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.