The crisis in the Rivers State All Progressives Congress is self-inflicted and could be counterproductive, writes Anayo Okolie
The Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may box itself into a difficult corner in future elections if the current wrangling between two leading figures of the party, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who is also the leader of the party in the state, and Senator Magnus Abe, an intending governorship aspirant in the party is not addressed.
APC is an opposition party in the state after losing to the incumbent, Governor Nyeson Wike, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. There has been simmering feud between Amaechi and Abe even before the 2015 general election over the latterâ€™s governorship ambition, which has yet to receive the blessings of Amaechi.
Amaechi and Abe, used to be enviable political allies. Indeed, Abe, more than anyone else had benefitted from Amaechiâ€™s political magnanimity. From being the Secretary to the State Government under him, Amaechi sent Abe to the Senate for two terms. But in addition, Abe desires the governorship too. Although they jointly battled the PDP for the 2015 elections, the good old days appear to be finally over as the two gladiators have now come out in the open for power contest.
Observers believed that Abe might have been emboldened to confront Amaechi because Wike did it too and got away with it. Wike, like Abe, was under Amaechi and started from being made local government chairman, courtesy the magnanimity of Amaechi and rose to be his chief of staff, minister and now governor. But they parted ways shortly after he became minister.
Although the situation between Amaechi and Abe did not come as a surprise to those who had long observed that all was not well in the party, the day Amaechi chose Dakuku Peterside over Abe as governorship candidate set it off finally. He though pretended for a while, the cookies are finally crumbling now.
The problem took a new turn penultimate week, when Amaechi allegedly removed some leaders of the party loyal to Abe. Those affected included his former Chief of Staff, Chief Tony Okocha, who was removed as leader of the caucus in Obio Akpor local government area; his former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr. Worgu Boms; Chief Allwell Nyesoh, and the member representing Ikwerre/Emohua constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Chidi Wihioka. They were accused of working to install Abe as the governorship candidate of the party for the 2019 general election.
At a meeting convened at the residence of former Chairman, Local Government Commission, Chief Nnamdi Wokekoro, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, Amaechi was alleged to have openly told party stakeholders he would not endorse the 2019 governorship ambition of Abe.
Amaechi, sources said, told the gathering that as the leader of the APC in Rivers State, he would suspend any party leader supporting Abeâ€™s candidacy for 2019. Immediately, the development took place, it had sparked reactions.
Okocha, who was Amaechiâ€™s former Chief of Staff, said: â€œI was removed because I support Abe. The removal is just to confirm that APC belongs to one man. The man is turning it to his private estate.
â€œBut I am not worried because he also appointed me. The man who appoints has a right to remove. But my worry is the reason for which he was doing this; that we support Abe. He also removed the former Attorney General, Worgu Boms; the serving member of the House of Representatives and Leader of his LGA (Ikwerre), Chidi Wihioka. I am supporting Abe because I believe he has the mien, the clout and all that it takes to win election for APC,â€ Okocha adds.
Political watchers however hold the view that this is not the best time for Rivers APC to be enmeshed in self-inflicted crisis if the party desires to unseat Wike in 2019. And rather than fight Abe and his loyalists, many believe Amaechi should channel his energy to strategising on how to unseat Wike as a united house.
Observers hold the view that Amaechi and Abe had come a long way since the Peter Odili administration and need not allow mere political interest to affect their relationship. While Amaechi held firmly the state assembly for Odili, Abe was his commissioner for information. The two men have hitherto remained brothers. Abe was with Amaechi throughout the battle to succeed Odili and when Amaechi succeeded, Abe was appointed Secretary to the State Government.
Amaechi also played an important role in Abeâ€™s re-election to the Senate last year. With the 2019 fast approaching, they both need each other to actualise the collective dream.
A chieftain of the party, Comrade Timi Frank, who was also not comfortable with the development, said if nothing was done urgently to resolve the ongoing disagreement between Amaechi and Abe over the 2019 election, the destruction of the state chapter may soon be in sight and called on APC national leaders to urgently resolve the impasse.
â€œOur leaders need to be proactive in resolving some of these crises. What is happening in Kogi, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kano and many other states today is as a result of lack of capacity by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) under Chief John Oyegun, which I have always warned about. That of Kogi State has started claiming lives of people. We will need their votes tomorrow. Therefore, Rivers State should not join the league of crisis bedeviled APC state chapters, when we can urgently call the political gladiators involved to order.â€
Frank urged Ameachi, who is the leader of APC in Rivers State, to allow internal democracy to thrive and follow due process if any of the caucus members is to be removed as alleged, saying, â€œthe era of imposition is far gone.
â€œI believe that it is only God that can give power and not man, despite the power tussles. The imposition that has destroyed other parties should not be allowed in APC, not only in Rivers but across the country. The popular candidate must be allowed to fly our flag if we are truly practicing democracy.â€
But in spite of the obvious crisis in the Rivers APC, the state Chairman of the part, Dr. Davies Ikanya, has insisted that there was no crisis in the party. According to him, changes announced by Amaechi did not affect the structure of the party at any level in the state. He said the caucuses were the political platform of Amaechi, so he had the powers to determine who held what position there.
His words: â€œAll members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership in Rivers State are intact. From our ward officers to State party executives, no one has been removed or suspended from office. We are aware that our leader, the leader of the party in the state, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, 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 political team, group or caucus.â€
Ikanya, however, assured that the party would create a level playing field for all aspirants on its platform in 2019.
No doubt, the success of the party in 2019 general would be determined largely by how Amaechi, who is the leader of the party in the state, is able to manage the many tendencies in the party. And of course, members of the opposition PDP are equally watching with keen interest to capitalise on possible fallout of APC mistakes for the re-election of Wike, even though the crisis in the PDP is even more defining than that of the APC.