I have followed with bated breaths the outrage that trailed the innocuous comment of the chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum and the Governor of Ebonyi state, Engr. David Nweze Umahi, on the alleged nomination of the former Governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi, as the running mate of PDP Presidential candidate in the forthcoming 2019 general elections – His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON.
Now that the outrage is abating, it is necessary to put the records straight and correct the many erroneous insinuations made by most of those who reacted to Governor Umahi’s comment which they appear either not to have read or to have understood.
As a prelude, may I remind us that their excellencies, Governor David Nweze Umahi and former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state are dually relating as brothers and friends even as I write this piece.
For instance, early this year, Governor Umahi invited Mr. Peter Obi as a resource person in a colloquium held in Ebonyi state to review Umahi’s “One man, one hectare” agricultural revolution programme in Ebonyi state. Mr. Obi honoured the invitation and made edifying remarks about Umahi’s programmes and spoke elaborately on his (Obi’s) score-card in his days as Governor of Anambra state as well as his economic vision for the Nigerian nation.
Mr. Peter Obi, like we know, does not say things he does not mean. This is enough to say that the relationship between these two leaders of Ndi Igbo has always been cordial and will continue to be cordial as they collaborate with other leaders of Ndi Igbo to ensure full reintegration of Ndi Igbo into mainstream Nigeria.
At this juncture, Lord Byron’s submission that “When we think we lead, we most are led” comes to the mind.
Umahi like we know is a prominent leader of both Ndi Igbo and the Peoples’ Democratic Party by virtue of his positions as Governor of Ebonyi state and chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum.
He was also the secretary of the PDP presidential convention committee that organized the primaries which produced Atiku Abukakar as PDP presidential candidate.
It was while the euphoria of that successful convention was still thick in the air that Governor Umahi read on the social media that his friend and brother, Mr. Peter Obi, had allegedly been picked by Alhaji Atiku Abukakar as his running mate on the platform of PDP presidential ticket.
Surprised by this development, some leaders of Ndi Igbo and PDP critical stakeholders in the Southeast sought explanation from their leader whom they expected to be privy to the interactions that culminated in the choice of Mr. Obi.
Given these circumstances, it became imperative for Umahi to offer public explanations to his people.
In a carefully-worded statement issued by Umahi’s media aide on his behalf, Umahi said he “was shocked by the news of the purported choice of the former Governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi, by Presidential candidate of Peoples’ Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abukakar, as his running mate without consultations with the stakeholders of the Southeast geopolitical zone”.
The statement went further to explain that Umahi had “nothing against the person of Mr. Peter Obi”.
Two remarkable things are true about Umahi’s statement: The first thing is that Umahi had no reservations as it regarded Obi’s qualifications to be PDP’s Vice-presidential candidate; rather he was concerned about the fact that Obi was picked without consultations with relevant stakeholders who would in due course be expected to deliver the votes of the Southeast in favour of their son!
This concern of Umahi cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand in politics which, by its nature, is a team-game; and in a democratic setting like ours where power is assumed to belong to the people.
The second thing is that Umahi did not dispute Atiku Abukakar’s right to choose his running mate, rather Umahi is acting both as a leader and an apostle of inclusive leadership who would want his people to be fully carried along at this formative stage so that during the campaigns and the more important elections, the people who were part of the choice would have sufficient insurable interest in the presidential project, and so become morally obliged to work hard for the success of the project.
Those who are close to Umahi can attest to the fact that he is a man of unequaled political will and leadership courage not given to pretences.
As a foremost advocate of an inclusive Nigeria, it is Governor Umahi’s dream that Ndi Igbo be admitted into all the rights and privileges available in Nigeria.
The zoning of PDP’s vice-presidential slot to the southeast coming 35 years after Ekwueme occupied that position is a step in the right direction, but Umahi wants the choice of the person to be handled in a manner that will attract the support and commitment of the people. These, indubitably, are factors necessary to make the project succeed.
Like the saying goes, anything worth doing at all is worth doing well”; and the selection of the Igbo man for the PDP vice-presidential slot is not exempt from this maxim.
Left for Umahi, it is probable that he would have kept quiet especially for the fact that the man being tipped for the plum job was his brother and friend whom he (Umahi) “had nothing against”; but leadership ethics warranted Umahi’s reaction.
It is instructive that no leader of Ndi Igbo or PDP stakeholder in the Southeast has come up to counter Umahi’s allegation that they were not consulted.
Above all, Umahi has been vindicated by Atiku Abubakar’s appeal for calm and promise to come to do the needful as soon as he returns from his oversea trip.
Those who have axes to grind with Governor David Umahi should come out clear or wait for another opportunity to launch their attacks because Umahi’s statement on the PDP vice-presidential slot or choice is altruistic, reasonable, patriotic and faultless. So it is not enough to warrant the criticisms we have been reading and hearing on various media platforms.