2019: What Igbos will consider before backing presidential candidate – Gov Umahi

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State

The South-east Governors Forum Chairman, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi, has said the region, in 2019, will only back a presidential candidate who has experience and a track record of governance.

Mr Umahi spoke when a former governor of Sokoto State, and Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant, Attahiru Bafarawa, took his campaign for the topmost political seat to Ebonyi State.

At the parley on Tuesday, Mr Umahi said the zone will meet to harmonise and come up with a consensus candidate ”who has an understanding of issues especially as it relates to governance and the economy.”

He said all those aspiring to be president of the country under the party are all eminently qualified ”but experience should be a critical factor in choosing the party’s candidate”.

“About 14 of you who are presidential aspirants under the PDP are very wonderful materials. And it is a very wonderful thing because each and every one of you is eminently qualified but I must say those who have an extra experience like some of you who have done it eight years as governors. I think the experiences cannot be the same. So, I commend you very highly.”

He told Mr Bafarawa that South-east PDP will ”sit and agree on who to support for county’s top job in 2019.”

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“I want to say, we accept your person, and spiritually you are dear to our hearts. The South-east as a region is going to work together especially the PDP states. We are also going to talk together and we must take a position. We must take a position in the sense that we need to bond together. We need to agree and tell whoever is going to be our next President, this is how you are going to govern us. This is how we will like you to remember us and this is how we want you to carry us along,” he said.

He said the perception that politicians are liars, promise breakers and unclean people in Nigeria has to change.

“And the idea of putting down what you have done before is wonderful. In this country, if you are talking they say you are a politician. It worries me too much. It means that politicians are liars. Politicians are promise breakers. Politicians don’t live clean lives. I think this is one of the innovations we have to start doing as a people. So, we are going to go beyond personal interest and say, you are going to be this, what are you going to do for us? Put it down in writing.”

Mr Umahi also congratulated the presidential hopeful for his court victory over corruption charges levelled against him.

The governor also commended Mr Bafarawa for appointing a senator, Ben Collins, as his campaign deputy Director-General.

Speaking earlier, Mr Bafarawa solicited for the votes of Ebonyi State delegates during the forthcoming party’s presidential primary election, saying he has all it takes to positively turn around the country.

He also said he has a wealth of experience to lead the country “I have been in politics since 1976 before even the creation of NPN, NPP, three years before the creation of the Second Republic. I was the Transition Committee Chairman of the local government council in 1976. I rose from that in 1979. NPN was almost dominant in Sokoto state but I refused to join NPN. I joined NPP together with our leader Zik (Nnamdi Azikwe).

”When NPN realised that NPP is a strong party, is a national party and is going to win the election, the NPN by then used their intrigues to divide our relationship with GNPP.

“When we came to the convention, Waziri vehemently told Zik that he wants to be the presidential candidate and also chairman of the party. Zik said ‘Waziri take one and leave one’, but Waziri said he needs all because he was being pushed by NPN to disunite us. That was what caused the division of NPP and GNPP.”

He said he is a detribalised Nigerian who has the interest of all ethnic groups ”especially the Igbos at heart.”

“I have the interest of the Igbos to lead this country. In 1999, I met President Shehu Shagari and told him ‘you know there is an agreement between you and the Igbos that after you Alex Ekwueme will take over before the military intervention, now I think this is the best time for us to pay them back. We want to on behalf of my colleagues invite you to come and take over our ticket so that we will give him support.

“I asked Shagari to get in touch with Alex, he did not accept the offer. In 2003 he (Alex) said he was going to contest, he decided to contest at the end of the day he changed his mind to contest under PDP and he didn’t succeed.

“I was the National Chairman of the ANPP and there were five aspirants, Igbo people who are contesting under the ANPP. I summoned all the five aspirants, Igbo people and told them ‘please let us give Alex the ticket so that he will be the flag bearer’. He refused to accept the ANPP ticket and that was how it ended up into the hand of Buhari by then,” he said.

The former Sokoto governor said he left N13 billion in the coffers of the state government when he left office.

“When I was a governor, I was very prudent. I didn’t stay in the government house for eight years. When I was leaving office, I left almost N13 billion for the incoming government and that amount was a very big money then.”

He said President Buhari is not a Democrat, ”having come from a military background, which is why he has failed as a President”.

“I am a democrat; let us not continue making mistakes of allowing an eye medical doctor to do heart surgery. I have never seen a successful businessman who started with a billion capital and succeeded; you have to have a small capital to build your career. Nobody will become a PhD without learning ABCD.

“But in Nigerian democracy, we are taking people who are not democratic and giving them top position which is very dangerous . We have seen the results, we have seen what is happening now. The captain of this nation today is a trained military man, he is a complete opposite. To give a military man leadership of the country of over 200 million people and you expect him to do well, he will never get it right,” he said.

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