By Ehichioya Ezomon
The Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in a meltdown, literally, following a special Appeal Court panel’s ruling upholding the judgment of a High Court in Port Harcourt, which nullified the congresses held by another faction of the party early in 2018.
And there’s jubilation, ‘high-fiving’ and clinking of wine glasses since Thursday, December 12, in Senator Magnus Abe’s faction of the party, which went to court to dissolve the congresses that brought into office the Rotimi Amaechi-backed Ojukaye Flag-Amakree camp.
The appeals verdict, based on a suit by 23 dissatisfied APC aspirants, who alleged exclusion from the congresses by the Flag-Amakree faction, is interpreted as quashing the chapter’s primaries from the vitiated congresses, and precluding the nominated candidates from contesting in the March 2, 2019, governorship and state legislative election.
That’s why the ecstasy has reportedly pervaded the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the seat of the Rivers government of Governor Nyesom Wike, who will certainly have a free ride in his reelection bid. And as usual, the governor may offer thanksgiving for this wonderful “Yuletide gift.”
The tragedy that may befall Rivers APC, like in several states, was long foretold, before the March 2018 controversial congresses, and the August/September primaries now likely affected.
In some of the articles in my serialization on the APC and the 2019 general election, I pointed out the implications for the nationwide warring factions (led by current and former governors and their “opponents”) remaining recalcitrant to reconciliation.
While I merely analyzed the happenings in Ogun, Imo, Zamfara and elsewhere, and how to resolve them through the INEC window for substitution, and withdrawal/replacement of candidates; I had personal exchanges with the factions in Rivers, predating the crises during the congresses and the primaries.
On March 5, 2018, I wrote to Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, former chapter chairman, and his media adviser, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze (and asked that they make the correspondence available to the main actors) on the need to reconcile their differences, and to remind Amaechi that he would bear the burden of the eventual failure of the APC in Rivers.
Entitled: “2019: The un-seriousness of Rivers APC,” the email (abridged below) noted the free rein the APC had allowed the PDP, while there’s no serious attempt to play catch-up.
It read: “I’m constrained to send you this message due to what I see as un-seriousness on the part of the APC to win the 2019 elections in Rivers State. Virtually every week, you issue a statement, praising the works of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation) and criticizing Governor Wike for trying to undermine those achievements.
“The most annoying thing is the intra-party squabbles in the Rivers APC. Why should Mr. Amaechi stand in the way of Senator Abe to aspire to be governor? He did the same to Wike, and Wike became governor… Now, he’s against a person (his acclaimed political godson) from his own party!
“Who, between Wike and PDP, and Abe and APC does Amaechi want to be governor in 2019? Why not allow members of the APC, even if you have a preferred person, to choose the candidate at a level-playing primary contest?”
On my expectations, I said: “Amaechi should sheathe the sword, and call Abe, as his boy, for reconciliation. Please, don’t tell me it should be the other way round (that Abe should make the move) because nobody has associated Abe with the failure of the APC in Rivers in 2015.
“But everybody – the most telling Governor Wike – is pointing at Amaechi, who was the DG (same position for 2019) for the PMB Campaign Organization. The failure of APC in Rivers in 2015 was the failure of Amaechi. Does he want a repeat performance?”
I penned another email on March 12, 2018, specially to Kennedy Friday (Abe’s aide), who, while acknowledging my earlier message, asserted that there’s no “political benefactor and beneficiary” between Amaechi and Abe “but friendship” cultivated when both were members of the Rivers House of Assembly on different political platforms.
Yet, Mr. Friday insinuated that the “other party” (Amaechi) was to blame. If so, “why is the mutual trust in jeopardy,” I queried, and informed him that although my focus on the initial mail was Amaechi, it didn’t mean that Senator Abe had no share of the problems in Rivers APC because “it takes two to tango.”
And I counseled: “Senator Abe should meet him (Amaechi) for reconciliation, as he (Abe) has a greater responsibility to ensure the (re)union. Nothing stops him from going to Amaechi for settlement. After all, he’s the person aspiring to be Governor of Rivers, and as such, ‘his hand should be longer.’
“His ambition should propel him to make the necessary moves for reconciliation… Without reconciliation, the political battle to reclaim Rivers from Wike and the PDP would have been lost ab initio. Is that what Senator Abe wants for himself and the APC just because he’s at loggerheads with Amaechi? Certainly not, unless he has other plans to salvage or navigate the festering crisis.”
From several court rulings so far (and more are in the offing unless the gladiators pull the breaks), things are not looking good for the Rivers APC, as the predictions are coming true.
It’s noteworthy, though, the advice of the lead judge of the Special Appeals panel. After voiding the congresses, Justice Abubakar Yahaya wondered aloud: “This matter is within one party; what is going to happen when it is between separate parties? It is politics. We are brothers, same house and we are throwing stones at each other. Please, let’s reconcile and settle this (matter).”
This has been my stand. That the fallouts from the congresses, and the primaries were a “family affair” that needed to be resolved amicably. Let all sides come together, agree to a truce, and withdraw all matters in the courts, which will oblige, and dismiss them accordingly, to pave the way for the APC members to form a united front for the 2019 election.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.