Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, yesterday, said he left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to protest injustice meted on the people of the South-East by the party.
The governor, who is likely to officially declare for APC tomorrow or Friday, said contrary to speculations, he did not jump ship because PDP refused to give him its 2023 presidential ticket.
Speaking with journalists in his office at new government house, Abakaliki, the state capital, Umahi also revealed that he may retire from politics in 2023.
He explained that the South-East has remained faithful to PDP and voted for its candidates in the present dispensation, but has not been treated fairly in the nation’s polity.
His words: “Since 1998, the people of the South- East have supported PDP in all elections; at a time the five states in the South-East were all PDP. One of the founding members of PDP, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the late former vice president, is from the South-East, so it is absurd that since 1998 going to 2023, the South-East will never be considered to run for presidency under the ticket of the PDP.
It is very absurd and this is my position and it will continue to be my position, it has nothing to do with me.”
Umahi, who argued that an Igbo man as president will naturally be protective of all sections of the country because the Igbo have stake in all parts of Nigeria, said he was not promised any position by the APC, but driven by the call to change the cause of Ndigbo and Nigerians for good.
“I am not driven by selfish interests, but because we need to protest against marginalisation. We have benefited more from the APC government. I didn’t start this protest today. I have no regrets in my decision to join the APC. In life, you have to be courageous.
“I want to clear the air that I didn’t ask for PDP’s presidential ticket and I will not. So, anybody saying that I have gone to the APC because PDP didn’t zone its presidential ticket to me is being mischievous because even if PDP promises an individual the presidential ticket, how does it work when over 8,000 delegates will be electing the persons and such promise cannot happen with about 10 or 20 people?
So, people are being very mischievous about that. “Some people said I was promised this and that before joining APC, there was no such discussion. APC never promised me any position, they never promised the South-East any position, and there was no such discussion. I want to clear the air that I didn’t ask for PDP presidential ticket and I will not.
“The point is very simple. In 2023, I would have been in PDP between 23 and 24 years and the South-East never really supported APC the way they are supporting PDP and by 2023, they (APC) would have been eight years in office. I believe that APC is amenable to working with the South- East from all indications. The party is amenable and I also believe that until we ensure justice and equity in this nation, it will be difficult for Nigeria to make progress.”
Meanwhile, the PDP has said that Umahi “left our party for personal reasons, which Nigerians will come to know at the fullness of time.” PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in an interview earlier, said the party is not a party to be pushed about by an individual.
“However, you will recall that when we heard the rumour that the governor of Ebonyi State was going to defect, we went to visit him to discuss on issues bothering on cohesion in our party.
“As far as we are concerned, we are yet to receive any formal information that he has left,” Ologbondiyan added. He said the party is not disturbed, disclosing that even though PDP holds its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting tomorrow; it has nothing to do with zoning of its presidential candidate. “We are expected to hold NEC meeting once in every quarter and this quarter we have not held it.
“And our decision to hold the NEC meeting has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the rumour in the political space.
“For us, the PDP is a wellstructured political party with an experience of nothing less than 22 years, in the political firmament of our nation. “We are not a party that will be responding to issues on impulse. We are not a party that will be pushed around by any individual,” he said.
Speaking on the development, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers has dismissed the comments credited to Umahi that he was leaving the PDP because the party was unfair to the South-East. The Rivers governor stressed that Umahi decided to join APC because he wants to be the next president.
Wike, who made this assertion, yesterday in Port Harcourt, said committed members of the PDP were not surprised that Umahi, yesterday, formally defected to the APC, which he has for a while been fraternising with.
Wike argued that under the PDP, the South-East has produced Senate Presidents; National Chairman of the PDP and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. “My friend, Umahi, wants to be president.
There is no problem about that. You have a right to be president. Nobody can stop you. You are educated. You have been a governor for two terms, so you are qualified to say ‘I want to be president of Nigeria’.
“But, that does not mean you should blackmail your party, and tell lies to the people you are leaving the party because of the injustice meted against the South- East.
That is not correct.” He said it was erroneous for Umahi to accuse PDP of injustice, when he had unilaterally imposed his younger brother as Zonal Vice Chairman (South- East) of the PDP. “In life, power is sweet, but conscience is important. It is most offensive and insulting for a man to lie against his party because of power,” he said