Recently, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state and Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum, travelled with President Buhari to New York to attend the UN General Assembly. In this interaction covered by OBINNA ODOGWU, the Governor revealed the details of his private discussions with Buhari on Biafra agitation as well as the President’s response.
Hate speeches seem to be the order of the day in Nigeria. What is the Ebonyi State Government doing to curb the menace?
We have a very important law we are going to make and that will be on hate speeches. You will have to prove henceforth whatever allegations you put forward, whether it is on the social media or on the pages of newspaper. We are going to make the law so that when you are accusing anybody you will have to prove it. We will create a department that will be in charge of that so that we regulate hate speeches in the state.
Already, Kaduna state did it and I told the Governor, please export whatever you have in Kaduna and bring here. What is pulling this country down is our mouths and mindset. People just sit down at one corner and start to destroy people and cook up all kinds of things you cannot prove. We know that this is democracy but he that comments must prove his or her point and we must insist on that. The courts are there to prove our points and strengthen democracy. Anybody who stays at the corners of his/her house to accuse you, that person must be fished out to prove it.
From all indications, the country will soon be restructured in view of the clamour all over the nation. How prepared are South East states?
Very soon, there will be no more money coming from Abuja, it will happen just suddenly. If they just say okay let us do restructuring and of course the North is doing greatly very well, how do we survive? North has a lot of opportunities, they are moving into agriculture.
And so some people see restructuring as a dream that may not come to pass. If they say we must restructure and let every region harness its resources and keep it, bring 50% of it to the centre, 30% to common pocket to be redistributed and 20% to the federal government. The question is: what are we going to bring to the centre? But this is one of the aspects of restructuring and so we must wake up. I will continue to shout it, we must hear that and I am happy the President commended Ebonyi state in agriculture and fertilizer. One of my fights in this state is such that the Abakaliki rice would not be dimmed because it is known all over the world. But we have to do different things if we must excel. We have improved in agriculture actually but we have not reached our destination and we must get to the destination in rice production in this country.
What can you say about the ongoing agitations in the South-East region for the actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra and the recent proscription of IPOB?
I want to thank the Governors of South-East and the North for their efforts in ending the ugly incident that occurred recently. Let me assure Nigerians that Mr. President has heard you and he is going to address all the issues raised. There is no need to continue insulting our leaders and abusing other tribes. No need trying to pose danger to the existence of our people. We are not untrustworthy people. We are very, very trustworthy. We are hardworking and well cultured people and so, we have made our points.
I had private discussion with Mr. President in New York and I want to assure the South-Easterners that the President will address all our problems. Nigeria is going to see peace. We are stronger when we are bigger. Let me also tell our people that we are playing too much politics. It is only in the South-East that you see petitions that they are piling in the EFCC. Everything is now about politics and we left our hard work for politics.
As the incumbent and 3rd civilian Governor of Ebonyi State since its creation 21 years ago, what efforts have you made in living up to the dreams of the founding fathers?
In our efforts to create a new Ebonyi State of the dreams of our founding fathers, we christened the platform upon which God brought us to leadership and raised us so high above distractions through the divine mandate. We remain grateful to God. We can humbly say that we have achieved a lot through God’s divine mandate within the two years of our administration. We have kept hope alive and delivered on our campaign promises despite obstacles that have stirred us and still stirring us in the face, but we are surmounting most of them.
Undoubtedly, this year’s celebration for us as a people is an important juncture in the annals of our statehood; because, we have worked hard to bring development to our state.
In the previous years, we have devoted this celebration to enumerating our collective challenges in which insecurity had formed the major challenge. But today, we have modified this annual event such that it has become a convention for our collective achievements. We have kept hope alive and tackled our challenges as a people who are destined to succeed.
Let me emphasize that the dream of our founding fathers was that should Ebonyi State be created; it will survive based on the human and mineral resources that God endowed us with. It is important that we know how far we have harnessed these resources that God gave to us.