Monday, March 16, 2015 3:11 pm
Abia Onyike, Director of Media and Publicity of Umahi Campaign Organisation, in this interview with JETHRO IBILEKE, said governor Martin Elechi deserves what he is getting for reneging on his promise of power shift to Ebonyi south senatorial district
Can you tell us the genesis of the problem between your Principal, the PDP governorship candidate and his boss, governor Martin Elechi, since both of them are supposed to be working together for the peace and development of Ebonyi state?
I think they had a very cordial working relationship. You will remember that in 2007, governor Elechi influenced the emergence of Engr. Dave Umahi as the state chairman of the PDP. So he worked as the state chairman of the party for four years, and within that period, he handled the party affairs effectively and efficiently and the governor was impressed. One of the most developed party secretariats can be found in Ebonyi state, a very magnificent edifice. It was built by Dave Umahi while he was the state party chairman for four years and the governor was impressed and by 2011, he picked him as his running mate. The two of them won the election when the governor was re-elected for a second term and everything was going on fine.
I think what really caused the problem was when it came to deciding who will take over on 29 May, 2015. The governor gave the indication in alliance with the elders of the state that power should be zoned to Ebonyi south senatorial district, since Ebonyi north senatorial district had their turn when Sam Egwu was governor for eight years and Ebonyi central senatorial district is completing its own turn by Martin Elechi being governor. Naturally, it should have gone to Ebonyi south senatorial district and that was what the governor was saying at that time and everybody though that was the proper thing.
But somewhere along the line, the party primary which came up was such that the governor did not like the fact that Engr. Dave Umahi emerged the winner as the governorship candidate of the PDP because he has his own preference in the person of Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu from the same Ebonyi south, who was then minister for health. In the party primary, Umahi defeated eight other aspirants including Prof. Chukwu. But the governor didn’t want Umahi because he had already made it public that we wanted Chukwu. Perhaps he felt humiliated. I think it’s just a question of pride. But we are saying that if, for instance, the governor was sincere in wanting the governorship to go to Ebonyi south senatorial district as had been accepted by all the major political leaders and stakeholders in Ebonyi state, why did he turn round to contradict himself by bringing in the Labour Party and going to Ebonyi north senatorial district which had produced a governor between 1999 and 2007, and giving the governorship ticket back to them? That is the contradiction. If he had remained consistent even after going to the Labour Party and had brought somebody from Ebonyi south, then we would have known that he was sincere. In my own opinion, I do not think the governor was sincere in wanting power to shift to Ebonyi south senatorial district. That is the bottomline concerning the whole problem.
You said the governor went to the Labour Party and picked a candidate, but we all know that the governor is a member of the PDP. How do you reconcile this?
He has been saying in all his public speeches that he is a PDP man, but the question is, if he is a PDP man, why has he not been following the PDP and the PDP governorship candidate to PDP campaign rallies in the state? Why is he not campaigning for PDP candidates? Instead, he is campaigning for Labour Party and funding the Labour Party with government’s money.
Can you substantiate that allegation?
Yes, we can substantiate it. We have made it clear in our various press releases that these things are happening and that monies are being withdrawn from government accounts to fund the Labour Party. A case in point was when they withdrew about N1.1 billion from Sure-P fund and distributed the money to the illegal 13 local government caretaker committee chairmen that he appointed on 4 December, 2014, without taking the names to the House of Assembly for confirmation.
You may recall that there was a local government election in 2013 in this state and the local government chairmen who were elected were sworn in on 1 November. But because that election was based on open ballot system and not secret ballot system, some people went to court to challenge the authenticity of that election and the court ruled in their favour and nullified the election.
So, within the interim, the governor appointed 13 local government caretaker committee chairmen without recourse to the House of Assembly for confirmation and they are illegally occupying that office and they brought out N1.1 billion from Sure-P fund which was distributed to them. Some of them got N58 million, some others got N60 million while some others got N68 million. They put the money into their own private accounts and for funding the Labour Party.
…that’s an allegation
It’s an allegation, but have they refuted it?
What did the House of Assembly do about what you called illegal caretaker committee chairmen?
That is part of the problem. And apart from that, before 4 December when he did this, on 28 November, he appointed 28 development centre coordinators unilaterally. He inaugurated them, swore them in and they started work. The list was never sent to the House of Assembly for clearance and confirmation.
By that you can see that he has bridged the constitution severally. He is very authoritarian, very dictatorial. This is part of what members of the House of Assembly enumerated in their allegations as grounds to get him impeached.
There have been allegations that the seats of four members of the assembly were declared vacant before the impeachment saga began. What happened?
Well, you see, that is an internal affair of the state house of assembly and I am not a parliamentarian. But as a Nigerian and an Eboyian, I can comment on it. I understand that the house of assembly did what they did based on sections of the constitution that conferred such powers on them, especially the Speaker of the House, to declare vacant the seat of any member or members of who have left the political party that sponsored them to that house of assembly and went over to another political party. Therefore, the seats of six members have been declared vacant by the state house of assembly right now.
How would you react to the allegation that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, is using federal might to intimidate and oppress governor Elechi?
I don’t believe that. He is using his might in which way? Is it the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that motivates the constitution violation by the executive arm of government in Ebonyi state? Is it the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that influenced the political development in the state? The state has been autonomous and things have been going on all these years. Why is it that they now remember the Secretary to the Government of the Federation?
I think these things are divisionary tactics. Serious allegations are being made against the sitting governor, but instead of organising himself and responding to the allegations, they have resorted to name calling, diverting attention completely. I would square up to the allegations if I were in their shoes. I would organise myself and square up to the allegations and stop resorting to name calling because Anyim Pius Anyim has never governed Ebonyi state. To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen his hands in anything other than him just being a member of the PDP and he is bound to be sympathetic to the party. But to tell me that he has such an enormous power as to be the one who would now stimulate political developments in the state? I will tell you that is not true. He does not even have the time. His own job is so engrossing that he does not even get the time to talk about Ebonyi state. He doesn’t even have time to pick the calls of people. So, let us stop these divisionary antics.