Politics

Ebonyi: APC, PDP leaders return to the trenches

UCHENNA INYA reports that political leaders in Ebonyi State have returned to the trenches despite efforts by the state’s founding fathers to resolve the political impasse that trailed Governor Dave Umahi’s dumping of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC)

Since November last year, the relationship between Governor Dave Umahi and some prominent leaders in Ebonyi State which used to be cordial and was the envy of all, has continued to be that like of cat and dog following his defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Umahi’s dumping of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through which he was elected shook the state polity to its foundation even as his political former allies immediately became his political rivals, especially when the governor accused them of supporting the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and destabilizing the state.

These allies include former President of the Senate and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim; a former governor of the state and senator representing Ebonyi North Senatorial District, Dr. Sam Egwu, National Assembly members of PDP extraction; National Vice Chairman of the party (South-East), Chief Ali Odefa and Hon. Linus Okorie, a two term member of the House of Representatives (2011-2019). As expected, reaction of the PDP leaders, which hit Umahi hard, worsened the political tension his defection generated.

However, some founding fathers of the state who were worried over the face-off between the governor and his former allies waded in and restored normalcy. The founding fathers in a communique signed by their chairman and a former governor of the state, Chief Martin Elechi and secretary, Dr. Boniface Chima and other members of the forum after their meeting in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, called for ceasefire by the leaders.

Reacting to the meeting, Umahi told journalists that he has moved on with life and has accepted the advice of the founding fathers and appealed to the PDP leaders to also do same. He called on them to caution their followers as according to him, he cannot guarantee what his supporters would do if they do not.

Return to the trenches

The state polity became calm after the intervention by the founding fathers but four months after, the political leaders returned to the trenches. It was the alleged kidnap and torture of Amos Ogbonnaya, a former aide to Umahi that rekindled the rivalry time around.

Ogbonnaya,who has been one of the governor’s critics since he defected to the APC, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by suspected political thugs. Umahi and some of his aides were accused by Amos and PDP leaders in the state of masterminding the incident.

Few days after the incident and release of Ogbonnaya, the state PDP National Assembly caucus led by Senator Egwu, held a press conference in Abuja and accused Umahi of fuelling insecurity in the state. Egwu, who read the resolution signed by all the eight PDP National Assembly caucus including himself, Senator Michael Ama Nnachi (Ebonyi South), Senator Obinna Ogba (Ebonyi Central), Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga (Abakaliki/ Izzi federal constituency), Hon. lgariwey lduma Enwo (Afikpo North/ South federal constituency), Hon. Chukwuma Nwazunku (Ebonyi/ Ohaukwu federal constituency), Hon. Anayo Nwonu (Ezza North/ Ishielu federal constituency) and Hon. Livinus Makwe (Ohaozara/ Onicha/Ivo federal constituency, accused Umahi of arming thugs and cultists against members of opposition in the state.

They also accused the governor of floating Ebube Agu Security Network to hound members of the opposition in the state. The resolution read: “We the undersigned, who are serving members of the National Assembly, wish to draw the attention of the relevant security agencies in the country to the deteriorating security situation in Ebonyi State, occasioned by the indiscriminate arming of known cultists and agents of the Ebonyi State government.

“As lawmakers and responsible citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we are alarmed and concerned by the senseless killing of security personnel in the lawful discharge of their duties. This situation has been further compounded in Ebonyi State by the wide scale distribution of pump-action and AK-47 rifles and ammunition to young men throughout the 13 local government areas of Ebonyi State by the state government under the guise of vigilante/ Ebube Agu.

“As it stands today in Ebonyi State, it is impossible to draw a line between the criminal activities of agents of the state government, and that of other groups. Today, Ebonyi State is awash with weapons supplied and distributed by the state government to persons who are undocumented, nor trained in weapons handling, ostensibly for use against perceived political opponents.

“It is important to state here that Governor Umahi’s resort to arming thugs and cultists across Ebonyi State is his response to the refusal of major political stakeholders in the state who rejected and refused to decamp with him from the PDP to the APC. For this reason, Governor Umahi has decided to procure and distribute arms and ammunition to thugs, cultists and some of his appointees under the guise of vigilante/Ebube Agu to intimidate and stifle PDP in Ebonyi State. It is for this reason that Ebonyi State has become the first and only state in the South-East to inaugurate and arm the so-called Ebube Agu. “As law abiding citizens, we have written to the Inspector General of Police and heads of relevant security agencies on the deteriorating security situation in Ebonyi State.

In those petitions, we have documented violent attacks, attempted murder and murder of Ebonyi citizens by agents of the state government, in the most recent past. The latest of these heinous crimes is the attempted murder of one Barr. Amos Ogbonnaya, a former coordinator of a development centre in Ebonyi State. The said Amos on the 4th of May 2021 had appeared on an AIT live programme (JIGSAW) and spoke on the corruption and poor governance activities of the Ebonyi State government.”

Umahi tackles Egwu, PDP leaders

A day after the Ebonyi PDP National Assembly caucus made the comment against Umahi, the governor reacted. He accused Egwu and other PDP leaders of sponsoring bandits, killing of security agents and destroying public facilities in the state. The governor replied Egwu, when he played host to the Assistant Inspector- General of Police in charge of Zone 9, Etim Ene Okon, at old government house, Abakaliki.

The governor, who threatened to probe Egwu, accused him of looting the state during his reign as governor of the state He maintained that Ebube Agu Security Network has come to stay in the state. “It is very regrettable that a former governor of this state who appropriated the wealth of this state to himself could be inciting the youth of this state and nobody is doing anything. When we had attack at Ngbo axis, his own local government, all he could do was to go and address a press conference and saying that Fulani people came to kill Ngbo people. “He didn’t come home to ascertain the situation.

So, that statement incited more crisis within that location. But the truth remains that the Agila traditional ruler was the one that hired mercenaries whether they are herders or not to do the killings. And how did we know? The Agila traditional ruler called our people on phone and gave the phone to a herder to talk to us and and say that the corpse you are looking for, we are with the corpse, we did the killing.

“Only few days ago, the same Egwu again said the killing of policemen was masterminded by Ebube Agu, which is our internal security. This tells you that he knows about the killings and let me tell you very clearly that the same Egwu, Linus Okorie, Ali Odefa, Chidiebere Egwu, Silas Onu, Fred Udeogu, Amos Ogbonnaya, are the people inciting these bandits. None of them, including Anyim Pius have been able to come out to condemn the killing of policemen in Ebonyi State.”

Umahi told the visiting police boss not to look far for those responsible for the killings in Ebonyi State, adding that he will not tolerate further arrest of his supporters on the basis of petitions by members of the opposition. “Ebonyi State was very peaceful before now.

When I defected and got security information, I alerted the police but nothing was done. And so, we cannot fold our hands and say this is opposition, there must be healthy opposition. But let me tell them that the crisis they are inciting, they never know how far it will go because if you kill an APC person, you cannot control retaliation. The earlier you call these people to order, the best it will be.

“Yes, Ebube Agu has come to stay and if any of them is causing trouble, Ebube Agu will arrest the person, I can assure them of that. If they are afraid of Ebube Agu, it has come to stay and it will arrest any of them, who tries to make trouble in this state no matter who the person is. Ebube Agu is backed by law of the state, they are very lawful, very peaceful but they have their powers. I want them to be told that this is what I said.”

“I am not yet in a position to respond to the press statement by Egwu and the PDP National Assembly members but I will respond in a very short while. But I like to respond with action and if they try it, let them make trouble. No matter who they are, the law will catch them, and very soon, I am going to start the probe of all corrupt officers, including Egwu over his tenure. He will come and account for the looting of Ebonyi government’s wealth while in office. “Do you know that as a sitting governor, these same people wrote that my wife was kidnapped when my wife was in London? Is it something that is palatable, is it opposition? We have taken so much; we will no longer take any.

If anyone in this state is wounded, both their families and their relations, I will hound them, they must be told. The other day, they faked their own kidnap just to further tarnish our image. Incidentally, the man that said he was kidnapped had a lot of bullets in his vehicle; the same day they declared him missing, the same day they found the man.

“I wasn’t happy by their petition that some Ebonyi people were arrested and detained. Please, for anybody to be moved from Ebonyi State, I need to know. I need to know because I will not allow my state to be destroyed by the so-called wicked and unreasonable people in the name of opposition.

These are people who are filled with bitterness and anger because when they occupied offices, they could not do anything for the people. So, what is driving them crazy is the achievements we have made in Ebonyi State. I don’t want to respond to them about the burning nevof my petrol station. I have not gone there, when I go there, I will respond to them.” he said.

Okorie, Odefa, others react

Some of the PDP leaders accused by Umahi of sponsoring banditry in the state including the National Vice Chairman of the party (South- East), Odefa, former House of Reps member, Okorie and Chief Chidiebere Egwu berated the governor over what they described as his false claims. Odefa, particularly accused Umahi of name-calling and tagging of leaders of the PDP in the state, with the belief that he would pitch the party leaders against federal security agencies and possibly incarcerate and silence them.

He opined that the governor has no monopoly of raining invectives on others, describing him as a man who has lost all senses of decorum and good manner. “I am not surprised that Umahi has resorted to this pedestrian tactics where he would spend his time going through the social media and issuing threats and orders.

I have always known him to be petty and largely uncivilized. It is unthinkable that a governor of a state will call on security agents to pounce on citizens, seize their phones and charge them to court for holding different opinion from that of the government as if we are still in the Stone Age.

“Notwithstanding the shallow and pettiness of Umahi’s vituperations on my person, let me use this opportunity to state some obvious fact that he may be running away from. It is important that Umahi should be reminded that my antecedent is very clearly impeccable that not even his’ can compete, even though, matters of antecedent are self-evident and never in contention. “I am from a well-known family with a history of honour and integrity. Umahi knows better that my family history is not such that can be ridiculed.

My silence over the antecedent of Umahi is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of respect for Ebonyi people. Ever since Umahi embarked on his lone defection to the APC, he seems to have lost something dear to him and have since started talking from all corners of his mouth. “It is time for Umahi to caution himself and treat his perennial diarrhea of the mouth or we can as well go to the market square and beat the drum for him. Umahi should come to the reality that he has no monopoly of these his dry theatrics.” Odefa said. The South East Zonal Youth leader of the PDP, Chidiebere Egwu, on his part, denied allegations against his person by Umahi.

He asserted that he has never been found wanting in any way since his path crossed with that of the governor and his erstwhile boss in 2014. His words: “Having discharged my responsibilities creditably as a youth leader and with the overwhelming confidence on my person by my then leader, he in his archetypal self now wanted me promoted and I was eventually elected as the Zonal Youth leader of the PDP in the South-East even though some sinister motives were behind this his decision. “Having garnered more trusts and further confidence of my then principal, it is worthy to remind that I was again, one of the firsts to be appointed a Technical Assistant to the Governor on Internal Security during which period I personally took it upon myself to ensure Ebonyi was peaceful and very safe for residents.”

He further said he was consequently promoted to two other appointive positions by the governor, first, as SA on Internal Security (Urban) and later, as Caretaker Chairman of Ikwo Local Government Area. He, however, said he only parted ways with the governor because he refused to follow him to the ruling APC in November 2020 and that has been the real issues between them. Egwu, therefore, called on the security chiefs to not only ignore the governor’s allegations as he maintained that they are all wild goose chase but must also continue to remain professional and ethical in their day-to-day conducts.

To PDP faithful in the state, he charged: “I urge them to remain law abiding and go about their routine businesses as there is definitely no cause for alarm and neither can we suddenly become afraid of the masquerade we masked.” Okorie, in his response said he was being hounded and framed up by Governor Umahi after he supported him to win his election in 2015 and 2019 without being compensated or recognized.

“It is enough pain and disappointment that our massive votes and support in 2015 and 2019 have not been compensated or even recognized. Let no one agree to be used to ignite crisis in Onicha so that ‘big powers’ can satisfy an urge to eliminate perceived enemies. “If government or anyone else wants to come after me because of my appeal that crisis should not be introduced into our clan, I am ready and willing to bear the brunt.

On a personal note, if all my contributions to the success of the Umahi PDP ticket and eventual election into office is being hounded and framed up ‘as an inviter of bandits and killer of security men,’ I simply give God all the glory.

Let Him be the judge. Someday, we shall all tell our stories of who did what for who, and as citizens of Ebonyi State,” he said. While the last is yet to be heard of the claims and counter-claims that have characterized Ebony politics of late, there is no doubt that the faceoff will worsen as the 2023 general election draws nearer.

 

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