Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Rivers APC, uniting for 2023 after years of disharmony

By Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
20 April 2022   |   2:47 am
Can seven years of a feud among members of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State be tamed ahead of the 2023 elections? That is the question to which many are expecting


Can seven years of feud among members of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State be tamed ahead of 2023 elections? That is the question to which many are expecting answers, especially as the gladiators’ body language shows repentance from their former hard stance, which robbed the party of fortune and peace since 2015. They are behaving as if time is ripe to unite and enable APC wrest political power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A fresh spectacle from the governorship aspirants loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi shows signs of alignment as the guber hopefuls who are all from Riverine area had on April 11 signed a pact to support whoever emerges as flag bearer of the party. The Amaechi-led faction is insisting that the governorship ticket would go to the Riverine axis.

The APC governorship aspirants include: Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Dr. Dawari George, Tonye Cole, Prince Tonye Princewill and Dr. Sokonte Davies.
Others are: Biokpomabo Awara, Francis Ebenezer Ada, Mina Tender, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree and Ibinabo Micheal-West.
Most remarkably, aspirants are persons who feel they have made significant contributions to the party and are close allies to Amaechi; hence if the party were to adopt consensus mode to select a candidate at the primary, some may feel cheated. Though talks with leaders of the party signals they may opt for direct primaries, party insiders have also maintained that direct primaries remain the panacea to give a level playing ground to all and allow the aspirants to test their popularity.
Sadly, four days after they signed the peace and unity pact, unknown gunmen invaded the home of one of them, Princewill, in the Government Reserved Area (GRA) in Port Harcourt City Local Government. The assailants broke into his home and headed straight to a room they suspected he was in but when they did not see him (Princewill), they removed the hard drive of the close-circuit television (CCTV). 
Residents and concerned political groups have strongly condemned the attack and expressed deep reservations over the sad development. They however, called on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, Senator Magus Abe, on April 18, joined the guber race by declaring to contest the governorship seat thus, making it the third time the Senator is seeking to govern Rivers.
Abe maintained that he would only support anyone who emerges as an APC guber candidate under a free, fair and equitable contest, warning that anything short of that will be resisted.
The protracted crisis in Rivers APC has remained a big challenge on its path to winning elections in the state. It became intractable when the party was split into two in 2015. At that time the Amaechi led-faction and that of Abe were unable to resolve their differences both in 2015 and 2019. While Amaechi opposed Abe and endorsed Dakuku Peterside in 2015 and Tonye Cole in 2019, the parallel primaries caused the court to exclude the party from participating in all the elections.
Having lost power in the state for seven years, the willingness to unite becomes understandable. However, observations are that the factions are yet to show practical steps and actions towards settling old scores.
An ally of Abe, Senator Wilson Ake, and Amaechi’s ally, Senator Andrew Uchendu initiated reconciliation moves through consultative forums, which ended in deadlock. Keen political observers have argued that any unity move by the APC that excludes Abe will still cause problems for the party.  

Abe is adjudged by supporters to be an experienced politician to govern Rivers. He is said to be very competent and fair-minded when it comes to dealing with party members across board. He comes from Ogoni, a region regarded as the most marginalised in Rivers State. The Ogoni people have not occupied the first three leadership positions (Governor, Deputy and Speaker) in the state. The Guardian gathered that APC had in 2014 zoned the governorship ticket to the Rivers South-East Senatorial District where Abe comes from. The two other senatorial zones, Rivers East and Rivers West are said to have benefited from the top leadership positions. Senator Abe has served as commissioner, Secretary to the State Government under Amaechi before they went their separate ways.
Princewill is a front line politician whose desire to govern Rivers State dates back to 2007, when he was the candidate of Action Congress (AC) and in 2015 as the Labour Party flag bearer. Princewill, The Guardian gathered, was instrumental to Amaechi’s successful stay in the Brick House. His supporters feel this is the time to pay Princewill back for his loyalty by anointing him as APC’s preferred candidate. He is known to have a very strong political structure from the grassroots where many youths, men and women have been empowered through his humanitarian programmes.

Dakuku Peterside is the immediate past Managing Director of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). He too is an Amaechi loyalist, two-time commissioner and an ex-member of the House of Representatives.
Tonye Cole is an oil and gas expert and businessman, but not new to politics. He is from an illustrious political family, with an impressive resume that portrays him as a man that has done well for himself.
In 2019, he was given the flag to wrest political power from Governor Nyesom Wike, before the court ruled against the party. Cole is a man to watch in the primary.

Dr. Dawari George, a former Federal lawmaker who represented the Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dr. George was in the line up for the 2019 fixtures when it was not too clear who would be the flag bearer. Dawari was asked to stand by in case Cole, Dakuku didn’t breast the tape.
George was a former commissioner of Petroleum and Natural Resources under Amaechi, said to be brilliant and articulate.
Flag Ojukayi Amachree, a strong supporter of Chibuike Amaechi, the former APC chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government is a grassroots mobiliser. He is said to be well-loved by teeming youths of Rivers State because of his advocacies.

Biokpomabo Awara was adopted by the African Action Congress (AAC), as their candidate in 2019 after the court excluded APC from contesting the elections. Awara is calm and has not been quite active since the 2019 elections.
Speaking on the permutations and movement towards 2023, a political analyst, Bar Eugne Odey said members of APC must have learnt from their past mistakes and should be willing to resolve their differences and move on.
Odey said: “I listened to Abe’s declaration and his tune is quite different from the 2015 and 2019 elections. Abe said he will be willing to work with whoever emerges in a free and fair contest. I hope the party has learnt from its mistake, I don’t think there will be any problem as long as there is a level playing field for everybody.  

“There is a need for the party to rebuild itself into a strong opposition.  APC is one indivisible party, nobody goes to war with a divided house. I’m hopeful, he (Abe) and others will overlook their interests and look at the overall interest of the party.”
Another observer, Peter Dee, urged the governorship aspirants to adhere to the pact they signed unlike previous agreements, which were violated.
“These are aspirants who feel they have done enough for their political parties, so if they go by consensus, some might feel ill-treated and might embark on another wasteful political journey.”

Speaking with The Guardian, Chairman of Amaechi faction of APC, Emeka Bekee, noted that disagreement is sometimes inevitable, stressing that, sometimes, children of the same mother disagree but noted that the ability to reconcile is what matters.
He assured that the party will offer a level playing ground to all aspirants, adding, “we are ready to accommodate everyone, Abe is one of us as he claims and we are ready to accommodate him. It’s obvious that only one person can be a governor at a time and we just want them to understand that we (APC) need to win the election come 2023 in Rivers State.”
Also speaking with The Guardian, Golden Chioma, Abe-led APC factional chairman said, the party should give everybody ample opportunity to test their popularity at the primary, insisting that Abe remains the most qualified among the aspirants.

He also stated that the only panacea for a credible contest is direct primary.
Asked if his faction has the right to participate in the direct primary considering they boycotted the revalidation exercise, Chioma explained, “The party in its wisdom approved that Rivers APC should open its door to every member of the party, especially those who were not revalidated as a result of victimisation and I am also aware that revalidation does not nullify those who previously had membership cards. Revalidation does not mean that those who have old membership cards are no longer active members of the party.
“If you have a certificate of occupancy and you want to revalidate your ownership, that does not remove you from being the owner of the property. All those who have party cards are all members of the party and have the right to participate in the direct primaries.”
He stressed: “We need unity for us to win and if those who have always made unity impossible decide now to give the party space to be united, it is a welcome development. A united APC is a stronger APC while a divided APC is a weakened APC, so it’s left for those who have been fanning the embers of war to have a rethink.”  

Analysts say to unite members of APC requires maturity individually and collectively.

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