A journalist’s account of a political dispensation
Felix Uka’s book is a wellresearched work of art and science. It is a significant historical narrative of the political tension which gripped Ebonyi State at a point in its regime transition from 2014 to 2015. It was an era marred by uncertainty and political implosion. The lava of mass revolt flowed underground, before giving way to a volcanic eruption in the socio-political horizon of the state.
Uka has done justice to that episodic moment of conflict by documenting the processes, personalities, actors and combatants who constituted the dramatis personae. It was from that bowel that the incumbent Governor, Engr. David Nweze Umahi sprouted. He emerged from that political log-jam, victorious and went on to inaugurate the most powerful and developmentoriented government in the Eastern region of Nigeria.
But this book is not just about what transpired from 2014 to 2018 in Ebonyi State. In chapter one, entitled, “Ebonyi State’s Political Narrative,” the author lays the foundation on how the State began on 1st October, 1996, when it was created by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. The discourse in this chapter highlights the pioneer efforts of the first Military Administrators such as Navy Commander Walter Aye Feghabor and late ALG of Police, Simeon Oduoye.
Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu, now a serving Senator, took over power from the Military Administrator, Oduoye on 29th May, 1999. On page 2, the author describes Egwu as “a gifted leader, who was not parochial, but demonstrated large-heartedness and liberal mindedness.”
According to the Author, Sam Egwu’s Executive Council members “had a lot of latitude, as he was a highly trusted politician who believed in his followers.” (page 2).
Former Governor Martin Elechi’s style of administration was critically surveyed. The author notes that “Elechi depended on his kitchen cabinet made up of his kinsmen. Power tussles amongst the kinsmen led to the many mistakes that marred the administration, especially in determining who would succeed him. The situation left Elechi with those whose pieces of advice were guided by personal interests.”
On page 4, the author said that Elechi’s government collapse was “akin to the scenario of a man being blindfolded or remote controlled and led fatally into a ditch, such that broke down the powers of incumbency and rendered even the financial apparatus of the state ineffective in the labour against Umahi and his league during the 2015 general elections.” (p.4).
So, Elechi lost control of the ruling PDP “that brought him to power”. He then decided to support the Labour Party and its Governorship standard-bearer, Edward Nkwegu, against Umahi, his deputy. But, according to the author, “Umahi still wrestled power from the highly powered machineries of the incumbent administration.” (p. 4).
Chapter 2 of the book dwells on “The works that made the Marks” The initial steps taken by Governor Umahi to kickstart his administration under the difficult economic realities of that recession period come under focus. The author documents that the sudden drastic economic downturn and the dwindling allocations from the Federal Government did not deter Umahi from his avowed determination to supersede others in the area of infrastructure and human capital development in Ebonyi State.
“They started with the construction of roads within Abakaliki Capital Territory under direct labour arrangement. The other Umahi magic was the installation of street lights virtually in all the major streets in Abakaliki and its environs”, (p. 17). Other important issues recorded in this Chapter includes the EzzaEzillo Peace Accord, the Visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Ebonyi State from 14th to 15th November, 2017; Empowerment of Ebonyi Youth by Governor David Nweze Umahi, and so on. (pp. 18-38).
In Chapter 3, the author documented the powerful speech Governor Umahi made on the Democracy Day Anniversary Celebration in 2018, dealing with issues such as Urban Renewal, Environment, Health, Water Resources, Education, Welfare, Women Affairs and Social Development. Others were Agriculture, Office of Head of Service, Commerce and Industry and Security. (pp. 39-48).
Chapter 4 is full of pictorials on the Projects of Governor Umahi’s government. This book also traced the trajectory of Governor Umahi’s political metamorphosis and the interplay of forces between Former Governor Elechi and his Former Deputy, Umahi. Umahi’s refusal to accept his master’s choice of Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu as his successor led to the game of wits which led to the explosion. Though the confrontation was bloodless it was very enervating.
Felix Uka argues here that “Umahi’s political triumph was the function of a combination of several character traits: the toughness, tenacity, battlereadiness, the stealth and caution of political Dawinism, the shrewdness of a businessman as a realist and the tact and diplomacy of a conciliator. (pp. 51-52).
This Chapter delves further into the political in-fighting which took place within the Ebonyi PDP and the vicious combat let loose by radical partisans and leaders of rival factions.
The crises in the party came to a head when the former Chairman, Ugorji Ama Oti turned a renegade and resigned his position to go and contest election into the House of Representatives.
“In what played out like the famous film “90 Minutes at Entebe,” Mazi Ben Akpa, in a Kangaro arrangement was announced the successor to Ama Oti”, instead of Chief Onwe Joseph Onwe who was the Deputy State Chairman of the party. Thus the Elechi camp was eventually edged out of the party when the National Working Committee of PDP recognized Onwe as the Ag. State Chairman of the party and it was the Onwe camp that Umahi used to launch himself to power, after successfully dislodging Elechi and his cohorts from the PDP.
Other Chapters in the book include Chapter 6, “The Birth of Divine Mandate Organization”. This chapter chronicles the dramatis personae who manned various directorates of Umahi’s Campaign Organization.
Chapter 7 Chronicles the radical translation which took place in Ebonyi State House of Assembly. The then Speaker of the House, Chukwuma Nwazunku suddenly “turned a tiger and wrote President Goodluck Jonathan asking him to stop the Governor from securing N15b bond from the Nigeria Stock Exchange.” The Speaker pressured Elechi to account for the first batch of N16b bond the government collected. There were attempts to impeach Nwazunku which failed woefully and later a fire incident that gutted the offices of the State House of Assembly.
Chapter 9 - contains an interview by the State Commissioner for Information, Senator Emmanuel Onwe. In the interview, the highly cerebral scholar-politician articulated his views on the Rotation of Power to the South of Ebonyi State. He also gave an insight into how Elechi re-neged on his earlier promise of letting power rotate to the South.
In Chapter 10, the author went down memory lane to document how he met Governor Umahi for the very first time in 2007 and how the relationship has blossomed over the years (pp. 100-105).
Chapter 11 is an in-depth documentation of the economic resources available in Ebonyi State, mineral deposits, cultural festivals of various communities, slave market routes, tourist sites etc. (pp. 106-114) while Chapter 12, discusses Igbo politics in Nigeria. The author argues that Igbo population today should be about 60 million, even though they have been subjected to marginalization in the Nigeria federation. Several episodic encounters of Igbo politics in the current democratic dispensation were discussed in this Chapter (pp. 115-132).
But Chapter 13 deals with “The Dawn of our Divine Mandate” and contains the Full Text of Governor Umahi’s inaugural speech on May 29, 2015. The last chapter which is chapter 14 contains the Full Text of the Supreme Court Judgment which dismissed the electoral Appeal of Nkwegu.
The book is a highly fascinating work. It is written in fine prose by a master story teller. I therefore recommend it to students of Igbo and Nigeria politics, politicians, journalists, scholars, administrators, bureaucrats, diplomats and the educated community at large.
Felix Uka argues here that “Umahi’s political triumph was the function of a combination of several character traits: the toughness, tenacity, battle-readiness, the stealth and caution of political Dawinism, the shrewdness of a businessman as a realist and the tact and diplomacy of a conciliator.