Rivers APC: Yet to recover from divisive congresses
Few weeks to the commencement of processes for political parties primaries, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State is still mired in internal divisiveness.
The aftermath of the just concluded APC national convention in Abuja may be creating further turmoil in the party where major gladiators remain resolute in prioritising personal ambitions or rivalries over unity and much needed collaboration.
A suit filed at a Rivers State High Court by 23 aggrieved APC members who claimed they were deliberately excluded from participating in the party’s ward congresses after they had satisfied relevant conditions and were the privilege to vote in the just concluded national convention of the party.
Prior to the convention, the Rivers State court had granted an injunction against the APC conduct of the Local Government Congress of the party. Following the disobedience of the court order, the judge had on May 30, annulled the May 19, 20 and 21 ward, local government and state congresses organised by the party.
But the faction loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, had filed a five point application at the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, seeking for stay of proceeding in the suit filed by the 23 aggrieved members and stay of execution of the interlocutory injunction granted them on May 11, 2018. While the appellant court had unanimously granted the stay of execution of the interlocutory injunction issued by the lower court on May 11, 2018, it however dismissed the application of stay of proceedings in the suit filed by the 23 aggrieved APC members.
Armed with the appellant court and a Rivers State High Court orders, which declared as ‘null and void’ the May 19, 20 and 21 ward, local government and state congresses purportedly organised by the party, the faction loyal to senator Abe, stormed Abuja and presented these to the convention planning committee headed by Victor Ndoma-Egba, on Friday morning preceding the convention.
“It was only the statutory delegates like Chibuike Amaechi, Magnus Abe, Dakuku Peterside, Sekonte Davis and others, who were given the option to vote, but the others, the committee said will not vote, so that, the good work, which the party has done by bringing Adams Oshiomhole will not be polluted. The APC factional chairman, Ojukaye Flag Amaechree and others were not allowed to vote because the election that brought them into office is under serious contention and there is a mandatory order of injunction from the High Court,” he said.
But Rivers APC publicity secretary, Chris Finebone, has refuted the claim that they were denied the privilege to vote at the convention. According to him: “I was not a statutory delegate, but I voted. The arrangement the party made was for all delegates whether statutory or not to vote.”
Amid new prevailing circumstances in the party, which has since shifted dramatically, Senator Abe has declared he is going to contest the governorship primaries. There is no doubt that Oshiomole’s emergence has further buoyed his aspiration.
The Senator who represents Rivers Southeast Senatorial District, which has never produced a governor in the state, said: “Nigerians have been watching in despair and shock, as APC drifted off its core values of justice for all, respect for the rule of law, adherence to internal democracy and due process, to become a caricature of the change that we promised, as impunity, disobedience to court orders, violence and self-help have become the order of the day.
“Let me say it now; what I have said as often as the issue has come up, I am going to contest the primaries of the governorship of Rivers State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. My dream and vision is that we must be in a position to offer Rivers people a chance to make their choices,” he said.
There is, however, indication that the new national leadership of the party may commence moves to coalesce the warring factions if the party is to be taken serious in 2019 general elections in the state, according to top party source in the state.
“The national working committee headed by Adams Oshiomhole has promised in a very short while to resolve our internal crisis. They have collated all the complains and would want to talk to all the parties concerned, so that, we could move forward. Under John Odigie-Oyegun the party hierarchy took side and ignored Abe’s complaints,” he said.
An APC chieftain, former Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Leyii Kwanee and a group known as Rivers Unity House, have volunteered to reconcile Amaechi and Senator Abe. Kwanee explained that the primary objective of the reconciliation was to ensure that APC regains power, which it lost in the 2015 general elections.
Similarly, the Coordinator of Rivers Unity House, Bouchi Nsirim, has expressed optimism that before 2019 elections, peace will return to the party. According to him, Abe and Amaechi will stand on the same podium to canvass for votes for APC.
“We came together as a people to let Rivers people to know that it is time for peace in the state. We can do politics in the state with decency and decorum. There is no problem between Amaechi and Abe; it is just politics and interests. We will make sure that we reconcile Amaechi and Abe, so that, there will be peace,” he said.
Amid these efforts to reconcile and heal the party, there is no doubt that there are hard feelings on each side of the divide. Over the past one year or so, unnecessarily aspersions have been exchanged. And it is not clear if efforts to find any form of compromise will succeed.
APC spokesperson, Chris Finebone, told The Guardian that well-meaning members of the party remain disposed to a meaningful resolution of the crisis that has bedeviled the party. He, however, accused Abe’s faction of going too far by resorting to campaign of calumny against Amaechi, his family and political associates on social media.
“We have people who have tendency for Tonye Cole, they are carrying on with some level of civility. You have people who are for Dumu Lulu-Briggs, I have never seen anybody they abuse anywhere. You have people of Dakuku, yes, you can say some of them have reacted as a result of the thing coming from the Abe group: Ab initio, they felt that the obstacle Abe had is Dakuku, so, the idea was to insult and attack, but they should have stopped at Dakuku if you ask me. To now join Amaechi in the insult and the attack were unnecessary,” he said.
One thorny issue that will be difficult to resolve between Amaechi and Abe is that the former is insisting on backing only candidates from the coastal areas of the state. This disposition has fuelled speculation that Amaechi’s preferences are most likely: The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Tonye Cole and Dumu Lulu-Briggs. Both Abe and Dakuku are from the Rivers Southeast Senatorial District, which has never produced a governor before.
A socio-political group, Inter-Ethnic Network for Chibuike Amaechi (INCRA), said it is true that Amaechi has not made any secret about his preference for a riverine Governor in Rivers State on the basis that power has remained in the upland for almost 20 years and should shift to the riverine part of the state in the spirit of fairness and equity.
“Amaechi’s drive for the even-handed rotation of power in Rivers State is most sincere and selfless. However, it was one issue that requires utmost tact and political power to enforce. Indeed Amaechi realised that the purity of motive does not foreclose tactical planning and strategies to actualise same motive,” said INCRA.
An APC chieftain and former Attorney General of Rivers State, Worgu Boms, recently asserted that Amaechi’s preference for a riverine governor is insincere and spurred by personal interest to ensure that his crony emerges the gubernatorial candidate of APC and possibly the governor of Rivers State.
A Rivers State elder statesman and spokesperson of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Anabs Sara-Igbe, has argued that Amaechi’s insistence on emergence of a riverine governor come 2019 smack of deceits.
“As an elder statesman from the Kalabari ethnic group and a person who believes in rotational governorship, I am for rotation of the governorship, but I am yet to see the sincerity of the individual who is beating the drum of rotational governorship, rather I see deceit and confusion in the tunnel. In my opinion, if there is truth and sincerity, those individuals will not be playing the politics of exclusion when as a matter fact you need more persons on your side to win an election,” he said.
Sara-Igbe said: “APC needs reconciliation and peace to be able to face the challenges ahead. A house that is divided against itself cannot stand or win an election. The state and the party need healing and forgiveness rather than harassment and intimidation of fellow citizens and party members.”
As APC crisis persists, how the self-inflicted challenge is handled, will to a large extent determine voters’ assessment of the party’s preparedness to wrest power from Governor Wike.
At a time when the APC ought to focus on developing convincing strategy to address Rivers’ underlying socio-economic needs and security challenges, it is mired in fierce political rivalry between Amaechi and Abe. It will be difficult to guess if the factions will put aside their rivalries to create strong formidable front against the Governor Nyesom Wike led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It is apparent that the APC is already approaching the next elections fragmented. The malaise the party has now found itself according to a political analyst, George Abiye, stems from dependency on single-personality politics and lack of internal democracy.