The practice of defection from one party to the other appears to have become a necessary attribute of party politics in Nigeria, dating back to 1951, when several members of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) defected to the Action Group (AG) just to actualize their political ideology.
Politicians, who feel disillusioned, cheated or denied free and fair opportunities, defect to other parties to participate in the elections or benefit from certain prospects. One of the issues that have contributed to party defections in Nigeria is lack of internal democracy within political parties. In Nigeria, recognition of candidates for nomination and selection for primary elections depends on the strength of the candidate in area of economic and political power, without any due consideration of the integrity and capability/capacity of the candidate involved and regional spread. These acts have led to political crises leading to individuals defecting to other parties and/or forming new parties as a result of dissatisfaction with party operation. For instance, the unhealthy power contest and intra-party crises prompted incessant defections of prominent members of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) between 2013-2015 to the now ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
As a result of the above scenario, it is important to note that party defections in Nigeria are not restricted to one party, but has become a political norm in Nigeria’s democracy; sometimes in protest of bad governance and marginalization.
The above circumstance is certainly not unconnected to what led to the recent defection of the Chairman of southeast Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State Engineer David Nweze Umahi from the People’ Democratic Party, PDP to the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The Governor on November 19, 2020 at a mini-rally attended by the National Caretaker Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress and Governor of Yobe State Mai Mala Buni, National Working Committee Members and staunch APC Big wigs at the Christian Ecumenical Centre, Abakaliki in the company of the galaxy of supporters including members of the State Executive Council, State Assembly Members, Council Chairmen, Ward Councilors, Liaison Officers, Coordinators of Development Centre, Management Committee Members among others jubilantly made a switch to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The reason for the bold step was due to the age-long neglect of the South East Zone by the PDP although one of its foremost founding members His Excellency, the former Vice-President of Nigeria Dr. Alex Ekwueme was from the Zone. Because of the integrity of Dr. Ekwueme, the Igbos of the South East Zone embraced wholly the PDP and rallied around it since the return to Democracy in 1999 but despite supporting other regions to take their shots to the number one plum job in the Federation, the Zone has always been relegated to the background when it comes to consideration for the presidential slot.
The neglect got to an alarming proportion that it needed a leader of uncommon courage and dexterity like His Excellency Engineer Chief David Nweze Umahi to send a signal to the nation’s power oligarchy that the Zone was no longer at ease with their perennial marginalization.
Although, Governor Umahi was a prominent pillar of the PDP, he did not consider his personal and family gains but as a staunch nationalist, offered himself as a sacrificial lamb that the Igbos will be liberated from the shackles of underdevelopment and political relegation.
The action of Governor David Nweze Umahi has as intended sent a strong message that the South East Zone can no longer be taken for a ride and that the Zone is now ready and willing more than ever to take its destiny by its hands.
Governor David Nweze Umahi as the Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum has also by his crossover re-launched both Ebonyi State and the South East Zone into the bastion of national politics and discourse which is its rightful place in the comity of states and region in the country.
The proceeds of this noble action therefore will not just be gargantuan but also bountiful considering that no major decision of national interest will be taken under any pretext without due consultation and representation of South East Leaders in the Country. This will be more so if other States of the Zone could see beyond the immediate and take action to ensure comprehensive rebrand and reintegration of the South East Zone to its pride of place in the governance of Nigeria.
Back home in Ebonyi State, the benefits of Governor Umahi’s movement to the APC are as colossal as it is inexhaustible. Ebonyi State will assume exalted carriage in matters of national discourse; hence, the State and the Federal are now in unison in Party and ideological perspectives. This will no doubt attract more democracy dividends to the State which has been craving for interventions from virtually all fronts and spheres of human existence.
Already, the Abakaliki Capital City and virtually the 13 Council Areas of the State are now aesthetically and structurally rebranded and remodeled courtesy of Governor Umahi’s superstructural revolution in the State.
Within less than six years on the saddle, Governor Umahi has built over 10 flyovers across the State that hitherto had none, constructed the biggest and most edifying Christian Ecumenical Centre in West Africa, constructed the Muhammadu Buhari glass tunnel, the reconstruction of the Margaret Umahi International Market, stretches of Roads on Concrete pavement and the illumination of the Abakaliki Capital City with street lights, ornamentals and water fountains among other landmark projects.
Simultaneously, the Government is executing on a fast lane the biggest shopping mall in Nigeria which is already at 98% completion, the Ebonyi International Airport, the International Stadium, the College of Medicine also at an advanced stage of completion, dualization of Abakaliki-Enugu and Abakaliki-Afikpo roads among others.
With the Governor’s movement to the APC, some monumental projects that will engender robust economic growth and transformation like the Abakaliki Ring road, the International Airport and the International Stadium would see the light of the day within Umahi’s administration through State-Federal Government partnership.
Happily, Governor Umahi has given a timeline of between now and February 2021 for the take-off of the Abakaliki Ring road project, also billed to be completed before the present administration winds down.
Expectedly, the movement will also afford Ebonyi Youth and Women more opportunities to benefit from life-touching programs of the Federal Government domiciled in the Social Investment Program.
Not being oblivious of the saying by Plutarch that those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly, Governor Umahi sacrificed everything so that Ndigbo may enjoy more representation and sense of belonging in the scheme of things in the Federation.
Therefore, Governor Umahi deserves accolades for weathering the storm and taking the bull by the horn to bequeath these mammoth benefits to Ebonyians and Ndigbo in general.
Gladly, there have been several messages of solidarity from Leaders of the State, Civil Society Organizations and Non-governmental Organizations hailing the Governor’s bold step and declaring their support to the mass exodus to the APC in the State. Kudos to the Ohaneze Ndigbo youths for deciphering out of their wise counsel that Umahi as an asset to the Igbo race means well for the Zone, hence their recent message of commendation and solidarity.
Other socio-cultural and Independent Organizations in the Zone should without further delay identify with this positive revolution ably led by Governor Umahi that will take the zone to its eldorado . All and sundry should join hands with the vision bearer, Engineer Chief David Nweze Umahi to emancipate Ndigbo from the shackles of neglect and redraft the Zone’s truncated history.