The leadership crisis unsettling the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State took a dive for the worse after Senator Magnus Abe-led faction inaugurated a parallel state executive at Freedom House, the campaign office set up by Abe in 2019 at GRA in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
The executives are Hon. Golden Chioma, a former member of the state House of Assembly, chairman; Mike Amakiri, deputy chairman; Inye Jack, secretary; Joy Woko, State Woman Leader; Kingsley Ibanichuka, Youth Leader, among others.
Their inauguration came barely four days after the Chibuike Amaechi-led APC conducted its own congress at the Polo Club, Port Harcourt, after which, Emeka Beke, loyalist to the Minister of Transportation, emerged as chairman, Chris Fynebone, as the publicity secretary among others.
Enraged by the development, Chris Finebone, Publicity Secretary of Amaechi’s faction, called for the immediate arrest of Abe’s exco members, describing them as impersonators.
Finebone described their action as criminal, stating that they inaugurated and exco without holding congress but just a mere press conference. He stressed that the security agents would handle the matter by arresting Chioma and his cohorts.
Finebone said, “Even as a full revalidated member of APC, I cannot address a press conference in my office and later announce to the people that I am now the state chairman of APC. They only assembled the media and said they are inaugurating the exco.
“Questions should be ask, when did they elect the executives, I cannot gather people and say, elections have been held and I have become the president of Nigeria. They gathered people and declared that they are APC exco, its wrong”.
But in a swift reaction, the chairman of Abe- led faction, Chioma said the Amaechi-led APC does not have the capacity to arrest them, stressing that his group held Ward, Local Government and State Congresses where leaders at various levels were elected.
He said, “If there is a threat of arrest, that means there will be a criminal charge, there must be an offence that has been breached. The issue here is if I am a member of APC, the answer is yes. And are they members of APC? The answer is equally yes”.
“I am a statutory member of APC, and they see me as a qualified candidate to contest the chairmanship election and that was why they kept a seat for me on Saturday, so why are they making noise?”
Asked where the congresses took place and if APC national leaders monitored it, Chioma said, “ This is party politics and not private politics; we are all politicians and we are here together, nobody is inferior to the other. We are not going anywhere again, we are here.”
However, the factional chairmen, Chioma and Beke have told the incumbent Governor, Nyesom Wike to prepare his handover note as APC is set to take over the Brick House.
Beke said he would put in his best to ensure the party clinches power and take over Rivers State Brick House in 2023.
Chioma said, “May I at this juncture, serve a notice to the Governor of Rivers State, who happens to be my classmate in the Faculty of Law. We proceeded to the Nigeria Law School, where we both obtained LLB Degrees.
“Please, prepare your handover note. You must leave in 2023. This state is so important to the Nigerian project. We cannot continue to be in the opposition.”
Stakeholders and party supporters have expressed worry that what happened in 2019 when the court barred Rivers’ APC Candidates from participating in the elections, may happen again if the national leadership fails to call the warring factions to order.
Recall that the same Amaechi and Abe’s factions conducted parallel primaries that produced two sets of excos. While Amaechi’s faction produced Tonye Cole as its governorship candidate, Abe’s produced him as its own candidate. The national Secretariat of the party was to forwarded Cole’s name as the flag bearer.
But On January 2019, A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt barred all candidates produced by the primaries of the APC in the State. The court presided by Justice Kolawole Omotosho, also restrained INEC from recognising any candidate of APC for the 2019 general elections in the State.
The Judge maintained that the Rivers APC was not going to participate in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections in 2019.
In the suit filed by Abe, Justice Kolawole Omotosho, directed INEC to remove all APC candidates from ballot papers and other electoral materials and declared the direct and indirect primaries held by the factions as illegal, null and void.
However on February 4, 2019, Amaechi’s faction challenged the decision of the High court at the Court of Appeal and secured a favoured judgment that cleared way for all APC candidates to contest the election. The ruling caused wild jubilation in the city.
But the Supreme Court on February 8,2019 nullified the ruling of the Court of Appeal which allowed APC to field candidates in Rivers State in the general elections.
The court said the appellate court failed to invoke relevant sections of the law in voiding the decision of the Federal High Court barring the party from participating in elections in the state.
The court questioned the basis upon which the appeal court reached its ruling and set the decision aside while upholding the ruling of the high court and that was how APC lost out in 2019 general elections.
After a lull, the political actors renewed their quest to control the party. Igo Aguma, a loyalist to Abe had proceeded to court to seek that the caretaker Committee brought by the National Working Committee of the party, headed by Isaac Ogbabula be voided, and that he should be declared head of the party by virtue of his position as National Delegate and statutory member of the party.
The Rivers State High Court had on June 9 2020 granted his prayers and declared him (Aguma) as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party in Rivers. However, on March 5, 2021, the Supreme Court affirmed the sack of Aguma as the CTC. The Court of Appeal had upturned the verdict of the State High Court, which declared Aguma as Chairman. The court then recognised Isaac Ogbabula, a loyalist to Amaechi as the authentic Committee leader.
Grieved by the development, on March 6, Aguma left APC and joined PDP in May 21.
Some members who are not willing to watch more drama unfolding have dumped APC for PDP.
Concerned by the development, a civil rights activist and chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights (ISSJHR), Omenazu Jackson, said, with what is still going on in APC, it is doubted if the party has responsible elders in it fold.
He warned that, it may be difficult for APC to win election without being united. Omenazu said, “With this rivalry, the possibility of winning elections in the state will be difficult and if the party at the national level does the needful and become decisive on issues like this, they can make progress but if they keep quite; it means they are not interested in winning Rivers State in 2023.”
He however, called on all politicians to moderate their actions, stating that politics is a game that is played with interest and not by people who do not have ideological positions.
“The national leaders should be straight in addressing this problem, so that the confusion in Rivers State can be solved once and for all. People are watching their conducts,” he added.
Speaking on the unfolding events a party chieftain and former governorship candidate, Tonye Princewill said, APC is the only party that can give constructive and effective opposition to the state government. He added that the Beke-led executive is capable of driving the needed change in the state.
His words: “Their success is not only APC’s success, but the success of the entire Rivers State. I know what it takes to start a good fight and this team has the full skillset.
“Good governance, which this state needs, is hinged on and begins with effective opposition. Nobody wants to compete with a leader who can be compromised. Chief Emeka Beke, like him or hate him, cannot be compromised. In politics, that is not a quality you should disregard.”
However, a political analyst and former media aide to Governor Nyesom Wike, Oraye St.Franklyn has advised Rivers people not to slavishly focus on any party but on individuals with quality leadership credentials backed by a dossier of proven track record of competence.
He said: “The Parties are truly secondary considerations. The candidates are the real primary considerations. This is why if popular parties don’t field credible candidates, the electorate, we the people, are at liberty to choose an unpopular party with credible candidates. Let’s focus on what really matters.”
He also urged the APC executive to unite the party and present the Rivers electorate with a viable alternative political platform to balance governance in the State.
While describing Beke led-exco as competent, Oraye stated; “ if he succeeds in repositioning APC in the state, it would mean that Rivers State would experience better governance and our people will be treated better; as those upon whose shoulders the government rests.”
“One thing is certain, the next House of Assembly of the state would be bipartisan at the very least, if not multi-partisan. The budget would be publicly available for scrutiny and Rivers people will have better governance,” he added.
Another APC Chieftain loyal to Abe, Chidi Wihioka said Amaechi has been pardoned for leading them astray and causing misfortunes to members since 2013.
He said Amaechi could come back and take the back seat. However, as the drama in Rivers APC continues to unfold even with the election year ticking, all eyes are open to see how the party can take over the Brick House without first healing itself.