The exit of Mr. Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State from the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Party (APC) created no less a stir in the polity. Not because Umahi has no right to so do, at least s. 40 of the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended guarantees the freedom of association; wuthout qualification but because of the circumstances surrounding his departure and the reasons aduced for such an action leaves a sour taste in the tongue.

This is quite disturbing because the switch of place occurred at a time when the party was fairly stable; consolidating it’s foothold in the south east. The move no doubt ruffled the feathers of the party and at the same time upset whatever political permutations put in place against future elections.

The defection rally was no more than a carnival of sorts as the rulling party stopped at nothing to roll out the drums in frenzy to receive the new bride at the expense of the state tax payers money.

We were greatly enthralled by the kabuki dance exhibited at the event held to welcome the politician to the broom weilding, APC at the Abakaliki township stadium. It was one debilitating show that questions the political sagacity of the “decampee”.

The governor, often touted as one of PDP’s agents of good governance, given his unassailable track records as well as his unblemished political episcopal stewardship left no one in doubt that he was embarking on an apostolic voyage to redeem the south east from the miasma of injustice suffered by his people. At least he alluded to this assertion in his speech though veiled in lingos and rhetorics as politicians are wont to do. But you can fathom the double speak when he also informed us that he retiring from politics in 2023. Why wait till 2023?

Umahi’s desertion of the PDP generated a wave of mixed reactions from his colleagues and other stakeholders in the Nigeria project. While some people especially those clamouring for Igbo presidency hailed him for taking the bull by the horn, others are less enthusiastic; they assume the action as impetuous and self serving. That the bubbles may burst sooner than later. We are waiting to see the truth play out in days ahead.

Analysts think Umahi’s recent about face was not unexpected because of his age old romance with the ruling party. What was a surprise however was the timing of his exit. The rumour mill has always been pregnant with stories that Umahi had an unfettered access to Aso Rock where President Mohammadu Buhari dictates the destiny of the nation like a monarch.

Some rumour mongers went as far as to claim that Brother Umahi was a fifth columnist planted as a mule by the APC hierachy to destabilise the fortunes of PDP at the appropriate time. Those were fantastic claims that could not be substantiated until this moment of reckoning.

Comrade Nyesome Wike, a vocal member of the PDP stoutly condemned Umahi for being unfaithful to the PDP. To him, the grounds of Umahi’s defection is laughable. Governor Wike threw the first scud misile by saying that Umahi was an ungrateful servant having rode on the crest of the PDP to attain power, only to jettison the ladder with which he climbed to the pinacle of his political career.

The turnout of politicians from other parts of the country to the venue of the rally underscores APC’s long standing ambition to assail the political fortress of the PDP. It would interest you to know that the south east has always been a zone known to be the exclusive stronghold of the opposition party. With Umahi ceding the state to the ruling party, the fight for the soul of the region will be a lot more fierce in the years ahead.

It has been rumoured that three more governors in the PDP family–that is governors of Abia, Enugu and Cross Rivers States are on the verge of transiting to the ruling party in order to give expression to their personal ambitions of vying for either the nation’s presidency or vice president’s office come 2023. That’s a tall ambition if you ask me. Though not impossible, all things being equal.

Meanwhile, three Senators and five members of the House of Representatives led by former Governor Sam Egwu from Ebonyi State have distanced themselves from Dave Umahi’s trajectory. They say, the governor is on his own, assuring party faithfuls that they will not leave the PDP no matter the pressure mounted on them.

Besides moving closer to fulfiling his ambition to fly the presidential flag of APC, analysts also say, Umahi’s early departure may have to do with the assumption that APC will provide a safe haven to its members caught in the web of justice. His exit therefore may not be unconnected to a deliberate scheme to cover up the sleaze in the government of Ebonyi State. They claim that most of the huge contracts executed in the state were issued to companies where Umahi has substantial interests.

To be sure, there are countless examples of politicians who escaped the hammer of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) just because they were bold enough to cross over to the ruling party. Most time they are even rewarded with whimsical ministerial appointments or other juicy positions within the cabinet. Our political landscape is replete with such migrant politicians who are beneficiaries of their bold moves. One that readily comes to mind is Senator Godswill Akpabio who is a living example of one of those who turned his back against PDP but now occupies a prime position in the APC.

The fluidity of our political enviroment tells of our failure to peg political parties to an underlying ideology. Here, party ideology is a strange phenomenon. We speak the same ideological language, hence, there’s no visible difference between the two major political parties. Neither is there any in the fringe parties. This obvious lack of guiding principles encourages the seamless cross carpeting that exemplifies our political culture.

Until the constitution of our country is amended and legal sanctions prescribed, we will continue to keep faith with this negative trend. I think politicians should not be allowed the latitude to move from one party to another within the lifespan of an office contested for and won on a particular political party platform. It is wrong and it is an abuse of the tenets of true democracy.

It is believed in certain quarters that Umahi’s disembarkment from the PDP airplane is a faux pas at best a wild goose chase that may not yield reasonable harvest. Although, it is too early in the day to assert that the divorce will bring in any dividends to the south east especially since Umahi is so far playing a solo music. Whether there will be concurrent chorus reverberating in entire south east remains to be seen.

The question on the lips of many is: will APC eventually zone its presidential ticket to the south east? And if it does, the political calculus of the zone will definitely take a new shape. The APC net may likely attract several other big wigs in the opposition. Whereby the party does otherwise, may lose his political deposit.

If APC does the needful by zoning the presidency to the east, since, it is the likely course of action, the damning effect would however, be that Umahi’s chances of clinching the ticket may be slim owing to obvious reasons. Several factors may come into play to determine who flies the flag.. The good news however for Umahi is that he has strategically located himself within the power blocks of the north and that may tilt the mirror in his way. That is still in the realm of speculation though. In the mean time, he has used his position as the leader of the south east governors forum to oil his political wheel.. Will Umahi’s exit cause a restraint to the PDP’s political machinery in the south east? Time will tell.

If Umahi could ditch the PDP, the party that gave him the opportunity to realise his political ambition, then this calls to question his assumed integrity to lead the nation to the promised land.

Dont forget he rose from anonymity to being the state party chairman, after which he became the deputy governor and finally two term governor of Ebonyi State, all in quick succession. Even though it is a known fact that scruples or morality has little to do with politics in our clime. That does not imply that we should bite the fingers that fed us. It is morally repulsive and unacceptable.

Umahi in his desertion speech recounted how the PDP has been unjust and unfair to the people of the east. Really? He noted that his kit and kins were unjustly treated by the party that opened its doors to accommodate him and his siblings. That sounds ridiculous. Umahi has little or no rectitude in so far as his conduct in the last few days gave him away.

A man desirous of a high office as the President of Nigeria should by all standards be above board. So far there’s nothing to show that Umahi has the political weight to unify this country at a time like this when the country is so polarised along ethnic, and religious lines. We need a charismatic leader who will close the ranks between us as a nation.

In conclusion therefore I would like to reiterate the fact that we need to put in place social norms, values and legal conventions that will bar ambitious politicians from cross carpetingg at will without samctions. This is the appropriate time to amend our electoral laws to make room for polical exigencies and prescribe adequate sanctions against those who may violate the rules of political engagement as outlined in the electoral laws of the land.

This is my stand

Thomas Ebikabowei Peretu
A political analyst and commentator on current affairs