The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Rivers State government has since May 29, 2019, been operating without the presence of the supposed main opposition political party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC). ANAYO ONUKWUGHA looks into the challenges drawing APC back in the state
On September 6, 2019, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) set up a caretaker committee for the Rivers State chapter of the party.
The action of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which followed the judgement of the court that nullified the leadership of the party in Rivers State, was part of the efforts of the party’s national leadership to commence the process of electing a new leadership for the APC in the state.
According to a statement signed by the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the five- man caretaker committee, led by Isaac Abott Ogbobula, is to oversee the affairs of the party pending when a new leadership is put in place.
Other members of the caretaker committee include: Mr. Friday Kinika Owhor, Mrs. Beatrice Amobi, Prince Abolo Stephen and Mr. Baridon Badom (Secretary).
Issa-Onilu also announced a timetable for the conduct of ward, local government and state congresses elections to elect new leadership for the party at all levels in the state.
According to the timetable, ward congresses were scheduled to be held on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 while appeal arising from the ward congresses were to be entertained between Wednesday, September 18 and Friday, September 20, 2019.
Also, local government congresses were scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 21, 2019, while appeals from the conduct of the local government congresses were to be entertained between Monday, September 23 and Wednesday September 25, 2019.
Similarly, state congress for the election of members of the State Working Committee (SWC) were scheduled for Saturday September 28, 2019, while appeals arising from it were scheduled for between Monday September 30 and Wednesday October 2, 2019.
Members of the two factions of APC in the state received the news of the appointment of a caretaker committee for the party as well as the timetable for the conduct of fresh congresses with mixed feelings.
While the faction loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, welcomed the development, the faction loyal to Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, rejected the caretaker committee and vowed to use legal means to stop the planned congresses.
Apparently in fulfilment of their threat, some aggrieved members of the APC
obtained a court order restraining the NWC of the party from conducting congresses in Rivers State.
Ibrahim Umar and 22 others of the Abe-led faction of the APC had approached the Rivers State High Court, to stop the proposed congresses from holding.
According to the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Letam Nyordee of the State High Court in Port Harcourt; “An order is hereby made that all parties in the matter should maintain status quo in relation to the subject matter of the proceedings in this suit pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.”
In obedience to the order of the State High Court, the APC cancelled the ward, local government and state congresses.
According to Chris Finebone a chieftain of the party in the state; “The congress will not hold. For whatever it is worth, you cannot defy that; you cannot defy the court order.
“Obviously, we are not holding the ward congress because of the court injunction. Also, you cannot hold the next congress (local government congress) without the first one.
“For the fact that you are compelled not to hold the first one, you cannot contemplate holding the second one because the second congress is dependent on the outcome of the first.
“The court has issued an exparte injunction, which many of us have not even seen the prayers because we have not sighted the processes. But whatever it is will be addressed by our lawyers. Our lawyers will be in court and they will address the issue.
“The ward congress slated cannot hold because that is the day the court adjourned to sit on the matter. Even if the court vacates the order that day, definitely, it (ward congress) cannot hold that day.”
To Abe, who is the immediate past senator that represented Rivers South-East district in the National Assembly, the origin of the crisis in APC in the state, is traceable to the unconstitutional decision of Amaechi, who is the leader of the party in the state, to expel him from the party.
He said: “Nigerians are aware that the crisis in the APC in Rivers state had its origin in the unconstitutional decision of the leader of the party in the state, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to summarily expel me, and other leaders of the party in the state seen as sympathetic to my governorship ambition for no discernible reason.
“He announced this publicly at the meeting of party stakeholders held at the Dome. He stated at that meeting that Senator Abe and all those sympathetic to him must leave the party and went further to state that he was ready to destroy the party in Rivers State to achieve that objective.
“Despite the pleas of several leaders present at that meeting. In fact, Mr Loolo Ibieneye told him that the path he has chosen was not only unconstitutional but will lead the party to disaster.
“Incidentally this was the last day that Rivers APC sat together in unity with Amaechi present. The directive to unilaterally exclude party members from all party activities without due process is the origin and the root of the crisis in the party.
“Indeed prior to the troubled congresses the then state chairman of the party Chief Ibiamu Ikanya called an all inclusive stakeholders/state SEC meeting of Rivers APC where all the issues were amicably resolved, including the distribution of forms to all aspiring party members.
“An all inclusive committee was set up to implement the resolutions of that meeting, as soon as the minister was informed of this move, he not only dissolved the Committee, but he voided the efforts and consensus decisions reached by the entire leadership.
“He directed that in keeping with his earlier directives at the Dome, members of the party perceived as sympathetic to Senator Abe be excluded from the Congresses and denied the forms they paid for.
“Those members Ibrahim Umar and 22 others went to court, they rightfully secured an injunction on the facts which he again directed the party to disobey. The rest as they say is history.
“In an unprecedented sponsored media campaign the facts were buried and recrafted, one Chukwuemeka Eze a hired publicist for the minister became face of this attempt to rewrite history.
“Those who went to court were accused of working for Governor Wike and the PDP, the courts were promoted as Wike’s supermarkets, some of Amaechi’s publicist such as Oby Ndukwe, and Lucky Worlu went as far as accusing me of plotting with the Vice President to kill President Buhari and collecting billions of Naira From Governor Wike and the PDP to destabilize the APC in Rivers state.
“I was painted to the Nigerian public as a desperate politician who destroyed his party because of his personal ambition.”
Apparently rising in defence of Amaechi, a chieftain of APC, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, raised the alarm of alleged fresh plots to humiliate the Minister of Transportation.
He alleged that the fresh plot was being hatched by people who had benefitted from Amaechi’s large-heart and some top members of the PDP in Rivers State and accused a former senator and chieftain of APC in the state, of being behind th fresh plot against the former Rivers State Governor.
He said the efforts of Amaechi, who is the leader of APC in the state, to restore good governance to state through a properly organised APC was frustrated by the enemies of the state.
The APC chieftain however, said such plots in the past had failed, adding that they only end up making the minister stronger and better.
Eze, who is former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), commended true and loyal members of the APC in the state for bearing all the attacks on their leader all along,
He assured that the future holds better for APC members and their party and urges them to be steadfast and continue to remain loyal to the party.
The APC chieftain said: “Members of the Rivers APC deserve a big commendation for their resilience and peaceful disposition in the wake of renewed onslaught against Rt. Hon. Amaechi and the party in the state.
“Party faithful must remain committed in prayers to the ideals of the party which will definitely enthrone good governance and redefine public service in the state for greater good. Rivers APC will only emerge stronger.”
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