Rivers 2023: Amaechi, Abe renew battle for soul of APC




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ALTHOUGH the 2023 governorship election in Rivers state is still years ahead, gladiators in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have renewed the battle for the control of the party as part of efforts to brighten the chances of their preferred gubernatorial candidates in the forthcoming governorship election in the oil-rich state.

Ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial contest, there are indications that the crises that prevented the party from fielding candidates during the 2019 general elections may have reared their ugly heads again. “And this time, the issues appear even more complex. The warring camps, instead of exploring the windows provided for peaceful settlements of the issues, have sadly spent the last two years deepening their resolves for a fight to finish,” a party leader lamented.

The Nation gathered that party chieftains and members across the state are worried that the APC in Rivers state is more threatened by the internal struggle for control today that it was three years ago. While many of them express optimism that there are still good chances of resolving the matters before the 2023 governorship election, others are of the opinion that time may no longer be on the side of the embattled party to put its house in order before the next guber election.

A former governorship candidate in the state who is a chieftain of the APC, Tonye Princewill, while speaking on the state of the party in Rivers state, especially the gale of defection from the party, said “unlike some people who are casually glossing over it, I am worried. Losing anyone is not something to disregard. You ’t please everyone and some people need to take care of children’s school fees, pay house rent and marry new wives. If the offer on the other side attracts them and allows them achieve their objective, there is nothing that you can do about it.

“But some of these defections were not that way inclined and so I’m in the school of thought that felt there was a need to examine why. So we did. What needs to be done is now being addressed and even though I am still worried, there is a solution. It remains an internal matter and the highest levels of the party have put measures in place. Both merit and patience will soon be rewarded. A state governor has a freedom we only dream of. But money isn’t everything.”

Fresh trouble

The supremacy battle that erupted between former Governor Amaechi and his then Secretary to the State Government (SSG),

Senator Abe, in the build up to the 2019 governorship election over the APC gubernatorial ticket, took a new twist after the party’s state congress held last Saturday as two factions of the party loyal to these party leaders announced the election of two sets of state party executive committee members contrary to the expectations of many chieftains and members of the party across the state.

Chief Emeka Beke was elected as Rivers APC Chairman at the state congress of the party monitored by the Dr. Abubakar Idris Giedam-led State Congress Committee sent from Abuja for the exercise. Dr. Adoyi Omale, the Secretary of the State Congress Committee, announced the results in Port Harcourt. Omale said that Beke scored 1575 votes to beat his opponent, Mr. Chizi Nyeomasila who scored eight votes.

He said that Mr. Sam Etetegwung, a former member of the state House of Assembly was elected unopposed as the state APC secretary, adding that Chief Chris Finebone was also elected unopposed as the state APC Publicity Secretary. But in spite of warnings by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led national caretaker committee that organisers of parallel congresses will be severely sanctioned, the Abe-led faction of the party also announced the emergence of another set of party members as state executives.

Inaugurating what it termed the authentic state executive officers at a brief ceremony held in ‘Freedom House’, a campaign secretariat set up by Abe, in the GRA area of Port Harcourt in 2019, the faction announced Golden Chioma, a former member of the State House of Assembly as chairman, Mike Amakiri, Deputy Chairman, Inye Jack, as Secretary, Joy Woko, state woman leader, Kingsley Ibanichuka, youth leader, among others.

The Nation recalled that Chioma, a loyalist of Senator Magnus Abe, had earlier pulled out of the state congress of the party days before the scheduled date. Confirming his withdrawal from the contest penultimate Friday, the former state lawmaker faulted the of electing the delegates for the state congress. He disclosed that he had already written to the national leadership of the party who had sent in a delegation to look into his concerns. Following his withdrawal, Beke and Japhet Nyeomasili were left in the contest for the state APC chairmanship position.

Similarly, some APC members loyal to Senator Magnus Abe had in the run up to the congress, called for its postponement until the crisis within the party is resolved. Affirming the Beke-led team as the authentic leadership of the APC in Rivers state, Dr. Giedam said any other congress outside the one he supervised is a charade and the outcome of such cannot, and will not amount to anything as far as the national leadership of the party is concerned. “I assure you that we are determined to end all forms of impunity within the party. This is the authentic congress of the APC in Rivers state and these are the authentic state executive committee members of our party in this state,” he said.

But speaking after his inauguration, Chioma said, “We just want to clear the air, so that this press conference will settle all the dust. We (APC) held ward, local government and state congresses. For the avoidance of doubt, all those whose names were mentioned this morning bought forms, submitted forms; they are men of impeccable personalities and ladies of repute and they campaigned well as I did and we all stand as duly elected state executive officers of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”

The development has set the stage for another round of political as well as legal face- between the two camps of political gladiators. Consequently, pundits and concerned party leaders are warning that urgent steps must be taken to prevent the reoccurrence of the events that led to the exclusion of APC candidates from the 2019 general elections in the state. “This renewed crisis will not augur well for us as a party. The next general election is almost here and we ought to have learnt from our mistakes of the past,” Kennedy Igwe, a zonal youth leader of the party in the state, lamented.

APC’s interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, has also assured that the party will consider the parallel exercise in the affected states as irrelevant and uphold the congresses conducted by the committee. “The purported “parallel” Congresses are futile activities and very strange to the party, our Constitution and the guidelines for the conduct of the State and other Congresses.

“Only exercises conducted by duly inaugurated State Congress Committees are recognised by the Party. The APC leadership will not hesitate to take adequate and lawful measures against any person or interest sabotaging the collective Party’s interest and efforts to achieve peace and unity in our great party. Where contestations exist, adequate conflict resolution measures have been put in place to address them. The party has Appeal committees for every Congress,” he said.

Crossfires amidst optimism

Already, the two camps have started engaging in verbal wars over the 2023 ticket of the party. Surprisingly, both camps of gladiators are optimistic that in spite of the ongoing political war of supremacy within the party, the APC is poised to take over governance in the state. Checks by The Nation also revealed that while Senator Abe has renewed his quest for the governorship ticket of the APC ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial election, supporters of the Transportation Minister, Ameachi, are equally determined to ensure he fails in his bid.

Abe, declaring his determination to contest the governorship once again on the platform of the party, said political enemy or antagonist cannot stop his governorship aspiration. He vowed to confront all political adversities and adversaries that may come his way in his drive for the Rivers governorship ticket, come 2023.

“Those who don’t want to see me, when they hear the name Sen Abe, they cannot sleep, when they hear Abe they are worried will fail against me. You have taken congress and you are still worried. Let me assure you that even in your dream you will still see Abe. I am not going anywhere. This is Rivers state and we will play politics in Rivers. If you don’t know the rules of the game; go and learn the rules of the game,” he said.

But Chukwuemeka Eze, an ally of the Minister of Transportation, said the APC in Rivers State was better without Senator Abe. He urged Abe to stop dreaming and accept his dwindling political usefulness in the state. “It is ironic and laughable to learn that Senator Magnus Abe whose membership of the APC is a matter of question, has continued to deceive himself and some of his misguided supporters. He has removed himself from the party when he refused to renew his membership of the party,” he said.

Meanwhile, Isaac Ogbobula, a leader of the party in the state, has said he is confident that the party will take over the state in the 2023 governorship election. According to him, the party had put in place structures to reunite its members across the state. “We are confident that come 2023 election our party will be in charge of leadership because Rivers people love us,” he said. He said the party had some of its members to look into the internal problems, resolve them and move the party forward before 2023.

“The internal party issues are not unusual. There must be a contest and some measures of conflict. APC in the state is a party that nobody should ignore. It is not a paper party or a social media club or an organisation, but a political party properly registered and credible in the state. Everything that the party needed to do would be done within the context of the party for it to go forward. We therefore urge every member of our party to join hands and move it forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, Isaac Ogbobula, a leader of the party in the state, has said he is confident that the party will take over the state in the 2023 governorship election. According to him, the party had put in place structures to reunite its members across the state. “We are confident that come 2023 election our party will be in charge of leadership because Rivers people love us,” he said. He said the party had some of its members to look into the internal problems, resolve them and move the party forward before 2023.

“The internal party issues are not unusual. There must be a contest and some measures of conflict. APC in the state is a party that nobody should ignore. It is not a paper party or a social media club or an organisation, but a political party properly registered and credible in the state. Everything that the party needed to do would be done within the context of the party for it to go forward. We therefore urge every member of our party to join hands and move it forward,” he said.

Speaking on the crisis within the party, Ogbobula said Amaechi was fair when he said that the governorship position should shift from upland to the riverine area in 2023. According to the party leader, the need to rotate the governorship among the various ethnic groups in the state is a way of ensuring equity, fairness and togetherness. He lamented that some politicians are at loggerheads with the Minister over such a grand idea and assured that Amaechi remains he popular choice as party leader in Rivers APC.

In a statement meant to tell his adversaries that he has no plan to leave the party for them ahead of the 2023 general elections, Abe recently said the crisis in the Rivers APC is lingering because himself and some other politicians in the party refused to decamp when they did not agree with the decisions in the party. “Part of what has made the crisis in Rivers state intractable is that we have simply refused to do what politicians do. Anytime you are in a party and you disagree with what is going on in the party, you simply pack your bags and move on to the next party,” he said.

Speaking further, he expressed his readiness to work with Amaechi to move the party forward, provided his rights and that of others in his camp are respected. “There is nowhere in the world where every politician in a political party must be a friend to every other politician before the party run its business. It is not a personal dispute between me and the former governor and minister of transport. What I’m saying is that as members of the party, we have our rights and entitlements and if those rights and entitlement are respected in the scheme of things, the party can move forward,” Abe said.

However, another chieftain of the APC, Engineer Chukwudi Dimkpa, has assured that the party in the state is now a stronger platform for peace and unity to achieve its 2023 general elections project. Dimkpa expressed optimism over the troubled Rivers state chapter of the party saying though crisis-ridden and replete with litigations, the new leadership of the party that emerged from the congress will further unite the party and move it towards victory in 2023.

He disclosed that the congress which had over 3,000 delegates from the 23 LGAs of the state was an indication that all forces of disunity within its fold would “have no choice but bury their hatchet in the interest of Rivers People to achieve hitch-free elections come 2023. He noted that from the preparation for the congress to the day it was held at the Port-Harcourt polo field, nobody or group of persons protested or made any move to stop the process. He stressed that peace prevailed throughout the congress and elections of new executives to pilot the affairs of the party into 2023 general elections.

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