ANAYO ONUKWUGHA writes on the unfolding politics of defection in Rivers State which began shortly after the minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Silva, reconciled
For a very long time, the minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Silva, were at logger-heads over the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country.
The disagreement between Amaechi and Sylva, who are both former governors of Rivers and Bayelsa States respectively, contributed in no small measure to the abysmal performance of the APC in the South-South geopolitical zone.
However, the disagreement between the two ministers ended a few weeks ago, when the APC Caretaker chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, brokered reconciliation between the duo.
Buni, had during the reconciliation meeting charged Amaechi and Sylva, to work together and lead the party’s efforts to reconcile aggrieved party members and reposition the party, particularly in the South-South region.
Although there were pockets of defections from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State before the reconciliation between Amaechi and Sylva, the major defections from across the two major political parties occurred immediately after the reconciliation. The reconciliation, for political watchers, sparked a flurry of defections in the oil-rich state.
To take the first step was the member representing Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Chief Ephraim Nwuzi, who defected from PDP to APC.
The next was former majority leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly and director-general of the APC Governorship Campaign Council in 2019, Dr Chidi Julius Lloyd, who dumped the APC for the PDP.
The former House leader’s defection attracted so much media attention considering the role he played in the crisis that rocked the House of Assembly in 2013, which nearly claimed the life of a lawmaker, Hon. Micheal Chinda.
Speaking when he led traditional and political leaders of Akpabu and Itu Communities in Emohua local government area of Rivers State on a visit to Government House, Port Harcourt, Lloyd expressed regret on his role in the crisis at the State House of Assembly of July 9, 2013, and apologised to the people of the state and Chinda.
The former lawmaker, who said he has learnt how to be benevolent in politics among other things from Wike, declared that henceforth, he and members of his community would work for the PDP.
Speaking during the visit, the governor said the former lawmaker has publicly expressed regret on his role in the 2013 crisis at the State House of Assembly and apologised.
Wike stated that he has forgiven Lloyd because he is a Christian and those who became victims of that act have also consented.
He said: “Forgiveness is key for every Christian. God has forgiven me, why can’t I forgive. We have also met with Hon. Michael Chinda and others, we got their approval for reconciliation.
“I love to attract people to our party because I am not a greedy politician. I believe that the more the merrier. I will do what is in the best interest of the people and the party.
“Politics of progress does not undermine the importance of friendship. I believe that we must forget yesterday, put ourselves together for a better tomorrow.”
To the APC in Rivers State, however, Lloyd’s defection to the PDP did come as a surprise. To them, his exit would have no effect on the fortunes of the party in the state.
The party, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, said the former House leader had strayed from light into darkness.
The statement reads in part: “Ordinarily, his departure from the APC has not come as a huge surprise. For years, our supporters have been watching the dance step of the former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly. It is regrettable that the Akpabu born politician whose activities have been less than desirable has taken a decision to stray from light in order to embrace the darkness.
“We have equally listened to his comments and we are amazed that his hunt for the “feeding bottle” that Wike controls could drive him to such a lowly height.
“For us, the former member of the House of Assembly who apologized for decisions and actions that he took without compulsion from any quarter, has shown his true colours. His apology to the master of the “belly kingdom revolution” raises serious questions about his credibility and integrity.
“We state categorically that the exit of Hon Lloyd would have no effect on the fortunes of the APC On the contrary, APC members in Emohua Local Government Area are jubilating over his exit. All politics, they say, is Local, and these party men and women who are in a happy mood right now know who is who,” the party said.
It however boasted about its gaining Hon. Ephraim Nwuzi, the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora who is currently representing Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency.
But hardly had the APC recovered from that defection than another member left its fold. Next to toe, the line of Lloyd was the leader of APC in Etche local government area, Chief Ambrose Nwuzi, who led his supporters in a return to PDP.
Speaking at an event to mark his formal defection to the PDP, Nwuzi apologised to the people of Etche people for what he described as his sabbatical journey to the APC.
He described APC as a party of unfulfilled promises, noting that with his return to the PDP there would be massive defection to the party in the coming days.
The former APC chieftain emphasised that his return to the party was not for political gains, but to join hands with other party leaders in the local government area to build the party.
Also speaking at the event, Governor Wike, however, apologised to Etche people for supporting their son in the National Assembly, Chief Ephraim Nwuzi, who was unable to represent them well and promised to correct the mistake.
Wike said he made a promise to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party during his second term inauguration and would not allow further divisions in the party.
The governor said: “The leadership of Etche PDP should stop further disagreements and work together in unity. I do not want to hear anything like returnees.
“The people of Etche Ethnic Nationality have lost a lot of things because of division. You should see the overall interest of Etche far above personal interests.
“I have embarked on development projects in Etche including the Olakwo-Afara-Nihi Road even when Chief Ambrose Nwuzi was in APC. We shall provide more people-oriented projects in your area during the lifespan of this administration.
“Let me commend Chief Ambrose Igbokwe Nwuzi for taking the bold step to return to the PDP. As a people, you must put yourself together and understand that the development of Etche is more paramount.
“You have lost a lot because you have not been able to put yourself together. You can only benefit from the government if you are united.”
Reacting to Wike’s speech at the event, the APC in Rivers State, said from the governor’s utterances suggested that those who decamped to the PDP were agents on a mission of destabilisation.
The party, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, alleged that those who decamped to the PDP were those engaged in leaking vital information relating to party activities and laying the foundation for a fascist agenda.
The statement reads in part: “We have listened intently to the speech delivered at Afara by Governor Nyesom Wike. In his own words, those who have been received so far by the PDP are welcome home. The governor may have intended to sound witty, but his words clearly show that these men, apparently sustained by his administration, who are returning home at this time were agents on a mission of destabilisation.
“It proves to a reasonable extent that these men, procured by the Emperor and Tormentor-in-Chief of Rivers people, and groomed to act as spies in the APC family, were induced to create division, rear bitterness and rancour, and promote hate and instability within the ranks of our great party.
“Incidentally, the APC’s counterintelligence network had since picked up their trail and was monitoring their every move. We know that these men who are been pulled out now that their cover has been blown were engaged in leaking vital information relating to party activities and laying the foundation for a fascist agenda.
“Our investigation has revealed that they were primarily charged with the responsibility of undermining party unity, party cohesion and party discipline through the deliberate creation of problems within the APC.
“It is not surprising that dedicated party men and women, strengthened by their faith and belief in the APC, took to various social media platforms to demand the exit of men who were only APC in name and PDP in spirit,” the party reacted.
However, PDP was to suffer its own loss as Wike’s ally and current member of the House of Representatives representing Eleme/Oyigbo/Tai federal constituency, Hon. Chisom Dike dumped PDP.
The development came days after Dike rejected a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) gift from the governor, due to lack of good roads in many parts of his constituency.
He said, “Currently, Oyigbo is impassable. You need to travel through two local government areas before you get to Oyigbo. My former party is in power in Rivers State alongside other indigenes from our area but we could not effect any change.”
The federal lawmaker was followed by another close ally of the governor and former commissioner for Special Duties, Dr John Bazia, who dumped the PDP for the APC.
Bazia, who represented Tai Constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007, was received by the leader of APC in Tai local government area of the state, Dr Batam Ndegwe.
But PDP scored one back as former commissioner for Health under the Amaechi-led administration, Dr Sampson Parker, who dumped the APC for the PDP.
Parker, who was also personal physician to Amaechi, declared for the PDP, along with over 2,000 of his supporters, during an event held at the Community Primary School, Okochiri.
Pledging his loyalty to his new party, the former commissioner described the occasion as homecoming to the PDP family, saying that his conscience and soul were at peace with his decision.
He lauded Wike’s developmental strides in Krikese Kingdom and thanked him for accepting his return to the PDP.
Receiving Parker and his supporters into the party, PDP chairman in the state, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, said the decision of the former Health Commissioner was based on the massive development projects the governor has sited across the state.
Akawor described Amaechi as politically dead, having lost key political allies in succession to the PDP.
Reacting to Parker’s defection to the PDP, the APC, in a statement signed by iNwuke, declared that the former commissioner was never one of its members.
The statement insisted that the former Okrika-born medical doctor was a member of the Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), saying that he ceased having political ties with the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, since 2015.
It said the party does not have a record of his membership both at the state and national levels, adding that prior to his elevation as Health commissioner, Parker served as personal physician to Amaechi.
The statement reads in part: “On Sunday, October 4, 2020, another attempt aimed at deceiving and hoodwinking unsuspecting members of the public was made by Governor Nyesom Wike and the PDP.
“Admitting Dr Sampson Parker into the PDP fold, a dummy that Dr Parker is a member of the APC was sold to members of the public. Dr Parker, like Barrister Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State served in the administration of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi as the State Commissioner for Health.
“Prior to his elevation to the position of the Commissioner of Health, Dr Parker served as a personal doctor to the current Minister of Transportation.
“When Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his friends decided to leave the PDP for the APC, Dr Parker remained stoutly in the PDP. At no time did Dr Parker who later emerged in Abuja as a member of the Green Party after the monumental defeat of the PDP at the national level in 2015 ever join the APC.
“It is on record that the records of the APC, both in the Rivers State and at the National level, do not have the name of Dr Sampson Parker. This can be verified.
“Dr Parker has a right to belong to any political party of his choice, but for a man of his status to associate himself with an open lie, knowing it to be so, in order to score cheap political points in the eyes of Governor Nyesom Wike beats our imagination.
“We wish to state categorically that since Dr Parker chose to go his own way in the years preceding 2015, he has never enjoyed any close political tie with Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi.
“We, however, understand that there is an urgent propaganda need for Parker to fill from the perspective of the PDP. But our reaction is simple. Rivers people are no fools. They know who is who.
“Apart from setting the records straight, we do not wish to join issues with either Governor Nyesom Wike or Dr Sampson Parker. The antics of telling brazen lies that is being employed particularly by Barrister Nyesom Wike are outdated. Those antics have lost their flavour. For how long will these lies be part of our political milieu?” APC stated.
As it stands, the race for 2023 coupled with the bitter rivalry between Wike and Amaechi, estranged political allies, is shifting the political plane in the state.