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Ebonyi-state, a salt of the nation losing its taste

For  over 80 years  that he  sojourned on this planetary enclave, the late  governor  of the defunct  Eastern  Region  Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam- the Eze Ogoh of Uwana remained  irrepressibly vociferous in his agitation of a state for his own  people.  The demand was a product of perceived neglect, rejection and marginalization of people that according to him had suffered unfold retardation in growth and development.
True to the adage that in every cloud, there must be a silver lining, the late General Sani Abacha dreaded as the worst dictator in the nation’s political history was to grant the age long desire when he created what is toady known as Ebonyi state.
 The state which currently boasts of 13 local government councils prides itself as the salt of the nation and has undoubtedly undergone series of developmental metamorphosis.
However, the current unfolding drama in the state is a pointer that its salinity is gradually drying up, leaving in its trail, sand, stones and broken objects that are unfit for construction. The genesis is battle for the occupation of the state’s number office and the gladiators are the state Chief executive Martin Elechi and his deputy Dave Umahi, an engineer.
To all keen observers of the politics of the salt of the nation, the situation if left unresolved before the conduct of the forth coming elections might plunge the state into a state of anarchy, with the visions of the founding father thoroughly stultified office and the gladiators are the state Chief Executive Martins Elechi and his deputy Dave Umahi- an Engineer. To all keen observes  of the  politics  of the salt  of the nation, the situation it left  unresolved before the conduct of the forth coming elections might  plunge the state  into a state of anarchy, with the visions of the founding  father thoroughly  stultified.
The Genesis  of the crisis
The state chairman  of the PDP Hon. Prince Ugorji  Ama Oti had on the 20th of October last year resigned his position to enable him to run  for the House of Representatives elections  and his deputy  Onnie Joseph Onne was allowed to act as chairman pending the election  of a substantive chairman.
According   to the state governor Chief Martin  Elechi, in  the first  meeting  of the state working committee, presided over by Onwe Joseph Onne, he claimed that he was sick and was to visit a hospital for possible surgery.
“As the leader of the party in the  state, I called the state executive  committee of the party  to consider the need and urgency of electing  or appointing a substantive chairman, bearing in  mind that the chain of congresses was less than 10 days  away”.
The state executive of the party reportedly met on 31st Oct 2014 and unanimously appointed one Mazi Ben Akpa in fulfillment of the requirements  of section 47|(6) of the PDP constitution 2012 as amended.
Consequent upon the PDP ward congresses held nationwide Ebonyi state inclusive to elect delegates who would attend   other congresses, especially local government and state congresses, Elechi accused the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Senator Anyim Pius Anyim of distorting the delegate list sent to Abuja.
The governor and the state working committee of the party also protested the use of returning officers allegedly  compiled by the deputy  chairman  of the party  for the local government congress held on the 8thof November last  year, even as he took exception to the dissolution of the State Executive Committee (SEC) without any query to either  himself  or to the state working committee and the subsequent suspension of the state secretary and the state publicity  secretary for allegedly publishing the delegates names.
There were also protests from the 13 LGAs of the state and petition to the national chairman of the party by concerned stakeholders of the party in the state.
 A rally  organized by  the  governor  at the Abakaliki sports stadium  on 22nd November 2014 to drum up support  for President  Goodluck Jonathan who had on the 11th  of November last  year  declared  his intention to run for the forth coming Presidential election was boycotted by the deputy  governor  of the state Engr Dave Umuahi, his  campaign  organization, the  Speaker of the House of Assembly, the senatorial aspirants of  Ebonyi North and central , the Secretary  to  the government  of the Federation.
The state was also treated to illegal congresses and boycotts  defection of PDP members to the labour party, gales  of terror  and attacks  on convoy even  as some members of the state working committee of the PDP were allegedly suspended to function without  four hearing.
Elechi was however countered by Umahi who insisted that his  relationship with the former chairman of the party was the canon fodder that ignited the raging fire.
According  to him “it was their belief (Elechi and the people  around him) that if Prince Oti was allowed to conduct  the affairs  of the party in the up to and during the congresses and primaries, he might  take  decisions that would favour open and transparent process, thereby favouring me for this singular reason, they recommended his removal from his post as chairman  and offered him an untenable ticket for the Federal House of Representatives”. He alleged.
Umahi said that his declaration of intention to run for the governorship of the state was anchored on two man pillars the supreme pillar which he said was divine and the other being the word of honour given  to him by  his boss Chief Elechi.
In his words “for nearly four years, I relied on his solemn promise  to hand over to me at the expiration of his second  tenure. When  I expressed  the very  ambition  that he  fired up in  me, he quickly doused the flames of the ambition and sought to humiliate  and to destroy me  in the process. I relied on a man  that I thought  had integrity. Thanks God that my supreme anchor was not man but divine”.
For the past three and half years as deputy  governor, Umahi claimed  that he had remained a loyal and obedient servant who always stood by his master and delivered on the duties  entrusted to him , just as he had never relented in helping the party (PDP) to deliver on its manifestoes to the people.
He revealed that his commitment and dedication to duty  emboldened his boss to insist that he would succeed him in 2015- a promise which he said the governor made in private  and public places.
“We kept  working  together in  harmony till  the time for party  primaries  and I approached him to  inform  him  of my desire  to  contest  for the governorship  of the  state in line with our  mutual agreement”.
Umahi who said expressed shock  that his boss  was to later  oppose his candidature  said that his  refusal to allow him to stop him from presenting himself for election into the office of the governor  of the state was the  beginning of the face off between him and his boss.
“That  I proceeded to purchase  the expression  of interest  and nomination  forms  for the  governorship  of the state under  the PDP sparked off controversy, but  because, I know  that democracy is a game of  choice. I was not discouraged in presenting myself to the people of Ebonyi who are the only people to chose who leads them on 11th April 2015″ he declared.
Umahi who also  spoke  of  what transpired in the war primaries held on 1st  November, 2014, local government congresses of 8th November, 2014  dissolution of the state executive committee of the party as well as illegal congresses  and boycotts accused Elechi of merely adopting  the disreputable method  of autocrats, explaining that the current  impeachment moves against  the governor by the state House of Assembly is a legislative activity.
Umahi in his defence expressed shock at the volume of accusations and name calling by the governor in his desperate efforts to distort facts and to divert attention from the main issues begging for answers. He said that it was equally unfortunate that the governor could  descend so low as to drag  the names of respectable  and himself leaders  of the party to the mud even without  giving  them a hearing.
Jotted by the unenviable scenario the, the council of elders of the  party (PDP) in the  state led by a former  Minister of Culture  and Tourism, Ambassador Franklin Ogbuewu on the 2nd  of this month (March) bemoaned  that the character and nature  of the state as a peaceful  environment  in which harmony  and good order prevailed had been  dramatically altered with  the media being a wash with government propaganda against the very citizens whose interests the government  is meant to protect, defend and promote.
“For these reasons, therefore, we have made the conscious decision that we can no longer keep quiet as any further silence on our part would be interpreted as acquiescence”.
The council recalled that governor Elechi had in various for a last year canvassed support for the principle of gubernatorial   power shift from the Ebonyi central where it currently resides to Ebonyi South, recollecting that the old Abakaliki block had the governorship position for a consecutive period of 16 years.
According to the Elders Council, the principle enshrined in the charted of equity, where written or unwritten was emphasized by Chief Elechi as containing the  spirit of brotherhood, fairness  and equal opportunities for all Ebonyians- a project it said  was whole heartedly  accepted  by all.
The  body  according to Ogbuewu was however  taken  a back at the unilateral nomination  of former  Health  Minister  Prof.  Onyebuchi Chukwu for the governorship seat by Elechi without  reference  to her members  as was done in 2007 before he (Elechi) emerged as the governor  under the platform of the PDP.
The ex-minister  regretted that every effort that was made to bring  sense and reason into  the governor’s  decision and approach to the transition process was rebuffed by the governor  explaining  that for most of the members  of the council, it was impossible  to stomach the governor’s autocratic stance and therefore made the  choice to back a candidate  different from the governor’s unilateral choice.
On the PDP  primaries held last December  Ogbuewu said that the party duly and  properly  nominated the incumbent  Deputy  Governor of the state, Chief Dave Umahi as its  governorship flag bearer in a keenly  and transparently  contested election at the  Abakaliki Township stadium supervised by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and PDP delegated officials .
Curiously, according to him, the governor’s preferred candidate Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu boycotted the  exercise  and thus failed to present himself  before the people of the state whose right it is to choose their leaders .
Enumerating, the ugly outcomes of the events, Chief Ogbuewu argued that the governor reneged on his promise and undertaking to hand over power to a candidate from Ebonyi South, took his government structure and supporters into the  Labour Party (LP) where he unilaterally nominated one Chief Edward Nkwegu from Izzi in the Ebonyi North as the gubernatorial candidate also nominated one Senator Paulinus  Igwe Nwagu from Ezra  in the Ebonyi  Central as the deputy  governorship candidate  in addition to the nomination of his first son, Chief Elechi N. Elechi  as the senatorial candidate for Ebonyi Central Senatorial district.
“These  action were considered outrageous by the Council of Elders because the principle of power  shift was considered sacrosanct, there cannot  be peace and harmony in Ebonyi state  it the political block that had held the governorship for sixteen(16) unbroken years  is rewarded with another four or  eight years of not only the governorship but also the deputy governorship, stressing that the decision  turn the state government which most of them worked  hard to support and to sustain over to an opposition party, without consultations was not in character with the actions  of a statesman.
The Council warned that the state is not ripe for power dynasty  and is in poor taste for Chief  Elechi not to  have been  sensitive enough  to other  legitimately  competing interests.
However, in what appeared  like a dramatic twist of fate nine members of the State House  of Assembly on 28th February this year in a  declaration entitled a before  lawlessness over takes the land”  regretted  that lawmaking body with  Mr.  Chukwuma Nwazunku as the Speaker had completely degenerated to a political party platform  for the realization of the ambition of  Umahi and who according to them  wants  to rule the state  at all costs and by all means fair and foul.
The aggrieved lawmakers  accused the Speaker  of the House and his faction of vacating  the seats of four members of the House  on the 11th  of  last month and two more seats  on the 24  of the same  month for defecting  to the Labour Party(LP) to realize their political  ambitions at the height of  the divisions and crisis  rocking the PDP in the state.
The lawmakers  in their 14 point  declaration disassociated  themselves  from a motion for a resolution  that a notice  of allegations of gross misconduct purportedly  made against  the governor be investigated  because according  to them, it was purportedly passed by 15 members of the 24 members of the House.
“We cannot, in this life and forever, sign or attempt to sign any document seeking to remove  from the office of the  Governor, His  Excellency, Chief Martin N. Elechi CON. We shall not even attend  any sitting of the House  for now to avoid being forced at gun point to sign anything. We know as a matter of indestructible fact  that “nearly  does not kill a bird” even though   the hunter may claim it makes  him happy.
Undaunted by the position  of these die hard supporters of the governor,  15 members  of the House  were later to slam a notice of allegations of gross  misconduct to ground the impeachment  of the governor, sitting section 188 of the nation’s 1999 constitution  as amended  to rest their close.
The eight- point allegations are appointment of 28 persons as coordinators of 28 Development centres  without prior  screening and confirmation by a simple majority of the House. Thus, the is in contravention  of section  8 of law  No 007 of 2007 (supra), appointment of a caretaker chairmen for each of the 13 local government council of the state without  reference to the House and which runs counter  to the provision of section 7 of the nation’s 1999 constitution as amended appointment of chairmen and or members and directors of certain statutory bodies and companies to wit the state Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) Secondary Education Board (SEB) Universal Basic Education Board(UBEB), state Civil service commission (CSC) Ebonyi Cement  Company Ltd(EBCCC) and Ebonyi Oil and Gas Development Co Ltd (EBOAGDCL), who  assumed office and  had  since  been functioning without  confirmation  by a resolution of the State  House  of Assembly .
Other allegations were  the procurement of a  loan  of three billion Naira (N3b) in August last year from the First Bank of Nigeria Plc, repayable within eleven months on behalf of the state government without  obtaining the necessary consent of the House with due payment  to be  completed in May this year.
Furthermore the lawmakers were miffed the governor took a loan of six billion Naira(N6b) in 2013 from United Bank for Africa Plc, on behalf of the state government without obtaining the necessary consent  of the state Assembly  just  as the state government spent six million, six hundred and seventeen thousand naira incorporating the Ebony Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd with  two hundred million ordinary  shares in the year 2013 surprisingly giving 100,000,000 controlling shares to Edon (Nigeria) Ltd. represented by one Edward Nkwegu.
This, according to them is in addition to 25,000,000 shares to the governor’s son, Elechi N. Elechi, N25,000,000 shares to Best Southern Global, while giving the financier the  Ebonyi State Government a minority shareholding  of 50,000,000.
The legislators  observed that Edon Nigeria Ltd abandoned  the Ebonyi International  Trade Centre which the governor had approved  its  over inflation  to N2,475, 114, 999.50 and the sum of N790,221, 833.25 paid to Edon between 30/6/2008 and 3/4/2012.
According to them, notwithstanding the said abandonment the governor went ahead to award the construction of the International market contract to Edon Nig Ltd at a whopping  sum of  N3,676,942,825.70 with its completion date fixed for 15/10/2013.
Embarrased by the unfolding political drama that might bring his tenure to an abrupt end, the governor swiftly approached a High court of Abakaliki judicial Division presided over by Hon. Justice John Igboji J. where he prayed the court to restrain his traducers and antagonists from carrying out their impeachment plan against  him.
In the suit No:HAB/IMC/2015 dated 4th March 2015, the Applicant (Governor Elechi) who joined the state Chief Judge, the Commissioner  of Police, Ebonyi State police command, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Attorney General of the Federation  and Minister of justice as co-respondents upon  the motion ex-parte  which he brought  pursuant  to order IV rules 3 and 4 (c) (iv) and (v) among  others asked for an interim injunction restraining the State Chief Judge from constituting  a panel of seven persons to investigate the allegations of impropriety leveled against him until he is caused  to be served with notice of impeachment pending determination of the substantive  application.
To all democrats interested in the sustenance of the nation’s16 years civil rule, the on going political drama is unquestionably, an ill wind  that blows no one any good.
This is because when salt loses its taste, its  saltless  cannot  be restored.  It is therefore incumbent upon stakeholders in  the state to prevail  on the  major gladiators and principal actors to allow a sleeping  dog to lie. A situation of anomie,  chaos and anarchy cannot  augur  well  for any society yearning for  modern transformation.
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