Less than two years to the 2019 governorship elections and twenty-three months to the expiration of the first tenure of incumbent governor, Nyesom Wike, opposition politics in Rivers State is already drenched in waters of hostility between players in the political field.
The interest in Wike’s job is so intensified that it is tearing the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state apart creating fears that if the issues are not resolved, the party can make any headway in the next election.
Last week, former governor and leader of the APC in the state, Chibuike Amaechi, moved to check the growing menace of fragmentation that could thwart his resolve to determine who emerges as the party’s governorship candidate in 2019.
Under the guise of restructuring the party ahead of the general elections, Amaechi who is the Minister of Transportation, dislodged some chieftains of the party perceived to be working contrary to his political calculation.
Those he moved against were chieftains of the party said to be sympathetic to the governorship ambition of Senator Magnus Abe, who represents Rivers South East senatorial district. The alleged restructuring of the party is seen by Abe’s supporters as another attempt to sabotage his governorship ambition.
The removed chieftains are the leader of the APC caucus in Port Harcourt Local Government Area and former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Worgu Boms; the leader of the APC caucus in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and former Chief of Staff, Government House, Mr. Tony Okocha; the leader of the APC caucus in Etche Local Government Area, Mr. Allwell Onyesoh, as well as the leader of the APC caucus in Ikwerre Local Government Area, Mr. Chidi Wihioka, who represents Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
It will be recalled that during a recent stakeholders meeting convened by Amaechi in Port Harcourt, he accused Abe alongside Dakuku Peterside, of heating up the polity and creating deep fissure within the party. Senator Abe’s audacious assertion that he would contest the 2019 governorship election irrespective of Amaechi’s resistance had infuriated the latter who had said at several fora that Abe won’t get the party’s ticket.
A source told The Guardian that after Abe won the Rivers South East senatorial rerun poll last year and started galvanising support for his governorship ambition, Amaechi decidedly toughened his stand against him. The recent emergence of Victor Giadom, who is Abe’s kinsman, as the Deputy National Secretary of the APC, is perceived as Amaechi’s calculated attempt to weaken Abe’s sphere of influence in the crucial Ogoni axis of the state.
To further whittle down Abe’s influence and stop him from being seen as hero of some sort, particularly in Ogoni and the state in general, his nominee as Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) project coordinator for Ogoni clean up was rejected.
Amaechi and Abe’s first political friction was in 2014, when the minister who was the sitting governor, unilaterally gave the party’s ticket to his political son, Dakuku Peterside, even when many had seen Abe as the prospective governorship candidate. Some party members had assumed that aggrieved Abe would decide never to have any political ties with Amaechi again, but they soon mended their fences. That is no longer the case.
At the weekend when the minister’s loyalists under the aegis of Conscious Reformers Assembly organised his 52nd birthday party in Port Harcourt, Abe and his supporters were conspicuously absent, an indication that the battle line is drawn.
During a public lecture organised in his honour at the weekend, Amaechi declared that ahead of 2019, he has started building his structure and those who do not want to support him are at liberty to quit the APC and form their own political party.
Undaunted by what he believes is vendetta politics against him, Okocha said it was disheartening that Amaechi had rejected the advice not to, at his whims and fancies, unilaterally impose the party’s flag bearer for the 2019 governorship election.
He said, “Wogu Boms has just been removed now as APC leader in PHALGA and he has been replaced with Nnamdi Wokekoro. Amaechie’s reason is that Wogu Boms is supporting Magnus Abe. The party has become a personal business, one-man show, it is a party that all of us sacrificed for, I myself sacrificed my life, but it won’t go the way he wants it.
“The way forward is that as party, in fact the whole essence of political party and political participation is about people using political party to advance whatever aspiration and ambition they have. A situation where somebody sits down and wants to be like Bola Tinubu in Lagos, where only him sits down and decides who will be who and who will not be what will not work here.
“He did that in 2015 against the advice of a lot of us and brought in Dakuku and up till now he is still thinking along that line. Now he is insisting that Magnus and Dakuku will not go and that he will get a neutral person, where will he get a neutral person?
“He said Magnus is so ambitious and so independent minded, invariably he is looking for a stooge, while to us the only person that is formidable that will match Wike now is somebody like Magnus, because we are looking at our future not an individual’s feature, and we said we will use Magnus to put up the fight and by divine providence, win election for us in Rivers State, that is our concern.”
The state APC Chairman, Davis Ikanya has however denied that some member of the party are been stopped or prevented from having ambition or wanting to seek any elective office. He declared no APC member would be so treated.
According to him, “We know for a fact that as a consummate democrat, our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has not and will not stop, prevent or even attempt to discourage any party member from seeking any political office, elective or otherwise.”
He explained that the APC would ensure a level-playing field for all its aspirants to any elective political office. And in accordance with the party’s rules, regulations and constitution, the party shall be fair to all and will always ensure that the process leading to the emergence of candidates for all elective political offices would be free, fair and credible.
“We are aware that our leader, the leader of the party in the state is making some changes in his personal political group, team or caucus in the state. It is his right and prerogative to make any leadership changes within his own political team, group or caucus. Amaechi created the caucus, team or group, appointed its members and leaders and so can make any changes he deems fit. This is personal group, team or caucus.
“We want to remind and appeal to all APC party members in Rivers State that we are just half way into 2017, and campaigns for the various 2019 elections are yet to commence. Therefore, this is the time to join hands, come together and work in harmony to build a stronger and better party that will defeat our opponents at the polls in 2019.”
It was gathered that attempts to have a comprehensive dialogue with all factions in APC in the APC conflict have failed. It is anticipated by some concerned party stalwarts that the national executive of the party would find a solution to the crisis between Amaechi and Abe.
But Governor Wike said in as much as he was not perturbed by the infighting and intrigued within the APC on who emerges to contest against him in 2019, the conflict has revealed the alleged despotic and megalomaniac tendencies of the minister.
He blamed Abe who he described as the engine room of Amaechi’s administration for his (Abe’s) political ordeal.The governor recalled that Amaechi had once tried to foist crisis in his local government area by appointing Okocha as his chief of staff during his second tenure in a bid to undermine him as the political leader of Obio-Akpor local government area. And because the decision didn’t go down well with him, he had told Abe after a meeting convened by Amaechi at the Governor’s lodge in Abuja, that he was severing his political ties with the then governor Amaechi. According to him, the Senator had pleaded that they should work with Amaechi.
His words, “He tried to cause crisis in my local government. When he finished, Magnus drove me to my house that evening. I told Magnus that I will no longer come to Government House. But let me tell you, you will be the victim at the end of the day. Magnus pleaded with me, saying no, this man is our man and we can trust him. I said Magnus you can go ahead, I know this man. And God has saved me. I said Magnus, bet me, you will be the one that will pay for it. The man does not like you. All of them are today in APC.
“Because Magnus has ambition to be a governor. What is wrong with somebody having ambition? What is wrong? Today, Magnus is treacherous. Today, Magnus has no character because he now has ambition. Magnus is now somebody you cannot rely on. Anybody who has ambition is treacherous. Anybody with independent opinion cannot be trusted. He is only one who can decide. See what he is doing.
“We in PDP are not afraid. We have fought with them before. Now look at the character, his own attorney general. Look at how he is rubbishing that young man who did everything for him, who today is suffering, a young man who had a bright future in the legal profession. Look at how he has finished him. Now, today he can’t trust him. Look at his chief of staff, the boy who he used in my own local government; today he has kicked him out, saying you cannot be trusted. Look at Allwell who was all out supporting him, he is suspended because he is supporting Magnus. Election has not come, so everybody must be cut down.
“This man who thinks he is Alpha and Omega, who thinks he must say a thing and it must be done, who thinks that this state belongs to him and who thinks that he will make the next governor. Look at what he was saying that the politics of this state is about him. Look at such arrogance.”
A political analyst, Dr Ibiba Tonye, said, “With Amaechi’s hostility towards Abe who is the only APC Senator from Rivers State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might still retain the lion’s share of seats in the 2019 National and State Assembly elections including even the much coveted office of the Governor of Rivers State.”He said there is no doubt that in 2019, the APC will be fighting a straight electoral battle with the PDP. The APC’s obsession with its internal crisis has made it to ignore governance Wike’s government. Of recent, according to him, the party has almost remained a silent spectator with respect to issues of governance in the State.
He observed that at this junction, it appears that relationship among APC chieftains does not matter. It is the politics of interest that matters.“What is happening in APC has been a regular feature of Rivers politics since 1999. It is therefore, the responsibilities of the party leaders to realise that despite having differing principles, they must as a matter of fact, reduce hostility to one another.
“Let’s hope that the lost in the rerun legislative polls would serve as a wakeup call for the various political gladiators in APC to exercise restraint, mend their ways, and ensure normalcy before the 2019 elections,” he said.
Similarly, another political commentator, Alfred Kabari, observed that it would be injurious for the APC to allow itself to be embroiled in internal hostility a few months to commencement of campaign for the 2019 general elections. He stressed that any wounds inflicted on individuals might not heal before and after the polls.
“It is a most disappointing fact Rivers political class for over a decade through the instrumentality of their political parties have failed to build the political culture that is accommodative and friendly. And in the absence of accommodative politics, acrimony that could be costly, takes precedence and will in turn be a snare to them.”