ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, chronicles the parallel primaries conducted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State and possible outcome of the ruling by Justice Nwogu , believed to be a culmination of the crisis between Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe over the party’s leadership.
A Port Harcourt court on Wednesday voided the election of officers and candidates of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Following the judgment, the APC no longer has candidates for the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives, and state House of Assembly elections for the 2019 general election. The party also has no state working committee, local government working committees and ward executives. But the party said it had appealed the judgment and requested a stay of execution. The ruling is believed to be a culmination of the crisis between Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe over the leadership of the party.Recall that Abe, ran a parallel congress which picked him as the governorship candidate during the just concluded primaries while the Rotimi Ameachi’s group, with the endorsement of the National Secretariat, picked Mr Tonye Cole as candidate. Cole is officially recognised by the national secretariat.
Interestingly, despite the sack of Rivers APC Chairman , Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, and the nullification of the party’s ward, local government and state congresses of May 19, 20 and 21, by Justice Chiwendu Nworgu, the Amaechi group insisted that the APC officials remained duly elected. Justice Nwogu said all actions taken by the APC during the pendency of the suit had been set aside because “they are illegal and unconstitutional.”
Justice Nwogu in her declaration said that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, but were unjustly excluded by the party.
He said: “The Rule by might must be checked by the rule of law. We must restore the hope of the common man in the justice system”. Justice Nwogu, who based his judgment on the Amaechi versus INEC Matter of 2007, noted that having studied the submissions in the matter, he was bound to make consequential orders to ensure that justice was done in the case. Justice Nwogu declared that all those who purchased nomination forms for the ward congresses were entitled to contest the ward congresses of May 19, 2018, but were unjustly excluded by the party. Rivers APC through its Publicity Secretary Chief Chris Finebone, at a news conference said the judgment had been appealed, with stay of execution already entered. The APC also pointed out the support inside the Rivers High Court, Port Harcourt by Governor Nyesom Wike’s aides “in full collaboration with Abe.”Senator Abe’s loyalists: Ibrahim Umar and 22 others in the 23 local governments of Rivers State approached the court, stating that they were excluded from participating in the congresses. This was upheld by the court. Justice Nwogu in the judgment that lasted over one hour, also set aside all the primaries of Rivers APC, including the indirect election that produced Cole, a billionaire businessman, as the governorship candidate. He stated that the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter as an appeal filed by the respondents at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, to stop proceedings on the suit was rejected by the appellate court on September 21, 2018. He stated that all through the hearing, the APC filed no counter-affidavit denying the facts of the matter, as presented by the applicants in the originating summons, noting that it is trite law that facts not disputed are deemed admitted. On the suit filed in an Abuja High Court by a faction of the APC, Justice Nwogu declared that the court is of coordinate jurisdiction with the High Court in Port Harcourt, and cannot sit in appeal over it. He added that the suit filed by Ibrahim Imah preceded that of the Abuja High Court by a faction of the Rivers State APC.
Earlier, a counsel to the APC, Prince OSM Azunda moved a motion seeking to stop the delivery of the judgment. However, Justice Nwogu dismissed his application, which he termed as a ploy to arrest the judgement.
Addressing his supporters at a rally, Senator Abe hailed the court’s judgment, declaring that Prince Peter Odike remained the Rivers Chairman of APC and that since he emerged through direct primary, backed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, he was the standard bearer of APC in Rivers. In Abe’s words, “When he (Amaechi) came to me and said I should not run (for governorship in 2019), I asked him what he wanted, he said he would bring Tonye Cole. Rivers people will not follow anybody that they do not know. We are fighting against a sitting governor (Nyesom Wike of Peoples Democratic Party), who has resources and he is a politician. “They told the world I am a betrayer, a bad person and I am not loyal. No, it will not work. They said they would retire me from politics, if I refused. I would wear the retirement as a badge of honour, because Nigerians would know that when it was time to tell the truth, I opened my mouth and I spoke the truth. How would they retire me from the minds of my people in Rivers State?
“They also said they would bring money and everyone would leave me and go home. Let them bring the money, I will still stand here alone. We will not leave APC, because we built the party. We cannot leave our inheritance for anybody. The trouble will not end. He boasted , “Over 148,000 Rivers people, across the 319 wards of the 23 local governments of Rivers State, during the direct governorship primary election of APC, came out and cast their votes for me. We are interested in the progress of this party, we are ready to work for the progress of this party, but the party must show respect to its members.”
Abe who is bent on correcting the wrongs in the ruling APC said, “We are being treated with disrespect. You do not do that in politics. People cannot sit down in Lagos and choose a governor for Rivers people.”
In a swift response to the judgement, the Rivers state chapter of the APC, stated that it was not surprised that the Rivers High court, presided over by Justice Nwogu, set aside the May congresses.
Amaechi’s allies in Rivers APC rather maintained that the judgment did not come to us by surprise. It brings to an end, the collaboration between Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike to destabilise the APC in Rivers State.”
They insisted that, “There had been many overt and covert partnerships between Wike and Abe, using the Rivers State Judiciary on the matter to scuttle the electoral fortunes of the APC in 2019. Today’s (Wednesday) judgment is a culmination of the evil collaboration. “The grand rally staged by Abe was carefully planned and scheduled by both the Senator and Wike to coincide with the Rivers State High Court judgment, details of which they were already privy to. It was not surprising when Abe gleefully announced the exact judgment of the court on the rally rostrum, just about when the judge was still reading his judgment in court.” While they urged members and sympathisers of the party in the state and across Nigeria to remain calm, they also noted that despite the fact that aspects of the matter were already before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the lower court in Port Harcourt still went ahead to decide on the matter being challenged at higher courts.
It said: “Nothing will happen to the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led State Working Committee (SWC) of the party, as it is further protected against any action by the perpetual injunction granted by Abuja High Court 14, presided over by Justice A. O. Musa, on September 4, 2018, in which it restrained the APC and its National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (1st and 2nd Defendants), from tampering with the mandates of the elected officials/delegates elected at the 1st Defendant’s ward, local government and state congresses in Rivers State on May 19, 20 and 21, 2018 respectively, either by nullifying, removing or in any way refusing to give effect to the outcome of the said congresses or by purporting to conduct another congress in respect of Rivers State.
The party stated categorically that “It is also important to emphasise that the entire 319 wards and 23 LGAs executives of the party in Rivers State are, by implication, protected against the ruling by any court of coordinate jurisdiction with the Abuja High Court that granted the Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led Rivers State executive a perpetual injunction.
Recall that the Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State held indirect mode of gubernatorial primaries as directed by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
The NWC-backed indirect primaries, which was held at the Igboukwu Street Field, D/Line, Port Harcourt, had in attendance, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside and former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), MRA. Ibim Semenitari, among others.
In the ballot the indirect gubernatorial primaries, which was supervised by the Gubernatorial Primaries Committee, led by Colonel Jafaru Lawal Isa (Rtd) and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, Architect Tonye Cole, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and Dr. Dawari George. However, Abe, who is the senator representing Rivers South-East district in the National Assembly and Lulu-Briggs, who is a business mogul, boycotted the exercise. Cole came out victorious in the indirect governorship primaries, as he was said to have polled 3,329 votes while his closest rival, George, got 491 votes. Lulu-Briggs came a distant third with 38 votes while Abe got one vote. At the direct primaries organised by the Odike-led faction of the APC, which was not supervised by officials from the APC national secretariat and INEC, Abe was declared the party’s gubernatorial flagbearer. According to the faction’s returning officer, Dr Chigbo Sam Eligwe won with 144,929, Lulu-Briggs, scored 3,344 votes, George scored 1,606 votes and Cole 882 votes. About 48 hours to the gubernatorial primaries, Abe threatened to boycott the exercise if the party fails to adopt direct primaries as earlier advocated by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party. The governorship hopeful, who spoke during a rally at Wiiyakara community in Khana local government area of Rivers State, also threatened that he would not accept the result of the primaries if a candidate emerges through indirect process. While urging the national body of the APC to reverse itself and conduct direct primaries in the state, the senator said: “It is bad that we continue to worship individuals when we want change. It is clear that they are doing what they are doing because somebody has been appointed a DG (Director-General). “If they are doing this to please one person, then the party will not move forward. If the primaries in Rivers is not through direct primaries I will not take part and I will not accept the result. If we continue to be a nation where individuals are better than our institutions then something is wrong. “When we were fighting Jonathan, Amaechi called me that I should lead the party in the state. I did but when I wanted to pursue my ambition he turned me down. I am the leader of APC in my senatorial district but I do not have a ward Chairman.”
Abe told the committee that will organise the party’s primaries, to remove his name from list of aspirants if they are bent on indirect primaries. He said: “Today, I stand here to assure you that nobody is bigger than all of us. It is the responsibility of the party to bring a better ground for all the aspirants. “I hereby serve them a notice that they should remove my name from the list of the contestants. I will not participate in a process that has already been determined. “I will not be part of a coronation that the king will not be crowned. They have gone to the national that they will send me home. Every campaign of hate must stop, Rivers must move forward.” Although the minister of Transportation and leader of APC in the state, Amaechi, endorsed the candidature of Cole, the struggle to ensure his emergence, which is recognised by the National Secretariat of APC as its governorship candidate in Rivers State, started as far back as February 2017, when an advocacy group within the APC, the Rivers Unity House (RUH) commenced a campaign for him to join the race. According to Kingsley Wenenda Wali, convener of the group, members of RUH, who are mostly APC members were not taken seriously when they started clamouring for the billionaire entrepreneur to throw the towel into the ring. king immediately after Cole was declared winner of the gubernatorial primaries, Wali said: “Let me clearly state and to avoid any ambiguity, that my Christianity is not where it is supposed to be, but I know the place of God in my life. That I believe in the doctrine of EMMANUEL 24-7. “Therefore, in every circumstance I give glory to God and it isn’t anything near fatalism. Rather, when we seek the face of God, we shall be the beneficiaries of God’s will. The Kalabaris simply put it in one word -Tamunotonye. Let God’s word be praised. “The point I’m trying to make here is that the advocacy by a group of Nigerians for Tonye Cole to run for the office of Governor of his home state, was indeed the will of the miracle One, whose ways are not always like ours and most times, beyond comprehension. It is for this reason that many doubted our seriousness. “The advocates were at different times butts of jokes. Do you really want to blame those who thought we were comedians or even trainee comedians. “ “Moses and even the name above all names, suffered the same fate. For us, it was the inspiration and the tonic that was needed to ask for God’s favour because He understands and sees the heart of every man. “ “We challenged ourselves to look up to God only and work hard. We refused to be discouraged by the doubts of men. And to the glory of God only, Tamunotonye Cole has been nominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC), Rivers state chapter as their candidate for the 2019 governorship election. We say thank you to the only One that made it possible. “
“While we believe that God will always finish that which He started, we want to appeal to Rivers voters and influencers to think about Rivers state and her future only, when taking a decision on Tonye Cole’s candidature.”
Within the limits of our ability, we have presented to you the curriculum vitae of Architect Cole, who by the way, is a servant and an anointed minister of God.” Less than 24 hours to the gubernatorial primaries, the caucus of former members of the National Assembly from the APC in Rivers State, endorsed the aspiration of Cole, to contest for the 2019 governorship election in the state on the platform of the APC.
The APC former National Assembly caucus, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt and signed by Sir. Ike Chinwo and Hon. Fred Igwe, Chairman and Secretary, respectively, said the endorsement of Cole, came after thorough analysis and consideration of all feasible factors. The statement reads in part, “Our endorsement is anchored on our belief that his entry into the race is not only a breadth of fresh air but divine, timely and in the best interest of the Party especially at this point in time. “To us, it would facilitate greatly, the defeat of the incumbent non-performing governor, Nyesom Wike. ““We are convinced that Architect Tonye Dele Cole has the capacity to change the narrative in the governance from the current rudderless and waste regime in the state to that of prudence and productivity.”“His vision of sustainable wealth creation and distribution will boost investment, growth and generate employment. He will definitely use his international exposure and string of business successes to attract investments that will catapult the state to an investment heaven and a destination of choice. “Indeed, we are confident that Architect Tonye Cole’s leadership when he eventually becomes governor will engender a change in the mind-set of the average Rivers Man and Woman, thus making way for the emergence of entrepreneurial spirit which is needed for sustainable growth and development.” “And with the philosophy of ”One Rivers, One People”, we are sure that the state will witness an era of unprecedented unity, with People bonding together to pursue our common goal at all times.” “We therefore, call on all our party members to join hands in the support of Tonye Dele Cole, so that together our match to the Brick House in 2019 will be realised for the good of all.”