By Monica Chidinma Ada Eze
As speculations, sentimental analysis and political calculations appear to be on the rise on which part of the country would produce the next Nigerian President in the auto-scheduled 2023 general elections, an American, Mr. Paul Owen from the city of California, squealed in delight after watching a video clip in my YouTube channel displaying the silent but very salient revolution that Dr. David Nweze Umahi is igniting in Ebonyi State and could not help but postulate thus: “Umahi deserves to be the President of Nigeria come 2023 but sadly most Nigerians are blind”.
While I differ from Owen’s view about most Nigerians being blind as captured above, I will clearly articulate the verisimilitude or otherwise of his prediction in this piece.
Supports for Power Shift to South East in 2023
Although Buhari has spent only a year into his second term in office, issues of 2023 are already creeping up in the polity. Subtle campaigns and lobbies for 2023 presidency have already begun and the agitation for presidency to move to the south is also on course. Indeed, the controversy over which region should produce the next president in 2023 is already an issue and every zone in the country seem to be haboring some sort of interest on the subject.
As 2023 approaches, nationalities across Nigeria are once again strategizing and negotiating into the heart of the party under which platform they hope to realise their dream. The Igbo whose position have remained precarious in the Nigerian political landscape do not seem to be doing much to actualise the dream of the section occupying the seat of power come 2023.
Indications of how the Igbos are treated it wouldn’t be far from the truth to state that Ndi Igbo still remain a defeated people since the past civil war despite the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ disposition.
General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s wartime Head of State, in the pursuit of the South East gunning for the Presidency of Nigeria said that he does not have any problem if power shifts to the Igbo for the 2023 Presidency as long as doing so would enhance peace.
The General added that, “There was a time the PDP started rotational presidency, if that was continued, maybe the Igbo would have produced a President but that didn’t happen. If that can be done now, I don’t have a problem with it. Anybody can govern. There are many people in Nigeria, if God gives them and they will govern with the fear of God and love for Nigerians, we will make the desired progress.”
On the other hand, Ohanaeze Ndigbo recently renewed its quest for Nigeria’s citizen of Igbo extraction to succeed Buhari in 2023. The group’s Spokesman, Chuks Ibegbu said the demand for South East to produce the next occupant of the topmost office in the land was in the spirit of equity, justice and fair play as the move would strengthen unity and promote a sense of belonging.
In another development, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai one of Nigeria’s living nationalists was amongst those that declared unequivocally that it should be the turn of the Igbo to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023. Yakasai based his declaration on the logic that other regions and zones in the country, except the Igbo of the South-east. According to him, “Nigeria had three major blocks. Two of these three namely, the North and the West have had the opportunity of producing the President. Therefore, Igbos has a good argument because out of the three siblings, two have already succeeded at producing the President but the Igbos has not.
Yakassai went further to highlight, “I for one – I am in support of it. I did it before in the era of NPN (National Party of Nigeria) when we had the arrangement that the next president after late President Shehu Shagari would come from the East. We would have settled this problem long ago if not for the military intervention.
First Republic politician, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi had this to say: “More than any other race in Nigeria, the South-East, the Igbo have been dealt with especially since the end of the civil war. They were treated at all times as a conquered people. The Igbo have been treated as slaves. During the Shagari era, the South-East got a reprieve. But simply because of a feeling that the South-East might get into power, they staged a military coup and took over the government.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, recently in an interview with the BBC postulated that the Presidency should be zoned the south in 2023. According to this visionary leader from the North, “In Nigerian politics, there is a rotation system, where everyone agrees that if the north rules for eight years, the south will rule for eight years. Although the acceptance process was not written in the constitution, every politician in the country was aware of it. That is why I can confidently state that after President Buhari’s eight years term, no northerner should run for the Presidency. Let the southerners also have eight years.”
The Past Failed Attempts of Igbo Leaders to Gain Access to the Seat of Power in Nigeria
Since the end of the civil war that engulfed Nigeria from 1967 to 1970, almost all sections of Nigeria either through the Army or ballot boxes have produced a Leader of Nigeria except the South East. Though the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gown stated at the end of the war that there was no Victor or Vanquished, all efforts by the South East to gain power in Nigeria have proved abortive.
The effort by the Zik of Africa, Dr Nnamadi Azikwe, one of the founding fathers of Nigeria and the first President of Nigeria to govern Nigeria through the Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP was futile.
Another great son of Nigeria of Igbo extraction, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, military Governor of Eastern Nigeria and the Leader of Biafra also attempted through the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA but was not successful.
The only Igbo man who came closest to government in Nigeria was Dr. Alex Ekweme, who led G34 to stand against the then Military Junta and Head of State, General Sani Abacha with their lives; a struggle that led to the formation of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. All Nigerians were in unison then that it was time an Igbo will be given a chance to govern the country but by the time Nigerians came out from their sleep the Cabal met and schemed him out during the Jos Convention of the party and instead General Olusegun Obasanjo who was released from the prison was anointed to fly the flag of a political party which he doesn’t know how it was formed to the detriment of Dr Ekweme who risked his life to bring PDP to fruition during the 1999 general elections.
Another serious attempt of the South East to gun for the presidency of Nigeria was through Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who was elected to fly the All Peoples Party presidential flag in the 1999 general elections to face PDP but before we can say Jack, he was also schemed out through the coming together of APP and Alliance for Democracy, AD and instead of Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr Olu Falae was anointed to fly the joint ticket of APP and AD not minding that AD was a weaker party than APP during the 1999 general elections.
Other attempt was through Dr. Rochas Okorocha during the 2015 APC Presidential Convention but nobody took him seriously.
The Challenges and Chances of South East Producing the Next President
Today, all eyes are now focused in the 2023 general elections and how will the Igbos fare whether it will be another futile attempt.
This brings us to the major aim of this study.
As much as Ndi Igbo never lack quality leaders that can give Nigeria its dreamy leadership, the following great sons of Igbo extraction are been mentioned as frontline candidates for the 2023 general elections – Dr. Ogbonnya Onu, Dr. Peter Obi, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and of course the general choice Dr. Davies Nweze Umahi and others.
One sacrosanct fact is that since 1999, the southeast has been all out for the PDP till date so even if other political parties deny the Zone their tickets it will be inhuman and wicked if PDP denies the zone its ticket considering the fact that the North through President Buhari have taken its eight years slot and if equity, justice still exist in Nigeria then the Nigerian Presidency of Igbo Extraction is not negotiable.
2023: Umahi and the Prediction of Paul Owen
Before, I discuss this, let me take time to highlight the Ebonyi State that Dr. Davies Nweze Umahi inherited and how he changed the landscape within five years and use his feats within this period to judge if he is the Messiah that Nigeria and Nigerians have been waiting for.
Ebonyi before the Coming of Umahi:
In order to understand and appreciate what Dr. Umahi has done or achieved in Ebonyi State, one need to carefully and critically examine the past of Ebonyi before the coming of the golden regime of Umahi”s administration
The fact remains that EBONYI State before the coming of the administration of Apostle David Nweze Umahi (FNATE, FNSE), the Governor of Ebonyi State, the Lion of South East and Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum was not only home to Guinea worm disease but one of the most undeveloped States in Nigeria. The State capital, Abakaliki was more of a glorified Local Government Headquarters with all basic amenities acceptable in a State capital lacking. The Government House then was nothing to write home about while most of the roads were all dilapidated with public water system as a luxury only known to the rich within the State. Most of the Ministries operate from rented houses even after over 20 years of the creation of the State.
Onu Joseph Eze, writing from Lagos in an article which he titled, “REMARKABLE THINGS GOV. DAVID UMAHI HAS BROUGHT TO BEAR IN EBONYI STATE” stated, “Abakaliki as a state capital used to be a village square where outsiders mistook for one of those fledgling hamlets with the potentiality of becoming a satellite unit in the nearest future. But today under Umahi, Abakaliki is fast rising to the status of a sought after state capital in Nigeria with robust nightlife and invigorating sights of rendezvous. Abakaliki can now be referred to as a state capital with superlative potentials for trade and commerce, tourism and socio-cultural education.”
What Are the Facts Supporting Umahi’s Presidency
If the access to power is based on the feats and capability of leaders to turn a seemingly dark age to a very bright future then I will like us to carefully and critically examine what were the factors that caused an American in the person of Mr. Paul Owen to attest that if Nigeria is to forge forward positively then the presidency of Dr. David Nweze Umahi becomes imperative
Umahi, his Magic Wand and the Turning Around of the Fortunes of Ebonyi State
According to historians, Ebonyi State in the eyes of the world was a State infested and known for the menace of the deadly Guinea-worms and water-borne diseases with a Local Government Secretariat as its Government House but the coming of Governor Umahi has changed the narrative. “Those who have visited Ebonyi State before the coming of this Infrastructural Bulldozer cannot know the State if they visit the State now as the changes in the State is even more visible to the blind. Apart from the approval of the request by the administration of Governor Dave Nweze Umahi of Ebonyi State to construct an International Airport by the Federal Government at a time when the only International Airport in the South-East, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, had been shut down by the Federal Government for repairs, is a thing of pride to all and sundry. I am happy to report that the Ebonyi International Airport will be ready for commissioning by 2022
It is on record that Governor Umahi is the first Governor in Nigeria to embark upon the construction of over ten gigantic flyovers in the State with five already completed. To make the State a truly modern State, Governor Umahi has started the construction of the first Olympiad size Stadium in the entire South-East zone of the nation. The State Government recently got a loan to embark upon the gigantic and audacious Ebonyi Ring Road that will link almost all the Local Government Headquarters of the State.
Today, Ebonyi State can proudly boast of having one of the best Government Houses in Nigeria.
The Ecumenical Centre initiated and completed by Umahi’s administration stands out as one of the best places of worship in the entire West African countries. The best motor park in entire Nigeria is under construction in the State capital coupled with the electrification of all the Local Government Headquarters of the State including major towns in the State. All major roads to major towns and Local Government Headquarters are currently under construction. The Water-Scheme in the State is being developed to supply water to all areas of the State coupled with all other major developments that have placed the State as the most developing economy in Nigeria.
Dr. Umahi scored another first amongst all the Governors that have governed Ebonyi State to become the South-South Vice-Chairman of the Governors’ Forum and Head the South-East Governors Forum. It should be recorded that if what make a State modern are the provisions of quality and drinkable water scheme, good roads, electricity, quality infrastructural facilities then one can conclude without fear of contradiction that with all that Gov. Umahi has achieved within the span of five years, he is the Creator of modern Ebonyi State.
It is on record that Ebonyi State is the only state in Nigeria that initiated the distribution of palliatives to her people within and outside the State particularly, her indigenes that reside in Lagos, Anambra, Rivers, Imo and Abia States including Abuja the FCT while providing over 90,000 facemasks and sanitizers for her people to ease the burden associated with COVID-19 pandemic.
With the sum of Eighty Million Naira (N80, 000,000.00) the renovation and equipment of Erinwobvu General Hospital selected to serve as COVID-19 Treatment Centre is completed. The Ebonyi Executive Council under the watch of Umahi has approved the naming of the following public facilities after prominent individuals with effect from June 2020: • Centenary City to be known as Ocho Udo City • Ezzamgbo flyover to be known as Senator Sam O.Egwu Flyover •Nkalagu flyover to be known as Chief Cletus Ibeto Flyover. “Functional Primary Health Centres (PHC) are available across the State, catering for the healthcare needs of rural dwellers and providing training and jobs for healthcare givers, nurses, and midwives.
The governor had created huge industrial clusters in the three senatorial zones of the State located strategically with proximity to raw materials and markets. The industrial clusters have the capacity of creating over 200,000 jobs for Ebonyi people and others and reduce the brain drain that the State had suffered over time.
The Magic of the Flyovers
So far, five of the flyovers completed include; Akanu Ibiam Flyover, Offia Nwali Flyover, President Muhammad Buhari Flyover/ Tunnel, St. Margaret Umahi Flyover and Arthur Eze flyover. The four ongoing flyovers are located at Ezzamgbo flyover to be known as Senator Sam O.Egwu Flyover •Nkalagu flyover to be known as Chief Cletus Ibeto Flyover. Nkalagu, others are the Airport and Uburu Flyovers. The construction of the flyovers in the state is part of the effort of UMAHI to upgrade the state to a city, not just a city but to put the state on top when beautiful, secured and economically viable states are ranked.
Celebrating the latest Flyover named after an Oil Magnet, Prince Arthur Eze carefully installed in the hearth of Abaomege, Onicha Council Area which has, without doubt, facelifted Abaomege and added her as one of the major cities in Ebonyi State. People of Abaomege took time to pour encomium on the Governor, stating that their community has been blessed through the divine Mandate Governor.
What Umahi through His Matured and Advanced Politics Attracted the Following Federal Government Projects to the State?
1. Federal College of Education in Ebonyi state
2. Federal technical colleges in Ebonyi state
3. National park” for Southeast and it is to be cited in Ebonyi state
4. Federal housing units of 5000 houses for Ebonyi state in Uburu
5. The independent solar power at AE-Funai
6. The construction of Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state which is expected to be completed in six months and will serve the entire south east and south south and will be equipped and beautified to international standard.
7. Today, Ebonyi State is home to a Federal Teaching Hospital, a Regional Virology Centre, and a state-of-art Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital (EBSUTH).
Further Efforts towards the Modernisation of Ebonyi State by Umahi
Umahi’s zeal to transform Ebonyi was born out of the experience he gathered as both former chairman of PDP in the state and Deputy Governor. His policy trust on the industrialization was key, which he began with the construction of three industrial clusters across the three senatorial zones aimed at developing each sector. These include agriculture, technology and human empowerments. As an engineer, he engaged new technology in constructions with particular reference to roads where 8 inches concrete roads started springing up in the state. Parks, markets and streets started wearing new looks. Pedestrian crossing, flyovers, street lights, water fountains were also built to change the face of Ebonyi, transforming it to one of the fastest growing economies in Nigeria.
Empowerment for youths and widows has taken a new shape in the state, positively impacting lives of many. Today, many youths who were mere street urchins have become employers of labour through the rich empowerment programmes of the Umahi administration.
Some of the projects Umahi started and completed within this period include three 700-metre twin ﬂyover bridges at Akanu Ibiam Roundabout, Ofﬁa Nwali Junction, the International Market bypass and a pedestrian bridge at Ebonyi State University permanent site gate. Others are roads and bridges constructed within Onueke-Ezzama-Oshiri-Onicha road, 35km; Obiozara-Onicha road, 8.3km; Uburu-Presbyterian Church road,12km; Umuchima road, 7.5km; Okposi road, 23km, Akaeze–Ivo road,15km; a section of Abakaliki–Aﬁkpo federal highway, 14.5km; Abakaliki internal roads, 150km, with one major bridge; 7 bridges along Nkalagu–Ehamufu road,15km; Abaomege-Ukawu-Ugwulangwu-Okposi federal road, 25km; and Abaomege Ukawu bridge.
Gov. Umahi is a magician, an enigma, poster boy and Revelation of this dispensation and your visit to Ebonyi will convince you.
Reactions on the Feats of Governor Umahi
Reacting to some of the great feats of Governor Umahi within this past five years, Lady Comfort Obi, the Publisher of the Source Magazine and a very powerful Pen Pusher in Nigeria highlighted in one of her treatises, “In fairness to Umahi, he has so far, done well as Ebonyi Governor. He has encouraged Agriculture, especially, in the area of rice production. Ebonyi rice ranks amongst the best in the country. I don’t know much about what he did in the area of yam production, but I proudly ask for Abakailiki yams from my yam customer. But where Umahi has definitely excelled most is in the provision of Physical Infrastructure, especially roads. Aside from Anambra State where Peter Obi excelled in the construction of roads, no other governor in the south-east compares to Umahi in that area. Gradually, Umahi has bequeathed Ebonyi with quality roads. Umahi has also excelled in the area of education, granting scholarships to hundreds of Ebonyians in relevant areas of study. Thanks to him, Abakailiki, which, as the state capital looked worse than a local government headquarters, has had a complete turn- around. It looks bam”
These and many more underscores the basis on which one of the prominent sons of South East, Chief Arthur Eze once advised President Muhammad Buhari, ”to look no further than the Ebonyi State Governor for a Nigerian President of the Igbo extraction- if, and when the time comes. Apostle Dave Nweze Umahi, the wisest Governor in Nigeria has come of age and it is time for Nigeria to move forward with him”. All these feats to make Ebonyi State one of the most developed States in Nigeria are the initiatives of Apostle Umahi, divinely inspired to lead the state on the path of progress and reposition her to that highly anticipated enviable height
Umahi Speaks on His Driving Force and Mission
According to Governor Umahi, “The Bible says when men say there’s a casting down; we will say there’s a lifting up. Abraham followed God when He asked him to follow him to show him a land, he believed God. When God sends you on a mission and you have a passion, He gives you a vision which you pursue with passion. Everything is possible to those who believe. You have to have the passion then, God will make a way for you. This is the terminal building for the airport; it is like two and a half size of the Shopping Mall. You can trace the Mall; this is like two and a half size of the Mall. It is going to be the biggest terminal building in the country. We have done almost 90 percent of the pilling and the vocal, and that’s the real work and it is where that will take more money, what’s in the ground is more than what is coming up. The tarmac is hundred metres in width; it’s like ten-lane by four kilometres. Tarmac is a different thing because there’s impact load, there’s traction load and also there’s dynamic load, there is a special design, but the earthwork is very challenging. We are going through valleys and hills and we are on it. You can see the airport road, it’s about 4 kilometres. The airport flyover is being set out for construction.”
My Verdict and Conclusion
With all these feats, I can happily and proudly state that Governor Umahi is the David of Ebonyi, the wisest Governor in Nigeria according to Governor Ikepazu of Abia State, this Zik Awardee for Leadership for a higher position in Nigeria has demonstrated his commitment to making EBONYI State one of the fastest-growing economies in Nigeria today.
Umahi’s feats in Ebonyi State has showcased him as the people’s leader as his remarkable feats within the past five years in areas of healthcare, education, security, agriculture, maintenance and dualisation of Federal Roads particularly, the Abakaliki to Enugu and Abakaliki to Afikpo Express Roads, Construction of the Biggest State Shopping Mall in Nigeria, prompt payment of salaries to civil servants and pension to pensioners, the infrastructural revolution, “Ebonyi is truly blessed with an enigma and innovative leader as her Governor that one can easily postulate that the modernization of Ebonyi State has been achieved in our lifetime through Apostle Dr. David Nweze Umahi.
Truly and assuredly I agree with Mr. Paul Owen the American that Umahi deserves to be president of Nigeria come 2023 if we are to forge ahead positively. I hinge my postulation on the revolution which Dr. Umahi has ignited in transforming Ebonyi State to one of the fastest growing economy in Nigeria today
Congratulations to Ndi-Ebonyi