Dave Umahi’s Lost Cause

With one fatal move, Umahi may have just rekindled Bola Tinubu’s hope and also given Atiku Abubakar back his voice.

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State / Photo credit:premiumtimesng.com
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State / Photo credit:premiumtimesng.com

The EndSARS protests that took place last month have reshaped the politics of 2023 in ways that were previously unimaginable.

Mostly, the protests have harmed the prospects of a number in frontrunners of the presidential office in the 2023.

But it wasn’t only presidential wannabes that suffered in the aftermath of the protests.

President Muhammadu Buhari was hurt by the protests, so was Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, and even Enoch Adeboye, the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God has been burnt and may have to take a step back from the world of politics.

Religion cannot be separated from politics in Nigeria.

And because of politics, particularly since the return to democratic rule in 1999, no church leader in the country has had more say in elections than the RCCG head.

It is Adeboye’s supporting role in the protests that dim Atiku Abubakar’s chance of launching another presidential bid, or anyone else from the north for that matter.

But in political terms, virtually everyone came out a loser from the protests, except maybe presidential hopefuls of Igbo extraction who have seen the image of their rivals from other regions take a beating.

But as much as the prospects for the southeast to produce the next president have brightened, it could be temporary.

It is more likely that the proposal to abolish the pension is the handiwork of the ever-strategising Tinubu, who hopes to once again earn the trust of Lagosian and endear himself to the wider public

Afterall, Bola Tinubu, who more than any individual was the target of protesters is already at work trying to rebuild a political world that was shattered by the protests.

Governor Sanwo-Olu in presenting the state’s 2021 budget proposal, included plans to abolish the law that grants life pension to former governors of Lagos.

Those that will have their pension cut will include Tinubu.

It is very unlikely that the governor woke up one day and decided to abolish to pensions of his predecessors.

It is more likely that the proposal to abolish the pension is the handiwork of the ever-strategising Tinubu, who hopes to once again earn the trust of Lagosian and endear himself to the wider public.

In the meantime, at least one politician is hoping to capitalise on the opportunities that have opened up by the misfortunes brought on others by the EndSARS protests.

Last week, the governor of Ebonyi, Dave Umahi formally joined the ruling APC after dumping the PDP, which for two decades, has been the dominant party, both in Ebonyi and the whole of the southeast.

At first, rumours of his anticipated defection appeared like an attempt by the governor to blackmail the opposition PDP into zoning its presidential ticket to the southeast.

But the moment he carried out his threat and defected to APC, the impression is that he is making a gamble with the odds greatly staked against him.

There is no doubt that the PDP has been rattled by his defection.

There is also no doubt that the southeast is PDP’s most loyal support base.

But attempt to force the party into a corner would probably have been more successful if he had coordinated with the remaining PDP governors in the zone.

There is a reason the party has been reluctant to commit to a southeast candidate for 2023.

The governor’s adventure doesn’t just represent a lack of consultation with his colleagues in Igboland, it stands against the wishes of southeast voters who at every election voted either the PDP or APGA.

The records go back to 1999.

Even in Lagos, voters of southeast origin, one election after another, consistently chose their own path.

Judging from political events since the 1998 that the Ebonyi governor referred to, if any party was to zone its presidential ticket to his part of the country, it would be the PDP

The difficult truth PDP is facing is that it will lose the next presidential election with a southeast candidate unless all other major parties, specifically the APC, agree to field their candidates from the region.

PDP leaders know it. If they accede to Umahi’s demand, they will lose the next presidential election.

But Umahi is right that the southeast has remained faithful to the PDP since 1998.

No other region can claim that privilege, and for that reason, the PDP as a matter of appreciation shouldn’t be hesitant about conceding the presidential ticket to the region.

Judging from political events since the 1998 that the Ebonyi governor referred to, if any party was to zone its presidential ticket to his part of the country, it would be the PDP.

Whether or not that would have actually happened is hard to say.

But by defecting, Umahi has weakened the regions bargaining position and probably doomed the chances of any politicians in either party claiming the coveted presidential ticket.

He has himself admitted that no promise was made to him by the ruling party and other than Umahi himself, no one sees the benefit of changing parties. He looks to have embarked on a lost cause.

What Umahi didn’t say, however, is that he has now joined a party made up of a coalition with roots in only the north and the southwest of the country.

When APC was been formed, the southeast was missing.

In fact, the most defining feature of the APC at its founding was the formation of an alliance between the north and the southwest.

Umahi obviously doesn’t believe that in politics, you reap what you sow

Rochas Okorocha, then governor of Imo was the lone politician from the zone that stood with the APC when it was formed.

And was derided for standing with the enemy.

It was exactly for that reason, the regional forces behind the formation of the APC that former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, ahead of the 2019 presidential election warned the southeast against voting the APC in the hopes that the party would zone its presidential ticket to the southeast in 2023.

Umahi obviously doesn’t believe that in politics, you reap what you sow.

Going back to the impact of the EndSARS protests, on the surface; they were about police brutality against young people, with the government making claims that they were hijacked by people with ulterior motives.

Still, when properties belonging to Bola Tinubu are attacked knowing he has no connection with the police, it represents a repudiation of his politics.

And when northern governors claim the protests were out for regime change, they were admitting it was a repudiation of northern rule.

It’s why APC welcomed the Ebonyi governor with open arms.

Yet, for a brief moment, the protests changed the dynamics of 2023.

But with one fatal move, Umahi may have just rekindled Bola Tinubu’s hope and also given Atiku Abubakar back his voice.

Written by Shuaib Shuaib

Shuaibu, a former Editor of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, is based in Abuja.