How Gov. David Umahi Became The Enemy Of Ebonyi People:
A critical review of his six years regime of highhandedness, impunity, massive corruption and impoverishment of Ebonyi people.
“All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upwards on the miseries of mankind’’. Joseph Conrad(1857-1924).
In the beginning:
Saturday, the 29th day of May, 2021 marked the 6th anniversary of
Gov. David Nweze Umahi’s ascendancy into the Government House as the 3rd democratically elected Governor of Ebonyi state. The six years has been a horrible period in the life of Ebonyians. Visitors and foreigners who pass through Abakaliki or those who visit the Governor often tell stories about how the state has become an Eldorado or a bed of roses. Well, Umahi’s 419 government may have deceived some people but he has merely succeeded in declaring himself the enemy of Ebonyi people based on the cumulative anti-people policies of his highly authoritarian and self- serving administration.
The people of Ebonyi state after six years of Umahi’s fake leadership, have come to the realisation that he was merely after his pocket and the welfare of his family members. He is a man without central values. After he noticed that Ebonyians have deserted him, he threw caution to the winds and started behaving like a loose canon. He descended on the worthy leaders of the state- the same people who made him Governor in 2015. In 2014, as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim was instrumental to making things easier for Umahi to emerge as Governor of Ebonyi state. Anyim introduced him to some ‘oracles’ of economic and political power. The resources for his election was provided for him. And as the countdown to the 2015 Governorship
elections gathered momentum, Umahi confided in some people that he needed the faces of people like Dr. Sam Egwu, the former Governor of the state to shore up his credibility to be able to win the election.
Umahi then needed a sanctuary because the former Governor Chief Martin Elechi, whom Umahi served under as Deputy Governor(2011- 2015) had described him as being “worse than an armed robber’’ at the Abakaliki Township Stadium during a rally.
Umahi fell out out of favour with Elechi. Today, Umahi has jumped ship and decamped from PDP to APC. Finding himself on a lonely road as the top PDP leaders in the state refused to follow him on his latest misadventure, Umahi declared war on them. He first accused them last year of being supporters of IPOB and now because the Ebonyi state members of the National Assembly raised alarm about the way Gov. Umahi was wrongly deploying the EbubeAgu Regional Security outfit to intimidate and threaten his real and imagined political opponents, Umahi reported them to the AIG Zone 9 who was at Government House Abakaliki on courtesy call.
He told the Police Chief to arrest the listed leaders of PDP and accused them of being behind the recent upsurge of criminal and violent crimes in the state. That was the height of cheap blackmail and abuse of official privilege and potrays Umahi as someone lacking in political maturity. He is someone who can sell his people for a pot of porridge and he may be willing to become the nemesis of his own people. Umahi displayed his inherent anarchic tendency. He is fond of threatening those who disagree with him on political issues. Sometimes he threatens to ‘crush’ and ‘grind’ them. For Umahi to do what he is doing now to Sen. Sam Egwu shows that he is a politician without pedigree. He is merely an upstart and a shameless opportunist.
2. Gov. Umahi’s tragedy of Populism: Administrative Recklessness, Grand Deceit and Massive Corruption
Gov. Umahi wanted to package himself as a Messiah of sorts, a God-sent hero. But his love for money created terrible contradictions for the system he presides over. He is not a foundational man nor a pathfinder. Tyrants are worse than wicked men. And the Mammon spirit is the demonic drive behind all dictatorships in history. The Bible says that “... the love of money is the root of all evil’’(1 Timothy 6:10). It is such fake populism that may have led him to desecrate the rules of the civil service, so as to be seen as a redeemer and charismatic leader- one who builds numerous cement roads without bitumen; and uses hand vibrators instead of modern vibrators to construct/compact roads, thereby leading to frequent road repairs.
But populism has its tragedy in politics. It can bring about abuse of people’s basic rights and personality cultism where the leader sees himself as all-knowing. That is certainly Umahi’s problem today. It is the problem of mediocre populism which has failed to anchor because of the prebendalism exhibited by the pseudo leader. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo referred to such characters like Umahi as “pocket-size Napoleons and mid-night Hitlers’’.
Governor Umahi’s government has become a disaster in the state. He does not tolerate any form of criticism, whether constructive or otherwise. He perceives himself as King Herod who must rule as he likes without recourse to the feelings of the people or the rules of engagement for public officers. That was why he beheaded the state civil service on assumption of office in 2015 and emasculated the Trade Unions/House Unions, through deliberate but illegitimate/illegal factionalization,
bordering on barefaced tyranny, fraud, authoritarianism and totalitarianism. It was an act of micro treasonable felony for an elected officer to apply political hooliganism in undermining the rules of the civil service. He was the only Governor in Nigeria to have ruled his state without Permanent Secretaries from 2015 to 2019. He sacked the Perm Secs he inherited from the previous administration and refused to appoint new ones. The implication is that all the monies appropriated by Umahi in the four years under review in those Ministries, Departments and Agencies without Permanent Secretaries(Accounting Officers of the Ministries) have to be refunded by him because what he did amounted to misappropriation of public funds. It is the worst form of systemic corruption in the history of Nigeria’s public service. The practice of having Permanent Secretaries was never violated by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. M.I. Okpara(pioneer Premiers of Eastern Region, Dr. Akanu Ibiam(pioneer Governor of Eastern Region), Col.Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu(Military Governor of Eastern Region), Chief Sam Mbakwe (Governor of Old Imo state), Chief Jim Nwobodo(Governor, old Anambra state), Chief C.C.Onoh(Governor, old Anambra state), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu( Governor, old Abia state), Commander Walter Aye Feghabor(first Military Administrator, Ebonyi state),AIG of Police Simeon Oduoye(Military Governor, Ebonyi state), Dr.Sam Ominyi Egwu(first civilian Governor, Ebonyi state and Chief Martin Elechi(second civilian Governor of Ebonyi state). The duty of the Perm Secs is to advise the Commissioners about the rules of the service, but Umahi hated such advice. Of all these leaders, military and civilian, Umahi is the only one with the temerity to lynch and violate the conservative rules of the civil service. But the time when he must pay for it will come by 2023 when he leaves office and loses his immunity. Chief Sam Mbakwe worked with some of the most
seasoned, charismatic, influential and powerful Perm Secs in history, such as S.C.A Nwapa, Francis Oji, G.C Okezie, N.C Okoronkwo, A.E.N Izuwa, Friday Okengwu, I.D Nwoga, Kele Okereke etc. and still emerged as the best Igbo Governor of his generation. His picture hangs elegantly in the “Igbo Hall of Fame’’ with the pictures of other Igbo pioneers/pathfinders in the same place such as Olauda Equano, King Jaja of Opobo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Aguiyi Ironsi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe, Keneth Onwuka Dike, Eni Njoku, Z.C.Obi, Philip Emeagwali etc. For the Governors of the present republic, only three have been shortlisted for the Igbo Hall of Fame. They are Peter Obi, Sam Egwu and Achike Udenwa. One of them will be eventually picked after several years of thorough scrutiny. Umahi can never be allowed to come near the hall because trickstars are not worthy of such honours.
Azikiwe’s father, as at 1902 was already a trained teacher in Asaba. In 1903, he moved to Bonny where he met Lord Fredrick Lugard and followed him to Kano. Lugard appointed him his Secretary. They went to Zungeru where Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in 1904. From Zungeru they went to Calabar and by 1st January, 1914 they arrived Tinubu Square, Lagos to execute the historic Amalgamation of Nigeria. Then Ojukwu’s father attended the Hope Waddel Training Institution(established in 1895) at a time when there were only eight secondary schools in Nigeria. He joined the Eastern Region Department of Agriculture and later left for John Holt where he was employed as a Sales Clerk. He resigned from there to set up Ojukwu Transport Company and later became the pioneer business mogul in Nigeria and first Director-General of Nigerian Stock Exchange and by the 1950s was Africa’s first multi- billionaire. So, if their children, Emeka Ojukwu and Nnamdi Azikiwe with their powerful
parentage, fame and high education could work with Perm Secs, why should some characters come from the pit of illiteracy to hold people to ransome in Ebonyi state? Infact the non-use or non-appointment of Permanent Secretaries is a violation of Section 208 of the Nigerian constitution. Umahi should examine the Circulars from the National Income and Wages Commission on the Appointment of Perm Secs to determine the amount to be refunded in respect of the first four years of his administration, from 2015-2019.
According to a pamphlet issued by the Association of Concerned Ebonyi Citizens in Diaspora(ACECID), Vol.1, titled “ The Iron Fist of Poverty and Autocracy in Ebonyi State: Discovering Dave Umahi: His Deeds, Misdeeds, Truths and Untruths’’, “ Forget about the cosmetics, the decorations, bling bling lights and plastic Christmas trees...mounting neon-lights and casting of concrete as a cover to retire billions into private pockets. What we are witnessing is gross maladministration, grand lacerny, callousness, cold heartedness, autocratic indifference to the sufferings that has endangered abject poverty and dehumanization upon the people of Ebonyi state’’.
The report went further to assert that: “Umahi’s authocratic personalization of power and needless privatization of state assets and resources to himself has played a perfect symphony of power grab, imperial domination and swagger. Vulgarity is the very definition of his style. He wants to remain the only man standing and towering above a rotten pile of poverty, suffering and helplessness’’.
Gov.Umahi’s enemity with Ebonyi people was caused by himself. He embarked on four useless and wasteful projects worth billions of naira probably for siphoning funds into private pockets while the citizens wallowed in poverty. The projects include the new Government House project at Ochudo, the Ecumenical Centre, the Shopping Mall and the on-
going construction of about a dozen flyovers in the state. Other useless and wasteful projects include the hotel building infront of Abakaliki Township stadium at Kpirikpiri which is still unoccupied several years after it was completed. Umahi spent huge sums of money renovating the Governor’s residence in the old Government House, but suddenly came up with the idea of building a new Government House. This decision was considered very strange because the old Government House had no problem, it was located on top of a hill with a lake and with the headquarters of the Nigerian Police opposite it. What was Umahi looking for in Ochudo? The old Government Houses in Enugu, Umuahia and Owerri are still where the colonial authorities located them. The White House in Washingston DC in the United States is still standing where it was located 200 years ago. The problem with Umahi is that he has been running government since 2015 without any known seasoned Administrator by his side. In fact he hates such people because he had made up his mind to run a lawless administration where looting can be made easy since there can be no in-built checks and balances. In 2015, before he started building the Shopping Mall, three private sector players came forward and bidded to build the Mall with private sector funding. Umahi waved them aside and preffered to waste Ebonyi public funds to build it and now he is confused about what to do next after making his own money from the building aspect of the job. He is always good in buildings but very poor in administering or managing institutions or businesses. And that is why Ebonyians call him the cement Governor. An Ebonyian told me that Umahi knows what he is doing. According to him, Umahi’s development concentrates on the area where he has comparative advantage, ie. where he is very conversant with. But that is not what governance is all about. Now Umahi has failed to understand that
developmet is a multi-sectoral process with diverse sectors such as the Civil service sector, Local Government and Rural Development Sector, Water Resources sector, Health Sector, Education Sector, Agriculture Sector, Commerce and Industry Sector, Human Capital Development Sector, Culture and Tourism Sector etc. Umahi has concentrated on only one sector- Infrastructure sector. This is akin to a child who went for examination and the instruction given to him was to attempt all questions. The boy ignored the instruction and concentrated on one particular question which he knew the answers very well. No matter how well he does on that question, he can never pass the examination. This is why Umahi is jittery because he has exposed himself as unintelligent in governance. No single state hospital is working in Ebonyi state. There is no pipe borne water in Ebonyi but every year #3 billion is appropriated for water supplies. Scholarships have been banned since Umahi came into office and the primary and secondary schools are declining and decaying because of poor funding. Umahi’s government does not pay retirees their gratuities. Civil servants in the state have been placed on half salary since he came into office and their leave allowances and other statutory entitlements have been banned. When they are promoted, it comes without financial benefit. What a wicked and roguish government.
Umahi has stopped due process in award of contracts and all the Departmental Tenders Boards and Procurement Council have either been banned or are manipulated out of context. Umahi’s Commissioners are always under pressure from Umahi to get things done according to his whims and caprices, while the Commissioners themselves are always on the neck of civil servants to keep violating the civil service rules through all kinds of political pressures and administrative brigandage. The Local Government system has been bastardized and despoliated because of the
insatiable greed of an authoritarian ruler. Council Chairmen are given mere stipends which cannot enable them to run the councils at the grassroots. Development Centres have gone into reticence and extinction. Local governments in Ebonyi state have been paralysed as the staff are no longer needed by Umahi who has taken over local government functions by himself. And he prides himself as one of the great leaders of our time. One wonders what he has done to make him think so highly of himself. Umahi’s government cannot be compared to that of Dr.Sam Egwu. Under Egwu, Ebonyians witnessed a humane administration, which impacted on the lives of the people positively. Egwu pioneered all the sectors of development simultaneously and never practised family nepotism . Infact, Egwu’s younger ones were intellectually promising and non of them took up any political appointment during his tenure. They respected themselves and allowed their brother to run his government with dignity and decency. In fact one of Egwu’s younger brothers, Joe Egwu, proceeded to the United States of America for his post-graduate studies immediately his elder brother was sworn-in as Governor. But the way the Umahis manifested their level of hunger and abandoned all they were doing to become state dependants is unheard of. Furthermore, Gov. Umahi is a perfidious albion. He is extremely vainglorious, vindictive, viscious, dilettante, sadistic, meretricious, cantankerous, covetious, unnecessarily restless and over- zealously self-centred. That is why he has antagonised himself with the people and there is no peace in the state. It was Martin Luther King who said that “where there is no justice there can be no peace’’. And St. Augustine said that “any regime devoid of justice is nothing but a gang of robbers’’. Gov.Umahi’s divide and rule tactics is at the heart of the insecurity in the state, but he can never know it because he is not a
student of conflict and does not know how social systems operate. Immediately there is breakdown of law and order or inter-communal disturbances any where, he will blame others and begin to remove and suspend his appointees or even call on the police to arrest people at random, including elder statesmen, because he sees himself as the Rock of Gibralter who can never be arrested or removed. He doesn’t even know that the police are independent. Ebonyians are tired of Umahi’s illiterate governance style but are only consoled that he has less than two years to go. The other day, Gov. Umahi sent words across to the people of Amagu in Abakaliki LGA who had concluded plans to celebrate their “Amagu Day’’. The date was Saturday, 22nd May, 2021. The Community had planned to honour Sen. Sam Egwu, Rt. Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga and other distinguished sons and well-wishers of the community at the grand event. But Umahi the tyrant would have non of that. He sent a top politician from Izzi clan to go and warn the Traditional Institution there to stop any further preparations towards the event. He succeeded in scuttling it. He even threatened to seize their staff of office if they dared go against his directive.
Sometime last year, the Governor dethroned the Traditional Ruler of Nkalagu in Ishielu LGA and seized his official car from him. The Royal father was effectively deposed and replaced just because Sen.Obinna Ogba was showing interest in the 2023 governorship race and the Ezeogo was perceivrd to be close to Ogba. And even in the case of Amagu, we hear the target is Ogbaga for the same reason of showing guber interest. Is it not their right as citizens to aspire to any positions of their choice in a democratic system of government? What crime have they committed? Well, the main problem with Umahi is that he is loosing grip of Ebonyi state.
When Sen.Ogba buried his father on 27th March, 2021, the ceremony witnessed the gathering of a mammoth crowd, with a galaxy of dignitaries which included serving and retired Governors, Ministers, Senators, House of Reps Members, Diplomats and others, headed by the number three citizen in Nigeria, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan. Umahi could not attend the occasion for reasons best known to him. He missed out. Now he is afraid that such a grand gathering again at Amagu would finally send him out of reckoning. So he has devised a new method of stopping the gathering of the winning train in Ebonyi. He will soon get tired.
The ACECID pamphlet under review has documented that “the #12.7 billion Paris Club refund, #10 billion Infrastructure refund and $3million BESEDA fund were all in fixed deposit accounts...’’. The report further states that “#10 billion federal bailout fund; #8 billion loan from CBN on behalf of Ebonyi farmers over three years; $3 million BESDA fund; #24 billion from UBEB, #48 billion domestic loans, $65 million foreign loans, all stand unaccounted for”. And Umahi is so secretive about public funds, which was why he appointed one of his cousins as the State Finance Commissioner.
In 2017, he imposed his brother as National Vice Chairman of the ruling party in the state ; another brother as the State Deputy Chairman of the party and yet another one as the defacto Attorney-General of the state. In 2015, when he became Governor, he quickly imposed his elder brother as the Traditional Ruler of his Community. As Chairman of South-East Governors Forum, he appointed his elder brother, Rtd. General Obi Umahi as the Chairman of South-East Security Advisory Committee. And now Austin Umahi, an unknown quantity has become Gov. Umahi’s dreaded but shameless hatchetman/henchman.
Umahi lacks the mental and psychological stability to run government independently unless his relations surround him. His level of nepotism is unprecedented. To further demonstrate his hawkish posturing, Gov. Umahi appeared on the SUNRISE morning programme of Channels Television station on 22nd April, 2021 where he called on security agents to arrest Nigerians who criticise government in the Social Media. Several human rihts groups lampooned him for the outburst. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project(SERAP), a Lagos based human rights group called him to order, emphasizing that citizens have a right to criticize government and to hold the rulers accountable.
In Ebonyi state it has become commonplace for Gov. Umahi to declare his critics ‘wanted’. Once you criticise him or you do what he does not like, he will start announcements on the sate radio station that you have been declared wanted. Those declared wanted by Umahi in the recent past include Ene Odi and Barr. Silas Joseph Onu(State Publicity Secretary of PDP). In my own case, when I criticised him on 9th June, 2020, he made a special radio broadcast declaring me a COVID-19 patient and ordered that security agents should ensure that I was isolated in my residence for two weeks. The then Director of DSS sheepishly obeyed him and came to my house with armed security people to enforce Umahi’s illegal order.
3. Ebonyi State Poverty Threshold under Gov. Umahi
In 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics rated Ebonyi state as one of the ten poorest states in Nigeria. The states are: Sokoto, Katsina, Adamawa, Gombe, Jigawa, Plateau, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Kebbi and Zamfara. Ebonyi is actually the 7th poorest in Nigeria and the only state from Southern Nigeria in the list of poorest states. The report further stated that the
factors responsible for the poverty were: bad government, unemployment and negligence of development priorities. These are actually the problems with Umahi. Infact a similar report released early this year indicates that Ebonyi state is the 3rd highest state in Nigeria in food inflation. Ebonyi’s food inflation rating is 26.6%. Only Kogi (29.7%) and Sokoto(27%) surpass Ebonyi. Again, out of the three states mentioned, Ebonyi is the only one from Southern Nigeria.
Gov. Umahi’s governance rating is terribly disastrous. Even with the lack of teachers in Ebonyi state schools, the last thing to suggest to Umahi is employment of teachers. Umahi preaches that people should go to private sector for employment, but he has destroyed the private sector in the state by seizing the market stalls of hundreds of traders who owned stalls in the old market.
Out of frustration, majority of them, who are mainly non-indigenes are dying or suffering from strokes. Umahi has forgotten that the non- indigenes he is chasing about and maltreating were the same persons whose parents built up Abakaliki and made it stand as the capital of the state. Any time Gov.Umahi is asked a question regarding the terrible state of unemployment in the state, he begins to make disjointed and incoherent but deceptive statements, claiming that Ebonyi state is a huge construction site, how he built a shopping mall, international market and international airport to engage the youths. These are all balderdash(akuko ifo).
His recent fabrication claiming to have built the International Market is another fraud of the Umahi government. That market was built by Chief Martin Elechi, but Umahi’s excessive greed could not allow him to hand it over to the Abakaliki Local Government who are the rightful owners/operators of the market. Umahi condescended from his Olympian
height to personally seize the market, which is an aberration in the annals of governance in Nigeria. It is the responsibility of local governments to control markets but Umahi is all-knowing and can never let go. Even the sophisticated Onitsha Market, the biggest business emporium in West Africa, built by Drs Nnamdi Azikiwe and M.I.Okpara is run by Onitsha South LG. Umahi’s brazen take-over of the constitutional responsibilities of the Local Governments was made possible through the selection(election) of pliable and surrogate characters as Council Chairmen in the state.
Gov. Umahi had appropriated all the revenue points in the state to himself in such a way that the Local Government Councils are left as mere spectators. He coerced the LGs to cede all their revenue points to the state government with the state acting as their contractors. So, the state collects the revenues and remits meagre sums to the Councils.
Gov. Umahi had promised that the old Abakpa market would be converted to Fruits and Vegetable market. But now he has put up advertisements to sell the land in metres, for #6 million per parcels and the old Building Materials land for #12 million. Now, many people in the state are not comfortable with the arrangement. Their argument is that Umahi has impoverished Ebonyians so terribly, and nobody will have the money to participate in the land acquisition except the Governor, his family members and cronies. That is an indirect way of taking over the land.
Why is Umahi neglecting the Agricultural sector and the Mineral resources sector in the state? Money sent in by the Central Bank as loans for farmers in 2018/2019 never got to the real farmers in good numbers. He thinks that bringing in Chinese patners to mine some sites for him is all there is to developing the huge mineral deposits in the state. He has no
serious template on what to do with the huge mineral deposits in the state. Once he and his family members are alright, then Ebonyians can go to hell
And the ACECID report, in reference to Umahi family members, noted that “it is incredible that one family would insist on absolute dependence on the resources of the government of the state to the point that they are not capable of doing anything at all for themselves without dependence on the state funds’’. This is so because Umahi who preaches private sector to Ebonyi people recalled his blood brothers living in other parts of Nigeria to come back to Abakaliki in 2015 when he was elected Governor to come and chop. Gov. Umahi’s neglect of the Education Sector has affected the youths of Ebonyi state.
Right now, large numbers of Ebonyi youths have gone back to street trading. Several of them live in abject poverty in Asaba, Delta state, Benin in Edo state, Ilaje Costain area of Olodi, Apapa, Ejigbo, Moroko, Iyana Ipaja and other super slums in Lagos state, where more than 15 persons sleep in one room. Information from neighbouring West African countries like Togo and Benin Republic indicate that Ebonyi youths are the main street traders in those places, no thanks to Umahi’s draconian policies which drove them out of schools.
I am personally ashamed of Gov.Umahi’s backward performance in office, as someone from the same Senatorial district with him. He has really let us down and depicted us as backward people, if the comments by Ebonyians from other parts of the state are anything to go by. The most annoying are his childish tantrums, references to Koboko horse- whips, his constant assault on the basic rights of citizens, which portrays him as a Zebrudaya politician.
The economy of Ebonyi state has been stifled by Umahi’s individualism and personal aggrandizement. There is tremendous capital flight in the sate because Umahi buys all his building/construction materials(cement, rods etc) directly from the manufacturers in Lagos(Dangote etc) and yet imposes punitive/authoritarian levies and taxies on Abakaliki local traders whom he hardly patronizes. The Governor is the sole contractor of all government jobs, except he decides to sublet some to a few of his cronies. Most of the jobs are executed through direct labour, arranged by him or by companies owned and registered by his brothers at the CAC. Now, he has engaged his sycophants, charlatans and barbarians(who are mostly uneducated) to swoop on anybody who criticizes his evil policies. The Facebook has become their latest platform after the use of Traditional Rulers to ostracize his critics from their communities suffered a woeful failure. The man is certainly the enemy of the people.
4. Gov.Umahi’s Superiority Complex: A Study in Empty Arrogance Gov.Umahi should be advised to stop his unnecessary grandstanding. His childish culture of kneeling down on, and measuring roads or pointing at different sections of a project is a complete misunderstanding of what governance is all about. He is not a genius in anything. There are better and younger Engineers in the Ministry of Works to perform those duties. He was elected to govern and governance in the state is actually suffering while he keeps running from pillar to post. Afterall, nobody knew him in Nigeria as a wonderful road builder.
It was Dr. Sam Egwu who gave him the first set of roads he did in 2006/2007 and up till today, Umahi is yet to construct any smooth road in his career as a Civil Engineer. All the roads he builds are always rough
and a threat to the tyre’s lifespan. A typical example is the Abakaliki- Enugu Expressway, running from the PDP Secretariate to Onuebonyi River which was awarded to his Construction company, Brass when he was PDP State Chairman under Elechi. The cement roads he introduced will soon become death traps as the edges are yet to be dressed.
When Gov. Elechi made Umahi the State Chairman of PDP, he gave him the freehand and latitude to run the party. True to type Umahi began to abuse the powers of that office. He became impudent, arrogant and uncontrollable. While building the state party secretariat, he simultaneously started building his Osborne La Palm Hotel in Abakaliki. Check the building materials used in the two places and observe the similarities and then use your tongue to count your teeth.
Today, the people of Amike Aba axis who live along the Nodo-Ogbaga Road are living in terrible distress. They are the people who sold their lands to Umahi to build his hotel, but they are being punished because of Umahi’s Marchiavellian antics. The Ogbaga road which they use for their transportation and economic activities has been abandoned by Umahi.
Umahi’s claims to being a superior human being played out when he was the State PDP Chair(2007-2011). Umahi querried the then Deputy Governor, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, accusing him of hosting a meeting of political office holders from Ebonyi South Zone. The man who signed the querry for Umahi at the time was Prince Ugorji Ama Oti, who was the Ebonyi South PDP Vice Chairman. Even though Ogbu did not answer the querry because of Elechi’s intervention, Umahi showed himself very early to be a desperate political gold-digger and one always willing to bite the fingers which fed him. Recall that Ogbu brought Umahi to Abakaliki to
execute a contract during the second term of Sam Egwu when Ogbu was Deputy.
But when he(Umahi) became the Deputy Governor to Elechi in 2011, and handed over the party Chairmanship to Ama-Oti, he started lording it over the Prince and was dictating to him and could never have tolerated being queried by him. So you can see that Umahi lacks any iota of principle in everything he does. When he eventually emerged as Governor in 2015, and Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi became the Chairman of the party, Umahi went ahead to surround him with his blood rleations. Austin Umahi was super-imposed as the National Vice Chairman of PDP and Maxwell Umahi as the State Deputy Chairman of the party. The result was that tha party executive was pocketed by the Umahi family, which was the preparatory ground for the excessive monetisation of party primaries in 2014. The PDP in Ebonyi was a dead organization before Umahi defected to APC in November, 2020. Many PDP faithfuls heaved a sigh of relief and it was seen as good riddance to bad rubbish.
It is equally on record that Umahi as PDP State Chair, querried the former Secretary to the State Government(SSG), Chief F.O.U.Mbam,mni, for allegedly printing a sub-standard invitation card for the 2008 Children’s Day Celebration for the office of the then First Lady, Mrs. Josephine Elechi. Umahi compelled Anaegbu Echara to appear before the State Working Committee(SWC) of the party, where he was drilled, harassed, intimidated and subjected to dehumanizing questioning. Umahi was inspired by his spirit of sycophancy, so as to be in the good books of the first family.
As the state party Chair, Umahi operated simultaneously as a contractor- businessman, which he still does today even as a sitting Governor. While dualizing the Spearer-in-Deo- Onuebonyi section of the Enugu-Abakaliki
Expressway, he saw a car parked in the line of his work. Umahi ordered his workers to bury the vehicle. It has been stated by several Ebonyians who know the Umahis that Gov. Umahi is wicked but the most wicked amongst them is Austin Umahi.
5. Gov.Umahi’s Assault on the Education Sector
Before Gov. Umahi came into office in 2015, Ebonyi state University was rated as one the best state universities in Nigeria. But immediately Gov.Umahi took over as Governor, he became restless and started disturbing the peace of the university. He even went to the extent of addressing the University academic staff, a practice that is unheard of in the university system. He reduced the monthly subvention of the university from #350m to #117m.
An insider in the university who wrote under the pen-name, Mazi Eziokwu bu Ndu on 24th October, 2020 commented that: “the relationship between Gov.Umahi and EBSU has been unholy and un-Godly, filled with nightmares and regrets. Gov. Umahi reduced Professors to TAs and STAs and changed them from university professors to “Divine Mandate’’ pastors. The ranking of the university nose-dived terribly and the dreams of Sen. Sam Egwu and other patriotic Ebonyi leaders had been shattered by a shylock leader’’.
Other atrocities committed by Umahi’s government in EBSU include the demotion and suspension of lecturers for unjustifiable reasons and the reduction of their salaries by 50%. Then the #3billion TETFUND sent to the university for staff training and provision of infrastructure in the university was diverted to commence the building of the College of Medicine in Uburu. EBSU is still suffering from denial of staff promotions;
refusal to increase academic staff capacity despite losses of several academic staff to federal universities and refusal to improve the university infrastructure despite increases in tuition fees by 100%. Meanwhile, the university is owing the university staff up to four months arrears of salaries. Then the Governor was said to have demanded that the academic staff of the university should forfeit 20% of their salaries or lose their salaries for the remaining period of this administration. Hiding under the subterfuge of a verification exercise, Umahi is now owing secondary school teachers about three months of salaries, thereby contributing to the poverty of the teachers, as their motivation to teach is drastically affected.
Umahi’s attack against the intelligentsia and the educational system is calculated to suit his parochial weltanschaung. Umahi has a very narrow window through which he views the world. His world outlook is phobic and he has phobia for investment in education and human resources. So, because of his fear of the intelligentsia, he thinks that the best thing to always do is to extinguish them.
When the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU ) gave indication of a strike action to press home its demands for improved working condition of its members, Gov.Umahi issued a statement proscribing ASUU, NASU and other unions in EBSU on 22nd October, 2020. He explained that “the decision was taken in order to ensure that academic and non-academic union activities do not negatively affect the resumption of EBSU and the commencement of academic and non-academic activities in the state- owned university’’.
On 25th October, 2020, ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi described the proscription of ASUU by Umahi as an aberration, meaning that Umahi’s action was eccentric, unusual and queer. He stated that it
was “a confirmation that some politicians have not outgrown the military hangover more than 20 years into civil governance’’. Then he concluded by saying that “the tragedy of our democracy is that most of those occupying elective positions today have doubtful democratic credentials. These members of the ruling class see the rest of us their subjects instead of free citizens and their principals. Nigeria’s democracy will not take roots until we all rise to challenge this undemocratic disposition’’.
Then on 5th April, 2021, Gov. Umahi announced that he was going to build three new state universities. First of all, he explained that the College of Medicine in Uburu would be converted to King David Umahi University of Medical Sciences, with a view to ending medical tourism in Nigeria. However, the claim about ending medical tourism in Nigeria is an empty claim. Umahi can only build but can never run any place. For instance, he can never pay the Doctors, Nurses and other Health professionals their jumbo salaries. He will become envious of the fat salaries and start talking of salary reduction and that will be the end of the story. And that is why after six years in office he cannot operationalize the General hospitals he renovated in the 13 LGAs in the state.
But tongues are wagging already that Gov. Umahi may have concluded plans to kake over the university as his personal asset. One may not be surprised if he went in that direction, otherwise why name the university after himself. And we hear he is making frantic efforts to let the institution commence classes in October, this year.
The other two universities he is planning to build are the University of Technology in Izzi and the Aeroneutical University, to be located at the International Cargo Airport under construction, in Ezzaland. Umahi is
making a mockery of himself and can go ahead and build anything his imagination opens up to him. He is looking for a flimsy excuse to continue his cement construction, but never to use the constructed projects to help humanity. He constructs and collects his money, full stop.
How many state universities do they have in some of the more serious states in Nigeria, namely Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Anambra etc? They have only one state university each. Then one of the poorest states in Nigeria wants to have four state universities even when it cannot pay salaries to lecturers in the existing one at hand now. We hope Umahi is not getting mental. He should be examined thoroughly. He is no longer making sense in his actions and conversations.
6. Gov. Umahi’s Omnibus Exco and the payment of Severance Allowance. I was already concluding this piece when a report came in that Emperor Umahi had dissolved his cabinet. Though I didn’t see it as a serious and significant event, I paused to take a critical look at the Governor’s over- bloated Executive Council, which I consider as one of the main features of his highly incompetent and corrupt government. Umahi’s Executive Council is an assemblage of all kinds of people: Commissioners, Senior Special Assistants(SSAs) and Special Advisers(SAs). He himself put the total number of the membership at 106.
He claimed to have dissolved 83 while 23 others were not affected. Umahi has about 27 Commissioners. He likes to celebrate mediocrity and his appointments into the council dramatizes such tendency. I believe that he created the omnibus council in order to undermine the strength and capacity of the statutory members of the council, namely the Commissioners. These are the ones manning the statutory ministries and
not the concucted/mushroom ministries created by Umahi to suit his manipulations.
He brings in the mediocre elements into his oversized Council to make the meetings unnecessarily rowdy and noisy, thereby not creating room for rigorous debates and proper voting as is required when consensus is not arrived at. He prefers to populate the council;l with his chorus singers and most times decisions are imposed on the council using such slogans as: No be so, Na so. Umahi’s council dissolution is a non-issue. He may call on them to reapply the way he did before. He would subject them to all kinds of humiliating drills, so that by the time he recalls them they would have been sychologically down-sized. He lacks the strength of character to carry out a far-reaching overhall of the cabinet. Afterall, most of those he appointed in 2015 are still in his government.
He likes to work with people with internal problems who would not look him in the face and tell him the blunt truth. Umahi tends to empower mediocres so as to get unalloyed loyalty from them. He is always fearful of intellectuals quite unlike former Governors Egwu and Elechi. Those Exco members who argued and disagreed with them openly based on policy principles were highly respected and admired by them. Egwu had only 13 Commissioners of Cabinet rank and one Commissioner without Portfolio(ie. a non-Ministerial Commissioner in the Governors office in- charge of Special Duties), bringing his entire Exco to 19(including himself, his Deputy, SSG, HOS and Principal Secretary).
Elechi had about 26 Exco members, because he permitted his SAs to attend Exco meetings.
Now, Gov.Umahi has generated a new controversy in the payment of severance to Executive Council members, especially those who served under former Governor, Chief Martin Elechi. True to his character as
someone who can never be useful to anysbody in life, Umahi has come up with some unthinkable and impossible conditionalities. First and foremost, we learnt he started paying those who served under Elechi’s second tenure. And he introduced a discriminatory dimension to it. Only those who served for the whole four years from 2011-2015 will be paid. All those who were in office for less than four years cannot qualify according to Umahi. So, many of those who served under Elechi’s second term have been technically disqualified from getting their severance allowance. This Umahi style is a horrible invention and unknown to the rules and practice of the public service. Even the idea of segmenting it and procrastinating the payment of those who served in Elechi’s first term administration is absurd and sad.
The payment of the Severance Allowance should not be on the basis of discrimination. All those who served in that government should be paid no matter the length of their services. Serving a government at that level is not an easy assignment. What matters is the scope and intensity of the engagements and the sacrifices made and not a question of the length of service.
Afterall the same Umahi who is here talking about the length of service is still holding on to the gratuities of those civil servants who worked for 35 years and retired whereas he collected 400 million just after his first four years in service. So, why the rabble-rousing? Umahi’s approach is childish and illogical. It is akin to a situation whereby a team goes for the world cup with 23 players and when it comes to payment of the bonus, the Coach insists that only the eleven players who played full time of ninety minutes would be entitled to the bonus. Umahi should change his ways and stop being a torn in the flesh of other human beings. His name
currently evokes anger, sadness, resentment, hatred and ignominy. It is a shame.
Abia Onyike was a former Commissioner for Information, Ebonyi state.