From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
All things being equal, the protracted cold war between Governor Dave Umahi and his predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi may have come to an end. For followers of events in the state, the possible light at the end of the tunnel came recently when the two estranged political associates sat through a peace talk organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Ebonyi State chapter. At the end of the meeting which held at the Pastoral Centre, Mile 50 Abakaliki, the power brokers came out hugging each other and smiling with many surprised at the turn of events in the state.
Recall that immediately after last year’s general election and swearing in of new administrations in various states, it did not take Ebonyi State people long to understand there was no love lost between Elechi and his successor, Umahi. However, what kept many bewildered and sent them to speculation mill was the obviously dangerous silence of the former especially since the inception of the present administration in the state.
Before now, Umahi had been the only cock crowing in the state, adumbrating and enumerating various ills of the past government in which he served as deputy but Elechi had remained silent in the face of the various allegations levelled against him by his successor. Since the emergence of Umahi as governor of the state, the two have been on each other’s throat, exchanging words on various platforms until last week’s peace talk organized by Ebonyi State chapter of CAN.
The meeting which started at 2pm was attended by various stakeholders including the founding fathers and members of the National Assembly from the state as well as members of Umahi’s cabinet.
Held under closed door, the meeting lasted for several hours before Governor Umahi and his predecessor came out of the hall smiling and hugging each other which signalled the end of the feud. Umahi who refused to talk to journalists jokingly said: “we have settled, you press people are always looking for trouble, go, we have settled.’’
Though the two political heavyweights declined to speak to newsmen on the outcome of their peace meeting, it was gathered that there were issues raised by both parties and concessions were made on both sides. Part of the peace agreement according to an insider included withdrawal of petitions against the former governor over alleged mismanagement and diversion of funds by lieutenants of Governor Umahi as well as naming some of the projects after Elechi.
Umahi had upon assumption of office renamed the Ochudo city, a mega modern city built by his administration to become Centenary city. Elechi embarked on the massive construction of state of the art secretariat that could house all the ministries and departments which was named after him but Umahi changed it to Centenary city few months after he took over.
With the reconciliation, people are expecting the two parties to abide by the terms of the agreement and allow peace to reign while majority said Umahi moved for the peace because his second term bid may be heading to the rocks if he had allowed the status quo to remain.
Though many believed that the way providence threw Umahi to the governorship seat of Ebonyi State was enough to infuriate his predecessor who had against all odds and persuasions from various quarters insisted that never shall his deputy succeed him, the crisis was expected to have died immediately the election was won and lost.
Not too many people knew what was the problem between former governor Elechi and his erstwhile deputy and until the relationship between the two went awry over the issue of succession.
Elechi had insisted that power should go to the Ebonyi South senatorial zone after his eight year tenure to balance what he termed political equilibrium of the state. He had carried out the campaign shortly after he was sworn in for the second term.
Many political watchers didn’t believe Elechi was sincere to the promise until towards the end of his administration when the bubble burst. Umahi, the former state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state was picked by Elechi as his deputy in the build up to the 2011 general election after he dropped Prof Chigozie Ogbu who completed his eight years as deputy from Sam Egwu’s second term to Elechi’s first term.
A battle for political supremacy ensued between the former governor and his deputy shortly after Elechi had settled for the former Minister for Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu as his choice candidate to succeed him. The development was in contravention of the alleged deal struck between Elechi and Umahi that he (Elechi) will hand over to him.
When it became obvious that Elechi had reneged on the promise, Umahi took his political destiny in his own hands. However, he took that bold step as a political orphan as Elechi and his men, mostly his henchmen, stuck with their master.In the cause of this fierce battle for political survival, Umahi met a gold mine; he met a stream of aggrieved minds including those who felt aggrieved by Elechi’s style of leadership, prominent among whom were the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF), Senator Pius Anyim and the former governor of the state who handed over power to Elechi, Senator Sam Egwu among others.
The political battle was fought from various camps with both Elechi and Umahi mounting warlords at various strategic places all geared toward winning the soul of Ebonyi State. Elechi’s field commander, Chinedu Ogar, the then youth Leader of the state chapter of PDP was the bearer of Elechi’s vision for the emergence of the immediate past Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu as Elechi’s successor.
The Calvary force in Elechi’s ‘army’ were sprinkling of loyalists in the federal and state assemblies and several state appointees which included his members of the Executive Councils who stuck with him till the time some of them realized they were fighting a lost battle and pitched tent with Umahi.
In Umahi’s camp were ground troops which included former Governor Egwu, former Speaker of the State Assembly but now a federal lawmaker, Mr. Chukwuma Nwazunku, and former state PDP chairman, Ugorji Amaoti.
Elechi who was six months away from completing his second term as governor of the state had endorsed Prof Chukwu as successor against the agreement entered with Umahi which factionalized the party and threw the state into political crisis.
On the other hand, Anyim and Egwu who used to be political foes made up and reportedly felt slighted that Elechi failed to clear with them before adopting Chukwu as his successor and Umahi being a smart politician cashed in on the mistake and got himself adopted by the two major power brokers in the state. Though Egwu and Anyim were initially considered as enemies but they reconciled by forming a dangerous alliance against a common foe, Elechi.
The duo reportedly amassed ground forces and found in Umahi a missile to prosecute their war. Anyim and Egwu, realized that to be able to fight Chukwu, they needed a candidate from the same senatorial zone, a man with financial muscle to match Elechi and his preferred candidate money for money.
Chukwu, a professor of medicine, is from Afikpo while Umahi, an engineer, is from Uburu, both of the Ebonyi South senatorial zone.
Umahi riding on the back of Anyim and Egwu had conscripted the former PDP national chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, and Chief Olisa Metuh, the party’s national publicity secretary and that was how to wrestle Elechi down and get the party ticket began.
Metuh was raised in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, and apart from being Egwu’s childhood friend, many believe that he used to be the governor’s front.
Besides, both the PDP national chairman and Egwu served as governors of Bauchi and Ebonyi states respectively from 1999 to 2007 on the PDP platform.
With the political firepower of the quartet of Abuja-based Muazu, Anyim, Metuh and Egwu, sooner than Elechi could realize, a superior power disorientated former Governor Elechi’s Ogar- led army.
While Elechi was still protesting against the way the party hierarchy was handling the matter in Abuja, Umahi and his men were at the state conducting the primary election which threw him up as the party’s candidate.
Elechi, after protesting the way and manner the primary election was conducted in his absence felt betrayed by the party and left with his men and pitched tent with the Labour Party candidate, Mr. Edward Nkwegu.
Umahi ran his campaign all through without Elechi’s presence or support and later won the election.