Rivers APC can’t coerce Amaechi to support Abe
Would it be wrong to assert that two rallies by pro-Amaechi and Abe loyalists on Saturday, February 10 depict a crack in APC?
APC did not hold two events. One of the events was a thanksgiving service organised by Senator Magnus Abe, representing Rivers South East Senatorial District.
The party didn’t organise it. Abe and some other persons in the party, who won the 2016 rerun legislative election organised it. And being the party chairman, I had to attend. If APC had organised the event, every party member would have been there. But people like Senator Andrew Uchendu and others were not there.
Secondly, the other event held in Bori was organised by Free Rivers Development Initiative (FRDI). This is a Non-governmental agency (NGO) within APC. There are several NGOs in the party. They hold events and rallies to enhance membership drive.
Now, it happened that Magnus fixed his event for February 10 and FRDI also fixed its own event for that day. So, it was pure coincidence.
But you were at Abe’s event. Why didn’t you also attend that of Bori?
I did not attend the Bori event because it was organised solely by an NGO. When these NGOs hold events, maybe looking for membership wanting to defect to the party and they invite us, we go.
The party executives don’t participate in the running of the NGOs. We allow them to do their thing, though if any of them goes contrary to party directives, we disband it or withdraw our recognition. So, it is not contradictory in any way and we do not have any crack in the party.
Note, however, that in every political party, there are interests. What is happening is that people want party positions and for every position, you have more than one interested person.
So, there is this give-it-to-me attitude, but anyone interested in any particular position in APC must contest for it. Those asking for such positions usually look for people that will support them. These supporters also look for people that would agree with them. All this is normal.
During the 2015 elections, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had over 20 governorship candidates and they were all in different groups. But as soon as the primaries was over and one person emerged, the rest of the groups were dismantled. They were not permanent structures, but temporary ones to serve the interest of whoever established them.
Are you saying vested interests are fuelling the divide in APC?
Yes, but it is not just in APC; it is also in the PDP. Is it because Nyesom Wike is now the governor and the other people are afraid? When it is time, other people will show up. When Chibuike Amaechi was governor, the agitation for governorship seat in his party was not much. Today, Amaechi is a minister and everybody wants to become the governor.
Is there any plan to mend the frosty relationship between Amaechi and Abe?
Amaechi and Abe have not complained to me that they have any problem. But I think Abe said he wants to be governor and Amaechi said no, that he has another person in my mind. Supposing Amaechi turns back tomorrow and says, ‘Abe, I support you.’ What am I going to settle? What people think requires settlement does not.
If Abe wants Amaechi to support him, he will go secretly to lobby Amaechi. It is not the party that must tell Amaechi to support Abe. It is personal.
People are not lobbying, they are just sitting on the wall. For instance, in the United States, the leader of the House of Representatives did not support Donald Trump at the primaries, because they were quarrelling.
So, if someone says I am not going to support you, you begin to quarrel with the person? This ought not be so. If you are requesting for something, the person has the right to either accept or reject your request.
Does Amaechi or any other individual in APC have the sole prerogative to determine who becomes APC governorship flag bearer?
No individual is dictating who will go for any position. Amaechi is not dictating, but simply saying he is not supporting Abe. That does not mean he is dictating who will go for any position. After all, how many votes will Amaechi cast on the day of primaries? So, the noise they are making is unnecessary and I have told them to go and look for delegates, to talk to and lobby them.
What Amaechi and Abe are doing now is what people should be doing during general election, and not during primaries, where delegates are sought and lobbied. Not every party member is a delegate. The social media is also compounding the situation.
Instead of lobbying for their preferred candidates, they are presenting matters in a way to cause problems. It is just like a student, instead of reading and preparing for his exams, he wants to submit his papers without writing any exam, which can only guarantee failure.
You warmly embraced Governor Wike during Abe’s thanksgiving, which has fuelled speculation of a possible friendship between both of you…
Wike is the state governor and the chief opposition in the state. I don’t even consider PDP chairman as the chief opposition leader. What happened was that, Wike in his usual busy body manner, decided to attend a function to which he was not invited.
And you know the state governor can enter anywhere. So, he came to the event and you couldn’t tell him to go away, especially since it was a thanksgiving service, where everyone is allowed. That does not, however, mean that we are romancing Wike. If the governor greets you and you respond, there is nothing wrong with that.
Wike was my colleague. He was the Chief of Staff, when I was a commissioner during Amaechi’s administration. We are not enemies, just that we have different political ideologies. I also have a cordial relationship with Amaechi and other party members. Amaechi is the party leader and we don’t have any disagreement. So, people should support APC because we are the crusaders of change.
Would the internal wrangling in APC not inhibit its quest to wrest power from PDP in 2019?
All the signs you are seeing are that of strength. If people do not see prospect in the party, they won’t be fighting for positions. So, all I am seeing is towards enhancement of our party. However, I’m urging them to play by the party’s rules and guidelines. If they do so, it will lead to a healthy competition.
What is your take on the assertion that Abe is the only APC member with the requisite capacity to contest against Wike?
It is a wrong assessment. It is when we ask people to come and collect forms and from the number of candidates, we will choose the best. Don’t you know that someone can just come out now and hit the ground running, beating every other person’s popularity? It is too early to start analysing the issue. Let us allow all the candidates to come and pick the form first.
Presently, people are just gathering people and expressing their interest. We are yet to sell forms to anyone. What if Abe doesn’t pick the governorship form after all?
Any person that wants to be a candidate in APC should know that there are other strong persons. So, he should weigh himself very well before taking any step. I assure you that in the end, only the tough will pick up the form and out of those, only one person will emerge. So, it is going to be a very tough game.
Are you not worried that APC’s seeming poor performance at the federal level may hamper its chances in the state in 2019?
Nigerians don’t have a choice but to vote APC in 2019, if they want the hunger to stop. APC should be voted, so that the party can continue what it is doing. If you don’t vote APC again, the country will return to square one. I tell Nigerians, if APC didn’t take over in 2015, by now we wouldn’t be talking of hunger but death.
Now, APC has lifted the country from the position of death to that of hunger. After hunger, people can now eat. Is it not good that we are still alive? Nigerians should be happy that APC did well by returning the economy from recession, though there is still hunger. But if APC continues, things will begin to flow.
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