The leadership crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) has shifted to states, beginning with Rivers. ANAYO ONUKWUGHA captures the intrigues
The current leadership crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) which was ignited by the intrigues arising from the Edo State governorship election, has since shifted to Rivers State, where a barrage of suspensions coupled with court orders are now the order of the day.
The situation has revived the political rift between former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and former Senator representing Rivers South-east district in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe.
At the national level while Amaechi’s camp projects a deputy national secretary Chief Victor Giadom who insists he is acting national chairman of APC following the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole, the Abe-led camp maintains Giadom isn’t a member of the party anymore, noting that they have replaced him with Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Rivers State, Hon. Wogu Boms.
The rift between Amaechi and Abe dates back to 2018 when some APC members believed to be loyal to Abe approached the Court to challenge their non-participation in the party’s congresses even after purchasing forms.
The legal battle moved from the Rivers State High Court up to the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division and finally settled at the Supreme Court resulting in the non-participation of APC candidates in the 2019 general election in Rivers State.
However, the appointment of a Caretaker Committee led by Barrister Isaac Abbot Agbogbula, by the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC, to run the affairs of the party in the state and conduct fresh congresses in 2019, seems to have ignited a fresh crisis within the party.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Igo Aguma, approached a Rivers State High Court seeking to declare the Caretaker Committee brought by the NWC of the party as void, and declare him to head the affairs of the state by virtue of his position as the national delegate and statutory member of the party.
Also, another stalwart of the party, Dele Moses led other nine APC members loyal to Abe went to the same Court to challenge decision of CTC without the participation of some of them that bought forms in 2018.
On June 10, 2020, the Rivers State High Court presided over by Hon. Justice George Omereji, gave judgements on the two suits, declaring Aguma, as Caretaker Committee Chairman of APC in the state and compelled the party to allow all members of the party loyal to Abe, who purchased from for the congresses of the party in 2018 to take part in the process.
Omereji in his judgment after the submissions of the claimant’s counsel, Echezona Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, declared that Aguma had the locus standi to approach the court, adding that there was the issue of injustice and violation of the civil right of the applicant.
He ruled that no section of the APC constitution prohibits the statutory members of the party not to carry out the duties of the State Executive Committee in their absence, noting that in the case such lacuna that will warrant the setting up of the Committee by the national body of the party has not arisen because there was still the State Executive Committee of the party in the state.
Omereji held that democracy would be effective in the country when the parties have internal democracy, noting that the suit by Moses and others is justiceable.
He ruled that all the candidates and those excluded in the cancelled Congresses are automatic to be allowed to participate in the process.
Few days later, precisely on Friday, June 19, 2020, a Rivers State High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Florence Fiberesima, restrained Chief Victor Giadom from parading himself as a member of the NWC of the APC.
The Court also restrained Giadom, who is loyal to Amaechi from parading himself as either deputy national secretary or acting national chairman of the party.
Giadom had assumed duties as the acting national chairman of APC following the June 16, 2020 judgement of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which upheld the suspension of Comrade Adams Oshiomole as member and national chairman of the party.
A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Hon. Justice Samiru Umar Bature, had on Thursday, June 18, 2020 extended for two weeks an earlier order directing Giadom to act as the National Chairman of the party following the suspension of the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
But, in her ruling in the suit filed by two APC stalwarts, Dele Moses and Azunda Awori Fiberesima of Rivers State High Court, ceased to be a member of the NWC after resigning his position in September 2018 to contest for election in Rivers State.
As expected, barely 24 hours after the Court ruling, the Aguma-led Caretaker Committee of APC sent the name of former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Rivers State, Hon. Wogu Boms, as replacement for Giadom.
Boms, an indigene of Port Harcourt City local government area and Director-General of Freedom House, Abe’s governorship campaign organization, was sworn-in last Monday by the Hilliard Etta-led NWC at the APC secretariat in Abuja.
Within another 24, precisely on Sunday, June 21, 2020, the Aguma-led Caretaker Committee announced the suspension of Giadom from the party for acts of gross infractions of the party’s constitution.
A statement issued in Port Harcourt to that effect and signed by Aguma’s media aide, Livingstone Wechie, said the suspension of the Acting National Chairman followed the recommendation of a Fact-Finding Committee.
The statement reads in part: “The All Progressives Congress APC in Rivers state has suspended Hon. Victor Giadom for acts of gross infractions of the Party’s Constitution.
“The Fact Finding Committee of the Party recommended the following measures against Hon. Victor Giadom:
“That Hon. Victor Giadom be immediately suspended from the Party and every Party activities for his numerous infractions of the Party Constitution and conduct, which have brought the Party irredeemable disrepute.
“That Hon. Victor Giadom should immediately write a letter of apology to the party and same should be published in three (3) National Newspapers.
“The Committee report which was presented to our state Executive Committee meeting was accepted and adopted as the position of the APC in Rivers State.”
Barely 24 hours later, 28 out of 38 statutory members of the State Executive Committee of APC in the state met in Port Harcourt and announced the suspension of Aguma as Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party.
The SEC, mostly former members of the National Assembly, also appointed former Executive Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dr. Sokonte Davies, as the party new Caretaker Committee Chairman.
Announcing Aguma’s suspension, immediate past Senator representing Rivers East district in the National Assembly, Senator Andrew Uchendu, accused the suspended Caretaker Committee Chairman of constituting himself into a Sole Administrator of the party in disobedience to the judgement of the State High Court.
Uchendu said: “Upon obtaining judgment at the High Court of Rivers State in Suit Number PHC/4355/2019, Hon. Igochukwu Aguma in violent disobedience, disregard and disrespect to the said judgment constituted himself into a sole administrator, relegating, abandoning and disregarding majority of the Statutory Members of the State Executive Committee and taking critical decisions that affect the Party all by himself.
“Hon. Igochukwu Aguma, in disobedience of the Judgment which he obtained, called a Meeting of the Statutory members of the State Executive Committee on 14th June, 2020 via zoom platform and deliberately refused to give the user Identity Cards and password Numbers for the Meeting to majority of the Statutory Members of the State Executive Committee, thereby shutting them out of the Meeting.
“Even when he managed to send the user ID and Password to some persons, he made sure he sent same after the Meeting had been concluded. Hon. Igochukwu Aguma, has by his deliberate actions and inactions festered the crisis in the Party rather than take steps to abate same and this has worsened the situation and condition of our great Party.
“Without authorization from the Statutory Members of the State Executive Committee, Hon. Igochukwu Aguma, has been operating from his private residence, deliberately refusing to operate from the State Secretariat of the Party and this is against the advice of Majority of the Statutory Members of the State Executive Committee.
“Hon. Igochukwu Aguma is hereby suspended as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Rivers State Chapter. This is pursuant to the powers of discipline vested in the State Executive Committee under Article 21 of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress 2014 (as Amended).”
The Senator said the choice of Davies, who served as Director of Finance and Administration in the Buhari/Osibanjo Presidential Campaign Organization, was that of majority of the SEC members.
He said: “Rt. Hon. Sokonte Davies has been selected by majority vote at this meeting to lead the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Rivers State Chapter pending the conduct of fresh Congresses to fill the vacant positions in the organs of the party at all levels.
“This selection is made with full regard to the comportment, intellectual capacity, party management experience and temperament to manage a political party and her varied tendencies and ranking traditions of Parliament from where the majority of us as statutory members draw our membership of this State Executive Committee as provided for in the APC Constitution 2014 (as Amended).
“We emphasize that the emergence of Hon. Dr. Sokonte Davies as Caretaker Chairman from this meeting is takes full cognisance of the duty before us and, particularly, the ranking elders of the party in the State such as Senator Uchendu; His Excellency, Chief Rufus Ada George, former Governor of Rivers State who is in the United States at the moment and unable to return due to the COVID-19 pandemic; His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, former Governor of Rivers State and a serving Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, Member of the APC Board of Trustees from Rivers State under Article 32 of the APC Constitution.”
To Aguma, who is also an indigene of Port Harcourt City local government area, his suspension by statutory members of the APC SEC was of no effect and defunct.
A statement signed by his media aide, Livingstone Wechie, reads in part: “The attention of the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers state has been drawn to a press statement purportedly suspending Rt. Hon. Igo Aguma as Chairman of APC in Rivers state.
“It is known fact that prior to this time, the APC in Rivers state had been polarised into various factions and this is not new to the public and Party members. The factionization of the APC in the state resulted in the opening up of two factional offices in the state along Aba road in Port Harcourt respectively.
“Upon the assumption of office by the Igo Aguma-led State Executive Committee of the Party, it became important in keeping with our resolve to restore peace and reconciliation in the party to acquire a new office complex that will be neutral to all as using either of the two former factional offices would not promote reconciliation.
“Party members are aware that during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings of large numbers are held virtually, especially when some of the members are in their fifties. This we have done successfully so far.
“The meetings so far held by the APC executive committee in Rivers state were widely publicised and well advertised on national dailies and other media platforms. Also there is a platform where all Executive Committee members of APC Rivers state are participants and every detail of meetings and relevant matters are always available to all.
“As a party that respects the rule of law and enforces same, it is not strange that when you wield the big stick to discipline any member of our party for any act of indiscipline, reactions of this sort will not be unexpected.
“May I state that the so-called suspension of the Chairman of the APC is of no effect and defunct. The Chairman Rt. Hon. Igo Aguma denies all allegations in the purported press statements and renews his call for all Party men and women to close ranks and join him to restore peace in the party,” he said.
The battle between Amaechi and Abe’s camps will rage perhaps till 2023, raising fears that a repeat of the 2019 experience might be in the offing.