By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
Ebonyi Governor, Dave Umahi, during his interactions with State House correspondents Tuesday after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari, spoke about his presidential ambition and how the South East can lobby the Federal Government to find political solution to Nnamdi Kanu’s release as well as end insecurity in the region.
Purpose of visit:
Recall that in September, I came to see Mr. President to invite him to Ebonyi State to commission some of our completed projects, and lay foundation stones for some of our ongoing projects, especially the Ebonyi State International Airport. But while we were in Paris together, I asked him to defer the visit to the first quarter of 2022, which he graciously approved for me. So today, I came to re-invite him to come and commission our numerous projects in Ebonyi State in South East for March 15, 2022. So, we are working on that.
I also briefed the President on the ongoing international airport of Ebonyi State of which I requested for his assistance; it’s taking due process. And I believe that Mr. President, if he finds merit in it will definitely assist us to purchase airport equipment to enable us commission the airport about end of May 2022.
Of course, we discussed politics. We also discussed security in the South East and that is the major reason for the visit.
You said you discussed politics, does it have to do with your presidential ambition?
Well, generally, yes and no. We discussed politics as the growth of our party, APC in Nigeria and South East. And, of course, you know, the interest of South East, for the seat of president in 2023. And of course, I told Mr. President that without prejudice to whatever will be the decision of the party, which we shall abide by, that if the party throws the ticket open or zones it to the Southern part of Nigeria that I believe that with what I have put in place in the past six years plus, that I’ll be running for presidency, on the platform of APC. Of course, he believes that whoever wants to run for president of this country must have to consult widely, go to all the leaders and that we must do everything to remove ethnicity and religion in our politics so that this country can grow.
You left the PDP because you said they did not zone the Presidential ticket to the South East, what are your chances of emerging the APC presidential candidate given the fact that Bola Tinubu declared yesterday (Monday)?
The Bible that I swore with, a section of in 1 Samuel says that by strength shall no man prevail, and power and might belongs to God. He chooses whomever he wills and he will do that in 2020. I’m not in contest with anybody; I’m in contest with myself.
In terms of consulting widely, have you began your consultation?
I wouldn’t have done that without first coming to clear with Mr. President, that there is this feeling in the South East that the zone has not produced the president since 1999 and that people feel that those of our leaders in the various political parties should indicate interest to contest. And this is fair, this is important. But at the end of the day, it is God Almighty and the political parties that will also decide.
Your Plateau State colleague, Simon Lalong told reporters that you were going to meet last Sunday on party convention but the meeting didn’t hold. Are the APC governors likely to meet as regards the party’s convention. Is the February date still realistic for holding the APC national convention?
I’m not Mr. President who must have the final say on the date for convention. And I don’t believe that the governor you mentioned should have spoken for the party. Because if it is APC governors forum, we have a leader, the chairman who is His Excellency, the governor of Kebbi State. He wasn’t even aware of the meeting when I called him. And if it is the party’s administration, we have His Excellency, the governor of Yobe State. And I think these two would have been able to speak to the press, if we’re going to have such a meeting on Sunday. So I was not aware but I had to enquire from the chairman of APC Governors Forum who wasn’t also aware. So I’m not sure the meeting held.
But I read in the newspapers sometimes when the party leadership came to brief Mr. President, and they told him that in February, the convention will hold. Mr. President said yes. He is not a man that says yes and says no, at the same time; he is a man of integrity, he is a man of his words. So, I believe that if he ever said February that he is going to stick to that February. I am very sure of that but it is for him to speak or for the party leadership to speak. I speak for my state.
Have you made your intention to run known to Ohanaeze Ndigbo and if you have, what have they said?
Ohaneze leadership should not play politics. Yes, they can speak for the interest of the South East; they can speak for fair treatment to the South East as a people but as a matter of equity, justice and fairness, and leaving a level playing field for all the political parties and the aspirants. They should not dabble into politics or whom to support or whom not to support. I think that they hear it just like they heard about other political parties aspirants. We will also write them to notify them that yes, they have capable sons and daughters that if God wills, that we could do this job.
What is President Buhari going to see when he comes to Ebonyi State?
First and foremost, it is not fair to ask what he is coming to see because I’m sure you know what Mr. President is coming to see. We have completed 13 twin flyovers, each one going between 300 meter length to 500. We are doing the next to flyovers. We have completed a mall that is not like any other mall in the entire West Africa. We’ve completed the best university in this country, which we tagged, University of Medical Sciences, with all the Center of Excellence, all with equipment. You have the artificial bed there, the best eye center, the cancer center, the liver center, kidney transplant center, the heart surgery center. And so, the center is the best of its kind in the whole of Africa.
Mr. President, will also be commissioning very uncommon flyover complex, which he laid the foundation stone. And this flyover is quite complex, and it’s called President Buhari’s flyover tunnel.
Mr. President, will also see the first airport in West Africa whose runway is being constructed with concrete. Mr. President will also be seeing the three industrial clusters, Mr. President will be seeing the biggest international markets in West Africa. Mr. President, will be seeing a lot of over 500 kilometers of completed eight inches concrete roads. Mr. President will be seeing a lot of agric projects in the state completed, fertilizer plants and so on and so forth.
What is Umahi Presidency bringing on board?
Yeah. God willing, and if it’s the wish of the people of this country, Umahi’s presidency, will be looking at the same thing we did in Ebonyi State. Before we came on board, we were a state written off, we had nothing to write home about infrastructure. But I must commend the first two civilian governors, Dr. Sam Egwu and Chief Martins Elechi, they did quite a lot, because they came in the midst of the dust of the nation, Ebonyi State. And so they had, you know, quite a lot of challenges. So I can say that they laid the foundation upon which I started to build. And so there are a lot of things that we have done in Ebonyi.
We have the best Government house, you can see anywhere, we have the best EXCO chamber and the largest you cannot see anywhere. And so we intend to replicate the same thing. And I believe that with the little resources we have and people have been asking us how did you do it? Or how do you do it? And it’s all about patriotism. It’s all about fear of God, it’s all about bringing in our experience to bear. I have been into construction since I graduated. So I have a lot to give in terms of how to run governance as business because you have to have the heart to help the people and that’s what we’ve demonstrated in Ebonyi.
So we want to treat the nation if God permits, that what we’ve done becomes a microcosm of the macrocosm, of which we expect. We also believe strongly that we’ll be able to continue with what Mr. President has done. One of the greatest problems we have in this country is ethnicity, religion, and unpatriotic features of a lot of people. And I think that there is a need to engage starting from where Mr. President would have stopped.
Let me also add that as the chairman of South East governors forum, that I support a political solution to our insecurity problems in the south East. And of course, I mentioned it to Mr. President.
You see, political solution does not terminate the judicial process. And if you know, Mr. President, very well, he has always said, and has always demonstrated that he wouldn’t interfere with any judicial process; everybody knows him for that. But you remember very well, that if agreement is reached between parties, you don’t expect Mr. President to be the negotiator; there are a lot of Federal Government officials.
And so I believe strongly that as the South East is proposing for political solution, they should be able to engage the Federal Government. After all, there’s always what is called out of court settlement, but it is for our people, and our brother Kanu to be willing for us to truly engage so that we can find true peace in our region. Because, the activities there have destroyed the economy of the South East, a lot of lives have been lost. And we were shouting it that it wasn’t going to benefit us, because agitation shouldn’t have gone the way it did. Today, the matter has gone beyond them. You know, every criminal, kidnapper, armed robber tends to claim IPOB and IPOB in turn is fighting them. But I think, is late.
So we desire peace, we desire to save the lives of our people. And so we are willing to engage, to see that we have an amicable settlement, and you know, rebuild the economy of the South East.
What will be the starting point of the engagement?
You see the leaders of the South East, of course, not all of them, they must be selected leaders, and they already have Ohanaeze and Chief Mbazurike Amaechi is already, in the forefront, and we can find true peace in our region. They have always been briefing me and so I’ve joined them together without the South East governors. So, that could be the starting point, and we will be able to know what we want, we want peace. And so there are things we must give up in order to acquire that peace.
Because if we are not being fairly treated, and some people feel we are not being fairly treated, we should be able to constructively show to the Federal Government, the areas we think that we are not being fairly treated, not through hate speeches, not through violence. I don’t believe in these things, because even in homes, in families, you know, the wife or husband or children, we still have one thing or the other against the family, but they should be able to discuss.
Did you share your thoughts with the President. What was his response, was he forthcoming?
If you listened to me very well, Mr. President has never been in disagreement for peace, or anything that will bring peace. But you must allow him, you know, for what he believes in and for his pedigree and integrity, not to interfere with the judiciary, but it is up to us because the by-product of our discussion and negotiation is such that we can now go to the court and seek out of court settlement, and whatever is the agreement becomes the settlement of the court.
So, I believe strongly that a political solution, would be far better than the process which may last for very long time.