No hope yet for Rivers APC reconciliation
The party’s warring factions loyal to APC leader in the state, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, have been entangled in a legal dispute, which has resulted in nullification of its indirect governorship and legislative primaries.
The Guardian gathered that APC’s fate now lies in the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has received a report from a committee set up to offer pragmatic solution to the crisis rocking the party in Rivers.
A senior party source told The Guardian that the presidential committee, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Aviation as members, was mandated to assess issues arising from the just concluded primaries, and has made far-reaching recommendations.
He said: “Among other things, the committee was to ensure that people loyal to the President are not edged out because of the primaries. I understand the committee wrote a report analysing the issues in Rivers, stating among others, that if extreme care is not taken, Rivers may end up like Zamfara.
“It suggested that in such circumstance, subject to the President’s
approval, Senator Abe should be given the ticket under the window for substitution of candidates.”
The source explained that the Supreme Court judgment castigating the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt for vacating an injunction granted by Justice Chiwendu Nwogu of Rivers State High Court, restraining APC from conducting ward, local government and state congresses held on May 19, 20 and 21 2018, unsettled the committee.
He said the committee reckoned that in light of the Supreme Court’s decision, even if the pro-Amaechi faction succeeds in setting aside Justice Nwogu’s consequential judgment of October 10, which nullified the congresses, as well as subsequent primaries, the apex court might uphold Justice Nwogu’s verdict to serve as deterrent to political parties that pervert court orders like Rivers APC.
“I hear the president has looked at the report and seems disposed to its recommendations. But we have not gone beyond that. Recall that at the commencement of the suit filed by Ibrahim Imah and 22 APC aspirants to challenge their exclusion from the state congresses, Justice Nwogu asked all parties to maintain the status quo.
Following resignation of former State chairman, Davis Ikanya, his vice, Peter Odike became acting chairman. The party may adopt Odike’s faction’s direct primaries as a way forward,” he said.
Despite the prospect for reconciliation, however, both Amaechl and Abe’s factions are still fighting hard in the appellate court. Last Tuesday, they argued on some preliminary issues and the Court of Appeal adjourned till November 14 to take the issues and the substantive appeal, among which is an appeal against Justice Nwogu’s judgment.
Though the committee may offer a new window of opportunity for reconciliation, political observers in the state are anxious to see how Amaechi could relax his aggressive stance against Abe. They said it would be a political miracle, if the minister, who has repeatedly accused Abe of sponsoring vitriolic comments against him, could gloss over this.
Many APC members desiring integration of various interests into a collective political agenda will be delighted to see the two actors shake hands soonest and forever bury the hatchet and usher in the beginning of a new dawn.
But regardless of legal entanglements surrounding APC and the fear that it may end up not fielding candidates for 2019 polls, the party has maintained that the verdict has nothing to do with the primaries.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said Governorship candidate remains Tonye Cole and that other APC candidates at all levels are on.
Senator Abe, who was elected through direct primaries by Odike’s faction, urged the party to get proper legal advice and do what is needful in order to restore the party’s fortunes in Rivers.
He explained that the Supreme Court stated where they stand on the matter, and it’s unlikely, even if those who think otherwise make endless appeals, that the apex court will change what has been publicly declared.
He said: “The Supreme Court has stated and restated the position of law, that as far as the law is concerned, when they did what they did, they were already in contempt of court by disobeying the first order. Even if you get a judgment from the Court of Appeal today setting aside that judgment, it does not annul the fact that, as at the date those congresses were conducted, there was a valid order that was not obeyed. There is no legal way to cure that defect.”
Abe stressed that “whether there is another litigation pending or an appeal against it, that does not change the fact that there is only one existing judgment, as far as the issues in Rivers State are concerned, and that judgment sets aside the primaries, the congresses and everything done by the party’s illegitimate faction.”
He asserted that at a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NWC), APC national chairman announced that, due to the legal situation in Rivers State, direct primaries had to be used, as the party could not use the structure there, because of ongoing litigation and issues with the judiciary.
“So, in keeping with what he said at that meeting, the valid state chapter of the party is the one led by Prince Peter Odike. Now, that is the only legal exco in the state, as far as the law is concerned. And the legal exco presented to the NWC a memo requesting for direct primaries, which was what happened. All these results and processes are with the national chairman and the NWC.”
Similarly, former Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Worgu Boms, said APC ought to realise that disobeying a court and then returning to ask for a reprieve is dangerous.
He explained that APC issued guidelines, asking interested party members to pay and obtain forms to contest various offices in scheduled congresses.
“They even mentioned the various banks and provided account details into which interested aspirants could pay to participate,” he said. “So, interested party members, not knowing or even suspecting that the party leadership was not acting in good faith, paid and it was while presenting tellers to enable them obtain the forms that they discovered they had been defrauded, as the party leadership not only declined to issue the forms, but also set the police to harass them at the party secretariat.
“And this was why they headed to the court, which made several interlocutory orders. The party leadership announced to a bewildered world that it would not obey the orders. In defence of one man, and in defiance of the court, they carried on and to the exclusion of those members, but still holding on to money paid into its account.”
Mr. Kennedy Friday, who is the founder of Kairos Group, said fears that APC will not field candidates amid all the legal landmines are unnecessary, unfounded and hasty.
He said: “The APC candidates that won in the direct primaries are the party’s candidates for 2019. There is absolutely no vacuum. All the results of the direct primaries are already with the party’s National Working Committee, and all they need to do is adopt them and submit their names to the Independence National Electoral Committee (INEC). Those are the candidates that can legally contest elections in Rivers State in 2019. So, all talks about the party not fielding candidates in 2019 are unfounded.
“It’s easy to understand that APC has legitimate candidates in all elective positions in Rivers State. The National Working Committee must go ahead to field these candidates and engineer a move to reposition the party to win elections in Rivers State.”
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