In a country like Nigeria which is suffering from the erosion of nationalistic tendencies Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State stands out like an iroko tree in a desert. He eats, breathes and dreams a united, strong and better Nigeria.
Ample evidence of Umahi’s patriotic and nationalist credentials can be found in his disposition towards the self-determinist movements seeking to break up from Nigeria that have rocked Nigeria’s South-East where he hails from.
The two most notable among the groups are the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). While many of Umahi’s peers give silent concurrence or submit themselves to the separatist agitations out of fear, Governor Umahi frequently comes out confidently and boldly to denounce the agitations and their modus operandi. He would rather want to see a strong, united and economically flourishing country that would bring prosperity to its citizens, including his fellow enterprising people of the Southeast.
He admits that most of the secessionist groups’ agitations are genuine but believes they could be addressed within the context of Nigeria.
Another area in which Governor Umahi has manifested his nationalistic outlook is in the raging legal tussle between the Federal and the Rivers and Lagos State governments over rights to the collection of the Value-added Tax (VAT). Since the introduction of the tax in Nigeria, the Federal Government has enjoyed exclusive rights to its collection and thereafter distributing a proportion of it to the states and local government areas based on the existing federal revenue allocation formula.
However, over the years, some states have questioned the status quo, arguing that it was illegal and was being used by the Federal Government to deprive them of the revenue that they ought to collect. The matter is still pending in the appeal court. In the course of the litigation, and sensing that a new and lucrative revenue-earning outlet was in the offing, many state governors moved to join Rivers State litigation or institute their own. The implication of a successful VAT litigation against the Federal Government is that the centre will be rendered fiscally weaker.
However, the spirit of nationalism in Umahi, would not allow him support the VAT litigation bandwagon, his Ebonyi state’s relatively weak revenue base notwithstanding. He said Ebonyi would continue to stick with the VAT collection by the Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS) and its subsequent distribution among the 36 states of the federation. “Ebonyi state is not in support of any state collecting VAT. We are in support that FIRS should continue to collect tax and share,” he declared.
Another issue that has brought Governor Umahi’s nationalistic posture is his handling of the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes in some parts of the federation. In Ebonyi state, the Governor made Local Government chairmen in his state to see how to make peace between the herdsmen and famers and advised that the approach be replicated across the country.
Orji Uchenna Orji, the Ebonyi state commissioner for information describes Umahi as someone who is nationalistic by nature. “By his character, family training, nature and inclination, he is a nationalistic leader and a bridge builder; he believes in one Nigeria. For us in Ebonyi, we refer to him as Azikiwe of Nigeria because all his doings point to the fact that he wants a united Nigeria where there is love, peace, prosperity and tolerance for every culture.”
These are among the credentials that have earned Engr. Umahi the recognition as The Political Leader of the Year 2021 by the Top 10 magazine.
David Nweze Umahi, 67, popularly known as Dave Umahi, was born in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. He was educated at Ishiagu High School, the Government Secondary School Afikpo and graduated from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
In 1990, he co-founded Norman Engineering and Construction Nigeria Limited and served as its general manager until 1993 when he left to set up Brass Engineering & Construction Nigeria Ltd.
Umahi entered public service in 2007 as the acting chairman of the Ebonyi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, rising progressively to become state chairman of the party and chairman of the governing board of the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba.
In 2011, Umahi became Deputy governor of Ebonyi State on PDP ticket with Governor Martin Elechi. He succeeded his principal when he was elected Governor in 2015. Umahi who has defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently serving his second and final term as Governor following his reelection in 2019.