Rivers APC and its festering sore
As the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State prepares for the ultimate battle with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the soul of the state, Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, reports that the starting point should be the healing of its festering sore.
RIVERS State, following the victory of Nyesom Wike at the last gubernatorial election, left the grip of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and became a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled state. But the APC, under immediate past governor of the state and current Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, never stopped vowing that it will reclaim the state from Wike and his party at the next gubernatorial election.
Not a few analysts and political observers have predicted that the APC stands a good chance of upturning the table and displacing PDP from the Government House as it has vowed. But nearly all those who said so also warned that unless the party remains one indivisible group across the state, it will be unable to defeat Wike and his party in any election anywhere in Rivers State.
“The truth of the matter politically as we speak in Rivers State is that it is the strongest and the most united of the two leading parties, I mean PDP and APC, that will carry the day in 2019. The situation is such that the people are undecided as to where to cast their lot for now. Both the PDP and the APC will have to work on their internal democracy as well as re-strategise on how to get the people’s support in the build-up to the next general election.
“The APC especially, must work on remaining a united front. The PDP under Wike appears to be more cohesive for now in the state. The party’s structure is firmly under the governor’s control and the Supreme Court judgement has put paid to any talk of factions within the PDP. The APC needs to achieve the same feat if it is desirous of giving the ruling party a good fight in the next election,” Comrade Francis Dikeoha of the Centre For Free Polls (CFFP), said.
Dikeoha added that emerging indications from the APC are unfavorable. He expressed concern that the opposition party in the state is fighting against itself on many fronts. “It seems the APC wants to implode here in Rivers state. There are strong indications that the party is far from being united at the moment. They need to work on that as soon as possible ahead of the next general election,” he added.
And as if to confirm the fears of the pro-democracy activist, a former aide to ex-Governor Peter Odili, Chief Glory Emeh, who was until recently, a chieftain of the APC in the state revealed that he left the party because of the internal crisis rocking it. Emeh, who returned to his former party, the PDP, insisted that the APC in the state lacked unity and direction.
“What you now have in the APC are splinter groups loyal to various leaders. You have those loyal to Amaechi. There are those belonging to Abe. And Peterside has his own people too. It is that bad. That was why I left and returned to the PDP which is now more united and cohesive. I don’t see how a party fighting itself can defeat a ruling party,” he said.
But the state chapter of the APC, for weeks, vehemently denied claims and insinuations of any face-off between Amaechi and the Senator, representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Abe. The party said contrary to fake wild speculations and deliberately misleading insinuations, all is well with the party and its chieftains.
The state chairman of the party, Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, a recent statement, said “contrary to fake wild speculations and deliberately misleading insinuations, no member of the party in the state is been stopped or prevented from having ambition or wanting to seek for any elective office. And we must reinstate here that no APC member will be stopped or prevented from seeking any elective office.
For the purpose of clarity, we want to emphasize that as a truly democratic party. The APC in Rivers State will ensure a level-playing field for all its aspirants to any elective political office. From our ward officers to State party executives, no one has been removed or suspended from office. There is no crisis within our party or between our leaders.”
And the sore opened
But last weekend, the party could no longer continue with the denial game when hundreds of party faithful protested what they said was an attempt to rig the election of delegates during the state congress ordered by the national leadership, and submit hand-written names of fake delegates. The development confirmed the existence of a big crack within the party in the state.
Abe, who joined the protesters, insisted that the APC in Rivers State failed to hold its congress. His presence and statements exposed the crisis rocking the state APC within the past three months. Also protesting were the House of Representatives member elected on the party’s platform, Mr. Barinada Mpigi, Chidi Wihioka and Tony Okocha, who is a former aide to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
Abe said; “As you can see, there has been no congress in the state. The so-called stakeholders meeting in the state on Friday ended in a fiasco. The committee from the national level has not come to the party’s secretariat on Forces Avenue since morning, yet people have been here. Nobody should stay in a hotel and use any list for Rivers people. It is clear there was no congress in the state. Whatever has been done will not stand.”
He further said, “We heard that people were filling in the result sheets in a hotel while all party leaders were in the office. This is an embarrassment to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am sure that the whole country is aware of what’s going on here. Recent development in the APC was disturbing. How can people be filling result sheets without election?
The three APC leaders and their supporters openly accused Amaechi of rigging the election and forwarding names of his loyalists to the national headquarters of the party, contrary to democratic norms. They further accused him of planning to force candidates on the party members in the forthcoming general elections in the state, while urging the national leadership of the party to cancel the congress in the state.
But the leadership of the party insisted that it held election in the 23 local government areas of the state. Spokesperson for the Rivers APC, Chris Finebone, said it was wrong for anybody to say that there was no party congress in the state on Saturday. He added that the election was conducted by the convention committee members sent from the national headquarters of the party.
“I know that the party chairman and some officials of the party were engaged and that made them not to go round the way they would have loved to do. The constituents and delegates were there and most importantly, INEC was there. That they were not able to move around does not mean that the congress did not hold. There is no result written anywhere. Congresses held across the state,” Finebone said.
Also, the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, lauded the state chapter of the APC for the conduct of a non-elective congress and election of delegates for the party’s forthcoming national convention. He commended party leaders and supporters at various levels and congress officials for conducting a hitch-free exercise.
Speaking on the allegations against Amaechi by Abe and other aggrieved party chieftains, Peterside said contrary to the allegations and insinuations by some party members, the Minister of Transportation as well as the state party executives exhibited sound leadership in achieving transparent coordination of the congress. He dismissed allegations of rigging during the conduct of the congress.
Why they fell apart
The discordant tunes emanating from party leaders after the congress, confirmed the no love lost relationship existing between the Amaechi and Abe camps within the APC in the state. With that, the continued denial of the existence of an internal crisis by the state leadership of the party fell flat and what observers described as a festering sore on the very heel of the party became pronounced.
While some close associates of the duo of Amaechi and Abe insist that the feud between the two erstwhile political allies dated as far back as the run up to the 2015 governorship election, it is however safe to say the renewed gubernatorial ambition of the Senator representing Rivers South East in the national assembly is t the root of the fresh crisis.
“The party must find ways of managing this crisis before it becomes uncontrollable. It is not anything other than the desire of Senator Abe to contest the governorship in 2019, and the opposition of Amaechi to that ambition, that is causing this crisis. The two leaders are at war over who will fly the governorship banner of the party in 2019. That is just the truth of the matter.
“The Senator has made several efforts to get the Minister to support him in his ambition, but Amaechi is insisting that APC will not give Senator Abe the ticket in 2019. This is why the party is polarized into two as we speak. Abe is not a small fish in Rivers APC. He has his numerous supporters and they are ready to join him in opposing Amechi and his own people,” a source told The Nation.
Sources within the Minister’s camp however debunked allegations of imposition against Amaechi. Rather, they revealed that Senator Abe is the one seeking to be imposed on the party by Amaechi. The Nation learnt that several meetings have been held to reconcile the two by concerned elders of the party all to no avail. They accused Abe and his supporters of foiling all the peace moves.
“The problem is that Senator Abe wants Amaechi, who is the leader of the party in the state to impose him on the party. He has said it openly that the Minister is refusing to make him the party’s candidate. When elders waded into the matter, Amaechi said he will not oppose Abe but he will also not force him on the party. This did not go down well with the Senator and his people who wanted an open declaration of support from the Minister against other aspirants,” our source said.
Urging the party to promptly wade into the festering crisis, suspended national deputy Secretary of the APC, Comrade Timi Frank, said the feud between Amaechi and Senator Abe over 2019 governorship ticket, is capable of destroying the bright electoral chances of the APC in Rivers state before the next general election.
“Our leaders need to be proactive in resolving some of these crises. What is happening in Kogi, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kano and many other states today is as a result of lack of capacity by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) under Chief John Oyegun, which I have always warned about. That of Kogi state has started claiming lives of people we will need their votes tomorrow.
Therefore, Rivers state should not join the league of crisis bedeviled APC state chapters when we urgently call the political gladiators involve to order. I believe that it is only God that can give power and not man, despite the power tussles. The imposition that has destroy other parties should not be allowed in APC, not only in Rivers but across the country, the popular candidate must be allowed to fly our flag if we are truly practicing democracy,” he warned.
And as the battle for the control of APC machinery in the state rages between forces loyal to Amaechi on one hand and those loyal to Abe on the other, the executive committee of the state and most other party organs say the APC in Rivers state is united under the leadership of Minister Amaechi, irrespective of how some party chieftains may feel.
“The APC in Rivers state is intact. All our structures from the wards to the local governments and the state are intact under the leadership of our leader Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. There is no crisis in the party and we are focused on ensuring that we win subsequent elections in Rivers state,” he