Umahi during on-the-spot assessment of Akaeze youth unrest on Monday

2023 Guber: Ebonyi founding fathers split over zoning controversies

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From Chinedu Nwafor Abakaliki

Umahi during on-the-spot assessment of Akaeze youth unrest on Monday

As political intrigues heighten in Ebonyi over who succeeds the incumbent Governor of the State in 2023, a cold war has ensued among the founding fathers of the State over alleged attempts by the Governor, Engr. David Umahi to ‘foist’ the governorship candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Rt. Hon. Francis Nwifuru on the elderstatesmen.

The alleged attempt, it was gathered,  is allegedly being perfected by the Governor, hiding under zoning arrangement or charter of equity, which some of the elders had reportedly said does not exist in Ebonyi State.

A credible source further told our Reporter that the Governor’s plan was to use the founding fathers to resurrect and proclaim that there’s an unwritten charter of equity that had long existed in the State since creation, and therefore, it is the turn of the northern Senatorial zone of the State to produce a Governor in 2023.

Recall that Governor Umahi had during a recent courtesy call on him by the founding fathers at the new Government House, Abakaliki urged them to preach and insist that equity prevails in Ebonyi State Governorship election in 2023. He had consequently asked them to set up a committee to see to its actualization as according to him, it will bring peace and unity.

The source further hinted that the fears of Governor Umahi that the APC Gubernatorial candidate, Nwifuru, may not get the nod of the elders ahead the 2023 elections heightened after Nwifuru met with the founding fathers last week during which they remained adamant to his obvious overtures to be endorsed by them.

One of the founding fathers who did not want his name in mentioned told our Reporter that during the meeting, Nwifuru went into a lengthy narrative on zoning and why his Izzi people had been accommodative of the rest of the other parts of the State and visitors being where the State capital is located.

According to the Source, the APC Guber candidate extensively argued and pleaded for the support of the founding fathers but apart from countering some of his narratives on historical grounds, they refused to succumb to his plea for them to endorse him.

“At this stage of our lives, ours remain to maintain peace, unity and ensure the progress of the State among everyone and not to take sides, because they are all our children. We are like the Referees and therefore shouldn’t take side with anybody”, the source told our Reporter.

Unsatisfied with the feedback he got from the founding fathers after the Speaker’s visit, another source within them authoritatively disclosed that recently, they received another invitation via text messages from their Secretary that a meeting had been summoned yesterday, Thursday August 11, 2022.

The agenda for the proposed meeting, according to the Source, simply read; “Communique”.

“When I got across to the Secretary to enquire more, I realized he was actually instructed by the Chairman to send out the invitation. But the natural concern for many of us was the agenda which caused some of us to enquire deeper.

We were told it was about our last discussion with the Governor on the need for us to ensure that equity prevails. But because some of us share a different opinion that as elders, we cannot begin to take certain actions that is tainted with divisiveness at this stage of our lives, the Chairman saw the need to postpone the meeting indefinitely so we can meet and take a stand that will be in the best interest of all of us and the group”, the source further hinted our Reporter.

The elderstatesman, however, expressed surprise that while they had thought that another date would be collectively agreed upon by the elders, they were shocked to receive another text message re-summoning another meeting by 11:00 a.m today being Friday, August 12.

“Again, I picked up my phone as usual and phoned the Chairman if the invitation was his directive and he said he’s not aware of it. Well, my findings proved that it was His Excellency (the Governor) who asked the Secretary to summon the meeting and get us to concur with a communique that has already been prepared.

“For some of us, we have decided to stay away from that meeting because that’s not the mode and pattern of convening our meetings. Those planning to meet tomorrow (today) has a hidden motive and agenda and we can never be a part of such”, the founding father reiterated.

The said Communique from the ‘faction’ now loyal to the Governor and his choice candidate, Nwifuru, led by a former Governor of the State which was sighted by our Reporter after listing the historical pasts of how Governorship had rotated peacefully among the three Senatorial zones of the State; from North to Central and then to the South, stated clearly that as elders they were deeply interested in the Governorship position returning back to the north under the principle of”Charter of Equity”.

“Anything or anyone seeking to govern the State from any other zone can lead to crises and disunity which the State can ill-afford at this time in it’s history”, the communique which was yet to be officially endorsed by the Chairman and Secretary as the group’s tradition demands reads in part.

However, our Reporter also sighted another Communique prepared by the other ‘faction’ where the Chairman of the group and some others particularly from Ebonyi South Senatorial zone which countered the claims contained in the document prepared by the ‘faction’ loyal to the Governor.

Though, it is also yet to be officially endorsed, paraphrased, it reads in part, “… The Governorship position has always been contested among candidates from the three Senatorial zones… It was Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu from the South who contested against Dr. Sam Egwu from the north in 1999 and the founding fathers had no role to play in it. In 2007, Dr. Onu contested again against Chief Martin Elechi from the Central. In 2015 when Umahi vied from the South, Dr. Edward Nkwegu from the North against him. In all of this, the founding fathers did not and has never endorsed any candidate in the past.

“Therefore, the founding fathers cannot at this stage where candidates of various political parties have already emerged, delve into discussing the issue of zoning of the Governorship position to a particular zone. That is like shifting the goal post in mid way into a football match”, the counter Communique reads.

The ‘faction’ of the founding fathers opposed to Governor Umahi rather advised that the best convenient time to discuss the matter should be in 2024 when there would be no serious political interests, and not now.

Another source said it is expected that should the founding fathers loyal to the governor proceed with their planned meeting today, the other faction comprising the Chairman and about five others may likely distance themselves from the outcome.

“We would also make our position known to Ebonyians in the coming days if they proceed further because we cannot allow some of our members drag all of us into the mud just for a morsel of meat”, the elderstatesman opined.

Our Reporter gathered that the founding fathers comprises former political office holders, public and private servants, who played prominent roles in the creation of the State. They include some former Governors Deputy Governors, former National Assembly members, former political appointees, among others.

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