‘umbrella’ party symbol of the PDP within and outside the venue of the event, the Abakaliki Township Stadium which was filled to capacity. The avoidance of the display of the party symbol probably was a warning to the APC from using their brooms during the President’s visit and to aviod a repeat of what happened during the visit of Osibanjo to the state which was considered embarrassing to the ruling party in the state.

In an interview with a political analyst in Ebonyi State, Mr Okoroafor Godswill, who said it would be a political miscalculation ‎for governor Umahi to defect to opposition APC in the state, noted that it is detrimental for the governor to underestimate federal might.

He said, “It is not uncommon in the Nigeria politics that incumbent state governors would always like to enjoy good rapport with the government at the centre. Remember that ‎federal government controls all the democratic institutions like the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, which is in charge of conducting election. The governor of Ebonyi State is aware of all these and that is why he is trying to play along with the federal might.

“It do not see governor Umahi defecting to any other political party for now. If he defects, remember he is enjoying the mandate of the PDP. So, he knows the implications of defecting at this time. I do not see him doing that at the moment.

“As the chief security officer of the state, he knows what should be done to maintain the peace. The total avoidance on the use of party symbol I do not think was done as a pointer that Umahi wants to dump PDP but to possible avoid clash between the two parties in Ebonyi state.”

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