Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has projected into the future of Nigeria, saying he is praying fervently for a kindhearted person like President Muhammadu Buhari to take over from him in 2023.
He also explained that obedience to the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) sit-at-home order in the South-eastern states was borne out of fear by the residents.
Umahi, who spoke with newsmen Monday after a closed-door meeting with President Buhari, said inasmuch as he believed that power rests with God, he would continue to pray for someone with the attributes of Buhari to succeed him.
He said: “I continue to say that power rests in the hands of God. And we pray that God will also give us the next president who has a good heart like President Buhari for the good of this country.
We need God’s own anointing for our own anointed president for the interest and unity of this country.”
Asked if the Southeast governors are considering encouraging the two major parties to produce one candidate towards the 2023 presidential election, Umahi said it was too early and distracting to talk about it now.
He said: “Well, for me, I’m very much entrenched in completing my projects. And I will look into politics when my tenure is remaining one year, which is from May 29, 2022. And I think it is the same thing with other governors of Southeast and by extension, governors of APC.
“My position about what you ask is that our people that are in those political parties are making the efforts in selling the need for Southeast to produce the next president. But I think both the governors and Mr President should not be distracted, when the elections are done and won, the next thing should be governance. But in this country, the moment the election is completed, the next one starts and it is the masses that are being cheated. So those whose job is politics and who are not in an elected position, or appointed position have all the time and the opportunity to do this conversing. And I think that they are doing it very well.”
On the residents’ continuous adherence to the sit-at-home order by IPOB despite its suspension, he said fear was behind it but warned that if it is not tackled, the economy of the region may be adversely affected.
According to him, Southeast leaders in collaboration with Ohaneze Ndigbo are working together on the grievances of the youths of the area who protested against marginalization with a view to presenting it to the president.
Justifying what he and his colleagues in the zone were doing to tackle the impact of the sit-at-home order by IPOB, Umahi said: “Well, I think is not more or less complying with the directive of IPOB or no IPOB. Suspended or not suspended, it is a question of fear. You know, the easiest thing to do is to carry a weapon and kill somebody, and that’s what happened in the past. And that’s why, you know, some people in the South-east are afraid of coming out. Even if you go now to the street and hold AK 47, you will see everybody will desert the street. So it’s not a question of compliance. It’s a question of fear.
“The security agencies can have enough personnel in the South-east. You’ll find out that no Southeast man wants to miss a day of work. They like to work, they are into trade, commerce and they want to earn their daily living.
“So this is something that the nation Nigeria must know. And it’s something that security agencies must know. Security agencies must know that they owe Southeast people the duty to protect their lives and this is the reason why it appears that in some states that are in compliance with sit-at-home, even though like you said, IPOB has said it’s suspended. But it’s the worst thing to happen to the Southeast because it will destroy the economy of the Southeast. And so I’ve been singing and I have been shouting that Southeast people should take into knowledge not to allow such thing to happen because it will cripple the economy of South-east.”
Explaining the purpose of his visit to the State House, Umahi said: “I came to see Mr President. One is to thank him very highly for a number of mega projects that he is doing in the Southeast. The second Niger Bridge is fast becoming a reality. Each time we visit that bridge location is always like a dream. So we the people of the South-east are very grateful to Mr President for this. We also thank him for the award of the Eastern corridor of the railway line. This is a project that is going to fast-track the commercial activities of our people. I recall that when I was in school, I used to join train from my state, Ebonyi to Maiduguri where my brothers were staying for my holidays.
“Mr President is about restoring that hope. We are deeply very grateful. But I also reminded Mr President that one of his cardinal objectives is to integrate with the South-east or the state capitals, but in putting together the project through the South-east that the capital of Ebonyi State, which is Abakaliki and the capital of Anambra State, which is Akwa, were omitted. And I reminded Mr President that the South-east governors had requested that I write which I did, but is not yet approved to the Honourable Minister of Transport, which Mr President said he will find out why they were omitted in the first place. I am very, very hopeful that Mr President is going to give approval to those two locations. And also the limestone granules to fast-track the fertiliser presidential initiative, which has helped the country Nigeria so much in food sufficiency.
“Let me point out that without the effort of Mr President, through this fertiliser initiative and other programmes in the agricultural sector, it would have been a very difficult time for this country. And so that project is supposed to produce a large set of granules to enable us to produce fertilisers to serve the South-south, South-east and part of North-central.
“Mr President has already approved the funds and released them to Solid Mineral Development Fund. But part of the requirement is that there must be SPV – integration of private sector initiative. They have applied to Mr President for approval through the chief of staff. So we had to remind Mr President.
“Lastly, four years back, Mr President was in Ebonyi State about November to commission a number of projects and lay the foundation stone for others. I reminded Mr President that we are expecting him four years later, which would be November for him to come to Ebonyi State. The last time he spent one night but this time we are asking him to spend three nights.”
On the number of projects that have been completed and ready for commissioning, the governor said: “We have over 20 different projects that we consider good enough for Mr President to commission. We have completed the Muhammadu Buhari light tunnel bridge complex, the first of its kind in Africa for Mr President to commission. We have gotten to the stage of completing the best medical centre, King David University of Medical Sciences, the best in Africa. We have completed the largest mall, the most beautiful mall you can see anywhere in West Africa. We have completed additional six twin flyover bridges, well decorated and beautiful. We want Mr President to commission them. We want Mr President to commission the St. Margaret International Market, the largest market in West Africa. We have built and completed a very mighty building, which we call the medical school for Ekwueme Federal University, and we want Mr President to commission it.
“We have over 200 kilometres of concrete roads in Ebonyi State, some of the federal roads, some concrete roads. And these are the major ones. We have over 1,000-kilometre roads completed, since my first tenure and we want Mr President to commission them. Of course, the list can be exhaustive. Even the three agric industrial clusters are ready for Mr President to commission. We also have a number of ongoing projects most of which will terminate at the end of 2021. Like the International Airport, which Mr President two years ago gave approval.
“Now we are the first in the whole of Nigeria to build an international airport runway with concrete that is going to be ready for Mr President to lay the foundation stone. I will invite him next year to commission it. We will have the first flight about May 29, 2022. We also have a number of road projects, especially the 199-kilometre Abakaliki ring road, of which the state government has completed 53 kilometres of it. And then we have the African Development Bank and IDB bank, the funders and of course, the lenders, the federal government who lent to us. We have this from Mr President and we want him to lay the foundation stone when he is in Ebonyi State.
“And of course, the limestone granules is Mr President’s project and he has to lay the foundation stone. The salt infrastructure is Mr President’s project and he has to lay the foundation stone and so many other flyovers about three projects. There are so many projects that I cannot exhaust all the projects that are completed, and the ones that are waiting for Mr President to lay the foundation.
“But I think after Lagos and Abuja, Ebonyi remains, another state with the highest numbers of flyovers and Ebonyi Airport remains the largest after Lagos and Abuja. So this is why we came and I’m happy that Mr President is quite disposed towards visiting us again.”
Commenting on the activities of Ebubeagu in Southeast, the governor said: “Talking on Ebubeagu position, it’s quite formidable and doing a great job in synergy will all the security agencies. And if you read through the newspapers, you see a lot of exploits that are being done in the South-east. It is quite tasking, security-wise and we are tackling it.”
Speaking on efforts to bring to fruition the pledge made to the youths of the region protesting marginalization and the six months grace to present a common position to Mr President, Umahi said: “In terms of the issue of youth protest and asking South-east youths to give the leaders six months, we are on that matter. We have met with Ohanaeze and Igbo leaders and they have set up different committees to articulate the goal. We also as leaders, we want to hear from the masses and hear from those in political offices and appointive offices and, the civil service both at the federal and states, the areas of marginalization. Some of them might be illusions, you know, but I continue to insist that our people that also are in political offices at the federal level, and the civil service should also identify with our people because a lot of our people also say those of them in places don’t identify with their people. And so we continue to shout marginalisation, we should start from them, they should be able to tell us, you know, being also at the federal level, the areas that matter and let them also tell us what they have done for our people. I’m not talking about all of them, but we need to see their faces, we need to identify with them. So that the people will appreciate the level of marginalisation so to say, so this is our position. We will still come with some points, if there are merits to meet with Mr President, then have data to have tet-a-tete over the matter.”