As the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State prepares for its governorship primaries, only four of its chieftains picked the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms to battle for the party’s governorship ticket amindst intrigues. ANAYO ONUKWUGHA writes.
As the All Progressives Congress APC gets set o wrestle power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019 in Rivers state, four aspirants on the platform of the party have indicated interest to contest. These APC chieftains include the Senator representing Rivers South-East in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe; former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Dawari George; former chairman of Governing Council of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and former Executive Director, Sahara Group, Architect Tonye Dele Cole.
Lulu-Briggs and Cole are both indigenes of Abonnema, headquarters of Akuku-Toru local government area of the state.
While Abe belong to the Prince Peter Odike-led faction of the party, which has its factional secretariat at the Catholic Mission Estate, Aba Road in Port Harcourt, the other three aspirants pitched their tent with the Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led State Working Committee (SWC), which is recognised by the national secretariat of the APC.
The Flag-Amachree-led APC, which has its secretariat in the D/Line axis of Aba Road, Port Harcourt, has the backing of the immediate past Rivers State Governor and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who recently endorsed one of the governorship aspirants, Tonye Cole.
While Cole and Abe have been going round the communities in the state and attending rallies ahead of the APC primary election, not much has been heard about George and Lulu-Briggs.
Few days ago, shortly after picking his nomination and expression of interest forms, Cole began moves to actualised his aspiration by visiting communities in Kalabari Kingdom of the state, especially Abonnema and Buguma headquarters of Asari-Toru local government area of the state.
Accompanied by the APC chairman in the state, Flag-Amachree and other chieftains of the party including, Prince Tonye Princewill, the governorship hopeful paid visits to the palaces of the Amanyanabo of Kalabari Kingdom, King Theophilus Princewill and the traditional ruler of Abonnema, King Disreal Gbogbo Bobmanuel.
Speaking at the king’s palace in Buguma, Cole said he was in Kalabari land for the blessings of the monarchs and his kinsmen, stressing that the task of providing quality leadership in Rivers could not be done with a divided house save for a united people.
He stated that courage was needed to face the governorship battle in order to achieve victory, while calling on Rivers people to unite, thereby ensuring peace, security and prosperity.
Speaking while submitting his forms, Cole said he would leverage on his business contacts to attract local and international investments to Rivers state if elected as the governor of the state.
The APC governorship aspirant, who also promised to ensure wealth is distributed to the grassroots and the rural areas when he emerges as governor, said one of the critical incentives he would provide to investors is security of their businesses and a friendly environment to operate.
“First of all we need to make sure that Rivers people never lose hope because they are a great nation and great people. Wealth distribution among the grassroot people is extremely vital and that is something that I want to make sure that everybody in Rivers at the grassroot who have been down, who has been impoverished, who does not have peace and security are taken care of. These are things they can get again,” Cole said.
On investments, Cole noted that from an industry perspective, one of the things investors look at is the quality of governance that can attract them to the state for business.
The APC governorship hopeful added: “For them to come, apart from the global investment that we have the capacity to bring, they also need to be sure that their investment is secure and rule of law is respected. These are things that I have realized that can guarantee what we want to achieve.”
“I have been operating at the global level. I travel a lot. I have worked with a lot of people and people know me for doing business with passion and business is about personal relationship.
“We believe that we can attract investors and we believe that we can secure investment in Rivers State. Rule of law will be protected and they would be able to generate employment for the people of the state.
“Security is a relationship thing as well, it has to deal with people because people who perpetrate crime and bring insecurity are human being like you and I.
“One of the things that we are going to do is to engage with them wholly to make them understand what the outcome is as it affects them, not just their families but as it affects their communities. Nigeria was a PDP state for a long time and now that has changed and change is a constant thing,” Cole pointed out.
For his part, Abe believes that the clamour for the APC to give its governorship ticket to the riverine axis of the state should not arise as every Rivers man and woman can be described as a riverine person.
Speaking at the expanded State Executive Committee (SEC) meeting of the Odike-led faction of the APC in Port Harcourt recently, the Senator called on the people of the state to support his aspiration in order to bring the state back on track.
“I want to stand here and say that I am riverine because I am a Rivers man. The most important thing is not because there is a river in Bera (his home town in Gokana), but the fact that I am a Rivers man and I have the interest of all Rivers men at heart.
“It will be wrong for me as an aspirant of this party not to use this opportunity to solidly canvass for the support of all Rivers people that we need to put our state back on track,” he said.
Abe, who is the chairman of Senate Committee on Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), further said his quest to be the next governor of the state is to take the state out of the era of bitterness, hatred and anger.
“I want to thank the people of Ikwerre, the people of Orashi, the people of Kalabari, the people of Ogoni, the people of Etche and everybody in this state who contributed to enable me buy the nomination form as a governorship aspirant. People contributed even from outside Rivers State and I thank you all.
“I also want to use this opportunity to state clearly that the Rivers State we have in mind is not a state where ‘where you come from’ is more important than the fact that you are a Rivers man.
“Our unit of government is Rivers State. When we were growing up in Rivers State; as a young Rivers man, I could go to Kalabari and spend the weekend. Kalabari people were in Kpor in Gokana schooling. People went to Etche to go and live there.
“Rivers people were free to live anywhere, mix with each other. We had friends across everywhere. We used to go to spend the weekend in Bonny. Everywhere in this state we had people and we had relationships. That is the Rivers State that we want to go and look for.
“The present state we have is torn by bitterness, hatred, anger and all sorts of negative values that have become the symbol of where we are today.
“I am sure that no Rivers man wants to live in an atmosphere of hate; where you are taught to perpetually hate, a place in which where you come from has become more important than the fact that you are a Rivers man,” Abe added.
However, the leader of APC in the state and Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, commands large followership and influence within the party in the state and has not use the position to market his preferred choice for the governorship ticket, Cole.
Last weekend, the Sahara Group’s former boss joined the minister to attend two rallies organised by the APC at Eleme local government area of the state and Rumueme in Obio/Akpor local government area.
Amaechi’s choice of Cole did not go down well with Abe, who believes that Amaechi should have allowed all contestants to test their popularity at the primaries.
Speaking recently, Abe said that his disagreement with the minister has nothing to do with the leadership of the party in the state, saying that even though he had disagreement with Amaechi, they were not in any form of conflict.
The Senator stated that the former governor only felt that he should not contest the the governorship election in the state, while he (Abe) felt that he has something to offer.
“Amaechi is my leader. He is not contesting the elections. If he were contesting, I won’t contest against him. The battle for the party ticket is between me and anyone who felt he has something better to offer than me and not with the Minister,” Abe had said.
But in a statement issued by his media office immediately after the two rallies he attended, Amaechi advised Abe, to stop referring to him as his leader.
“I am not Magnus Abe’s leader. Abe has long left me and the political family that is largely responsible for his rise and fame in politics.
“How can I be Abe’s leader when he and the minions sponsored by him privately and publicly abuse, insult, cast aspersion on me, my wife and members of my family, daily? Is that how a follower treats his Leader?
“It’s cheap and indeed shameful political sophistry for Abe to stand in the APC secretariat and deceitfully say I am his leader, while all he has done, both privately and publicly in recent times is to undermine me, the APC and desecrate the APC in Rivers State.
“As a matter of fact, it is indeed very doubtful if Senator Abe is still in the APC. He mouths APC but his actions belie his words and clearly tell a different story.
“A man who wakes up, create an imaginary parallel party executives and went ahead to open an office for the non-existent parallel executived, that has no base and foundation, cannot be said to be committed, in anyway, to the party.
“As a matter of fact, his actions are obviously targeted at weakening and destroying the party. Such a hypocritical, devious character cannot be my follower. I am not his leader,” Amaechi said in the statement.
Meanwhile, in a swift reaction, Abe insisted that he will continue to recognise Amaechi as his leader, considering his position in the APC as a former governor and member of the party’s caucus, even as he vowed never to insult the minister or tolerate anyone who insults him.
“So, I will continue to refer to Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the leader of our party in Rivers State. He is the only member of the party that is a former governor and a member of the caucus of our party.
“I refer to him as leader to send signal to all our members no matter how aggrieved they may be that we should be ready to work with him any time he decide that is appropriate to allow justice to prevail in the party.
“I have never abused him publicly and I have never tolerated anybody doing so and I will not do so. He is our leader because he is a member of caucus, a former Governor and he was our Governor. I urge all of you to continue to give him that respect,” Abe said.
The APC governorship hopeful declared that it is only God that will decide who will be the governor of the state in 2019 and not the Minister of Transportation.
Abe continued: “That is why a lot of people have been telling me what my former boss, the former Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said about me and I said I will not respond. But I will simply go down memory lane to remind Rivers people of few things.”
“First is that when I was Commissioner for Information with Dr. Odili, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was aspiring to be Governor of Rivers State and it caused a big problem in the politics of that time between him and Dr. Peter Odili.
“I was a Commissioner in Odili’s cabinet, but I stood with Amaechi. Practically, at a time, I was the only person in Odili’s government that Amaechi was still talking to.
“I remember one day that I had a very serious argument with Dr. Odili over Amaechi. We argued to a point I said to Dr. Odili, sir, can I tell you something? He said, tell me. I said, whoever God has said will be governor of Rivers State will be governor of Rivers State and there is nothing Dr. Peter Odili can do about it.
“It is to the internal credit of Dr. Odili that despite that day, he called me when I went to apologise to him but he told me not to apologise. He said, Magnus, what you have said is the truth. He allowed me to serve our my term in his cabinet. He never came out publicly to call me a traitor or a betrayer because he respected the fact that I chose to stand by my friend.
“I have said the same thing to Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and I want to repeat it here. Whoever God has said will to be Governor of Rivers State will be Governor of Rivers State and there is nothing that Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi can do about it,” Abe added.
He denied insinuations that he is being sponsored by Governor Nyesom Wike to cause crisis within the APC in the state, insisting that he is only fighting for his rights saying that he is only fighting for his rights to become the next governor of the state and not being sponsored.
The governorship hopeful added: “Secondly, I have heard insinuations that I am being sponsored by Nyesom Wike because I decided to fight for my rights, not only as a citizen of my state but as a member of my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“I remember, when he also fought for his rights and he took the PDP, of which we were both members of, to Court, up to the Supreme Court; he fought for his right and we stood by him. I did not remember that Dr. Odili came out to accuse him that he was a betrayer or being sponsored by anybody. He knew that he was fighting for his rights and he wanted to be governor and he respected that struggle.
“Today, I want to repeat, I am fighting for my right; I want to be Governor of Rivers State. I will fight in any way that is constitutionally allowed, both BH the party and the constitution and whatever God says at the end, I will accept in good faith.”
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