Wike, Umahi in heated exchange over defection
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday rebutted an allegation by the governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. David Umahi that the party has been unfair to the southeast which happens to be one of its strongholds since 1999.
The governor who dumped the PDP on Tuesday, November 17 for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had cited alleged injustice meted out to the zone for ditching the party under which he was state chairman, deputy governor for eight years and elected twice as governor.
However, spokesman for the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan said in a statement in Abuja yesterday that the party said it had not, in any way, neglected the southeast in the scheme of things.
He said between 1999 and 2015 when the part was in power at the centre, the zone had produced five senate presidents and a deputy; deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, a chairman of the party and in the last presidential election, the running mate of the party’s presidential candidate.
The list showed that the southeast produced senators Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and Kenechukwu Nnamani as dsenate presidents; Mr. Ike Ekweremadu who held the position of deputy senate president for 12 years, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha as deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and Messrs Vincent Ogbulafor and Okwesilieze Nwodo as PDP chairmen.
Ologbondiyan added: “Under the PDP, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika was Chief of Army Staff. Under the PDP, Dr. Charles Soludo was CBN Governor. Under the PDP, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was Minister of Finance.
“Under the PDP, Prof. Maurice Iwu was the INEC chairman. Under the PDP, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim was secretary to the government of federation (SGF).
“Under the PDP, Governor Dave Umahi was acting state chairman, state chairman, deputy governor and now governor for two terms.
“Under the PDP, Governor Dave Umahi’s younger brother, Chief Austin Umahi was national vice-chairman, South-east.
“Under the PDP, Mr. Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, was made the PDP vice presidential candidate in 2019 general election.”
“What has the APC done for the people of the southeast?”
Meanwhile, the governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike has attributed Umahi’s defection to his (Umahi’s) 2023 presidential ambition.
“My friend, Umahi, wants to be president. There is no problem about that. You have a right to be president. Nobody can stop you. You are educated. You have been a governor for two terms, so you are qualified to say I want to be president of Nigeria. But that does not mean that you have to blackmail your party, and tell lies to the people you are leaving the party because of the injustice out to the southeast. That is not correct,” Wike had said while reacting to Umahi’s defection on Tuesday.
Speaking on Arise Television yesterday, Wike who responded to Umahi’s allegations against him in an interview with the same TV station insisted that Umahi told him in confidence that he wants to be president of Nigeria in 2023.
“He told me he wanted to run for president, and I told him it was not a matter of personal interest and personal decision of one man to become the presidential flag bearer of the party, but a collective decision of all the party members.
“When he told me about it, I said listen, PDP as a party has to sit down and talk, the presidency of Nigeria is not by you saying I will be president. It has to do with everybody in the party sitting down and looking at the pros and cons and say okay yes we think that the South-east should have it. That is the way it is done; it is not because you are interested and, therefore, it must be done your way.
“If you look at his interview, he said he will retire from politics in 2023. So, when is he going to fight against the injustice against the people of southeast? You heard what members of the PDP in the national assembly have said. We all want the southeast to have a shot but you cannot achieve that by giving the PDP conditions that if they don’t zone it then you leave. The party you are going to, have they zoned it to the southeast? If that was the case then you would have been able to convince people that because the APC has zoned it to the southeast I am leaving to fight for the injustice done to the people of southeast.”
He said Umahi’s defection will not affect the fortunes of the PDP in Ebonyi State.
“The mistake people often make is that if a party does not have a governor in a state they cannot win an election in that state. Umahi’s defection will not have any effect on us. Why are we even talking about it? Like I have said, the constitution guarantees him freedom of association.”
He accused Umahi of trying to blackmail the PDP and jeopardise its chance of winning in 2023 stating that Umahi has been romancing with the APC for over three years.
Umahi had accused Wike of being a “dictator” who “remote controls” the PDP.
He warned Wike against “attacking” him over his decision to the leave the PDP.
“I refused to join issues with Wike because he is my friend. But Wike must know that he is a dictator. Wike must know that one person cannot be called a crowd. Wike must know that a lot of governors in PDP are not very happy with him. He remote-controls the party,” the Ebonyi governor said.
“He (Wike) said that I made my brother the vice-chairman. I fund the PDP southeast from A to Z. And he has forgotten that he singlehandedly made Secondus the (PDP) chairman. He has forgotten that he wanted to impose one of his own as minority leader of the house.
“There is nothing that happens in PDP without his authorisation. He once said that PDP national working committee members are beggars and bribe takers. I have asked him that let’s not take on ourselves or else it will be very dangerous.
“So, let’s us face the party. The party does not belong to him. And this is by no means personal, and he is demonstrating the dictatorial tendencies in him by taking on me, a fellow governor. And that is very shameful.”
Umahi also claimed that more governors will leave the PDP, if Wike does not stop “remote-controlling what happens in other states”.
“APC does more consultation. Anybody can contravene this that PDP working committee is being remote-controlled and that is the truth and it is very dangerous and all the governors know that,” Umahi said.
“You (Wike) cannot stay in your state and you will be remote-controlling what happens in other states. Unless that changes, you will see a lot of governors leaving the party,” he said.
When asked how certain he was that the APC will treat the southeast better or zone the presidency to it, he said: “How will you know about a house you have not entered? I am still outside the house. When I enter the house, I will know but I want you to know that my moving to APC is not because they will give their ticket to the South-east or they will give it to me. I don’t ever fight for myself. I am a pencil in the hand of God. It doesn’t matter what anybody says, I stay within the limit of my calling. So, I am protesting against the injustice by a political party and that is where it ends.”
On what likely impact he will make in APC being a new member rather than the PDP where he had more influence, he stated: “You do not stay at your comfort zone when your people are being marginalised and maltreated and you have to understand that protest is constitutional and people do not protest because they are not comfortable in that place. They protest because some of the people around them and within them are not comfortable. I protest because the South-east people are being maltreated. It is all about protest and if it doesn’t yield results today, it will yield results tomorrow.”
The governor also said he will not be disappointed if the APC fails to zone the presidency to the South-east, adding that his reason for defecting to the APC is not because of zoning the presidential ticket to the South-east.
“It depends on what you are thinking. If I am going to the APC because they must zone the presidency to the South-east and they fail to do that that is when it will become a blow. When you protest, you do so because of the injustice done to others.
“And so, I am not protesting because APC must do this or do that. I am telling PDP, ‘look you must put your house in order, you must be fair to all,” that is just the message.
“If the southeast stays 23 years in APC and they fail to zone the presidency to them, that is when you have a grouse to also protest and to agitate. But now, you don’t really have the mouth to insist that they must zone it. But if you look at the mood of the nation, I believe strongly that the APC may consider it…and I want you to check the running of the APC as a party and that of the PDP.
“In APC, even though the president is the leader of the party, he does not remote control the party. But one or two persons are remote controlling (sic) PDP. I cannot belong to such a party.”
With ThisDay, TheCable reports