There was jubilation in the camp of the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, following the decision of the Supreme Court that rested the prolonged legal battle on the authentic leadership of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State.
The leadership tussle, which divided the party into two blocs of Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, created legal impediments that stopped the party from partaking in the last general elections.
Though the High Court sitting in Port Harcourt attempted to resolve the crisis last year by declaring Igo Aguma, a member of Abe’s camp, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party, the impasse deepened as Amaechi’s loyalists kicked against the court’s decision.
The Court of Appeal had upturned the decision of the lower Court and finally on Friday the Supreme Court dismissed Aguma’s prayers and upheld the decision of the Appeal Court, which recognised Isaac Ogbobula, a loyalist of Amaechi as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party in line with the directive of the Mai Buni-led National Caretaker Committee of the APC.
While the camp of Amaechi erupted in jubilation, key members of the Abe’s camp such as a former factional chairman of the party, Aguma and an APC chieftain, Livingstone Wechie in separate statements announced their decisions to quit the APC.
Aguma in a statement he signed in Port Harcourt said he left the APC because the party failed to protect the rights and privileges of its members.
He said: “I have received the Supreme Court judgement which dismissed my Appeal challenging the Court of Appeal decision which upturned the High Court judgment that declared me as Acting Chairman of APC in Rivers state.
“It is now clear that it is not within the purview of the Court to protect the rights and privileges of members of a political party, in this case, the APC. It is the APC that should protect the rights of her members but has failed to do so.
“I cannot continue to be a member of a Political party that endangers and does not give any form of protection to the rights of its members and has no respect whatsoever for its own constitution at all but chooses to be run against democratic principles intoto for self-destructive purposes. Therefore I announce my exit from the All Progressives Congress immediately”.
On his part, Wechie said he was at the Supreme Court when the judgement was delivered adding that he respected the decision of the apex court.
He, however, said he could no longer continue to be a member of a party, that sabotaged and trades the rights of its members.
He said: “I was present at the Supreme Court this morning to witness the judgements touching on the Rivers state chapter of the All Progressives Congress particularly the case of Igo Aguma v. APC.
“I respect the Supreme Court judgement which today dismissed the Appeal challenging the Court of Appeal decision which upturned the High Court judgment that declared Rt. Hon. Igo Aguma as Acting Chairman of APC in Rivers state.
“The Supreme Court in its view decided that it is not within the purview of the Court to protect the rights and privileges of members of a political party particularly the APC because that is an internal party matter. I see this development as unhealthy judicial precedence which should be intellectually interrogated moving forward.
“Moreso it is dangerous for politics and political party democracy in Nigeria that for any reason the jurisdiction of court should be ultimately ousted as it affects grievances by party members not minding political party arbitrariness which the court ought to restrict in the interest of our democracy in Nigeria.
“Regrettably, the APC that preaches respect for the rule of Law rather than protect the said rights of her members as enshrined has failed to do so and celebrates the violation of its own constitution traditionally.
“It has been a long battle for internal democracy in the APC Rivers state to give genuine stakeholder opportunities to members. However the status quo is unsafe for my political struggle and future which I must sustain for the good of my fatherland.
“I cannot continue to be a member of a Political party where asking questions is a death and a party that sabotages and trades mindlessly and selfishly with the rights of its members. Therefore I announce my exit from the All Progressives Congress immediately. This is my decision.”
But the Deputy Leader of the APC in Rivers and immediate past Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, was among many loyalists of Amaechi, who hailed the judgement.
Peterside described the judgement as a “victory for democracy and progressive governance.”
He said: “While I am yet to get the full details of the judgments, my initial reaction is to say that the courts have once again risen to the occasion and deepened democracy and democratic tenets. This is a victory for all Rivers people, especially APC members and it is a sign of greater things to come.
“Now the Rivers State chapter of the APC can strengthen its gains even further as we unite to provide Rivers people with authentic, strong, and focused leadership.
“We are deeply grateful to God Almighty and congratulate our leader, the Minister for Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi for this hard won victory.”
Peterside called on members of the APC in River to celebrate the victories in the courts with measured gaits and humility, adding that the greater work lied in uniting the party faithful and getting more people to join the party.
He said: “I appeal to our members to be magnanimous in this victory and know that greater works lie ahead. We must always remember our leader’s mantra, ‘Once has God spoken, but twice I have heard this, that power belongs to God’.”