APC can’t win Rivers with a divided house, says Magnus Abe
Sen. Magnus Abe, governorship aspirant on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in a chat with newsmen in Port Harcourt stressed the urgent need to bring the party together if it is to be relevant in next year’s election.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State has been in deep crisis since 2015. Why are the problems not resolved even as 2023 polls draw closer?
Yes, we have had difficulties within the party but a lot of the members of our party know that all those difficulties could have been avoided if we had a more temperate leadership that was willing to respect other leaders and members and bring people together to achieve victory.
I don’t care how much power you have but the reality is that APC in this state cannot win election as a divided house. We can only win as a united house. I have given my conditions to which we can move on, which is that we must allow a fair, free and credible primary for all aspirants. But the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi goes around trying to present the fact that other people are irrelevant and that you don’t need them to win election, that he can win by himself but he cannot. How do we know that? Because overtime, they have tried, they failed. Since the last time we contested together and we won, we have not been able to win anything again and when we won that time, the bulk of what we won were from my own senatorial district, which was under my leadership. I and my supporters have a stake in Rivers APC that nobody can ignore, so there is need to bring the party together to support one candidate and the way to do that is to create an atmosphere in which all of us can compete fairly, freely and creditably. It is in the interest of all of us to talk to one another, listen to each other and try to tone it down for this party to win election. Whatever anger you have, you just have to drop it outside so that we can come together to present a front that can overwhelm our opponents and deliver the state. That’s the reality. A lot of people have left the party because of these challenges, so we can’t continue to be doing the same thing over and over again and expect different result, but I am hopeful that in 2023, we will try something different.
We hear of the emergence of Tonye Cole as the consensus governorship candidate of your party, but some aspirants who signed the agreement document to stand by one candidate have started pulling out. What is your stance on the consensus arrangement?
I have avoided being personal towards any of my friends and brothers within the APC and the reason is that we all know one another; we all know our capacities, strengths and weaknesses. The 10 people or more that signed the agreement, very few have any real capacity or strength to enter into a gubernatorial contest that is state wide, so the only way they can hope to be in such a contest is by being adopted as the sole candidate by the powers that be. That’s why they rushed into that arrangement. Those among them who know or feel they have capacity to actually contest on their own strength will not agree to such a thing because you know that, that kind of arrangement automatically knocks out your own strength and reduces you to the level of those who have no strength. That’s why you see some of them pulling out. So, if all those that actually have strength have pulled out even within that arrangement, what is the essence of the arrangement? I believe that given the political climate today in Rivers State, I don’t think anybody stands a better chance than myself emerging as the candidate of APC in Rivers. I will contest the governorship primary of our party and I believe that if the contest is free, fair and credible, I stand a very good chance of emerging as the candidate because I have all the factors that endear me not just to all population but indeed, to all reasonable members of the APC. I am a foundation member of the party in the state, I have contributed my quota to trying to uplift the party and sustain it.
There is sharp division among Upland and Riverine people on the issue of power sharing. The Ogonis have also cried out over political marginalization. Are you aware of zoning arrangement in APC to empower those who say they are marginalized?
Abi initio, I have made it clear that I will not accept any such arrangement. I think the whole idea of a Riverrine candidature is intended to satisfy the Minister of Transportation. It is not in the interest of the APC in Rivers State because at the time when we met together as a party when everyone else still had a voice. We had common agreement at that time, that the governorship be zoned to the Rivers South-East Senatorial District and that was why it came down to and Dr. Dakuku Peterside and I, both of us are from the Rivers South East Senatorial District. So, what has changed between then and now to alter that arrangement that we all saw as sensible and practical in the interest of the party, to now arrive at the Riverine versus Upland divide, when did we arrive at that? Secondly, everybody who lives in Rivers State understands that we have different tribes and groups in the state, to now force all of us to enter upland arrangement is disrespectful to others. At the time, Amaechi had not been governor and Governor Nyesom Wike had not been governor. If they had told Amaechi that he would not be governor because he is upland, would he have agreed? He didn’t agree and that’s why he contested because at that time, Abiye Sekibo and others were making the Riverine argument within his own Senatorial District and he rejected it and fought and we stood by him because the Ikweres were the bigger group at the Senatorial district who had not tasted the governorship of the state and so, we stood by him. If he didn’t agree when it was his turn, how does he expect me to agree now that everything, even the sun itself is pointing towards the Ogoni, how would I throw that away? So, when you change the rules in the middle of the game, people are bound to feel that they are not being fairly treated, I am from Ogoni, in the history of this state from 1967 till date, no Ogoni son or daughter has held any leadership position in the state. Amaechi cannot tell me that the Ogoni people cannot claim that they have not been governor.
He has been governor, he cannot tell me that Ogoni people cannot make that case, because Peter Odili has been governor, Odili is not from Ogoni. So when you now come and say, Ogoni people should not talk because Amaechi has been governor or Odili or Wike has been governor, when they were governors, did they ever call any Upland meeting for all of us to meet as Upland to know that we are part of the government? They never did, and then when you finish and we now want to contest, you say no, we are Upland, that we shouldn’t contest. How does that make sense to anybody? Naturally, because the Riverine people will also like to be governor, if you tell them that, it promotes their own interest. So they are not going to say ‘no it’s not fair’ but there are even people within them who are saying, ‘no it’s not right’. So, I think that as far as zoning is concerned, if we have to zone the governorship in APC, we have already zoned it to the Rivers South East Senatorial District, if we now want to unzone it, then we must be able to give reasons that other leaders and members of the party who will be affected by that unzoning can also identify with. And so far, I haven’t been told of a reason why we are doing Riverine and Upland or whatever, instead of the Senatorial Districts that is the known constitutional bases for sharing power in this country. So, If we are changing it now, people need to understand why, and so we can explain to our people that this is the reason this is happening but in the absence of that, we reject it.
Currently, citizens are distressed and hungry due to bad leadership. At this point, should it power sharing or a candidate that can address the needs of the people?
I am standing by Rivers People, that in 2023, Rivers People should have the opportunity of getting a government of their choice that will address their needs and put their priorities above anything else. It actually does not matter much to me where the governor comes from if the person can by history of his leadership satisfy all Rivers People. But listen if I run the government, it doesn’t matter where your interest comes from, your interest will be protected, that is what matters to Rivers People. They want a leader who understands that in this day and age, people want to have opportunities for their children and it doesn’t matter whether who can do that is from Ogoni, Kalabari or wherever but we need people who can tackle issues. But to now reduce these whole thing to Upland /Riverrine dichotomy at a time when the party is in major crisis, the country is in major crisis as well is wrong. The state needs someone with best leadership quality, the party needs to bring out the strongest candidate that can help to deliver the party and you need someone who has the credentials to convince people who are not members of APC that they stand to benefit from that kind of arrangement. So, that is what we should be looking for and that is why I am offering myself to the party and to our people in Rivers State. This is a job that everybody believes that I can do very well, if given the opportunity and the privilege of serving Rivers State in that capacity. I can restore the pride of our state; I can create opportunities to improve lives and that of children. These are things that are doable in the society. I want to Present myself to the people as a leader that can actually serve them in the way they will like to be served, in the way that put their interest above every other interest, these are the things I want to talk about. I don’t want to be talking about tribe or no tribe, it reduces me, it reduces my capacity, reduces my story.
I served this state as minority leader and I was voted the best legislator in the history of the state, I served as the commissioner for Information, I was voted the best, no other person has received such recognition. I served as Secretary to the State Governor, My record was outstanding and when I left people were saying what happened to the government, So I have a record that goes beyond tribe, beyond semantics. I served in the Senate and the entire country was impressed by what I put out and I come to say, I want to be governor and all we are talking about is Ogoni. Let us delve into the issues of who knows the state better, who understands the government better, who can do better than Senator Abe, let the person come and say that he is the one.
You and your supporters did not participate in APC’s revalidation exercise and they say they may use that to push you out of the race? I don’t think anybody can push me out of APC, During the revalidation, the leadership of the party called me, that these and these will be done but all those things were never done. The party sent a committee to investigate and the committee confirmed that the revalidation was not carried out fairly and they made a recommendation but even the recommendation was not respected.
It was based on that, that the party gave a directive during the last Congress that the revalidation exercise should not be used. This is what I tell them, when you change the rules at the middle of the game, you are not being sincere, truthful and the people are going to get angry because it is not right. Revalidation is not in our constitution and nobody can disqualify me on that basis, I have my party card, party number. I have not died; there are constitutional provisions on how you lose your membership. People cannot just sit down and decide that others are no longer members of the party, which is what caused our problems in the first place. Our problems started at the meeting when Amaechi announced that all those with Senator Abe are no longer members of the party, they should go and we said, no we are not going.
You are a strong supporter of National leader of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Why?
I stand with Tinubu; I promised my daughter that I will not support anyone that will not add value to the lives of the citizens of this country. And as far APC is concerned, there is only one Nigerian who did something that nobody can deny, in all these talks, nobody will say that anyone else has done better than Tinubu in the history of Nigerian politics, economy and governance. People say, Tinubu is corrupt, sick, but let me tell you, Tinubu has a history; as a Chief Financial Officer of Mobil, when he left the position, they kept it for him to come and occupy it whenever he is ready. He has a solid training, track record of transformation. Look at where he took Lagos from and where he took Lagos. The History of our modern politics shows that Tinubu is the brain behind the transformation. So, how can we as a country have the opportunity to take such a man up to do better things and we begin to play politics with it because of sentiments. Presidency is not a Local Government administration. We need someone who has the capacity, the knowledge and the ability to reach out and bring all Nigerians together to be able to work together. If we follow the reality, the person who can win the presidential race for APC is Tinubu.