Ebonyi governor joins presidential race

Barely 24 hours after former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, declared his ambition to contest for the presidential ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has met with President Muhammadu Buhari to apprise him of his ambition.

Emerging from the president’s office at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, he confirmed that he discussed the issue with the president who told him to go and seek the support of the people.

He said he was not fazed by Tinubu’s entry into the race as he believes that the contest is not about might.

Umahi, who left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC as he believed that the former ruling party was not ready to cede the 2023 ticket to the southeast, said he stands a chance if the APC throws the ticket open.

He said if he gets the opportunity, his presidency will replicate his effort in Ebonyi state at the national level, saying that he has a lot to show in running governance as a business.

Asked whether he discussed his ambition with the president, Umahi responded: “Well, generally, yes and no. We discussed politics as the growth of our party, APC, in Nigeria, and the South-East. And, of course, you know, the interest of south East, for the seat of presidency in 2023.

“And, of course, I told Mr President, that without prejudice to whatever will be the decision of the party, which we shall abide by, that if the party throws the ticket open or zoned to the southern part of Nigeria that I believe that with what I have put in place in the past six years plus, that I’ll be running for presidency, on the platform of APC.

“So, I told him and of course, he believes that whoever wants to run for president of this country must have to consult widely, go to all the leaders and that we must do everything to remove ethnicity and religion in our politics. So, that this country can grow.”

The governor was reminded that he left the PDP because the party did not zone the presidential ticket to the southeast, and asked what he thought were his chances in the light of the declaration by former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu.

He stated: “The Bible that I swore with a section of 1 Samuel says that by strength shall no man prevail, and power and might belong to God. He chooses whomever he wills and he will do that in 2020.

“I’m not in contest with anybody I’m in contest with myself.”

He said he has not started holding consultations on his ambition because he had not previously cleared with President Buhari who he said he to told about the feeling of the southeast to have a shot at the presidency.

The governor said: “I wouldn’t have done that without first coming into clear with Mr President that there is this feeling in the South-East that has not been president and that people feel that those of our leaders in the various political parties should indicate interest to contest. And this is fair, this is important. But at the end of the day, it is God Almighty and the political parties that will also decide.”

On what he would bring on board if he becomes president, Umahi stated: “Yeah. God willing, and if it’s the wish of the people of this country, Umahi’s presidency, we’ll be looking at the same thing we did in Ebonyi state.

“Before we came on board, we were a state written off, we had nothing to write home about infrastructure. But I must commend the first two civilian governors Dr Sam Egwu and Chief Elechi, they did quite a lot, because they came in the midst of the dust of the nation, Ebonyi State. And so they had, you know, quite a lot of challenges. So, I can say that they laid the foundation upon which I started to build. And so, there are a lot of things that we have done in Ebonyi.

“We have the best Government House, you can see anyway, we have the best EXCO chamber and the largest you cannot see anyway. And so we intend to replicate the same thing. And I believe that with the little resources we have and people have been asking us how did you do it? Or how do you do it? And it’s all about patriotism. It’s all about fear of God, it’s all about bringing in our experience to be bear.

“I have been into construction since I graduated. So, I have a lot to give in terms of how to run governance as business because you have to have the heart to help the people and that’s what we’ve demonstrated in Ebonyi.

“So, we want to treat the nation if God permits, that what we’ve done becomes a microcosm of the macrocosm, of which we expect. We also believe strongly that we’ll be able to continue with what Mr President has done.

“One of the greatest problems we have in this country is ethnicity, religion, and unpatriotic features of a lot of people. And I think that there is a need to engage starting from where Mr President would have stopped.”

The presidential aspirant admonished the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo to steer clear of partisan politics.

He added: “Ohaneze leadership should not play politics. Yes, they can speak for the interest of the southeast, they can speak for fair treatment to South-East as people but as a matter of equity, justice and fairness, and leaving a level playing field for all the political parties and the aspirants.

“They should not dabble into politics of whom to support or whom not to support. I think that they hear it just like they heard other political parties aspirants. We will also write them to notify them that yes, they have capable sons and daughters that if God wills, that could do this job.”

Umahi who is also the chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum insisted on a political solution to the security crisis in the region and called for an out of court settlement in the prosecution of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.

He explained: “Let me also add that as the chairman of Southeast Governors Forum, that I support a political solution to our insecurity problems in South-East. And of course, I mentioned it to Mr President.

“You see, the political solution does not terminate the judicial process. And if you know, Mr President, very well, he has always said and has always demonstrated that he wouldn’t interfere with any judiciary process. Everybody knows him for that. But you remember very well, that if agreement is reached between parties, you don’t expect Mr President to be the negotiator. There are a lot of federal government officials.

“And so, I believe strongly that as southeast, is proposing for political solution, they should be able to engage the federal government. After all, there’s always what is called out of court settlement, but it is for our people, and, our brother Kanu to be willing for us to truly engage so that we can find true peace in our region.

“Because the activities there have destroyed a lot of the economy of South-East, a lot of lives have being lost. And when we were shouting it that it wasn’t going to benefit because agitation shouldn’t have gone the way it did.

“Today, the matter has gone beyond them. You know, every criminal, kidnapper, armed robber tends to claim IPOB and IPOB, in turn, is fighting them. But I think, is late.

“So, we desire peace, we desire to save the lives of our people. And so we are willing to engage, to see that we have, you know, an amicable settlement. And you know, rebuild the economy ofSouth-East.”

On where the search for a political solution should start, Umahi stated: “You see the leaders of South-East, of course, not all of them, they must be selected leaders, and they already have Ohaneze and Chief Mbazurike, you know, in the forefront, and we can find true peace in our region.

“They have always been briefing me. So, that could be the starting point, and we will be able to know what we want, we want peace. And so there are things we must give up in order to acquire that peace.

“Because if we are not being fairly treated, and some people feel we are not being fairly treated, we should be able to, you know constructively show to the federal government, the areas we think that we are not being fairly treated, not through hate speeches, not through violence.

“I don’t believe in these things, you know, because even in homes, in families, you know, the wife or husband or children, we still have one thing or the other against the family, but they should be able to discuss.”

Asked about the planned national convention of the APC, Umahi said Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state who recently announced a meeting of APC governors had no right to do so.

He argued: “I’m not Mr President who must have the final say on the date for the convention. And I don’t believe that the governor you mentioned should have spoken for the party. Because if it is APC governors forum, we have a leader, the chairman who is the His Excellency, the governor of Kebbi State.

“He wasn’t even aware of the meeting when I called him. And if it is the party administration, we have His Excellency, the governor of Yobe state. And I think these two would have been able to speak to the press if we’re going to have such a meeting on Sunday. So, I was not aware but I had to inquire from the chairman of the APC Governors Forum who wasn’t also aware. So, I’m not sure the meeting held.”

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