Shola Oyeyipo reviews a recent open letter from Senator Magnus Abe to former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. Both men are locked in a bitter political feud
The widening gap of political difference between the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and another notable figure in the state and in the party, Senator Magnus Abe poses many dangers to the party. The expectation from many members is that the duo will embrace peace. This is becoming impossible by the day.
Divided ambitions have pitched the former allies against each other despite belonging to the same political party. In an attempt to set the records straight over recent allegations made against him by Amaechi, Abe opted for a paid advertisement in THISDAY Newspaper of Wednesday, September 26.
The lawmaker tried to remove himself from a web of lies deliberately fabricated to demean him. He seemed unhappy that he has not been able to state his side of the story.
According to Abe in his letter to Amaechi, “I know that in the course of our disagreement, I have not had any chance to speak with you and I chose to do so now in the light of the many allegations you made against me in the presence of the National Chairman of our party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Alhaji Farouk Aliyu, a valuable friend and colleague, His Excellency, Alhaji Wamako, former Governor of Sokoto State, and Hon. Braimah, the Chief of Staff to the National Chairman.”
While he noted that he would have copied only the four aforementioned persons, he decided to make his position public because the issues raised against him were already public knowledge, though they were untrue. To be drive his message home to everyone, Abe came up with 20 bullet points he wants the people to ponder over.
Addressing Amaechi in the letter, he said: “A lot of what you said was nothing but purposeful slander. Since you released this information to the press I have no option than to make my response public.” He added that: “Let me say that I am pained beyond measure in taking this decision but having yourself brought these issues before the public, you leave me with no choice. I will constrain myself to issues you raised.”
He vowed not to allow any hint at character assassination pass without adequate response. He said, “Should any other issue about my character be raised in the public space I will respond in like manner.”
On what he said at the said meeting, Abe noted that he acknowledged what Amaechi had done for him in the past, that he was never a betrayer and that while their quarrel lasted, he never responded to Amaechi’s commentaries about him, neither did he disrespect him.
According to Abe, “In the course of our disagreement, I have tried not to respond to all the public things that you have said about me or to show you disrespect. If, however, I have done so inadvertently in any way, I am sorry, and I apologise. Throughout our relationship I have also done my best to add value to your life and your politics in any way I reasonably could and I will continue to do so.”
He however said he told the meeting that the APC should decide how best to properly conduct a primary election in which he opined that he stands a fair chance, “Since you as the leader of the party in the state has chosen to work openly against me,” stressing that “Let me assure everyone that if that is done and a candidate emerges, I will file behind the candidate of the party and contribute my own quota to its success in the polls.”
Reacting to Amaechi further, Abe said:: “Your response, rather than deal with these issues you made the following allegations which in my humble opinion were totally irrelevant to the purpose of the meeting and intended only to tarnish my reputation. I will list the allegations and respond to them.
“In responding to these allegations I will not introduce any new issue neither will I try to defend my self anymore than necessary because even if every thing you have said is true, it still does not answer the question that was at the heart of that meeting which is simply this: ‘why can’t I be allowed to participate freely in the primaries of our party?'”
Making reference to issues raised by Amaechi, he said: “You said that I arranged my associates to write a petition against you and your wife to the British Police. My response is that not only is this allegation against me false but you know it to be false. You had earlier told Governors Lalong and Bello that I, Magnus Abe, wrote the petition against you to the British Police, so your modification of your earlier allegation to now say it was my associates is an acknowledgment that your earlier position is unsustainable.
“I have never and will never go that far, whatever may be our issues, not just against you but against any other politician, neither will I allow anyone else to do it. If you have any evidence to the contrary please bring it forward and I will withdraw from the race.
“You said I was not elected by the minority party in the House of Assembly but that rather Dr Odili asked you to go and choose your team and you chose me as Minority Leader and imposed me on the House. That is not true. I was elected as Minority Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly by the minority caucus at the home of Chief Ebenezer Isokariari, our governorship candidate, in the presence of Prince Emma Anyanwu.
“Those who contested against me were Hon. Ben Horsefall, Hon Adokiye Oruwari, and Hon John Bazia. Luckily all these actors are still alive and you have their phone numbers for ease of reference. The PDP position which you referred to is, of course, false to your knowledge, because no one ran against me on the floor of the assembly as the records will show.
“You said I did not win elections in Gokana, and that Chief Victor Giadom brought out a gun and stuck it to the head of the Electoral Officer and threatened to kill him before results were changed in my favour. This is laughable. The name of the E.O. and his phone number is available. You can call him to ask if any such incident ever took place,” Abe denied.
According to him, “The issue in the Gokana election was that party leaders in some wards who promised the youth corps’ members refreshments deliberately refused to keep their word to the personnel even when they had the means to do so,” and that “In anger and frustration a lot the members of the corps started changing results or mutilating results in favour of PDP chieftains who came to take advantage of the widespread anger among the electoral personnel.”
“Even then the action was not significant and could not have affected the ultimate outcome. Yes, Chief Giadom got there and called my attention to what was going. This was the call for which I thanked Chief Giadom. It had nothing to do with guns, and before he called me several people had already called my attention to this deliberate sabotage by some of our party leaders. It is not surprising that these are the same persons that are opposed to me today.
“You said I am a serial betrayer and I betrayed Chinwe Aguma, our late Attorney- General, who was buried just a week previous to this meeting, and you also cited the case of someone standing trial for what happened during my elections that has been abandoned by me. Both stories are also false to your knowledge.
“For one, the trial relates to an incident that occurred in Port Harcourt, outside my senatorial district and it is not election related. For the other, I was shocked that you could drag the name and memory of a friend who just so recently passed away into the matter of our party politics. However, you said they should ask Igo Aguma, his younger brother who is with you and who told you that I betrayed late Chinwe. I will supply the phone number of Hon. Igo Aguma for anyone to call him and ask Igo to give the details and particulars of this betrayal for public consumption.
“Till that happens I will respect the memory of my late friend and hold my peace. Chinwe was never a pretender, and no one could have used him to settle their personal political score if he was alive.”
Contending with Amaechi further, he said: “You said I deceived you into appointing Mr. Derek Mene as Executive Director in NDDC. I did not deceive you. I merely reminded you of the promise you made to me that in the event of an APC victory in 2015 that my interest in the national government will be placed above every other interest in Rivers state including your own interest. That clearly has not been the case. It was when I reminded you of that promise that you conceded to the appointment of Mr. Mene. I do not see how making an effort to keep a promise you made voluntarily and without preconditions can be said to deceit.
“You said I am working with Governor Nyesom Wike against the party and you mentioned two things to buttress your allegation. First, you said that when people went to court to protest against the High Court ruling in the case filed by disenfranchised party members in Rivers state, Governor Wike brought the judge to the court in his car and stood behind the judge while the ruling was delivered. You quoted two senior police officers as your witnesses.
This, of course, is a lie.
“You also said that Hon. Mpigi told you that Governor Wike gave me N34 million
for my thanksgiving. This also is a lie from the pit of hell. I invited Governor Wike to my thanksgiving service for two reasons. One was because you chose to host a parallel event against me on the same day and second because I am an Anglican and my Archbishop who was to preside at the service called me and asked me in the name of God to forgive the Governor and invite him. Wike did not give me a Kobo to host the event and I have never received N34 million from Wike.
“I am convinced that even at the time you were saying that you knew that was not true. Governor Wike did not give you any money to host the Free Rivers event in Bori the headquarters of Ogoniland on the day I was holding my thanksgiving, neither did Wike take the decision to disenfranchise party members and refuse nomination forms to party members who paid money to the party to contest for positions in the congresses. To continually drag Wike’s name to the crisis created by deliberate acts of injustice to others, is nothing but a cheap smear campaign. It will surely fail.
“I was particularly sad when you told the National Chairman that I cornered all NDDC contracts in Rivers state. All contracts in NDDC are approved by the MD who is your friend. I have not cornered any contract at all from the Commission. It is on record that simple courtesies and favours extended to Niger Delta Senators including PDP senators are not extended to me. The only issue you have with the NDDC is the fact that Mr. Mene refused to lead the campaign against me in Ogoniland despite all threats and intimidation including the threat to hand him over to the EFCC.
“You said I deceived you into sacking Mrs Ibim Seminatari so I could appoint Mr Mene. This is, of course, a chronological impossibility. I was one of the defenders of Mrs Seminatari even in our meetings and the issue of Mr Mene did not come up until the new board was to be set up, in other words Mrs Seminatari was sacked by the decision to set up a new board.
“You said I am only a friend to power and I only followed you because you were powerful. Time will tell, because it is in the nature of power to move. So one day we will either leave power or power will leave us, then we will know those who follow us because we have power. When we started our political journey you did not have the power you have today. I can still remember several times when it was just me and you together during your battle to be governor, and even more so when you were fighting the power of President Goodluck Jonathan. If I were only a friend to power as you claim today, I would have moved on long ago. I have tried to live by some rules. That is why I have decided to contest for the governorship of our state even under these very difficult circumstances and against your stated decision.
“You said Chief Victor Giadom told you that I did not support you when you were in court, fighting for your mandate and you named some Ogoni leaders as those who came to tell you that the Ogoni people are not with me. I will refrain from mentioning their names here but you may make their names public if indeed they told you so. Please believe whatever is convenient for you today. It will not change anything. “
In conclusion, Abe told his friend-turned foe, Amaechi, that “I have tried to go over everything you said about me, including the fact that if the story of my life is in 10 chapters, you will occupy six of it. My challenge is that even if everything you have said is true, I still cannot find the stab in the heart to which you kept making reference that necessitated this bitter war in the party.
“The only thing I can find is the fact that I insisted on my right to contest for the ticket of our party against your stated desire. In my humble opinion that action does not constitute a stab in the heart of any true democratic leader. “