Umahi has turned Ebubeagu into personal militia – Ebonyi PDP chieftain

1 week ago

In this interview with EDWARD NNACHI, former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State and a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain in the state, Chief Abia Onyike, speaks on the attack on his house by Ebubeagu operatives and the seeming intolerance of the state governor, David Umahi

Sometime in March 2022, your Abakaliki house was reportedly riddled with bullets allegedly by Ebubeagu operatives. Can you share with The PUNCH what happened?

Yes, that is very true. Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State hates criticism and he is extremely controversial as a political player who doesn’t play to the rules. In Nigeria today, many people call him an Emperor and he is happy with the appellation. We in Ebonyi know him as an enemy of any form of lawful governance. And once you criticise him, he goes after you. So, on 9th March 2022, I was interviewed by Arise TV where I x-rayed his administration. He became furious and the next thing that happened was the sporadic shootings in my Abakaliki residence. The windows were shattered and myself and my family escaped death by the whiskers.

Last week, members of the same Ebubeagu outfit came to a pharmaceutical store where you went to get drugs at about 9 pm and whisked you away on alleged mistaken identity and tortured you for over one hour. What did they say was your crime? Did they find hard drugs or implicating substances on you?

They told me that I have been criticising Umahi. That is the only accusation they levelled against me. And that was why he sent Ebubeagu to come and abduct me and took me to their Torture Chambers at the old Government House, Abakaliki, where I was stripped naked and given severe beatings for more than one hour. Umahi runs a rogue state in Ebonyi that is sustained by a massive propaganda and a brutal machine of state terrorism called Ebubeagu. The essence is to use the militia outfit to suppress/subdue opposition and deploy violence that will undermine the sovereign will of the people to elect leaders of their choice. Instead of setting up a South-East regional security outfit to deal with the issue of herdsmen, he has converted it to his personal militia.

Your latest attack came barely three weeks after the Labour Party Senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South, Hon. Linus Okorie was also allegedly abducted and the convoy of the APGA governorship candidate in the state, Prof Benard Odoh was also reportedly attacked by the same Ebubeagu operatives. With these incidents, what do you think is going on in Ebonyi State?

What is happening in Ebonyi is the failure of the Umahi phenomenon, which was founded on lies, falsehood and deceit. Umahi’s half-baked policies have failed woefully. Under Umahi’s watch, Ebonyi became the poorest state in Southern Nigeria and the fourth poorest in Nigeria as a whole. His definition of development as “costume” and his commitment to wrong priorities and white elephant projects having been exposed, Umahi’s fake popularity was derobed. Seeing that he and his party have a difficult task to win in the forthcoming elections Umahi resorted to crude tactics of intimidation, terror and violence to compel the electorate to vote for him and his party or face punishment. That is essentially what is creating the tension in the state. He doesn’t want any other candidates to vie for any election, except himself and the candidates he unilaterally imposed on the party without any sense of discretion. This is the reason behind his witch-hunting of Hon Linus Okorie, the Labour Party senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South zone.

Governor David Umahi has banned political campaigns, and rallies at markets, schools, parks, etc., citing the defacing of such places by users as a reason. Was this the status quo during the time of ex-governors Sam Egwu and Martin Elechi?

Such strange practices or rules never existed under the tenures of former governors Sam Egwu and Martin Elechi. These people were respected and worthy leaders who knew their onions. This one is a pseudo-democrat. He doesn’t care even if the state is burning provided his interests are preserved and consolidated. The essence of the Executive Order is to place obstacles in the way of the opposition parties to render them ineffective. By so doing, he can emerge victorious alongside the governorship candidate of his party, APC, Ogbonnaya Nwifuru. Umahi is planning a third term in office by attempting to foist his man Friday on the people of Ebonyi State.

Umahi has placed a N5 million refundable fee for use of these facilities by politicians in the state. Is this in tandem with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act?

Certainly, it is not in tandem with the provisions of the Electoral Act of 2022 and the 1999 Constitution as amended. But Umahi has always operated above Nigerian laws and nothing happens. He was the first man in Nigeria to run a state government for four years without the use of Permanent Secretaries and nothing happened. Since he became Governor, he banned the payment of gratuities to retiring workers. Since then, the retirees have been dying instalmentally. The Ebonyi State civil service under Umahi is run as a lawless organisation to enable Umahi to personalise governance in the state. And he has done it for nearly eight years and nothing has happened. He has been emboldened because of his immunity but he doesn’t know that Nigeria is a complex entity. One day monkey go go market, e no go return.

You are a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ebonyi State. Are you worried about these unusual developments in the state?

Yes. I am disturbed and worried because of the way and manner Governor Umahi is deliberately encouraging anarchy and a slide to violence in the state. Under his watch, Ebonyi State has recorded the worst levels of communal disturbances, extra-judicial killings and the use of subterfuge to deny civil servants their statutory allowances, pensions and gratuities whereas the governor’s family and extended family members live in opulence. His son moves around with a convoy. Up till today, nobody has given an account of the disappearances and death of the five NELAN Engineers, who were handling the Ebonyi Ring Road project. They had a serious disagreement with Umahi over the control of the contract funds and vehicles. And a few days later, they got missing till date.

What are the chances of your party winning the 2023 polls, amid the current scenario?

If a free and fair election is conducted today, the PDP will win a landslide and Umahi knows that.

Until 2019, you were said to be a close ally of Governor Umahi but currently, you are his worst critic. What really led to your parting of ways?

Umahi and I were never allies. I am a product of progressive political activism based on ideological commitment and discipline. I started my political career during my university days in the mid-1980s as a frontline student activist. I belong to the generation that fought military rule in the 1990s and went to detention severally before we succeeded in ousting the military. I later went into trade unionism and rose to the position of the NUJ Deputy National President. My political allies in Nigeria are to be found amongst intellectually vibrant activists like the late Chima Ubani; Lanre Arogundade; Asari Dokubo; Uche Onyeagucha; and Joe Ajaero. These are the kind of people I respect and look up to and not political nonentities, who later turned tyrants. Umahi is too ideologically bankrupt to be my ally. I was a founding father of Ebonyi State. We were only four of us who supported Edda people (current Afikpo South LGA) to join the then-proposed Ebonyi State. The leaders were Chief Francis Oji; Osuu S. C. Oduko; the late Egwu China; and myself, Abia Onyike. I was the one sent to Abuja to submit the memo signed by Edda leaders and Traditional Rulers. I went to submit the memo on 15th February 1996. That was how Edda (Afikpo South LGA) became part of Ebonyi State. You can cross-check the records. Umahi was never part of the Ebonyi State movement. Maybe that’s why he is hellbent on destroying the state. He is an opportunist. I was already a sitting Commissioner in Ebonyi State 17 years ago before Umahi came in as a contractor and was later on drafted as a state PDP Chairman. Did he come with any leadership experience apart from being a local contractor who was still struggling?

Until September 2022 when the Supreme Court declared Chief Ifeanyi Odii the governorship candidate of PDP, the party was riddled with all manner of court cases. Don’t you think it will be difficult for the party to reunite and reposition ahead of the polls?

The PDP in Ebonyi State has already returned as a solid and united force. We are very satisfied with the way the reconciliation package has been managed. All our members are now back to base and we are sure of retrieving back our governorship seat which Umahi took to APC when he cross-carpeted in November 2020.

Allegations and insinuations currently make the round that Governor Umahi is sponsoring Chief Ifeanyi Odii’s governorship bid. What’s your take on this, sir?

There is no truth in that speculation. Some people don’t even know Umahi. He is someone who can never support anybody who is more intelligent than him. He is a promoter of mediocrity. He will not be comfortable backing somebody bigger than him – an accomplished and successful businessman from the organised private sector like Odii. He can only support the type of person he is supporting now, somebody who is not independent-minded and someone he had used as Speaker of the House for eight to ruin the state. Odii is too big to be Umahi’s surrogate. And even Governor Umahi himself knows that.

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