The governor of Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi, has revealed his intention to run for the presidency.
Mr Umahi disclosed this to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.
Mr Umahi’s visit to the Villa comes barely 24 hours after the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, met with Mr Buhari to notify him of his presidential ambition.
Mr Umahi defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC in November 2020. This decision was criticised by Egwu Chima, a party chieftain and former information commissioner in Ebonyi who said Mr Umahi’s defection to the APC was of no value to his new party.
At the time, Mr Buhari commended Mr Umahi’s defection, urging him to ignore criticisms that might come his way as a result of the move. The APC in Ebonyi had also said Mr Umahi had no plans to return to the PDP.
Simbard Ogbuatu, the state party spokesperson, had said in a statement that “Umahi has not, either in person, a representative or through a surrogate made and will never make any move to return to the ‘Social Club’ known as PDP.”
In January 2021, Peoples Gazette reported how Mr Umahi channeled state funds between 2011 and 2019 to Brass Engineering, which he owns and has chaired since 1993.
Based on bank records of the state, the report notes that Mr Umahi received more than N3.6 billion, when he began transferring state funds into Brass Engineering shortly after becoming deputy governor to Martin Elechi in 2011.
After the report was published, an aide to Mr Umahi called The Gazette office in Abuja, threatening to kill the online newspaper’s reporters. The audio recording of the phone call was uploaded to YouTube.
This action caught the attention of democracy and good governance advocacy group, Concerned Nigerians, which then wrote to the United States’ embassy in Nigeria asking for a visa ban on Mr Umahi and his family.
Mr Umahi is not a stranger to attacks on journalists. Reporters from the Vanguard and Sun had been brutalised over critical reports of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in his state.