From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The 2019 general elections is still about two years ahead, but the political atmosphere in Ebonyi State has started heating up.
Already, various political parties and candidates who have interest in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and the State House of Assembly have started making consultations.
At the moment, many potential candidates, Daily Sun gathered, have started pitching their tents and closing ranks ahead of 2019. And the state governor, David Umahi, is not left out. At different fora, he commended the members of the State’s House of Assembly and their National Assembly counterparts, saying that they deserved a second term in office.
But the most interesting episode in the preparation for the 2019 polls in Ebonyi State is the renewed battle between the incumbent governor, Umahi and his predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi.
The bitter war between them has shifted to the media space with each of them seizing every opportunity to lash out at the other with the aim of wooing support.
Interestingly, the acrimonious relationship between the two gladiators, Daily Sun gathered, started when the ex-governor was still holding sway. His then deputy who is now the incumbent state governor, Umahi, had disclosed his interest to succeed his boss whose eight year tenure at the time was expected to end in 2015.
It was further gathered that Umahi’s interest was against that of his boss who had preferred one Chief Edward Nwoagwu of the Labour Party who reportedly hails from his wife’s kindred to succeed him. But Umahi’s emergence at the PDP primary as the party’s standard bearer was a ‘blow below the belt’ for his former boss, Elechi.
The development forced Elechi, as a sitting governor to declare support for the candidate of the Labour party. Elechi’s opposition to Umahi’s ambition did not however prevent Umahi’s victory, as he beat Elechi’s anointed candidate silly at the poll, to emerge Ebonyi State governor.
One of the major factors which helped Umahi’s victory was that he came from Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone which turn it was to produce the governor, going by the state’s zoning arrangement.
Aftermath of 2105
Once elections were over, the former governor, Elechi, defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But some PDP chieftains in Ebonyi State have since described the defection as “good riddance for outdated politician.”
He had led some of his supporters to the residence of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, in Abuja to formerly inform him of his defection to the party.
He also seized the opportunity to fire his salvo at the Governor David Umahi-led administration and the leadership of the PDP in the state, describing the party as one ran on the altar of “corruption and impunity”.
Elechi said: “We think that the greatest joy in a democratic system is the right of people to choose who their leaders will be. That right to decide and determine our leadership has been destroyed in Ebonyi State under the PDP. And that was why a majority of PDP members protested and left that party to look for a new democratic space.
“Our people have moved to the APC. I had sworn, while leaving the PDP, that I will never join another party but I have now swallowed my pride to say I will sink or swim with the people I had laboured with. And that is why I joined the APC.”
The former Ebonyi State governor who in April registered for the APC at his country home, Echi-Alike, in Ikwo council area, also disclosed that the minister of Science and Technology, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, amongst other APC leaders from the South-East zone spurred him to join the APC.
Umahi, PDP fire back
Umahi and the leadership of the PDP in the state fired back. The governor described Elechi as an ‘expired’ politician who had outlived his usefulness, just as he accused him of strangling democracy in the state only to turn around to point accusing fingers at his (Umahi) administration.
Umahi, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Uzor, described the former governor as one who had lost touch with reality given his old age, even as he described Elechi’s decamping to the APC as a “suicidal political movement.”
“I don’t want to believe that Elechi actually said there was no democracy in Ebonyi State. In his eight-year reign as governor of Ebonyi State, Elechi never practised democracy.
“However, Elechi’s cheap propaganda, which he served the people during his visit to the APC national chairman in Abuja and which he instructed his supporters to circulate on social media and published in some national dailies is confirmed dead on arrival and could be simply put, statements born out of envy and jealousy, especially when he found out that Governor Umahi’s achievements, within two years in office, have dwarfed his abysmal eight years of reign of terror as governor.
“His statement about democracy not being practised in Ebonyi State suddenly after he left office two years ago came as a tragic disappointment on so many fronts. He failed to deliver on its core mission of misleading the populace and branding a new era of political fortune and achievements we enjoy in the state bad and bending the minds of the people into believing that at his age, he cannot tell lies” Umahi had replied him.
The leadership of the PDP in the state, speaking through its state chairman, Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi, described Elechi as a “tasteless salt which has lost value and relevance in the politics of Ebonyi State.”
The PDP further warned the APC to be wary of the personality of the former governor which it described as a man of “unsteady character,” stressing that the former governor who is now over 80 years of age had lost “honour and political relevance” among the political class and in the political arena of the state because of his selfish political style.
According to Nwebonyi, there was no way one could trust a man who openly said power would shift to Ebonyi South zone of the state before the last election in 2015 and towards the end of his tenure, he reversed himself by bringing another candidate from Ebonyi Central zone as his successor.
The PDP chairman further alleged that during the tenure of Chief Martin Elechi, there were lots of deceptive activities such as commissioning of uncompleted projects and lopsided appointments.
Hear him: “It was during Chief Martin Elechi’s administration that we had such problem in the party. He tried to impose candidates on Ebonyians and we resisted it and made the choice of Engineer David Umahi.
“Elechi is just reporting himself to the world. During his administration, if you are not related to the kindred of his family, there is nothing for you and for you to be a Council Chairman and Exco member; you must be from his wife’s kindred.
“We said no to Martin Elechi’s imposition of candidate during last election because PDP is known for internal democracy; he failed woefully and by his age, he should be retiring from politics; he is supposed to be carrying himself with respect but he has lost his honour because of his fraudulent activities.
“Before the end of his administration, he commissioned uncompleted projects in the state; the centenary city, international market among others. Who is deceiving who? He pretended to be a saint when he came on board but he disappointed us woefully.
“He is terrible and a man of questionable character; he is about 80 something years old. He promised that power would shift to the South senatorial zone of the state but he reneged on it by trying to make his in-law governor. What type of a person is that? He is not to be trusted.
“He opposed power moving to the Ebonyi South Senatorial zone and the move was resisted. We made him the governor and we threw him out of office. He is ungrateful to the party that made him governor for eight long years.
“He has no people; nobody is with him; if he had clout, he would have brought someone during the last local government election to contest. The only thing he is doing is using APC to shield himself. Nigerians are tired of APC; they promised us change but we never knew it was chain; they have chained our economy and every aspect of people’s lives.
“In reality, there is no APC; APC leadership is disarray; they should be wary of him. He is a fair weather friend; he has proved his real self as a man of unsteady character” Nwebonyi added.
However, as interesting as the political war between the duo appears, it does not seem like one that would end soon. Although, many people, at the moment, believe that former Governor Martin Elechi might use the federal might to browbeat Governor David Umahi in 2019 governorship election in the state, only time will tell if the scenario will play out.