Rivers APC sways between healing its rift, sustaining acrimony
Already, both factions, including the party’s leader and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, and prominent governorship aspirant, Senator Magnus Abe, have not only welcomed the initiative, but also expressed their readiness to meet with the reconciliation committee set up by the APC national leadership.
For two years, Amaechi and Senator Abe, who represents Rivers South-East Senatorial District in the Senate, have been embroiled in a row over the latter’s insistence on vying for the party’s governorship ticket for the 2019 election.
Party members on both sides believe that an end to the infighting would be a major watershed for the party and a significant political realignment urgently needed if APC was to gain a foothold of power in the state once again.
Both camps must have come to the realisation that none of them could win or wrest power from the incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike of PDP if the division persisted. That awakening must have compelled the party’s leaders to ensure that an amicable resolution is reached in Rivers State.
A source in the party disclosed to The Guardian that the national leadership is wary of APC’s prospects in the upcoming general elections in the state; hence, all concerted effort being made to prevail on the warring factions to put aside their differences for the stake of the party.
Spokesperson of the faction loyal to Amaechi, Mr Chris Finebone, told The Guardian that they are excited that the party has thought it fit to set up the reconciliation committee-led by former Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola.
According to him, “We will work with the committee; we will welcome them and make ourselves available. What it portends will be positive for the party. It will portend that we will be going into the election more unified, and much stronger. We are strong but we will get much stronger. You cannot be strong for an election because you can’t quite determine your opponent’s strength. So, you’ll always want to up your strength. Definitely, if we settle this and hopefully we will, we will go into the elections ultimately stronger than we are now.”
Similarly, Senator Abe, while addressing his supporters in Port Harcourt recently, said the party had directed all those who have cases in court to withdraw them and explore the alternative dispute resolution mechanism set up by the party. He declared that he would appear before the South-South reconciliation.
“I want to appeal to everybody,” Senator Abe said, “we are loyal members of APC and if we are invited by the committee to hear from us, I think that we should be very eager to take our case before the party. It will surprise you that a lot of people do not really know the problems with the party in Rivers State.
“We will continue to insist that the crisis in APC in Rivers State was totally unnecessary. It was uncalled for and there was absolutely no need for it. But people on their own and to satisfy whatever ego drives men at every point in time created artificial disunity among members of the party. Now that the party has set up this committee, I feel that as loyal party members, it is our responsibility to go before the committee if we are called and actually let the party know what is happening in Rivers State APC.”
Even though both factions have theoretically agreed to appear before the committee, skepticism of possible genuine reconciliation still abounds, especially as the two APC factions are dealing with multiple lawsuits concerning the nullified ward, local government, state congresses as well as the party’s governorship and legislative primaries.
Finebone revealed that Amaechi’s loyalists who are in court are disposed to withdrawing their matters in court and explore all alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which he said are less tedious and expensive. He, however, expressed reservation about the readiness of Abe’s faction based on the seeming resistance rhetoric from that camp.
“You will observe that I am not sure we originated any matter in court,” he said. “Any matter you find us in court is as a response to an earlier judgment originated by our friends. So, none is originally taken to court by us. If it is at the Appeal Court level, then it is understandable that we are appealing a judgment that has already been given. So, it is easier for me to say that the problem of getting out of court won’t be very tedious for us because ours is like a reaction, but I don’t know whether the same can be said of our friends, who originated those actions.”
A chieftain of the party, Tonye Princewill, has declared that the recourse to reconciliation is the best option to resolving the crisis in the party instead of resorting to threats of expulsion of those who have dragged the party to court.
According to him, “Reconciliation is the way to go. Tonye Cole and all our candidates have embraced the initiative of reconciliation as put forward by the national chairman and his executive”
On whether Cole and Abe will be willing to put their differences aside and work together to wrest power from the PDP, Princewill said it is a possibility that every member of the party wishes for.
“I hope for it, but battle positions are ready and we are moving into formation,” Princewill said. “Those of us in the field will hope for the best, but we will also prepare for the worst. Some of us buried our personal ambitions so we can focus on one ambition. I believe it takes a certain kind of person to sacrifice the ambition of the group on the altar of their ambition. Such a person does not want APC to win. By their fruits we will know them. So when the time comes, we will see those who fit this description. And we will watch them fail.”
The challenges facing the party is how to amicably resolve details on selection of candidates for the elections. It will be recalled that a Rivers State High Court presided over by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu had nullified the congresses held in May as well as the APC indirect primaries. The nullification is currently being challenged at the appellate court.
A new twist in the crisis is that a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt will on December 6, begin hearing on a suit filed by Senator Abe and 41 others seeking that they be declared rightful candidates of APC in Rivers State.
Resolving Rivers APC crisis will be intricate as Abe has continued to insist that the position of the law is that a judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction which nullified the congresses and the primaries is binding and must be obeyed unless it is set aside or stayed by the courts.
“The action of the court in dealing with consequent actions taken by a political party to offset the fortunes of a member that is already before the court is not new. It is on all fours with the precedent established in our judicial history in Amaechi VS INEC, where the courts voided the expulsion of the appellant as an action taken by the party and intended to affect the fortunes of the appellant who are already before the courts.
The subsequent congresses and the primaries are similar actions taken by the APC to affect the fortunes of the plaintiffs and therefore was rightly voided by the courts” he said.
On the other side of the divide, they have argued that since INEC and the party’s officials did not monitor the indirect primaries conducted by Abe’s faction, it will be preposterous to expect the party to substitute Abe with Cole who is the winner of the indirect primaries endorsed by the national working committee of APC.
The Guardian gathered that Mr. Cole has extended an olive branch to Abe’s faction in a bid to end the divisive politics that has not yielded the party any sufficient political dividends.
Amid their political differences, as Rivers State slides into another orgy of political violence, Abe has condemned recent gunmen attack on Cole.
Abe charged security agencies to ensure that all perpetrators of the current violence rocking the state must be brought to justice. According to him, the attack on Cole and his team was barbaric, cowardly and capable of plunging the state into chaos.
“People must be allowed to canvass their preferences, market themselves and their ideas without intimidation, violence or hindrance,” he said.
He described the killing of an APC chieftain, Samuel Nwanjoku, as shocking, and a great tragedy. According to him, this senseless murder is a clear pointer to the fact that the state is heading for another orgy of violence and mayhem if not prevented.
But the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, said it was disingenuous that APC which allegedly hired thugs to shoot at and wound people holding a Peoples Democratic Party meeting in Ikwerre Local Government Area last week, could turn around a few days later to stage-manage an attempted attack on one of its own as a way of diverting attention and escaping public condemnation.
Okah said it was shameful for some misguided APC members in the state to take it upon themselves to discredit the state by branding it unsafe and promoting hostility against the government and people to achieve narrow and dubious ends.
“Since APC controls the police and security agencies, how come they have not been able to arrest and prosecute any PDP member on account of any alleged violent crime against the APC?” he asked.