Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi says he will seek to bear the flag of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election.
The governor declared his interest after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
Umahi, who spoke to State House correspondents, said he had informed the president of his political ambition during the meeting.
He said, “We discussed politics and the growth of our party, APC, in Nigeria, and the South East. And, of course, you know, the interest of South East, for the seat of presidency in 2023.
“And, of course, I told Mr. President, that without prejudice to whatever will be the decision of the party, which we shall abide by, that if the party throws the ticket open or zone it to the southern part of Nigeria, that I believe that with what I have put in place in the past six years plus, that I’ll be running for the presidency, on the platform of APC.
“So, I told him and of course, he believes that whoever wants to run for president of this country must have to consult widely, go to all the leaders and that we must do everything to remove ethnicity and religion in our politics so that this country can grow.”
On the extent of his consultations with stakeholders across the country over his ambition, the governor stated that he would not have done that without first meeting with the president to inform him.
“I wouldn’t have done that without first coming to clear with Mr. President that there is this feeling in South East that have not been president and that people feel that those of our leaders in the various political parties should indicate interest to contest.
“And this is fair, this is important. But at the end of the day, it is God Almighty and the political parties that will also decide.”
On whether he had consulted with the pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo, on his ambition and if he had received their blessing, he said, “Ohanaeze leadership should not play politics. Yes, they can speak for the interest of the South East, they can speak for fair treatment to the southeast as people but as a matter of equity, justice, and fairness, and leaving a level playing field for all the political parties and the aspirants.
“They should not dabble into politics on whom to support or whom not to support,” he added.
According to him, the Igbo socio-cultural group as well as other relevant organizations will be informed of his ambition in 2023.
The governor also advocated for what he described as a political solution to the raging insecurity in the South East.
“Let me also add that as the Chairman of southeast Governors’ Forum, I support a political solution to our insecurity problems in South East. And of course, I mentioned it to Mr. President.
“You see, the political solution does not terminate the judicial process.
“And if you know, Mr President, very well, he has always said, and has always demonstrated that he wouldn’t interfere with any judicial process, everybody knows him for that.
“But you remember very well, that if an agreement is reached between parties, you don’t expect Mr President to be the negotiator, there are a lot of federal government officials.
“And so I believe strongly that as South East is proposing for a political solution, they should be able to engage the federal government.
“After all, there’s always what is called the out-of-court settlement, but it is for our people, and our brother Kanu to be willing for us to truly engage so that we can find true peace in our region.
“Because, the activities there have destroyed a lot of the economy of South East, a lot of lives have been lost. And when we were shouting that it wasn’t going to benefit us, because agitation shouldn’t have gone the way it did.
“Today, the matter has gone beyond them (IPOB). You know, every criminal, kidnapper, armed robber tends to claim IPOB and IPOB, in turn, is fighting them.
“But I think, is late. So we desire peace, we desire to save the lives of our people. And so we are willing to engage, to see that we have, you know, an amicable settlement. And you know, rebuild the economy of South East.”
The governor also disclosed that he used the opportunity of the meeting to invite the president to visit his state for the inauguration of some landmark projects executed by his administration.