After a lull, the two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, led by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and his erstwhile ally, Senator Magnus Abe, are back in their trenches for yet another protracted war over planned congresses. The fresh crisis stems from the inauguration of a five-man caretaker committee led by Isaac Ogbobula, and announcement of dates to conduct ward, local government and state congresses in Rivers state by the APC National Working Committee (NWC).
While the inauguration of the Ogbobula committee and planned congress, which on face value appear to be an important step forward, the move fell short of achieving reconciliation and restoring peace and sanity to a highly fragmented and deeply divided APC in Rivers State. Early signs that full scale hostilities would soon resume between factions, occurred when Amaechi, shortly after he was sworn in as minister announced to his supporters at a reception in Abuja, to go home and begin to prepare for congresses as part of efforts to rebuild and reposition the party in Rivers.
Just last week, the NWC, through the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, announced appointment of a five-man committee comprising of Ogbobula as chairman, with Baridon Badom (secretary). Other members are Friday Kinika Owhor, Beatrice Amobi and Prince Stephen. They are to oversee the party’s affairs ahead of the forthcoming congresses from September 17 to 28.
While the NWC may have exercised its inherent powers to inaugurate a caretaker committee, its failure to implement a genuine and comprehensive peace-building strategy to normalize relations between Amaechi and Abe, which is crucial for stability of the APC in the state, has instead widen the rift in the party. At a stakeholders meeting to review the NWC decision setting up the caretaker committee to organize congresses, Abe said as a member of the party, he was bound to follow properly issued directives. Hear Abe in his own words: “A few days ago, when the ministers were sworn in and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, announced that there will be congress in Rivers State on the 17th September and that everybody should go and prepare for congress and that only those who deliver in the congress will get something. I was amazed and amused. And I responded then as an individual that I am not aware that he has power to announce the date of congress”
“I’m not also aware that anybody has been consulted to determine the way forward for the party. And I am not aware that any of the issues that are outstanding in the state as far as the APC is concerned has been addressed. But a few weeks later the national publicity secretary of the party repeated the same announcement with the same date. In other words, concurring what the minister had decreed for the party. And I decided that this was now a serious matter because names of caretaker committee members were announced,” said Abe.
Considering that a huge amount of time and energy was spent on litigation instead peace-building initiatives between 2018 and 2019, Abe reckoned that the party is once again in a very difficult and predictable situation. And rather than the captains of the party in the NWC steering the Rivers APC onto rocks, efforts should be made to reconcile various adversaries in the party.
“Like I advised the last time, we are in a pit and we should stop digging. But we need to graciously, conscientiously and sincerely look for a way to make sure that the party in the state is genuinely rebuilt in a manner that it will not become a social club. Because any political party that does not enjoy the confidence of the population; any political party that does not enjoy the support of the people, any political party that cannot guarantee the involvement and confidence of its members in a united manner is a mere social club,” he asserted.
A chieftain of the party, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Worgu Boms, has expressed disenchantment with seemingly hegemonic politics in the APC, and has vowed to do everything and anything that he can in a civilize way to show he opposes the way things are being done. Boms said he had erroneously assumed the party had learnt a bitter lesson from the crisis that plagued it, which eventually culminated in its exclusion from the 2019 general elections in Rivers State. Regrettably, he said the APC, appears set to demonstrate it has a penchant not to do anything well.
“They put together a group of persons (caretaker committee) and say these ones will settle the whole party. How can I be quarreling with you and you go and call your people to settle between you and I? You should have told me so that we put together a system. Nelson Mandela said nobody negotiates after victory. For me, I will never accept that after all that happened, when you put your people in the party as chairman, secretary, you will now call me for peace. Which peace? You should have done that before,” he said.
A House of Representatives aspirant in 2019, Kingsley Ibani Chuka, said it was disheartening that the national Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, who while the crisis in Rivers State was unfolding claimed he inherited it from predecessor, has on his part failed to broker dialogue between the Amaechi and Abe faction to agree on a way forwards. Ironically, he said the Oshiomhole leadership has by its action created new divisions.
Now, rather than start all over under his leadership to put this party together, himself and his leadership want to deepen the crisis of APC in Rivers State. I feel that the national party is not interested in Rivers APC. They are not interested in winning election. I am not interested in being in a party and sitting down in the name of a party. We must tell the national party they are at war with us, not any faction of APC in Rivers state.”
Chuku warned that it will be catastrophic for the Oshiomhole leadership to continue to act either by conspiracy to favor the Amaechi faction. He insisted that attempt by the Amaechi faction to adopt the African Action Congress governorship candidate, Biokpomabo Awara, on the assumption that they alone could pose real challenge to the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Nyesom Wike, and tilt the balance of political power in State, turned out catastrophic.
“I say that just to prove that in the last election, they attempted to adopt candidate in other parties. If none is known, at least Mr. Awara of AAC is known. Awara was adopted and that faction under Chibuike Amaechi led that war to deliver him, they failed woefully. That shows that faction does not have capacity to win election in Rivers state,” he said.
A former of House of Representatives member, Chidi Wihioka said the composition of the caretaker committee is alien to the APC Constitution. He noted that rather than take responsibility to rein in warring factions, the NWC has succeeded in spurring the Amaechi and Abe factions to once again entrench themselves into their respective positions and are unable to move forward.
“In the National Executive Committee, it was agreed in 2017 that in any state where they were not able to conduct congresses, that existing officers should remain in office. It is on record, it is in their record. Now, they have set up caretaker committee that is not in our constitution. And we call ourselves law-abiding party that is leading the country. We should be ashamed of ourselves at the national level. That caretaker committee is not for Rivers State,” he said.
A political commentator, Eugene Abels said it was obvious that the APC has not learnt any lessons. He wondered what was difficult in reconciliation and harmonization that will allow the factions to share offices in the State Executive Council of the party. But a former publicity secretary of the party, Chris Finebone said the best that can be done at the moment is to avail all party members a level playing field during the congresses. “Reconciliation or sharing offices? So every leader turns up to ask for his/her share of offices. Where will that stop? The biggest reconciliation is giving everyone a level playing field and not anyone expecting to be allocated offices. People should go and buy forms to contest. That is the best reconciliation under the present circumstances. If you can’t muster 10percent in any of our 319 Wards then you interpret reconciliation to mean having to be allocated slots,” he said.
Amaechi, who is accused of singlehandedly nominating all caretaker committee members, said Abe is exhibiting apprehension for the forthcoming congresses. “I addressed my supporters to go home and prepare for congresses, I didn’t give them any date and time, and those are the responsibility of the national secretariat. Senator Magnus Abe has no reason to be afraid of congresses; he should tell his supporters to also prepare for congresses of the party in the state since he says he is very popular. A popular politician should be very happy anytime congress is on the table,” said Amaechi.
The man who was chairman of Abe’s faction of the APC, Peter Odike, but abruptly defected to the Amaechi’s camp last Wednesday has lauded the NWC on the decision to settle the crisis of the party in the state through the appointment of Ogbogbula. “I wish therefore to advise the committee that the task before them demands that they be fair, democratic and firm in the discharge of their duty. The public may be reminded that our position has always been to open the democratic space for all eligible members to participate. Posterity will hold the committee responsible if they fail to do so. May I therefore urge all APC members to embrace this opportunity that has been provided in order for us to be the formidable party that we all yearn for,” he said.
Already, the party has started the sales of intent forms for all those interested to occupy leadership positions in the party at the secretariat of the party loyal to the Minister. Meanwhile, Abe’s faction has once again filed another lawsuit to challenge the conduct of the planned congresses. A supporter of the minister, Chukwuemeka Eze, has accused Abe of plotting to scuttle this latest strategy by the national leadership of the party to put to final rest the needless crisis in the party. “This decision by Abe and his group, threatening not to participate in the congresses, finally exposes them not only as enemies of the party, but agents in the hands of those that don’t mean good for the party,” he said.
Political observers believe that so long as the gladiators in both sides of the divide in the Rivers APC remain blind by their ego trip and fail to take into cognizance the consequences of not seeking amicable resolution of their troubles, the electorate will not take the party serious.