BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA
Recent happenings within the ranks of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, including suspension of chieftains and the emergence of interest-serving groups within the party as well as the defection of prominent politicians from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) into its fold, are clear indications that the party is on a road to re-structuring.
Last week, leader of the party in the state and Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, announced the suspension of the former Chief of Staff, Government House, Hon. Tony Okocha, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Wogu Boms and the member representing Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Chidi Wiyioka, as chairmen of the APC caucus in Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt City and Ikwerre local government areas of the state.
Amaechi, who announced the suspension of the trio while addressing stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt, also ratified the decision of members of the APC caucus in Etche local government area to suspend their chairman, Chief Allwell Onyesoh.
Two prominent politicians in the state, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and Prince Tonye Princewill, recently dumped the PDP and LP respectively to pitch their tent with the APC.
Lulu-Briggs, who was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the PDP in the 2015 general election, hails from Abonemma, headquarters of Akuku-Toru local government area, while Princewill, who ran for the governorship seat on the platform of LP in 2015, hails from Buguma City, headquarters of Asari-Toru local government area of the state.
The alleged face-off between the leader of the party in the state and Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Senator representing Rivers South-East senatorial district in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, over who flies the APC flag in the 2019 governorship election in the state has, in no small measure, created division within the party.
The alleged disagreement between Amaechi, who is the immediate past governor of the state and Abe, who served as Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under him, led to the emergence of groups such as Kairos Media Group (KMG) and the Inter-Ethnic Nationalities for Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (INCRA), with each group protecting the interest of each of them and the APC.
Recently, a pan-Ogoni group, Pya Kiisi Ogoni (PKO) accused Amaechi of plotting to incite leaders of Ogoni ethnic nationality against Abe, in order to scuttle the latter’s chances of vying for the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State.
The group, in a statement by its national coordinator, Titus Menekpugi, alleged that to achieve this plot, the Minister of Transportation invited a former senator and one of the prominent Ogoni leaders, to Abuja, to bolster his approach to stop Abe from contesting the governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The statement reads in part, “We are aware of concerted efforts and utterly decisive plots by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to instigate Ogonis’ against themselves deliberately to scuttle Senator Magnus Ngei Abe’s chances of vying for the Rivers governorship election in 2019.
“To achieve his dastardly plan, the Minister recently invited an illustrious Ogoni son, a former minister who was also a Senator in the second National Assembly.
“Desperate to impress the Senator, Amaechi, two-term governor of Rivers State personally drove to the airport to receive the Ogoni leader, giving him a presidential reception at the airport to bolster his clandestine approach to stop Senator Abe from contesting at the APC governorship primaries by all means.
“Amaechi, we understand lied to the Ogoni leader that Senator Abe was unsupportive of his efforts to assist the leader while he ( Amaechi) was governor of Rivers State.
“Is it not strange that former Governor Amaechi has suddenly made a volte-face and decided to embrace this Ogoni son for the sole aim of pulling down Abe at all cost.
“As a group, we warn that Amaechi should desist from further acts of undermining Senator Abe’s political relevance as we are aware that he has penciled prominent Ogoni leaders who he intends to use to achieve his aim and we shall resist all attempts to truncate Senator Abe’s legitimate political pursuit in furtherance of his political ambition.”
Few days ago, the APC caucus in Etche local government area of the state, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, announced the suspension of its chairman and former commissioner for Sports, Chief Allwell Onyesoh, for alleged anti-party activities, including disrespecting the leader of the party in the state, Amaechi.
The statement was signed by the former member representing Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Okey Amadi, former chairman of Etche local government area, Chief Nnamdi Okere and seven others members of the caucus.
The statement reads in part, “We are witnesses to the unbridled, uncharitable and unguarded actions and utterances by some of us who are led by one Chief Allwell Onyesoh, who goes about parading as the leader of Etche. Our brother and friend, Allwell Onyesoh has become reckless in so many ways in his desperate reactions to sensitive matters, which ordinarily should call for great caution, tact and understanding.
“Similarly, he has chosen where reason ought to be needful, to exhibit great disrespect to, and disregard for, the person of our indisputable leader and Minister of Transportation, the Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. As politicians and major stakeholders, we clearly understand the underlying reasons for the shocking behaviour of Chief Allwell Onyesoh and what is obviously transforming into a deliberate scheme to destabilize the APC in Etche.
“An extra-ordinary meeting of Etche caucus and sme major stakeholders of the APC in Etche held on Saturday, June 3, 2017 at the Etche headquarters, Okehi, to examine burning issues which affect the future and welfare of our party. After far reaching deliberations and consultations on a wide range of issues, the following resolutions were taken:
“That Etche people are irrevocably royal and committed to the able leadership that is being offered by our great leader and Minister of Transportation, the Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; that our resolve to abide by the basic principles upon which our great party is foundedb which stresses among other things, party supremacy, the strengthening of our democratic institutions, discipline, order and change that we all can see remain unshaken;
“That Chief Allwell Onyesoh is hereby suspended from the Etche APC caucus until he purges himself of contempt; that in the interim, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, a former member of the Rivers State Executive Council and former member of the National Assembly is now to act as the protem chairman of Etche caucus, while the secretary of the party in Etche, Elder George Nwanjoku is to act as the secretary of the caucus.”
Less than 48 hours after the caucus suspended Onyesoh, chairman of APC Ward 5 in Etche local government area, Okechukwu Nweke, announced the suspension of Nwuke, who was appointed interim chairman of the caucus, for gross misconduct and insubordination.
Addressing newsmen shortly after the party’s emergency executive council meeting, Nweke, said that decision was taken due to the failure of Nwuke to appear before the party executive to explain his role in the suspension of Onyesoh.
He said, “Having invited Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke to appear before the executive council and explain his role in the purported suspension of Chief Hon. Allwell Onyesoh, the leader of Etche APC caucus, which he practically neglected and disobeyed the party invitation.
“Having exhausted the party’s constitutional provision, we hereby suspend Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, a former member of the House of Representatives, from the party for anti-party activities and insubordination. We therefore urge the party at the national, state, local government and ward level not to have anything to do with Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke in the line of the party.”
To Charles Inko-Tariah, a chieftain of the APC in the state, some stalwarts of the party living outside the state were planning to suspend some leaders of the party, who are not in support of the suspension of Onyesoh.
Inko-Tariah said, “We have received information that some APC leaders based in Lagos have concluded arrangements to suspend some party officials in Etche local government area, precisely the party chairman and the youth leader, for standing by their leader, Chief Allwell Onyesoh in the purported suspension. These suspensions among party faithful in the state are becoming obnoxious. We vow to resist any suspension of that sought.”
Sources within the APC said the re-structuring in the party will be undertaken in phases and will affect the entire gamut of the party’s structure in the state, from the local government to ward levels.
According to the sources, leader of the party in the state, Amaechi has already accepted the need for re-structuring, which they believe would lay to rest the recent upsurge in open, blatant disloyalty to the leadership of the party in the state.
They disclosed that as part of the upcoming shake-up, series of meetings and consultations have been ongoing among the party leadership both in Port Harcourt, the state capital, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
One of the sources said, “There is urgent need to restructure APC in Rivers State. Recent doses of disloyalty shown by certain persons in the party over their elective ambitions need be checked as it could lead to total anarchy. We need to return the party to true democratic respects where everybody submits to party rules.