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Abe’s 2019 guber bid unnerves Rivers APC

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Senator Magnus Abe

The bickering in the All Progressives Congress (APC) Rivers State, took a new twist penultimate Thursday, as hundreds of party stalwarts publicly declared their support for Senator Magnus Abe’s governorship bid.

Those in the know of things in the APC, which has been shaken by a running feud and turf war between erstwhile Rivers State governor, now Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and Abe, reckoned that the stakeholders’ meeting is a sign of yet another brewing war within the party.

Though Abe’s posters and billboards have not started dotting the busy streets and roads in the state, his visibility in the Rivers Southeast senatorial district in recent times, while rendering social services, points to the fact that he is bent on pushing on with his political aspiration, irrespective of whether Amaechi, who still tries to retain his complete dominance in the party supports him or not.

APC stakeholders comprising mainly members of the national and state Assemblies, former commissioners in the Amaechi and Peter Odili administrations respectively, as well as other teeming members of the party from the 23 local government areas of Rivers State converged penultimate Thursday to declare Abe as their governorship choice for the party come 2019.

The Guardian gathered from sources inside the party that the people that converged at the meeting in Port Harcourt were mainly those fiercely opposed to Amaechi being the sole determinant of who becomes governorship candidate in the next general elections. It was also learned that this faction of the party is determined to counter the centripetal tendencies in the party.

At the meeting, which had in attendance Chidi Wihioka, representing Ikwerre/Emohua federal constituency; Maurice Pronen, representing Khana/Gokana federal constituency, three former Amaechi commissioners, namely Augustine Wokocha, Marcus Nle Ejii and Ipalibo Harry, among other political bigwigs, they affirmed the right of all party members to have ambition within the party, to openly express it, canvass and lobby support for its actualisation without fear and within the laws, as well as the APC constitution. They insisted it was the only way the party would be built, rather than through handpicking of candidates as was done in the past.

It was observed that without equivocation and with the power and support of both the APC and the Nigerian constitution, that Senator
Abe, representing Rivers Southeast senatorial district, was eminently qualified to aspire to the office of the Governor of Rivers State.

The immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Worgu Boms, who read a statement issued at the end of the meeting, declared: “Accordingly, the meeting called on him to present himself for the 2019 gubernatorial under our great party, APC, as he clearly has the support and approval of a vast majority of our party faithful across the state.”

Rivers State APC has been beset with internal squabbles since beginning of this year due to the feud between Amaechi, who is the acclaimed leader of the party in the state and Abe. The rift within the APC was on public display during Amaechi’s birthday celebration in Port Harcourt this year, when Abe and his supporters stayed away.

The major bone of contention is the perception that Amaechi’s preferred candidate for the 2019 governorship polls still remains his political protégé, Dakuku Peterside, who is currently the director general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The choice of Peterside as the party’s governorship candidate in the 2015 poll, which was won by Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had triggered widespread dissidence within the party that is still smouldering till date. Those now backing Abe are of the assumption that they lost the polls because of the choice of candidate, which might not really be tenable.

Senator Wilson Ake, who represented the Rivers west between 2007 and 2015, alluded that the choice of Dakuku was the reason the Brick House, eluded APC in 2015.

He said: “Those following Magnus Abe are those that have decided to take the path of truth. In 2015, we marched to the pitch, benching our own Lionel Messi. We lost. In 2019, we are set to face another epic match, and the coach is saying we will bench Lionel Messi again. Would you agree with that coach? It’s impossible to bench Lionel Messi in a big match you want to win. Magnus Abe is our own Lionel Messi, and we must field him to mesmerise our opponents and deliver magnificent victory. Supporting Magnus is no crime. Those who say it’s a crime don’t know what they are saying.”

Similarly, a former state lawmaker and commissioner of Culture and Tourism under Amaechi, Marcus Nle, at the stakeholders’ meeting said, having lost the last governorship election, the party’s governorship candidate should be one who would fare well in the next election.

“It’s difficult to fail election. It takes time to recover, if at all you can. I have seen Magnus Abe as the man who can take Rivers APC to the Brick House. We must all support him. I’d rather quit politics than fail again,” he said.

Abe’s supporters’ optimism of his prospect to wrest political power from the seemingly formidable Governor Wike, stems from the fact that barely 11 months ago, the political landscape of Rivers State had the imprint of PDP, which has dominated the political space since 1999. But last December, Abe was able to wrest Rivers Southeast senatorial district, considered to be the second most strategic in the state from the PDP.

Despite the widening rift between Abe and Amaechi, who controls state executive of APC, the senator has been strategically mobilising support for his bid, particularly as the party has zoned governorship slot to his Rivers Southeast senatorial district, which is the only zone yet to produce a governor since 1999. Abe’s impetus has left many puzzled in the state, as it is obvious he might be enjoying support from external forces in the party. Furthermore, he is also rumoured to enjoy support of at least 15 out 23 local government areas of state APC executives.

Addressing APC supporters at K-Dere community in Gokana Local Government Area during an event, where members of the youth wing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared for the APC, Abe appealed with other ethnic nationalities in the state to avail his Ogoni ethnic chance to produce the next state governor.

“I have driven through the roads in Gokana on Saturday and Sunday, and I have seen how bad the roads are,” he said. “I have seen pervasive poverty in the land. Won’t your lives be better, if you have someone from Ogoni in Government House?

“All ethnic nationalities in Rivers State have someone qualified to be the state governor. However, we in Ogoni are saying we should be supported by other ethnic nationalities in the state, so that we can produce the governor in 2019. We are appealing to them to join hands with us to make the journey easier for all.”

Abe, whose supporters have been allegedly sidelined by the state working committee for associating with him, informed APC members that the internal wrangling in the party’s state leadership would be resolved through ongoing intensive consultations.

He said: “The APC national leadership has stepped into the matter and I am sure whatever difference that has emerged would be amicably resolved, as we move along. I want to advise that we refrain from making statements that would further aggravate the situation.

“There are bound to be differences in political parties, but the ability to resolve such without rancour makes the party even stronger. We left the PDP due to pervasive injustice, impunity and disregard for internal democracy. Therefore, we would not toe the path of PDP.”

While stakeholders’ support for Abe’s ambition might seem innocuous to outsiders, it has stirred up the hornet nest and deepened the crack within the APC.

A pro-Amaechi and Dakuku faction, under the aegis of the Inter Ethnic Network for Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (IN-CRA) said it considers it highly offensive, insensitive and disregard for party leadership for a group of individuals to gather under whatever guise and claim it was holding a stakeholders’ meeting without the party leadership’s knowledge and express permission.

IN-CRA argued that constitutionally and administratively, the Rivers State APC has elected party officers under the leadership of the state chairman, Davies Ikanya, amongst such other top leaders as Amaechi. Thus, they contended that the only recognised authority, statutorily conferred with powers to convene a state stakeholders’ meeting was Ikanya, who was conspicuously absent at the stakeholders’ meeting.

“The purported stakeholders’ meeting is, therefore, an affront to the party leadership, the party leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, as well as a slight on the sensibilities of loyal party members.”

“We advise general public to discountenance the said communiqué, as it evidently does not bear the seal and approval of party leadership. This conduct by supposed party members is puerile, laughable and abject. IN-CRA urges conveners of the farcical Rivers APC stakeholders’ meeting to refrain from misleading party members and general public. They are expected to have to know that the outcomes of such gathering lack validity and is not implementable on or by the party,” IN-CRA said.

A political analyst, Mirabel Ndu, told The Guardian that the division within APC could cloud its prospects in the crucial 2019 general elections.

“The feud between Amaechi and Abe is a sign that the APC is in total disarray. How can the party be talking of giving a fight to the PDP, when its house is in shambles? If the tussle in APC is not checkmated on time, it will prove to be its nemesis in the coming 2019 general elections,” he said.


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