From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, has disclosed that he has formally informed President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention to run for All Progressive Congress (APC) ticket for the 2023 presidential election.
This is coming barely 24 hours after former Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu declared his ambition to contest for the presidential ticket as well.
He disclosed this to State House Correspondents, after meeting with President Buhari in the State.
The Governor who said the President advised him to consult widely, said he was not perturbed 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, reiterated his earlier stance that the former ruling party was not ready to cede the 2023 ticket to the southeast, adding that 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 business.
Umahi said: “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 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.”
Umahi added that his presidency will replicate what he did in Ebonyi in terms of building of infrastructure, and will bring experience of construction to bear.
When asked what his chances would be, against the background that other big political figures had indicated their intentions to run for the same office, including Asiwaju Tinubu, he said God would be the decider of the outcome of the race.
Umahi said: “The Bible that I swore with, a section of it in 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 2023. I’m not in contest with anybody I’m in contest with myself”, he said.
Asked if he had commenced consultations with various interests to gain support for his aspiration, especially with Southeast stakeholders like the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Governor said he had to do first thing first, by informing the President.
On reaching out to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the governor categorically said the group ought not to be getting involved in party politics.
“I wouldn’t have done that without first coming to clear with Mr. President that there is this feeling in the Southeast that have not been President and that our 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.
“Ohaneze leadership should not play politics. Yes, they can speak for the interest of the Southeast, they can speak for fair treatment to Southeast 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 they will hear it just like they heard other political parties’ aspirants. We will also write them to notify the that yes, they have capable sons and daughters that, if God wills, could do this job”, he said.
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Reacting to the Plateau State governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, claimed that the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) ought to have met over the weekend, he described it as misinformation coming from somebody who’s brief did not include speaking on such matters.
Umahi said: “I’m not Mr. President who must have the final say on the date for 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, a chairman who is 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.
“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 APC Governors Forum who wasn’t also aware. So, I’m not sure the meeting held.
“But I read on a newspaper sometimes when the party leadership came to brief Mr. President and they told him February convention and Mr. President said yes. He is not a man that says yes and says no at the same time. He is a man of integrity, he is a man of his words.
“So, I believe that if he ever said February that he is going to stick to that February. I am very sure of that, but it is for him to speak or for the party leadership to speak. I speak for my state”, he said.
The governor also said he spoke with the President about resolving the security crisis bugging the Southeast region of the country through political solutions, to which he said could be achieved by getting consensus and out of court settlement.
The Governor also said he supports political solution to the insecurity problems in the South East, noting that economic activities of the region has been greatly impacted.
He said: “Let me also add that as the chairman of South East 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, 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 judicial 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 South East, is proposing 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 southeast 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 tend 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 of south East.”
Asked what the starting point of the engagement would be, Umahi said: “You see the leaders of south East, of course, not all of them, they must be selected leaders, and already Ohaneze and Chief Mbazulike Amaechi is already in the forefront, and we can find true peace in our region. They have always been briefing me and so I’ve joined them together without the south East governors. 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 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 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 what the president’s response was and if he was he forthcoming, the Ebonyi Governor said: “If you listen to me very well, Mr. President has never been in disagreement for peace, or anything that will bring peace. But you must allow him, you know, for what he believes in and for his pedigree and integrity, not to interfere with the judiciary. But it is up to us because the by-product of our discussion and negotiation is such that we can now go to the court and seek for out of court settlement, and whatever is the agreement becomes the settlement of the court.
“So I believe strongly that a political solution, would be far better than the process which may last for very long time.”