Whether some people like it or not, the defection of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is the latest rave of the moment. Apart from the EndSARS news, Umahi’s uncommon carpet crossing is about the most trending news. It has equally hugged the headlines and still dominating the national discourse. Before the defection which was not done in the middle of the night, Umahi can be regarded as one of the best performing governors in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), especially in the South East.
Rather than do it nocturnally as some politicians did, he did it in broad day light for all to see. He didn’t go to APC like Nicodemus went to see Jesus Christ in the dead of night. Prior to his dumping the old PDP to the relatively new APC, although both parties are two sides of the same coin in terms of praxis and orientation, Umahi revealed his resolve to port to APC. He gave the PDP a week’s ultimatum to decide which zone gets the 2023 presidency. At the expiration of the deadline given to the PDP leadership, Umahi carried his bags and left the party that gave him cover in the past 14 years or more.
There is no doubt that Umahi has profited from the PDP umbrella. He transmuted from deputy governor to Governor. He has done his first term and about to complete his second term and found the PDP vehicle unfit or rather unwilling to carry him and by extension his people to the next stage or level. Politicians in this part of the world resort to politics of my people whenever it is convenient for them to do so. And no one should begrudge them. Our politics is not yet the ideal. No democracy is ideal. Not even in God’s own country, America, where things are gradually falling apart on the political horizon where Trump is behaving unpresidentially and undemocratically. It is arguable that democracy is the best form of government. Democracy has been abused left, right and centre by those who swore to abide by its dictates.
Whether Umahi’s political enemies like it or not, his defection has again drawn serious attention to the long quest by the South East geo-political to produce the next Nigerian president in 2023. If the matter has been verbalized for long, Umahi has given it a life of its own. He has given it a practical expression. Umahi is aware that he cannot realise his rumoured presidential ambition in the undecided PDP. Will he get it in APC that is equally undecided on which zone the trophy will go in 2023? Only time will tell. Umahi has not exactly said he would contest the highest post in the land, there are signs that he will not object if given the chance. Some critics, especially those in the PDP are of the view that Umahi is driven by personal ambition. Some even go to suggest that he has committed political suicide by his defection.
While they are entitled to their opinions, is there anything wrong with a person’s political ambition? Is there any Nigerian politician that is not driven by personal or even selfish ambition? When has defection, which almost all Nigerian politicians are guilty of, become an act of political suicide? Why has Umahi’s defection generated so much heat? Is there anything in the defection that PDP leadership saw that the public is not aware of? Why the uncommon weeping and wailing by the PDP? They are not yet wailing wailers as some APC megaphones describe them. Why the continuous weeping and gnashing of teeth by the PDP leaders over the defection of just one governor? Why the weeping if Umahi is of no consequence?
If Umahi is committing political harakiri (ikwu udo) why are the APC celebrating? Why the rousing welcome to the camp of the ‘progressives’? Situating Umahi’s defection and putting it in proper perspective will reveal that his romance with the APC is not new. His love for President Muhammadu Buhari is not hidden. Those who are keen observers of Nigerian politics saw Umahi’s defection coming. Perhaps what they did not know is that it will come with a big bang. In fact, it came with thunder. It came with great applause and clapping of hands. It also came with profuse weeping and verbal missiles from the losers.
The PDP should take all the blames for Umahi’s defection. The party did not put its house in order. Its silence over which zone will take the 2023 presidency is suicidal. Its prevarication on 2023 presidency can be said to be its undoing. But the party can still redeem the situation by zoning the presidency to the South East in 2023. I say this because the party has benefitted so much from the zone’s unalloyed support since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation came onboard. The party has benefitted from the zone more than the ill-advised advertised gains of the zone from the PDP. The PDP has not handled the issue maturely.
The party has not been fair to the zone despite its nebulous claims to the contrary. By situating and contextualizing Umahi’s defection is just to put issues surrounding it in proper perspective considering so much misinformation and revisionism over the matter. The most annoying and insulting is the PDP’s advertised gains the South East got from it. If the PDP is serious, it must be willing to advertise what other zones have gained from the party so that the public can judge. Carpet crossing or defection is an accepted feature of Nigerian politics. It is even sanctioned by our laws.
Arising from this, no one defection should be criminalized or be made fun of or jeered as some PDP leaders are doing now. Defection is not a sin in Nigerian politics. It is so sad that some people who should know better are making Umahi’s defection look like a mortal sin or capital offence. I have no doubt that every defection is a personal or private affair even though camouflaged as a group affair, the politics of my people. If Umahi flew the ethnic card to defend his defection, he was not the first to do so. If he did it for selfish or altruistic reason, only time will tell.
Now that Umahi’s defection has brought to the front burner the South East quest to produce the 2023 presidency, the matter must be pursued with much vigour, unity and sincerity of purpose. That noble and merited quest must not be trivialized or personalized. It should be seen as a group movement. It requires consensus building and reaching out to other Nigerians, North and South for their support. Having supported other zones to produce the presidents of this country, it is their turn to support the South East. The South East zone must be united in the quest and demonstrate seriousness and maturity. Umahi and other politicians from the zone wishing to contest the 2023 presidency must come together and present a common front and agenda. The goal is achievable in 2023 if they can work together.
There is nothing wrong if we can make APC and PDP zone the presidency to the South East considering that no one from that zone has become Nigerian president since 1999. We must maintain presence in both parties. We must sharpen our objectives and strategies. The power rotation arrangement between the North and South favours the South East. There is need for caution on how best the zone would realize the goal.