Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye , Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, has disclosed how he rented 2,000 person to beef up the crowd that cheered President Muhammadu Buhari at the Abakiliki Township Stadium. He said he did that to save the president from seeing empty seats because his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not on ground in the state.
He has also debunked allegations that he is paying any amount he likes to workers in the state saying that if he was doing that he would have long been exposed in the media.
Umahi was reacting to APC gubernatorial candidate, Sonni Ogbuoji’s allegation at the presidential campaign rally at the Abakaliki Township Stadium, that Ebonyi workers have had to endure poor pay, no gratuity for retired workers and even reduced to mere slaves that don’t deserve promotion.
Speaking to journalists shortly after seeing off President Muhammadu Buhari to his helicopter enroute Calabar, Umahi denied that the 5,200 workforce he inherited had been reduced to 3,200. He said instead, he released N4 billion for workers to access soft loans to do any agric business of their choice and had even given them Fridays free to engage in businesses that will generate additional income to them.
The governor said: “You see, when they have nothing to accused you of, they have to come up with something. Are these tangible things to boast with? In the first place, the workforce I met, I have never retired anybody and I don’t think two percent of the workforce has retired. But I have said that there is no need employing more people because the condition of those in service not only in Ebonyi state, nationwide is not palatable. So you have to take care of those you have employed before you think of employing more people.
“That is why I made available N4 billion to civil servants to take loans within a range they can pay back, even if you have 25 years to stay in service, the loan will last for 25 years. I gave them Fridays free to go and do any agric business of their choice including Saturdays. Because, I know there is no amount you will pay civil servants that will be enough for them, because there is nothing left after paying salaries for you to work with. Because, the essence of your being in government is to do something, but when you use 100 percent of your earnings to pay salaries, then what are they working? So, I devised a means whereby everyone should be doing something and that is why we made available that soft loan to them.
“If it’s true that I pay civil servants anything I like, I will be on the pages of newspapers; you know civil servants are not the type that will keep quiet. Ask them (APC members in the state) what is the GDP; ask them the factors, indices that make up GDP, they won’t know. I am a trained engineer and all my life I have been in business, employing thousands of people and so I understand what governance and administration are all about.”
He described Ogbuoji as spent force that has nothing to campaign on.
The governor said he decided to organise 2,000 people to fill the stadium to welcome President Buhari as the chairman of South East Governors Forum, because he didn’t want him to feel he is not liked by the people of the state nor the region, who have benefited from his administration’s projects development.
Umahi said: “There have nothing to talk about but complaints. The last time Mr. President was here they wrote a 15-page petition against me and Mr president said to them don’t allow your frustration to overwhelm you. We have performed beyond human expectations and that is their problem; they have nothing to campaign with.
“When I was deputy governor, they were all the people we helped and if you see their venom against Mr. President when he was contesting in 2015, you will doubt the immorality of human beings. So they have nothing to campaign about.”
On the allegation that he sweet-tongued the president, pretending to be his supporter while he was doing everything underneath to frustration his re-election bid, the governor said, “I don’t understand what they mean by support. We are of two different political parties and so the support for Mr. President as a governor, that is what we are doing. Second, we are not castigating Mr. President; that is support. We acknowledged publicly what Mr. President is doing for Ebonyi State, that is support.
“Morally and ethically, I am not supposed to come out and start shouting, holding the ticket of PDP and say vote APC president. There are many ways of giving support, as the chairman of South East Governors Forum; we have given Mr. President a very good landing platform in the South East and definitely he will have more votes that he did the other time.”
On allegations that he had initially denied the APC usage of the stadium, Umahi said: “First time they wanted to use the stadium, they had two factions and they were going to fight and destroy our property. So, I said no; they should clear with the Commissioner of Police and come up with one set of leadership so that they can use the stadium and I was going to give it to them free of charge.
“Today, not only did we give them the stadium which of course is incumbent on me to give them when Mr. President is coming, we renovated the stadium and painted the seats. We called them for security council meeting; some of them came and we asked what is it that they want?
“The crowd you see there, 2,000 of them are from me because I know they have nobody. But for it not to seem that Ebonyi people don’t love Mr. President, I had to make available 2,000 people and that is why if you check the crowd, when they were castigating me unduly the crowds were not clapping, they were not happy. But for the respect they have for Mr. President, they would have booed them. I had to do that because I am not into extreme politics; I am into development.”
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