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Rivers APC 2019 Guber: A critical examination of forces and factors at play, By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

By News Express on 19/07/2018

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•Rivers APC Leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi
•Rivers APC Leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi

Preamble 

In 2014, Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the undisputable leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Niger Delta region and incumbent Minster of Transportation, reiterated: “You see, there are two Nigerians from Rivers State that I respect their level of intelligence - they are Senator Magnus Abe and Odien Ajumogobia.” And by 2018, he stated: “I know Abe is a Senator. But I also know that he is fraternising with my political enemies. If Abe likes, let him come to Rivers State with the leadership of the National Assembly or that of the APC. I, Amaechi, will not support him for governor in 2019.”

What could have caused these two great allies to be at daggers drawn? That is one of the major aims of this treatise.

In carrying out this onerous task, I must confess that I have done over 155 articles on the politics of Rivers State, from 2007 to 2018. But, today, I am embarking upon this article in a way that even the devil would dread to handle. An article that will expose the genesis, the forces and factors to determine who becomes the standard-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 gubernatorial election in Rivers State. Such a candidate, no matter the conjectures and calculations, will take over the Brick House (Rivers State Government House) come May 29, 2019. This article, therefor, is principally aimed to critically examine the characters, their intentions and the consequences of their actions and inactions, as far the ticket of APC is concerned. 

Close watchers of Rivers State politics could have observed the efforts, abuses, plots and scheming going on, to ensure that if the ticket of the APC does not go to a particular candidate, then the party will be frustrated or stopped from presenting any candidate for the 2019 gubernatorial polls. In this regard, a lot of postulations have been pushed to the public domain. I decided to intervene because if the facts are not properly presented, the public will continue to grope in the dark regarding the politics of Rivers State. This attempt will also give a clue as to how the battle for the soul of Rivers State APC actually started and how great allies have become great opponents ready to ensure that either Rivers State APC remains strong, or is weakened, before the 2019 general elections.

In short, this treatise will be centred on the current plot to destroy Amaechi and dismantle his political structure by the combined forces of his former political associates and allies. It is a study of political survival, manoeuvre, sagacity and, most importantly, study in the acts and arts of betrayal.

Having spent time for many years with the major characters in this macabre dance, I must reiterate that I consider it imperative to avoid keeping the world in the dark as to the happenings in Rivers State. I consider it necessary to discuss the embarrassing and avoidable current political situation in Rivers State and probably proffer a way out of the quagmire, not minding the dire consequences.  

For proper understanding of the major issue(s) at stake, the need of presenting the key actors in this macabre dance becomes imperative at this juncture. 

Contending characters

1. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi

A Nigerian of Ikwerre extraction and an international figure of repute; a humanist, an administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, respected; a pragmatist and exemplary leader. And, by the grace of God, he is the undisputable leader of the APC in the South-south region of Nigeria. An alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt, Amaechi was Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999-2007; chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015) and two-time chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum from 2011 to 2015. A recipient of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and an Associate, Fellow of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Geneva, Switzerland. He is currently, the Federal Minister of Transportation, and major target of the ongoing macabre dance in Rivers State.

2. Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike

Chief Nyesom Wike is an indigene of Rumuwike, Ikwerre, and a lawyer by profession. He is a political tactician and a strategist of the first order. He was the national president of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), from 2003 – 2006: the umbrella forum through which all the 774 local government chairmen in Nigeria interface and interact on issues affecting the politics and policies of Nigeria, while from 1999-2007 he was the executive chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, an office he used to redefine and exhibit his special brand of governance. Wike is ardent in grassroots mobilisation. Former chief of staff to Governor Amaechi from 2007 to 2011, before he was ex-President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him Minister of State for Education. Currently, he is the Executive Governor of Rivers State and one of the main Pillars of PDP, both in Rivers State and at the national level.

As director-general of the campaign team that executed, successfully, the second bid of Amaechi to the Rivers State Government House, it will be assiduously on his side to come out from this dance unscathed, no matter how hard he tries. How far he can go in this his latest move will be determined in future. 

He is at the centre of the macabre dance currently going on in Rivers State, aimed at destroying Amaechi and the APC, both at the state and the national level. How far he will go will be determined in few months.

3. Senator Magnus Ngei Abe

Distinguished Senator Magnus Abe joined active politics in 1999, and was elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly where he served as Minority Leader, and later served as commissioner of information from 2003-2007: he excelled as the best Commissioner for Information ever from Rivers State. Under the administration of Rotimi Amaechi, he was appointed Secretary to the State Government. He later resigned to join the race for the position of a senator, representing Rivers South-east Senatorial District. He was re-elected as a senator, after a very fierce battle.

His aspiration to govern Rivers State come 2019 is the centre of the crisis engulfing the Rivers State chapter of APC 

4. Senator Andrew Uchendu 

Andrew Igbonule Uchendu is an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) and recipient of the 1992 National Productivity Merit Award. This award is the highest honour that can be conferred on any worker in the public service in Nigeria. Uchendu disengaged from the services of Risonpalm (September 1993) where he distinguished himself; and, in 1994, Ogbakor Ikwerre Cultural Organisation drafted him into politics, thus, becoming the first Ikwerre man to be so honoured by his people. He represented Emohua, Ikwerre and Obio/Akpor LGAs in the 1994/1995 National Constitutional Conference. He fought with other compatriots in Ikwerre, to ensure that the Ikwerre ethnic nationality was not split into two separate proposed states during the conference. He has since then been in active politics. From 2003 to May 28, 2015, he represented the Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency.

During his tenure as a Member of the House of Representatives, he sponsored three fundamental bills, namely: Standard tendering procedure for the award of contracts in the Public Service, (popularly known as Due Process), the National Youth Development Programme, and the Amendment to the Petroleum Technology Development Fund Act. From 2007-2011, he served as chairman of the South-south Parliamentary Caucus and is presently the Chairman, Committee on Public Service Matters.

He is currently representing Rivers East Senatorial District. 

5. Dakuku Adolphus Peterside 

Dakuku Peterside, one of the most educated politicians from Rivers State and an alumnus of University of Port Harcourt; Georgia State University, Atlanta, US and Harvard-Kennedy School, Harvard University, where he was an outstanding student  union leader. 

He was elected to represent Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, 2011-2015. While in the lower chamber, he served as chairman of the Petroleum Resources (Downstream) Committee. He also served in the most important committees, such as Anti-corruption; National Ethics and Values; Drugs, Narcotics and Financial crimes; Cooperation and integration in Africa, Electoral matters; Industry; Communications and Works.

Prior to being elected into the House of Representatives, Peterside  served twice as Rivers State Commissioner for Works (2007-2011), where he anchored Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s phenomenal transformation of roads and infrastructural landscape

He was the Rivers State All Progressives Congress’s governorship candidate in the 2015 general elections. He is currently the Director-General of NIMASA and first Nigerian to head the African Maritime Industry; a member of Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM), fellow of Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria (IMCN) and, member, Institute of Medical Laboratory Sciences of Nigeria. 

6. Ambassador Oji Nyimenuate Ngofa

Nyimenuate Ngofa is the son of no-nonsense Chief Ngofa, who was a renowned teacher, unionist, politician and onetime state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), who was later appointed the commissioner for education in Rivers State.

Oji Ngofa graduated from the University of Calabar with Bachelor of Arts in English and Literary Studies, with emphasis in Comparative Literature in 1991. He later added a Post-Graduate Diploma in International Affairs in 2000 from the University of Port Harcourt. 

On the political sphere, Ngofa’s name has become a brand in Eleme in particular and Rivers State in general, since his nomination by the Peoples Democratic Party as its chairmanship candidate, including this election and subsequent swearing-in as the executive chairman on April 25, 2008. He has within six years in office initiated, constructed and commissioned several landmark projects, which have changed the aesthetic landscape of Eleme.

Ngofa’s brilliant performance as council chairman led to his election as three-time Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area is, of course, a record, as it broke the age-long jinx that nobody in Eleme was allowed to run for a second tenure in office, despite his performance in office.

He held office as vice-chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Rivers State, until his second tenure as Eleme Council chairman elapsed in May 2014. His superlative performance was seen by Governor Chibuike Amaechi who graciously re-appointed and swore him into office as chairman of Caretaker Committee, Eleme Local Government Area, on 31, May 2014 and subsequently elected as the state chairman of ALGON.  

Like a golden fish that has no place to hide, amidst hearty cheers and great relish, he was elected the deputy national secretary of the All Progressives Congress, at its first national convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Saturday June 14, 2014. 

On July 14, 2018, he became the first Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands to host his visiting head of state, when he hosted President Muhammadu Buhari, who was on a state visit to the Netherlands. 

Hon. Oji Nyimenuate Ngofa, is an orator, a speaker, speechwriter, grassroots mobiliser and, is currently, the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Netherlands.

7. Senator Wilson Ake 

Wilson Ake is a two-term Senator that represented Rivers West. He hails from Erima town in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area.

8. Chidi Frank Wehioka 

Elder Chidi Wehioka is a former political leader of APC in Ikwerre LGA and a popular son of Elele. A graduate of Rivers State Science and Technology, Port Harcourt and onetime lecturer in the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Wehioka cut his political teeth in 1999 as a protégé of then governor, Dr Peter Odili. A kitchen cabinet member of Amaechi’s administration and a political warlord and strategist of note, Wehioka was elected member of the House of Representatives under the platform of APC. He represents Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency.

9. Barry Barinada Mpigi

Hon Barry Mpigi is a member of the House of Representatives, representing Tai/Oyigbo/Eleme Federal Constituency. First elected in 2011, he was re-elected to a second term in December 2016. So far as Tai area is concerned politically, he is the commander-in-chief.

10.  Allwell Onyesoh 

Chief Allwell Onyesoh is a seasoned political activist with a strong pedigree in supporting a winning governorship candidate. He proved his mettle in 1998/1999 when he joined forces with Peter Odili against the then-popular Sergeant Chidi Awuse of the Peoples Democratic Party. Dr Odili finally won the governorship election in 1999. Onyesoh immediately turned around successfully the Restoration Family, a political pressure group of Peter Odili, that later metamorphosed into PDP. He was appointed commissioner for education 1999-2003 and commissioner for sports from 2003 to 2007. When, in 2007, he put his neck for Amaechi’s governorship candidature as against the popular PDP substitution with Amaechi’s first cousin, Celestine Omehia, a lawyer. At the end of the legal challenge, it was Amaechi’s Supreme Court Victory that instantly made Chief Onyesoh a political juggernaut. He earned an appointment as chairman of Senior Secondary Schools Management Board, to which he performed creditably and made Amaechi’s school revolution a legacy project in Rivers State history. Today, Onyesoh is behind the governorship aspiration of Senator Abe. And he has joined hands with other political pressure groups to actualise the desired objective. 

11. Tony Chidugan Okocha 

Chief Tony Okocha, a master’s degree holder in Philosophy from the University of Port Harcourt, is a political strategist of note. The Rumuigbo in Obio/Akpor LGA strong-man was a member of the kitchen cabinet of erstwhilegovernment of Amaechi. He was the political leader of Obio-Akpor. He was the immediate past chief of staff to Amaechi and one-time chairman, Care-taker Committee of Obio/Akpor LGA, one of the richest and most populous local governments in the country. 

Now that the major characters in the ongoing macabre dance of determining who flies the flag of the APC come 2019 are presented, I will now present the issues and how it plays out. 

The Bond amongst These Great Political Strategists 

Apart from Amaechi, who is the major target of the ongoing self-ignited crisis and, excluding Peterside, who is also the second major target; Uchendu and Oji Ngofa are bonded with Amaechi. It is an undeniable fact that all these other great minds - Wike, Abe, Ake, Wehioka, Allwell Onyesoh, Mpigi, Okoroacha and others - are bonded on how to ensure that Amaechi’s relevance in the politics of Rivers State is whittled down. Today, this great and onetime political strategists of Rotimi Amaechi have all teamed up to destroy not only the person but the political structure of their erstwhile ally and political leader, in pursuit of the obvious elusive gubernatorial vision of Abe.

These great leaders and generals in their various political enclaves have assisted Amaechi in his political journey and Amaechi has played pivotal roles in their political journey as well.

Genesis of the struggle

To some onlookers, the struggle for the realisation of the gubernatorial aspiration of Senator Abe that ignited the current crisis in the Rivers State chapter started when the Rivers State leader visited Magnus in his Abuja residence and asked him to step down his gubernatorial ambition and assist in rebuilding the party.

Abe recalled: “The truth of the matter is that the Minister of Transportation, Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi came to my residence in Abuja on the 29th December 2016, few weeks after the rerun elections; for what I initially thought was a normal visit. My entire family received him with much joy. After some chit-chats, he asked to speak with me in the presence of my wife. He then disclosed that the real reason he came was that he had heard from two very important Nigerians that I was interested in running for the governorship of Rivers State in 2019, and he came to warn me not to dare it.”

Since after the above incident, Amaechi has come under severe attacks and castigation, particularly in the social media by most of Abe’s Media Team and associates. Apart from Senator Uchendu and few others that occasionally try to defend and present the side of Amaechi, other APC leaders were just watching as Amaechi was being disparaged and reduced almost to nothing on a daily basis, because of his stand on rebuilding the party before any member of the party should start canvassing for support in his or her governorship aspiration. 

But the above scenario is actually not the genesis of the struggle for the realisation of Abe’s gubernatorial aspiration that has kept the party divided and weakened.

The truth of the matter is that this struggle and division of APC along Abe and Dakuku started as far back as 2014. Records show that ahead of the 2015 elections, Abe was said to have buckled to the supremacy of the ex-governor, Rotimi Amaechi, albeit grudgingly when Peterside was chosen as the governorship candidate. The disaffection created by that situation was believed to have, in part, deepened the setbacks which resulted in the failure of the party to win the governorship contest. Ahead of the 2019 governorship contest, Abe’s body language suggests that he is not prepared to acquiesce to Amaechi’s superiority this time.

His insistence on pursuing his gubernatorial aspiration without the support and approval of the Rivers State APC Leader Amaechi, is the major cause of the situation of things in the Rivers State chapter of APC today.

How and why was Dakuku chosen ahead of Abe? 

Throwing light on how Peterside emerged as a consensus candidate to fly the APC flag during the 2015 general elections, the then party chairman, Dr Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, said: “Rivers State APC was divinely set up to address three principal injustices visited on some sections of Rivers State. One of them is addressing the unjust situation of the Riverine areas of the state not occupying the seat of power since 1999, after the eight years of Dr Peter Odili and the eight years of the incumbent governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi – all from the upland section of the state. The second injustice is that of the Ogoni, a key tribe of the state, not producing a governor, deputy governor or Speaker of the State House of Assembly since the creation of the state, as far back as 1970. The last injustice is that of the South-east Senatorial zone not producing the governor since the creation of the state: Rivers East produced Dr Odili while Rivers West produced Governor Amaechi, leaving the South-East in the cooler all these years.”

Ikanya further stated that addressing these three major issues at the same time was a hectic task for the leadership of Rivers State APC. And, being a human organisation, it will be too much of a demand to achieve these three major goals at the same time. Therefore, in the wisdom of the party leadership, they achieved two of the three goals by conceding power to the South-East Senatorial zone and also resolved to shift power from the upland to the riverine area of the state. This zone presented four leaders in the persons of Abe, who is representing the zone in the upper chambers of the National Assembly, Engr Tele Ikuru, the then Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Peterside and George Feyi, the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government, among others. Any of them so chosen will still defeat whatever any other party may present in the 2015 elections, but in every given contest, one person must emerge and when the party decided to address the riverine issue Chief Dakuku Peterside from the riverine area of Opobo/Nkoro LGA, member of the House of Representatives, who is a symbol of unity of both to the Ogoni people and the riverine and upland sections of the state, becomes the general acceptance to fly the flag of APC in the 2015 gubernatorial election of Rivers State.

This did not go down well with Abe and his camp 

Three days after the election of Dakuku to fly the flag of APC, some youths were mobilised against his candidature. Reacting to the protest against his nomination by some youths said to be from Ogoni land, Peterside said: “I heard that some 150 young men and women were at the Government House, Port Harcourt, three days ago. Ogoni people love me and are very hospitable. I grew up in Ogoni where I spent over 10 years. I still have many childhood friends from Ogoni. The protesters are not Ogoni, but people from other political parties, who want to cause confusion. The opposition parties sponsored the 150 youths to protest. It is nothing to worry about. I was at the forefront of Ogoni struggle in 1990, when the Ogoni Bill of Rights was put in place.

Ogoni people are peace-loving and not violent. It was when I was Rivers Commissioner for Works that most of the roads in Bori (traditional headquarters of Ogoniland) were tarred. 

“I will continue to protect Ogoni interest. Distinguished Senator Magnus Abe is my brother and friend and we have had useful discussions. APC in Rivers State cannot be in reverse gear. We will place emphasis on equity, justice and fairness. We will ensure inclusive government. Everybody will be carried along. I am an Ijaw, but I will be the governor of Rivers State. We can together build a greater Rivers State.” 

This persuasion by Peterside makes no impact on Abe and his team, as they have already resolved on how to ensure that he never merits the Brick House. We enter the battle to wrestle power with a seasoned political warlord and strategist like Wike with a divided house while pretending to be working together. The consequences of such unfortunate division are what most of us are still suffering

How they played on the innocence of Peterside 

After the elections, they came together and succeeded to influence Dakuku of the need for him to foot their tribunal cases, which he obliged. What later happened is in the public domain.

A strategy that undermined Dakuku’s chance in 2015 adopted 

Abe’s camp adopted a strategy with 2019 general election in mind. In their calculation, if Peterside wins the 2015 general elections, then he will ask for the second term come 2019; so, the best option is to whittle his chances in 2015 gubernatorial election so that Abe will still have a chance to contest come 2019. To achieve this, they collected all the necessary tools to mobilise our people in their villages and wards and kept them in their hotels in Port Harcourt, until after the declaration of Governor Wike as the governor-elect, thereby leaving most of our people at the mercy of Wike and his boys. They came back to Port Harcourt to collect their tools and to celebrate the success of the first stage of their plot.

If we critically observe the calibre of persons in league with Abe - Senator Ake, Elder Wehioka, Allwell Onyesoh, Barry Mpigi, Chief Okocha, etc. - these are people you can’t see Amaechi without recourse to them and these are people that can match Wike in any type of political game he can think of: but, what happened they all lost at their various catchment areas in the gubernatorial election, except Ngofa who stood his ground and marched Wike to his type of game and got him thrashed in all the polls at Eleme.

Funny enough, the same group resurfaced by 2016 to set up the second stage of their plot - canvass for the gubernatorial ticket of Abe, thinking that Amaechi will be intimidated by their regrouping. It was Amaechi’s refusal to buy into the plans that made them go public and team up with Wike, who is very keen and interested in any project that will undermine Amaechi and his political structure.

Steps Amaechi Took

When Amaechi saw the danger and pronounced division and struggle for power and relevance between the camps of Abe and Dakuku as a result of the nomination of the latter as the consensus candidate, he cut short his national assignment as the director-general of the presidential campaign team of then Gen Muhammadu Buhari, to address the stakeholders, elders and leaders of the party at the council chamber of Government House. He used the opportunity to caution, with the strongest words, Dakuku’s camp over what he termed overzealousness and neglect of the Abe’s camp. He pleaded to us all that he is just sure of succeeding to get the presidential ticket of APC for Buhari and getting him elected as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; but will he be able to carry all of us along if we lose Rivers State. He pleaded with all and sundry to unite and ensure that we win the Rivers State Government, so that none of us will be neglected.

We reassured him of our collective resolve to work as a team, to deliver the state accordingly. 

Why Wike’s involvement 

Not minding the thinking of anybody, Wike is a political strategist who knows the implications and the dangers ahead of him should APC capture Rivers State. But, if he fails, two options await him - either to go on exile or prepare himself for s long stay in any of the maximum prisons in Nigeria. To avoid any of these deadly options, he embarks on any plot that can destroy Amaechi, knowing very well that if he is destroyed, APC, both at the state and the centre, will be weak to constitute a problem to his political empire. He sees Abe as an easy prey and capitalised on his plot to assist him destabilise both Amaechi and the party.

Implications 

Senator Abe is one of the best brains in Rivers State politically, so no one can deny him the fact that he doesn’t know what he is currently doing. He is fully aware that with the situation of things and assuming that he succeeds to secure the APC ticket and, with Wike as the PDP candidate, he has no chance in the 2019 polls. I said, assuming, he secures the APC ticket: but the truth is that he is aware that he will not succeed if all the damages his boys have inflicted on both the leaders of the party and the party itself are anything to go by.

Abe is a personal friend whom for whom I have too much respect, but how he survives the macabre dance he has initiated can only be determined by God.

Conclusion  

Facts are sacrosanct! And, I have to let this out, based on what Abe and his team continue to dish out to the public on daily basis, disparaging and ridiculing both Amaechi and Dakuku and making them to be wrongly judged and assessed by the public.

By January 2019, I will be 61 and if at this age I continue to hoard the truth then I don’t merit such an age. Whoever that doubts these facts presented is free to contact those mentioned or close watchers of the politics of Rivers State. 

•Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt. He can be reached on  ezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com.

Source News Express

Posted 19/07/2018 5:11:39 PM

 

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