A jour­nal­ist’s ac­count of a po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion

Sunday Trust - - ART & IDEAS - Chief Abia Onyeike is cur­rently a sen­a­to­rial as­pi­rant for Ebonyi South sen­a­to­rial zone

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.

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