Opinion| Dave Umahi: Break the rules, leap to victory


By Emma Agu

Like every politician, Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State, means different things to different persons. Ask some of his opponents, they will tell you that he is a wily, ruthless operator who spares to time dealing with opponents. But to his admirers, he is God-sent; a very effective leader, under whose watch, Ebonyi State is witnessing unprecedented people-centred development.

To understand the Dave Umahi phenomenon, cognizance should be taken of the fact that, in addition to being Governor of Ebonyi State, is also chairman of the South East Governors Forum, a position he is holding, at a very challenging period in the history of the country. Never, since the end of the civil war, has the South East zone been so volatile, caused by the agitation of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), an organisation that, for the greater part, has demanded for the restructuring of Nigeria, based on a United Nations supervised. Naturally, this has pitted the group against the Federal Government: remember the mantra; Nigeria’s sovereignty is not negotiable!

Besides, in spite of the effort of the previous administration in which Dave Umahi served as deputy governor, Ebonyi State, like many others, was still in dire need of faster infrastructural development, people empowerment and a pragmatic engagement with its diverse neighbours, to the north and east. It was under that condition that Umahi assumed duties, as governor, after a bitterly fought election in which his predecessor vigorously opposed his emergence.

Now that Governor Umahi is seeking re-election, my view may not be important, as only the electorate, in Ebonyi State, now has the power to return a verdict, on his performance. Whether he succeeds or not is far beyond this article or the writer. However, no matter the outcome of the 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi State, history will remember Umahi for his ability to insulate Ebonyi State and the South East, from total war, by dousing the tension that was generated by the IPOB crisis. Not many people would have astutely navigated the landmines that stuck out, as some hawks canvassed a confrontational posture with the Federal Government. Given the emotions of the time, the hawks forgot that, like the President, every Governor had sworn to uphold the sovereign status of Nigeria. Umahi, with the other Governors were, also, acutely aware that beyond the rhetoric of bravado by the young idealists in IPOB, an open confrontation with the military would throw the South-East into a cauldron whose end, no one could predict. Umahi and his colleagues saw what the young idealists, without prejudice to their indignation, could not see: that apart from human attrition, another war in the South East would destroy the zone economically and erode the post-civil war gains.

It certainly took great courage to run against the popular sentiment. Umahi was maligned, threatened and despised. Yet, he stood his ground: he was focused and firm, forthright and determined. Umahi’s action reflected a clear understanding that, there are moments when a leader will have to defy popular sentiments and stick to his convictions, based on the information at his disposal. That was leadership at its best. After all, an Igbo saying has it that what the diochi (palm wine tapper) sees from the tree top, the tallest man, standing on a chair, will not see it! As Governor, he had information which the common man, did not have.

Actually, what has emerged is that Umahi’s style defies conventional political behaviour in Nigeria, especially, the South East. He has no qualms breaking the rules, insofar as he is convinced that the end will justify his position. In no area is this more starkly pronounced than his cosy relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari. Those from his South East zone, who see his behaviour as inexcusable, as not “conforming to the rule”, have history on their side. In the Second Republic Nigeria, Governor Sam Mbakwe of Imo State and his Anambra State counterpart, Chief Jim Nwobodo, both of the defunct Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), maintained a highly tempestuous and adversarial relationship with President Shehu Shagari (of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN).

Here is Umahi, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), openly fraternizing with President Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a man who many, from Umahi’s zone, do not see as a friend. That is yet another rule broken. Umahi is right, yet again. He appreciates that, as President of Nigeria, Buhari has the entire country as his constituency and Ebonyi is part of that constituency. For another, Umahi has refused to play the stereotypical ethnic politics that is largely responsible for Nigeria’s underdevelopment; of course, the ethnic politics is only a façade that plays up in furtherance of the selfish political interests of the elite, who see the country as a fiefdom for their families.

On balance, it is difficult for anyone to prove that Ebonyi has suffered, by way of Umahi’s style. If anything, Ebonyi has recorded accelerated and sustained improvement in infrastructure and people empowerment through massive investment in roads and agriculture, among other achievements. Today, Abakaliki, the state capital, wears a new look. Umahi’s background as an engineer is rubbing off on infrastructure delivery. A tourist who last visited Abakaliki four years ago, will be forgiven if the person, on seeing the flyover and streetlights of today, mistakes the state capital for Abuja.

What is significant is that, unlike some governors who begin and end provision of infrastructure, in the state capital, Umahi has pursued an aggressive policy of road development in the rural areas where, as at the last count, a minimum of 15-kilometer concrete roads was done in each of the thirteen local governments. The road development is not isolated; rather, it is intertwined with the agric development policy of the government. It is to Governor’s credit that, from the inception of his administration, he identified agriculture as the fulcrum on which his laudable people-empowerment policy would revolve. The loan scheme program for civil servants and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) have literally left Ebonyi State awash with money for agriculture.

Aside from the several awards he has received, no one has captured the essence of Umahi’s agric revolution as graphically as Audu Ogbeh, Nigeria’s minister of agriculture did, during a visit to Ebonyi State, in 2017. I will like to reproduce excerpts from Ogbeh’s impressions, courtesy of Emma Anya, chief press secretary to Governor Umahi. Addressing Umahi, Ogbeh said: “Governor, I hear you banned the sale of foreign rice in your state. God bless you for it. I also hear you invited young men to come back from Lagos and work here, God bless you also for it. They will be happier here in this state than living under the bridge or substandard accommodation in Lagos, Abuja or elsewhere.”

To Ogbeh’s accolades, I wish to make the following remarks. First, every government, like that of Ebonyi State, must have a clear and honest vision. Second, every governor must exhibit unquestionable political direction and will. Third, diversification should be anchored on comparative advantage, not the copy cat which, more often than not, lacks transparency. For Ebonyi, agro allied industries is the way to go, through the state is not ignoring its rich deposits of solid minerals Fourth, it is a fallacy that Nigeria cannot feed itself. It is an even bigger fallacy to insist that protectionism, such as the rice ban, will always be counter-productive. Like the Ebonyi State Government, the Federal Government deserves commendation, in the same way that the Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN deserves unqualified accolades for its single-minded prosecution of the Anchor Borrowers Programme. For the thousands of school leavers who pace all over urban cities, in search of non-existent jobs, the agric revolution of the Umahi Administration has, for the first time, afforded them the difference between mere existence and having a life. Paradoxically, it is for the reasons of the rules he has broken that, contrary to the wishes of his opponents, Umahi, could simply leap to a landslide victory, in the 2019 governorship elections.

Emma Agu, CEO of GAVINTA & ASSOCIATE LTD, a media consultancy, is a fellow of both the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).

Opinion contributor
Opinion contributor
This opinion was received by Today News Africa in Washington, District of Columbia. The views expressed here are those of the writer(s) and not ours. You can send your own article to todaynewsafrica@gmail.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Trending Now

Biden to use walking boot for several weeks after sustaining fractures while playing with dog, doctor says

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden sustained a sprain of his right foot while playing with his dog, Major, his doctor said on Sunday. "Initial X-rays are...

President-elect Joe Biden slips while playing with dog, twists ankle

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. slipped while playing with his dog, Major, and twisted his ankle. The President-elect is being examined at Delaware Orthopaedic...

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden says he’s concerned about escalating violence in Ethiopia and worries about civilians

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday said he was concerned about the escalating violence in Ethiopia. In a call with the United Nations...

Ethiopian forces set to take Tigrayan capital, as many fear mass civilian deaths

The Ethiopian military said late on Friday that government forces were set to take control of Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, even as...

Nigerian-American Adewale Adeyemo makes history as President-elect Biden announces members of his economic team

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced key members of his economic team, including Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury; Neera Tanden as...

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks with Presidents of Kenya, Argentina and Costa Rica, and UN chief

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday spoke with world leaders, including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the second African leader after his...

Biden appoints Jen Psaki White House Press Secretary, announces other communications positions

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Sunday announced new members of the White House staff who will serve in senior communications...

U.S. should embargo arms sales to UAE over airstrikes in Libya and Yemen: HRW

The United States should halt proposed weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. It should suspend all future sales until the...

Biden enraged over supreme court case seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants in redistricting

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday expressed anger and frustration over a supreme court case seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants in redistricting. The...

UN says 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2021 and $35 billion needed

The shock of COVID-19 has pushed the number of people who need humanitarian assistance worldwide to a record high – up by 40 per...

Wisconsin certifies Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump

The battleground state of Wisconsin on Monday certified its presidential election results with Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner following a partial recount...

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden says he’s concerned about escalating violence in Ethiopia and worries about civilians

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday said he was concerned about the escalating violence in Ethiopia. In a call with the United Nations...

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks with Presidents of Kenya, Argentina and Costa Rica, and UN chief

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday spoke with world leaders, including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the second African leader after his...

Biden’s economic team praised as experienced and historic

U.S. President-elect's economic team has been praised as experience and historic. Biden on Monday announced key members of his economic team, including Janet Yellen...

Why is Buhari still keeping the failed service chiefs? By Fredrick Nwabufo

#ZabarmariMassacre! The farm is a place of sowing and reaping, and the most unlikeliest haunt of the grim reaper. But at least 43 citizens who went harvesting on their farm in Borno on Saturday had their souls harvested by the emissaries of hell — Boko Haram.How many more will have to die before the conscience of President Muhammadu Buhari is stirred to do the most...
error: Alert: Content is protected !!