They say and l believe that in politics, there are no permanent enemies, but interests. It’s been so since the advent of free democracy across the world and in Nigeria, there’s not been any stereotypical political ideologism, the winner takes all or any platform that can get you elected, whether for personal or in the public interest, have been it.
Both from the history books and our personal experiences in life, those who see ahead of time and have been able to take advantage or risk in the opportunities which political freedom or democracy affords, got so much for their people. You are either in it for what is there for you or in the interest of the people. We have seen both sides and we should be able to say it, the way it is.
Our problem, especially in the Southeast has been that of not seeing ahead, most of the time, holding tenaciously to old ideas, even when they are not yielding any dividends and believing that there are permanent enemies or haters of ndi lgbo, when we are really our own problem. This rigidity or lack of flexible approach has cost us so much as a people and when compared to the politically wiser southwest, they always seize such opportunities, to ease us out of the mainstream.
At different times in history, true political leaders of their people or tribes in Nigeria, had made spontaneous, sometimes weird political moves, that turned out to be in the best interest of their people. Though some of their said people, initially thought those moves were unwise or for personal interests, but later saw the truth and believed.
Those political moves by leaders which did not go down well initially were later acknowledged and widely hailed as politically correct and worked in the best interest of their peoples’. It became something of a competition, at some point, for those leaders then to make deft moves, bargains, enter into alliances, horse trading, mergers and agreements that served to project their political parties and push their close allies or supporters into important elective or appointive positions in the emerged government at the centre.
To mention a few of such situations in the past:
It all started during the first regional elections when Chief Awolowo, the leader of Action Group cum the Yorubas, caused his people to abandon Dr Azikiwe of NCNC, overnight and cross carpeted to Action Group for Awo to win and become the PM. Whatever that was, it served the better interest of the western region. Today, the region is the most developed and educated part of this country. It is also important to state here that, not all Yourubas believed and followed Chief Awolowo. The Adesanyas, the Akintolas and Sofoluwes, led the pack of descanters, but the majority and masses, hung with Awo.
Dr Azikiwe himself, came down to the Eastern region, drove away the elected PM, Eyo Etta, who was not an lgbo and became the substantive PM. He later abandoned the PM position for Dr M. I. Okpara, when he agreed and went into a political Alliance with NEPU (a northern regional party) to form a national government that saw him become the first President of Nigeria and some of his close associates, occupied various positions in the central government.
Chief Awolowo,, against all expectation, but in the wider interest of his Yoruba people, joined Gen Gowon’s Executive Council as Finance minister, during the civil war. In that position, he ensured that his people took over the economy of this country, which had been in the hands of the easterners.. He privatized most public and multinational companies when he knew that only his people were in the financial position to buy shares etc.
Dr Azikiwe later, as the leader of NPP, a mostly lgbo party, in the second republic, went into alliance with Shagari’s NPN, to form a national government that saw members of his party, elected and appointed into many important cabinet positions.
The last or latest in the series of beneficial defections, mergers or alliances is the one that saw Chief Tinubu joining forces with the north to form the APC and the present national government that brought President Buhari to power, after three previous attempts. Today some of his former aides and stunch followers, of Yoruba decent, occupy very sensitive and important positions in the federal government. From the VP to the Speaker HoR, Works/Power/Housing and Interior ministeries, to mention a few. His people are heads of many important positions in the Federal service, parastatals and in the private sector. These happened before our own eyes and at a time the southeast polititicians were in slumber, stuck to the old order and led their people to go left when the rest of the country went left in 2015. We are today worse for it and wish some people had been on the other side or APC.
While l do not completely agree that the PDP did not look our way in the 14 combined years of OBJ and GEJ, it is true that our regional infrastructure, completely collapsed under their watches. But l like to hold responsible, people of the southeast region who served or occupied most of the important positions in those regimes, had the ears of both Presidents, but did nothing, that we knew, to help. I do not have to recite the names of those we had in both governments to remind us who they were or the important positions they held, but the fact that Enugu-Onitsha and Enugu-PH expressways, collapsed under their watches, will alwaus live with us as a lasting reminder.
For those who have been teasing, urging and believed that as a friend, associate and advocate of the intimidating achievements and leadership style/profile of Gov Dave Umahi or that l would have nothing to say over his defection to APC, you are wrong. It would have been difficult for me if l was lying or making unfounded claims about him. My comments or advocacy were strictly on the basis of what anyone can find on ground or eyes can see. That he’s built about 13 flyovers in 6 years, paved over 70% of urban and rural roads, built monumental structures, were all verifiable statements of fact.
First of all, I have neither been a card carrying member of any political party nor did l need to be, to know that Gov Umahi is the most achieved and accomplished elected politician in the southeast and one of the most influential, believable and loved political leaders in this country today. There’s nothing mystical, hidden or speculative about these facts. They are phenomenal achievements on ground for any cynic to see.
My people say you don’t argue about who is a better wrestler where there’s the ground to test. I am not sure, as well as other close watchers are that Gov Umahi will be found wanting, confused, dictated to or not capable in whatever capacity he either aspires or is given. He has proven all that in his present position and that have nothing to do with political party affiliation.
In all my write ups or essays on Gov Umahi and his *larger than life accomplishments, all of which are still with me, l never mentioned his political party because it has absolutely nothing to do with it. Most elected leaders in the southeast/south-south were in the same political party as he did and is not sure they have any template, goal or party agenda or priority.
I constantly said he was in a league of his own and still waiting for a challenge. He simply has nothing to prove to anyone in political leadership anymore, this is given the position he had held in his previous party in the past, whether appointed or elected. If he decides to retire from politics today, am not sure he will have any regrets as his legacies will speak for him.
On his defection to APC from PDP, that practice is as old as politics for political leaders with guts and clout. He must have thought it over weighed his options, evaluated, processed, consulted, viewed, reviewed and above all prayed over his move.
l neither had any discussion with him nor did l have to. I believe it’s likewise for those around him.
Gov Umahi belongs to the talented class of Mercy and Ronaldo, no coach teaches them how to play. I believe, like he said, he did it in the best interest of the people who love and have so much confidence in his leadership. We will get to appreciate as events unfold. Rushing to judgment or being too critical by those who have lost a jewel, can be understood, but great care need to be exercised in doing so.
All l can say, in conclusion, is that our people must wake up and come to the realization that we can’t always and should never be in one camp. It had hurt greatly and set us back as a people. Recall that in 2003, the politically more exposed and wiser southwest, agrees and allowed then President Obasanjo to rig election in the western states, except Tinubu’s Lagos, to overcome the challenges posed by his Vice, Atiku and some governors, in his re-election. Compare that to the fact that Dr Ngige would have been the Senate President if he was elected in 2015. Our politicians did not have the wisdom or foresight to close ranks and work for him to have been elected as the only southeast Senator, but we were the first to cry of exclusion from Buhari government. We must learn to come together, in some cases and allow diversity, to have a win win situation.
I frankly do not know if Gov Umahi defected to APC to fight for the Presidency. But if he did, he is eminently qualified by dint of hard work, achievements in office as an elected Governor and his long or past experience/service in politics. He had been Party State Chairman, Deputy Governor and two terms elected Governor. Rather than castigate him, make all the unfounded/unnecessary allegations or engage in fights with him, let’s watch quietly as events unfold, even if you are a sworn enemy. Those who opposed Tinubu for going into the merger that brought in Buhari as President and what the southwest has benefitted from that bold and timely move, are still watching.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the two major political parties ceding their presidential tickets to the southeast, deservedly. After all in recent memory, it was Obasanjo vs Olu Falae in ’99. Yar’ardua vs Buhari and Atiku in 2007, Buhari vs Atiku in 2015.
What’s wrong with Umahi vs Obi in 2023?
I do not have to be a member of any politicacal party to either say my mind, tell the truth or make common sense. Period!
I believe we need to work hard to put forward our bests who can win and make us proud.
Sir Dave Agwalla
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