From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi has described the number of aspirants that have emerged from South-South and South West for the presidential election in 2023 as a betrayal of loyalty of the South East on rotational presidency.
This is even as he has described the presence of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the race for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be another wonder of the world.
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The Governor, who met with President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja to present him a “Thank you” letter from Southeast leaders following his recent two-day working visit to Ebonyi, told State House Correspondents, the South as a whole made a demand that the presidency should rotate between the north and South.
According to him, the South East had thought that having supported South West for eight years and supported South-South for six years, it will be their turn come 2023 for fairness, equity and justice.
Umahi said but the south east became suspicious that collective, sincere and genuine request was being sabotaged with the number of aspirants that have come out to seek to fill the height office in the land come 2023.
He said: “We were all part of that meeting on the side of the southern governors. But some of us, you know, thought it was a collective request. And it was, you know, a sincere and genuine request and we believe it is.
“But we also thought that they had South East in mind, since South East has supported South West for eight years and supported South-South for six years. And this was the thoughts that the South East, you know, had in mind. But when the game became on, and a lot of people from South West, a lot of people from South-South and their numbers in each of these regions, you know, are even more than that of South East.
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“Our people became suspicious of this collective request and agitation. And so they’re demanding that if the basis of asking for presidency to come to the South, is on the platform of that equity, justice and fairness, that on moral ground that South East should have the right of first refusal. But that is not the case. And so a lot of people are beginning to think that in the first place, it was not a genuine demand. And it wasn’t based on fairness, equity and justice. And that it could be termed to be blackmail.
“And so our position is that look, if everybody from the South is going to be vying for this, then, why is it that everybody from the north, you know, who wishes not join to vie for it. Meaning that we’ve jettison the so called equity, justice and the fairness, and there will be jettisoning zoning.
“And so I wouldn’t know how anybody else outside South East and maybe North East, will be talking about equity, fairness and justice, if such a person is also contesting.
“So that platform could be termed to be, a ploy to deceive or in another language, a blackmail.
“Our position remains that it is the turn of South East, if it is to rotate between north and the South. And if it is thrown open on the basis of these two regions, North East and the South East, then they’ll have equal steak, if we’re talking about justice, equity and fairness. But if that’s not what we’re talking, then it will be immoral for South East people to join. And we will continue to demand for a southen president, I think they should come out of that dream and begin to ask for South East presidency.”
Speaking on Jonathan joining the race for the presidency on the platform of ruling party, Umahi said that it would be difficult for the ruling party to campaign with Jonathan as its presidential candidate.
He said even though there have been denials regarding the former President’s rumoured move to the APC, if he eventually joins the ruling party it would be a material for Guinness Book of Records.
The Governor wondered how the APC would reconcile its policies and promises with those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under which Jonathan was President.
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Asked his perspective on the Jonathan in the race, he said: “Jonathan is my father and God used him and the wife to make me a governor of the state and so, anybody who has done anything for me, I’ve always remained very grateful to such person and I will continue to be very grateful to him, the wife for being available and my destiny helper, to achieve that feat.
“Probably if that miracle did not take place, then the miracles that happened in Ebonyi State, in terms of total evolution and transformation wouldn’t have taken place.
“So, he’s a man we can’t forget, just like Sani Abacha, who created the state and Mr. President. Of course, we’ve named the airport after him, we’ve named the light tunnel after him, we’ve named the Presidential Lodge after him.
“Good intention that we don’t forget people who have helped us, but on the question of joining, I may not say much about that because I’ve seen a lot of write-ups, denials, but if a decides to join and to run, it will, for me, become one of the wonders in this century.
“The reason is that if you go and see the campaign programmes of APC and you now ask President Jonathan to come and run, I don’t know what will be our campaign promises and what will be the stories we’ll be telling Nigerians.
“I believe strongly that he was not aware of the forms and I want to believe that people that are mischievous would have bought the forms to embarrass him.
“But from what I read, he has quickly distanced himself from that. But like I said, if that is not the case, then the Guinness Book of Records is not totally filled up.”
On political solution on the issue of leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu to deescalate tension in the zone, Umahi said, Buhari has finished his beat by agreeing to the deal but Ohaneze Ndigbo has been the one foot-dragging and refusing to do the needful.
He said: “On the issue of political solution, I’ve said it and I can’t say better than what I’ve said, many months back. I had explained to you here, when I met with Mr. President, I had a very detailed and frank discussion about that particular matter, because you know, South East people are tired. And I’ve always said that we are not in of the support agitation to secede from the Nigerian nation. We want to belong to a Nigerian nation. And as the chairman of South East governors forum, I’ve said it publicly ,I’ve defended it. I don’t care about the attacks. I don’t care about those who have taken to politics of that unfortunate matter in our place.
“And so Mr. President graciously granted my request for political solution. But you see, when Mr. President repeatedly says the matter is in court, we must appreciate his pedigree and his integrity. We cannot just ask Mr. President and he will say, okay, I’m going to destroy the matter in court. No. But there’s always room for dialogue, and out of court settlement. And that’s what we’re looking for. And then, Mr. President, said your cultural leadership should be able to initiate that with the Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer.
“It’s been over six months, I have been begging the Ohaneze president to take up that responsibility. When I was going to take that permission, he supported it, and we all agreed. And then our leader, Chief Mbazuluike has also met the president and he was well received. And, you know, he told us that the president is also well disposed to political solution.
“Mr President is a man with a good heart, he is a kind man, a man who would release billions of Naira to his worse baseless critics, at the time of election, you know, I wouldn’t do that as Mr. President.
“I need to be very frank, I’ve never seen such a good heart. And so he has no joy in the incarceration of anybody, he has no joy in the pains of anybody. He is a man that would say, use this instrumentality to go after my perserved enemies.
“So that is the position. So we are waiting for the president of ohaneze to kickstart this political dialogue. And I’ve met with the Attorney General, he is very well disposed to it. I’ve met the director general of SSS and he is very well disposed. I’ve met with the IGP. So the ball is in our hands. And the President, you know, has discharged himself creditably as a man of peace and a father to every section of this country.”