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Ebonyi spoils for 2019 hostilities

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David Umahi of Ebonyi State.


And Another Prof Resigns…
Signs of the possibility that Governor David Umahi Nweze would round off his first term in office the same way he began it, emerged last Monday. The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Bernard Odoh, resigned his appointment. The governor’s initial pick for the post of Chief of Press Secretary, Prof. Aja Akpuru Aja, walked away in similar manner after showing up in office for a few days.

Prof. Aja’s replacement, an easygoing senior journalist from Punch Newspapers, Mr. Emma Anya, was later to been shown the way after ten months in office. So, when the Ezza-born former SSG quit in anger over what the Geophysicist described as irreconcilable principles, particularly lack of convivial atmosphere to give his best in office, the action sounded not only as a deprecation of the governor’s leadership style, but also a throwback to the bellicose 2015 governorship poll in the state.
 
Prof. Odoh, it should be noted, attracted a lot of misgivings from Governor Umahi’s close allies, especially those who prosecuted the 2015 governorship battle under the canopy of Divine Mandate Group, the campaign organisation that managed the governor’s electoral onslaught. Umahi was taken in by Odoh electioneering style that paraded a lot of youthful energy, intellectual savvy and panache.

2015 Divided Governorship
ONLY those who vividly recall the heat, hullabaloo and intrigues that characterized the 2015 governorship poll in Ebonyi would place the former SSG’s resignation in correct perspective. A quick rehash of that hot electoral combat would serve as a dark backcloth to enhance understanding of the full import and purport of the resignation and its innuendo.
 
Ebonyi has five main geopolitical clans, including Abakaliki (comprising Izzi and Ohaukwu), Ezza, Ikwo, Afikpo and Ohaozara (comprising Ivo and Ohaozara). At the build up to the 2015 election, the then governor, Chief Martin Elechi, sidelined his then Deputy, Umahi, who hails from Uburu in Ohaozara local council to settle for the then Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, as his preferred candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket.
  
Stunned by that disappointing development, Umahi decided to fight for his political future, feeling that Elechi, who had always given him the impression that as deputy governor, he (Umahi) was being groomed to take over had changed his mind.
   
In 2008, Elechi breached the political arrangement that a person from the Abakaliki clan in the Ebonyi North Senatorial district should take over the chairmanship of PDP from Central Senatorial district, since the power sharing arrangement predicates that governorship would go to Ebonyi South Senatorial zone, made up of Afikpo and old Ohaozara.
 
With the transitional leadership crisis in the state chapter of PDP, which Elechi inherited from former Governor Sam Egwu, Umahi was brought in first as caretaker chairman and ultimately imposed on the party as state chairman through Elechi’s proclamation of ‘Carry Go’ endorsement of unopposed election of most of the caretaker committee members as the substantive State Working Committee members.
  
As PDP chairman, Umahi employed strong-arm tactics to whip agitators against the zoning arrangement into line. Key leaders of the campaign against Elechi’s unilateral review of the powersharing arrangement in the party were chased out of the party into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which national chairman then was Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who hails from same Uburu community as Umahi.
 
The letter of resignation by Prof. Odoh spelt out the 2019-mindedness of its author: “What is ahead of us is more important than what is behind us.” It also captured the governor’s perceived proclivity to high handedness and distaste for dissent, which Elechi actually pointed out as one of the reasons he felt disinclined to support his deputy to succeed him.
 
But hidden in the exit missive was the poignant objection to Umahi’s blank endorsement for all legislators of the PDP to enjoy automatic return ticket. Prof. Odoh, who knows that his political life should not begin and end as a government scribe, seem to have felt that the governor’s declaration evidences his autocratic tendencies.
 
Although Governor Umahi had explained that all legislators both at the state and national levels should be allowed automatic ticket to avoid unnecessary bickering, most politicians think it was a gesture to facilitate the governor’s unopposed second term flag.
  
Of course, as SSG, Odoh must have privilege information about the governor’s designs to ride roughshod back into office, as well as, the plan by the old Abakaliki bloc to use their numerical strength to check the incumbent’s excessive use of political power, especially economically pauperizing their people.  
 
Therefore, as a smart young man, Prof. Odoh sensed that the harmattan haze of 2019 had started blowing into governance decisions and decided to vote with his feet. “I have reviewed my current stand in your administration and I feel strongly convinced that the convivial atmosphere required for peak performance of team members is lost with emphasis to the shenanigan orchestrated against me by overzealous EXCO members at Executive Council meeting of 28 March 2018,” his resignation letter read.

Governor Falls For Bait
IT is not certain whether Prof. Odoh wanted to earn political capital or protect himself with the armour of public opinion by his dramatic exit from the Umahi administration. But if nothing else, he succeeded in showcasing the governor as a charming tyrant.  
 
Event at that, discreet searches did not reveal any evidence that the former SSG consulted any of their common friends before taken the decision to quit Ebonyi Government House. His frosty relationship with the governor must have boiled over to the extent that he did not want anybody to dissuade him from the radical action.
  
He sounded resolute: “In conclusion, I am fully aware of the consequence of my action knowing full well that you will go after me, my immediate family, friends and those who served with me in line with your principles of “crushing and grinding” whoever that differ with your ideologies and aspirations as has been demonstrated in recent times.”
 
What was demonstrated in recent times? Was the SSG, alluding to the sack of the former Attorney General, or the alleged attack on a journalist or the governor’s speech at the reception by the people of old Ohaozara two months ago, when he said those who attempt to deny him a second would be ground to powder?
  
Expectedly, the governor responded to the resignation in a manner that seems to buttress the former SSGs apprehensions. Although he quickly appointed a replacement, the governor descended into vitriol, threatening to open an investigation into an alleged attempt by the former scribe to interfere in a murder in his community.

Prof. Odoh was said to have called the Police commissioner asking him to ensure that justice was done in the matter involving a local government coordinator, who despite being in detention was still signing official documents.

Not minding that he had rejected the resignation on the grounds that it came on a public holiday and confused as to how best to requite the recalcitrant former aide, the exasperated governor stated: “I will find out if he breached his oath of office through the contents of the letter and challenge him in court to prove all the allegations he made.” Expressing apparent apprehension about the effect of Odoh’s sudden exit on his second term aspiration, Umahi declared: “People act most times without knowledge as David said in the Bible that the most painful thing about Absolom’s betrayal is that it came from a person he loved most.”

Looking back on 2015, the governor said, “When I received the heaviest dose of betrayal in 2015, I had no Executive Council, House of Assembly and even SSG to say the least, presently these organs are in place. “I am sure to have at least five faithful followers in an EXCO of 60 and would therefore not retreat or surrender.”With this development, the battle cry for 2019 has sounded. What remains is to see the combatants, their battle gears and battle positions.


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