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Amaechi’s alleged endorsement of Cole, defections compounds APC woes in Rivers

By Kelvin Ebiri, Port Harcourt
20 April 2017   |   4:41 am
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been thrown into confusion with a storm gradually gathering over who becomes its governorship standard bearer.

Rotimi Amaechi

We are united, only traitors left us, says party

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been thrown into confusion with a storm gradually gathering over who becomes its governorship standard bearer.

Besides, the party is being plagued by the defection of some of its members to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), further depleting its strength. While political parties prize cohesion and unity, particularly, as they prepare for election, the APC in the State, seems to have discarded the virtue

At the centre of the raging storm rocking the APC and threatening to tear it apart, are the Minister of Transportation and former governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi; Senator Magnus Abe, representing Rivers South East Senatorial district; and the party’s governorship candidate in 2015 and director general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside.

The Guardian learnt that Amaechi who was troubled by the fragmentation of the party between supporters of Abe and Peterside, over their perceived 2019 governorship ambition, recently convened a meeting of APC stakeholders in Port Harcourt, to express his displeasure.

Amaechi who had foisted Peterside, over candidature on the party in 2014, reportedly cautioned that the crisis rocking the party might get out of control if Abe and Peterside do not exercise restrain over their governorship ambition.

Thus as a means of ensuring a truce, the minister allegedly urged them to drop their ambition and announced that his preferred choice would be the billionaire oil tycoon and co founder of Sahara Energy Resource Limited, Mr. Tonye Cole, according to a reliable source at the meeting.

Some within the party assume that it was part of an immediate measure taken by him to compel supporters of Abe and Peterside to pull back from entrenched positions. The announcement of Cole as the preferred choice did not go down well with Abe who sources claimed insisted that he would proceed with his arrangements to actualized the ambition whether he was endorsed by the minister or not.

Abe, whose relationship with Amaechi was almost marred by the imposition of Peterside as APC governorship candidate in the 2015 election, was said to have argued that party primary election should be the sole determining factor to decide who should emerge as the party’s standard-bearer in 2019.

Amaechi’s choice of Cole, who no doubt has carved a niche for himself in the oil industry, has triggered uproar within the party. Sources in the party maintained that the APC is now polarised.

On one side of the divide are those who think that the only way to stem the rancour and acrimony within the party is to allow internal democracy to determine who gets the governorship ticket.

On the contrary, are party members loyal to Amaechi who contended that his choice should be allowed to stay being the leader of the party in the state. Although the decision is still shrouded in mystery, some political observers assume that the minister in considering the financial implication of wresting political power from Wike in 2019 might have deemed it expedient to throw his weight behind a man who can muster the resources required to prosecute governorship tussle.

Already, signs of intra-party skirmish reared its head recently when some youths stormed the venue of a meeting between the minister and select youths of APC from across the 23 local government area of the State and forced their way in.

It was alleged that those who invaded the meeting were perceived Abe supporters who felt they were tactically left out of the meeting. Some APC stalwarts, who spoke to The Guardian said in a ‘hostile’ political climate like Rivers State, argued that it would be politically suicidal for the APC to be in disarray and expect to wrest power from a formidable governor like the incumbent and the PDP.

A supporter of Abe ho pleaded anonymity disclosed that the APC would merely be galloping towards disintegration if Amaechi insists on imposition with regards to the governorship candidate of the party.

“Honestly, we are not saying that Abe should be given the ticket without any contestation. Anybody who wants to emerge as the party’s governorship candidate should do so through the ballot. The era of imposition is over.

“We will not tolerate what happened in 2014 to repeat itself in 2018. To be candid, if Abe or Peterside is denied the ticket this time around, the APC risk angering their many supporters. Fragmentation of the APC in Rivers State at this time will be her worst nightmare. The party will just become easy prey for the ruling PDP,” he said.

A political analyst, Godwin Azubuike, argued in an interview with The Guardian that any political party worth its salt couldn’t afford to be fractured if it wants to grab political power from an incumbent government.

He said that since Abe and his political associates from the Rivers South East senatorial district were able to dislodged PDP in the recently concluded legislative elections, it would be unreasonable to undermine their interest in determining who emerges as the party’s standard bearer.

It is not clear if Amaechi would recant on his decision to support Cole’s governorship ambition or throw his weight once again behind Peterside. But having unveiled his preference and given the attendant rippling effects, the intra-party skirmish could easily escalate resulting in further defections from the APC.

Recently, a known APC strategist, Mr. Emeh Glory Emeh, led other members of the party to defect to the PDP. Emeh who has held several positions in the state including Senior Special Adviser on Media and Strategy, Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Commissioner for Transport and Aviation during Governor Peter Odili administration; and Chief of Staff during Celestine Omehia’s brief reign, was alleged to have coordinated the daily defections of members and leaders of the APC to the PDP.

A former Special Assistant on Internal Revenue, Nwankwo Nwankwo, and a former Commissioner for Culture, Sunny Nwokekoro, who served under Amaechi’s administration have also relocated to PDP. Similarly, the APC Leader in Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni Local Government Area, Merino Okiraija and a former Chairman of Emohua council, Bob Okala, have also defected.

Hundreds of APC supporters led by former leader of the Asari-Toru Legislative Assembly, Orolosama Amachree, dumped APC for PDP. They alleged that they opted to leave the party because they were deceived by the promise to bring change to Nigerians.

“I was not convinced by anyone to decamp.  No one gave me money and no one lobbied for me and my brothers and sisters to leave the APC. PDP was my root and because I was deceived to join the APC, I have retraced my step and I am back home,” he said.

Also, the Vice Chairman of APC in Degema Local Government Area, Samuel Ikiroma, has joined the train of defectors with his supporters in the area. APC spokesperson, Chris Finebone, told The Guardian that the party remains united irrespective of fears that it risks fragmentation. According to him, the major preoccupation of Amaechi as their leader is to rebuild the party ahead of 2019.

Finebone said it was laughable to hear Glory Emeh refer to APC as party of lies and propaganda, declaring that the so-called high numbers of their members that left with him to PDP, was over exaggerated.

He explained that APC stakeholders in Asari-Toru council have a dossier on the romance between Amachree and the PDP over time. Subsequently, the APC placed surveillance on him especially given his purported treacherous behaviour during the December 10 rerun elections.

His words: “Therefore, Orolosama Amachree formally pitching camp with the PDP is long expected and he is not likely to refrain from his penchant for easy money which has become very dire of late. On that account we believe it is good riddance to bad rubbish especially to the APC stakeholders in ASALGA who have endured and tolerated Amachree’s antics for too long.

“The APC will encourage the PDP to look for all manner of persons and parade as APC defectors as long as the essence of the exercise is for the schemers to put food on their table and smile to the bank. True members of APC will continue to remain true to the party and its ideals while persons who place pecuniary interests above anything else are free to go scrounge for crumbs under Caesar’s table.”