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OPINION : Can Buhari trust Umahi?

3 min


Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, has reportedly warned all his aides and associates never to ‘criticize’ President Muhammadu Buhari, or risk losing their jobs if they do. The civil engineer governor, who has not hidden his desperation to inveigle himself into winning himself a place in President Muhammadu Buhari’s power kitchen is said to have handed over this warning through his Special Assistant on New Media, argued that criticizing President Buhari or any governor has no value to add to his administration.

While this warning may appear irrelevant on face value, pundits are making a serious dig out of it. One can easily link the governor’s new found, but suspicious love and support for the President with his 2023 political ambitions, as there are strong rumours that the governor has made it clear to his close aides and associates that he will succeed President Buhari by 2023.

Being a politician with strong belief in the ‘Abuja factor’ rather than the home factor, it is believed that Unahi is doing everything to smoothen his way into being anointed by the President as either the presidential candidate of the ruling APC, or at worst, as a running mate to any northern presidential candidate that may be favoured by the President. For his ambition, the opposition governor is said to have committed himself to defecting to the APC, as soon as the legal challenges against his re-election are dusted.

But, how much and how wise is it for the President to trust Umahi as an ally? How far has he kept to his words in the past, as long as political associations are concerned?

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For one, Umahi is a political survivalist. He is in that Machievalian school of thought, that believes in the end, rather than the means. To get to this end, anything can give way and words of mouth may matter little. Someone had actually described the governor as “a smooth talker and a smooth operator who believes that power comes from the top rather than from the down, and would shift grounds, as fastly as the top echelon moves.”

In 2015, most of the Ebonyi based PDP chieftains had made up their minds to support the then Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu as Chief Martin Elechi’s successor, but Dave, who was the Deputy-governor at the time, chose to align with the Abuja bigwigs, to upstage his principal. He got the PDP gubernatorial ticket ahead and rode on the back of the popularity of the then PDP presidential candidate, in the Southeast, to win his election with a landslide.

In the run-up to the 2019 general elections, Umahi was among the most oscillatory politicians in the country at that time. In his desperation to get the validation of the ‘Abuja men’, Umahi did both the thinkable and the near thoughtless. He led the Southeast governors to proscribe the IPOB, designated same as a terrorist group, became an emergency and unofficial campaign spokesperson for President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection. He was widely expected to jump ship before the general elections, but it is believed that he stayed back in the PDP, because of the obvious difficulty he would have encountered in his bid to clinch the APC governorship ticket.

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Having stayed back in the PDP, it would have been gentlemanly for the Ebonyi governor to come all out for his Party, but he chose to play the game of the owl; he was in the PDP, while he allegedly bought thousands of bags of rice, which he branded with President Muhammadu Buhari’s pictures and Party’s logo and distributed across the State. When the President visited Ebonyi State on his campaign trips, Umahi took to the media to announce that he had sent about 5,000 of his supporters to cheer the President on.

While the governor made every attempt to project himself as popular, the facts on ground showed that he was running against the tide, as long as the people of Ebonyi were concerned. They considered him, a failure in governance, especially, in the areas of job creation, salary and pensions payment and general human capital development. His major strong point at the time was the city roads which he constructed or rehabilitated. However, majority of the people were more interested in having food on their tables, than having good roads in the city, which serves less than 30% of the population.

Eventually, the elections in Ebonyi seemed to have boiled down to whoever had the right contacts and resources to manipulate the election. Umahi seemed to have had everything working for him, and observers expected him to at least allow the APC, which he had pretended to love, to have their victories where they earned them, instead, Umahi was accused of stealing the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari’s votes, even in APC strongholds in the State. The President was even denied his well earned 25% requirement in Ebonyi, by the same Umahi, who claimed to be campaigning for him and even bought thousands of bags of rice in the President’s name.

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It is obvious that Governor Umahi has no respects for President Muhammadu Buhari but sees him as a pawn through whom he can actualize his political ambitions, rather than as a valuable partner with whom he can align for common purposes. The President is fortunately, not unaware of Umahi’s wiles, but accommodates him still, like every leader would.

The choice of the word; ‘criticism’ also suggests that the governor may be deliberately mocking the President, for a true democrat should not be intolerant to criticisms. Critics help to bring out the best in every leader, and it may be, that Umahi, in his usual turncoat styles may be aiming to stab the President on his chest, while patting his back.

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Jake Clifford

Jake Clifford is a Nigerian Born blogger and a fast growing Journalist, whose aim is to inform Nigerians with happening across Nigeria. Send story tips to him via [email protected] or


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