Putting a final lid on Rivers APC
• Abe’s Camp Still Sees Hope
After a web of legal duel fuelled by infighting, the Supreme Court has validated the disqualification of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in this year’s general elections.
It is obvious that efforts to douse deep-seated factionalism and flames of infighting within the party had failed.
Last Tuesday morning, when thousands of APC supporters converged at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Igwuruta Ali, for the presidential campaign rally, one major thing preoccupied their thoughts, the much anticipated impending Supreme Court ruling on whether a Rivers State High Court presided by Chinwendu Nworgu has jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed by pro-senator Magnus Abe faction of the party.
A thick cloud of despondence soon enveloped the arena when news flittered in that the apex court had dismissed the appeal by Tonye Cole and others.
Though the national leadership of the APC had belatedly tried to forge understanding among the contending forces – Chibuike Amaechi, which produced Mr. Cole and that of Senator Magnus Abe faction – in order to avert the calamity that had befallen the party, it even failed to concede that the party made errors of judgment by not settling the matter as soon as the Abe faction proceeded to court to seek redress over their exclusion from last May congresses, which precipitated the crisis.
There is a general assumption within the party in Rivers State that the ratification of the disqualification by the apex court was an effort to eliminate viable aspirants from running in the elections.
APC national chairman, Adams Oshimhole, who failed to nip the crisis in the bud, regretted that the party had been deprived the opportunity to present its governorship and legislative flags to candidates in Rivers State by virtue of the Supreme Court verdict.
He said; “today Mr. President is hurt that there is so much effort to prevent our party and award position without contestation to the PDP. In Zamfara State we are fighting to have our right so that our people can choose whom they want. And here in Rivers State that right seem to have been taken away. But our right can be frozen, it cannot be delayed forever.”
Oshiomhole, who was visibly upset, said he was consoled by the fact that the decision of the apex court has not spurred APC supporters to wallop in self-pity. According to him, the turn out at the campaign rally was a bold statement that the party is not weakened by the actions of forces within or from outside.
He warned those who are laughing at the party’s misfortune to be mindful because they may end up crying.
President Muhammadu Buhari on his part said he was very disturbed that the APC had been barred from participating in the governorship and legislative elections in Rivers State.
“I am very disturbed by the decision that we are not allowed to participate in some of the processes. I have no doubt I got elected, but I have to respect the institution that I inherited,” he said.
The deep animosity within Rivers APC erupted shortly before the arrival of the President at the Port Harcourt Rally, as members of the two factions engaged in a free for all fight. But for the swift intervention of the military and police, lives may have been lost.
Abe, who arrived the stadium after the Supreme Court verdict, proceeded to the VIP lounge in company of former Senator Wilson Ake. As they were about to sit down, ushers began to toss them around and eventually they had to ignore them and sat down. The attempt to deny Abe seat infuriated his supporters who later stormed the place and engaged in a free for all until security came and dispersed them. Several persons were injured during the fight.
With a lid put on the chances of the pro-Amaechi faction by the apex court, Abe and 42 others are back to the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt seeking to be declared authentic candidates of the APC in Rivers State.
Abe and others whose prayer for a stay of execution had earlier been granted by the appellate court against the judgment of Justice Kolawole Omotosho of the Federal High Court delivered on January 7, 2019, which declared the direct primaries conducted by Odike Peter faction a nullity, want the court to declare them candidates of the APC for the 2019 general elections.
Abe, who emerged winner of a parallel APC direct governorship primaries, as well as the legislative aspirants through their lawyer, Henry Bello, told the appellate court justices that process of their emergence was devoid of any legal encumbrance, having satisfied section 87 of the Electoral Act.
Bello, who cited Supreme Court authorities, including PDP Vs Oraneze, to show how the apex court had in several landmark decisions validated primaries conducted by state chapters of political parties, argued that it was not mandatory for national organ of a party to be involved in a state primaries.
He prayed the court to declare Abe and others the rightful candidates of the APC in Rivers State to avoid Rivers’ electorate been deprived the right to choose who will represent them at various levels of government.
Bello also drew the attention of the court to failure of INEC, which is the first respondent to file any respondent brief, meaning they are not opposed to his clients’ appeal. According to him: “We hence appeal that this honourable court to adopt this appeal for hearing.”
Justice Abubakar Gumel after hearing from the parties in the suit said the court has reserved a date for ruling on the suit.
The Cole/Giadom Campaign Organisation spokesperson, Ogbonna Nwuke said the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt to re-affirm an earlier order staying the execution of the judgments of lower courts shows that the APC and it’s candidates could be on the ballot
He explained that the “reaffirmation of the position of the Court of Appeal has proved beyond reasonable that INEC has an obligation to relist the names of all approved APC candidates. That decision means that nothing is stopping INEC from placing the APC on the ballot. We wish to state categorically that obedience to the rule of law is the best thing to do. In the circumstance, we urge INEC to respect the rule of law and return our great party to the ballot,” he said.
The organisation hailed the decision of the appellate court to refuse moves by Abe and his lawyers to hoodwink the court, saying they were only playing the role of spoilers.
It is obvious that the unchecked, protracted infighting within the APC has negatively affected the party’s prospects of unseating PDP in the general elections. The misdirected energies will make it tough for the party to reunite, refocus and mobilise for the elections.
A divided APC and demoralised members may have just played into the hands of the ruling PDP.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, while speaking on the APC crisis, denied insinuation that he is the architect of the crisis. He said that the crisis was generated by the impunity of Amaechi who should have resolved the crisis in-house.
“I did not take APC to court. I never went to court against the APC. The matter is between APC and APC. How then did I cause the problem of the APC?”