NIGERIA’s presidency has welcomed the planned defection of the Ebonyi State governor Dave Umahi to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in what is seen as the first step in his bid to run for president in 2023.
Currently the chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, Governor Umahi, 57, was first elected in 2015 on the platform of the leading opposition the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Last year, he was re-elected for a second four year term due to end in 2023 and it is believed he will seek the presidency then.
Although not constitutional, Nigeria’s component parts have a gentleman’s agreement that the presidency will rotate between the north and the south of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure will end in 2023 and being a Fulani northern Muslim, it is expected that the next president will come from southern Nigeria.
Each half of the country is made up of three geo-political zones, which in the south is made up of the southeast, south-south and southwest geo-political zones. However, since the return to democracy in 1999, the southwest has produced President Olusegun Obasanjo. while the south-south has produced President Goodluck Jonathan, so the next president should come from the southeast.
A close friend of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change with him before 2015, Governor Umahi told the PDP hierarchy yesterday that he will be leaving the party for the APC. It is now believed that it he joins the APC, he would become the frontrunner for the 2023 presidential ticket.
This morning, the presidency described the move as a welcome development, describing Governor Umahi as the highest performing governor in the southeast geo-political zone. Bashir Ahmad, President Buhari’s special assistant to on new media, said it was only a homecoming for Governor Umahi.
Mr Ahmad said: “When you apply its actual term, the all politics is local, his excellency will be welcomed to our great party, the APC. A great person, one of the performing governors in the country, arguably the best in his region. It’s just a homecoming.”
If Governor Umahi clinches the APC presidential ticket in 2023, he will most likely be involved in a head-on race with the former Anambra State governor Peter Obi. In 2015, Governor Obi was the PDP’s vice presidential candidate and will almost certainly be the party’s flagbearer in 2023.