The Ebonyi government must know that there is always a limit to which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
It was Henry David Thoreau who said: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things”. This wise counsel ordinarily ought to be the daily meditations of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ebonyi State, particularly its leader, Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi.
Recently, the governor refused to grant access to the Abakaliki Township Stadium, now renamed the
Pa Oruta Ngele Stadium, to the All Progressives Congress (APC) when the party held its mega rally.
Incidentally, the APC had reportedly earlier secured the approval of the state’s Ministry of Sports and Youths Development to use the venue for its rally. Trying to save face, the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Dr. Emmanuel Onwe, in his release, claimed the stadium was approved for use on August 11 for a ‘faction’ of the party and not the said August 4, 2018, event. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Emmanuel Uzor, on his part, said in a release that the stadium was undergoing reconstruction, an explanation that was to be later adopted as the official reason why the APC was locked out of a public facility.
The later position stated above would have almost been believed as credible by every reasonable member of the public. However, a later radio announcement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Internal Security, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, that the training of members of the state’s Neighbourhood Watch has been slated for the same venue, beginning from 8am, made it obvious that the government was mainly out to frustrate the APC in the state and even poised for a bloody encounter. In a state where there are no such large and expansive private facilities that could serve as a very credible alternative for the APC and its teeming supporters, the leaders were boxed almost into a state of perplexity before finally settling for the premises of the coordinating office of President Muhammadu Buhari support groups in the state, located near the Presco Flyover in Abakaliki, the capital city. Work started late on Friday evening and the rally recorded massive success the next day.
That was not the end of the battle, as it shifted to tough verbal war between the governor and the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who, while addressing the rally, described Umahi as his friend and brother but insisted that he must an tender unreserved apology for denying his party members the use of a public facility maintained with taxpayers’ money. The governor fired back through his Chief Press Secretary, Uzor, describing Oshiomhole’s request as “very shameful.” According to Uzor: “He has not disappointed Nigerians on his usual naked dance when he said the governor denied his party usage of the Pa Ngele Oruta Stadium, which is undergoing construction.” In attempting to seemingly defend the indefensible, even when the same imagemaker had posted some pictures of members of the state’s security outfit, the Neighbourhood Watch, observing what they dubbed “routine training” in the said stadium, he went further to insinuate that, “It became more childish for the national party chairman who had earlier called Governor Umahi on phone and informed him of his coming to the state to have made such ridiculous statement whereas he was aware of the decision of a faction of his party to shift the date for the rally to August 11.”
The government’s spokesperson even went further to hit a sledgehammer on the mystic air when
he derisively submitted: “More worrisome is his visible silence over the factions in his party in the state and his inability to fuse the divided party into one but has descended so low to demand apology from a sitting governor over a stadium that is under construction.”
In dissecting the tantrums thrown at the APC national chairman and indeed the desperation to hype an alleged factional leadership crisis in Ebonyi APC vis-à-vis the denial of the stadium, which is a public facility maintained with taxpayers’ money by the PDP-led government in the state, and its hypocritical claim of approving same venue for another “faction” on another date, one clearly sees a case of ill-politick, infantile desperation, intolerance to opposition and frenzied despondency in the pursuit of the renewal of the mandate of the governor who touts that he came under a “Divine Mandate” in 2015.
It took the pious conjecture and outright gentlemanliness of the leader of the APC in Ebonyi and Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and other leaders for the party to have arranged for another venue, which later, ultimately, though stressfully, served the purpose. In the wise words of John Russel: “If peace cannot be maintained with honour, it is no longer peace.” The exemplary statesmanship of the minister in maintaining peace at all times, in the midst of ceaseless confrontations by his brother-governor, is quite commendable.
In one of the party’s rallies sometime in September last year, the governor’s supporters had threatened to stone Dr. Onu, Chief Martin Elechi and a former Works Commissioner in the state, Engr. Paul Okorie, if they were seen in any public place. The minister and other elders maintained their cool and waited till the entire insanity were over! But the Ebonyi government must know that there is always a limit to which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
To say the least, the brazen actions of denying the APC the use of the stadium and the hurried fixing of training for the Neighbourhood Watch members in the same venue and, indeed, the hosting of several events therein must be condemned by well-meaning Nigerians. The insipid desperation of the governor towards his second term bid, wherein he boasts that there is no opposition and that their activities will not be welcomed in Ebonyi State, calls for sober reflection. As Oshiomhole noted, if the Federal Government, in like manner, denies the governor access to any federal facility, including roads and airports, he cannot move an inch. This is why the governor has to respect the rights of every citizens of the state to belong to any association, be it political, economic, religious, social or otherwise.
My advice to Umahi is to return to his Bible and study the 19th book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter Seven: “Doubtless, wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men.” A word is enough for the wise.
• Otu, winner of the 2018 NUJ Defender of the Media Freedom Award, writes from Abakaliki, Ebonyi State