Rivers: APC crisis deepens as Amaechi, Abe intensify battle

Posted by News Express | 19 July 2020 | 1,602 times

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•Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe


By VICTOR EDOZIE, Port Harcourt

The political battle between Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe over who controls the administrative structure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, once again came to public glare in March, 2020 when a High Court in Port Harcourt, presided over by Justice George Omeriji, declared a former House of Representatives member and strong supporter of Abe, Igo Aguma, the chairman of the party.

In the past, Amaechi and Abe had enjoyed a strong political relationship. The duo had been of immense benefits to each other in their rise to political stardom. Their relationship spanned over a decade and dates back to 1999 when both of them, although in different political parties, were in the state House of Assembly.

While Amaechi presided over the House as speaker, Abe was the minority leader of his party, the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Their relationship continued still 2007 when Amaechi was denied the party’s ticket to contest the governorship election over former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘k-leg’ theory.

Abe stood behind Amaechi throughout his political trails, and when the later regained his mandate, he compensated his friend with the position of secretary to the state government. Senator Abe later moved on to a higher political position and won the Rivers South- East senatorial election through the instrumentality of Amaechi.

But the once political partners later went their separate ways as a result of unresolved issues arising from the party’s ward congresses. The cold war started in 2018. Abe claimed that many of his supporters who bought forms for various positions for the congress were disenfranchised.

While Amaechi backed Tonye Cole to clinch the party’s governorship ticket in the 2019 governorship election in the state, Abe claimed that he was the party’s authentic governorship candidate, having scored the highest votes in a primary conducted by his faction.

The two political gladiators were later locked in a protracted legal battle that denied the party the opportunity to field candidates in governorship, national and state assembly elections. Since then, they engaged in cold battle until the court recently resurrected their bitter political feud.  The court had ruled that the party should allow  members of the party loyal to Senator Abe who purchased forms for the congresses of the party in 2018 to take part in the process.

Justice Omereji gave the ruling in two separate suits instituted by Dele Moses, 9 others and Igo Aguma, a chieftain of the party, on different matters. Aguma, who represented Port Harcourt Constituency 1 in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011 and believed to be sympathetic to Abe, had prayed the court to declare the caretaker committee brought by the National Working Committee of the party, headed by Isaac Abbot Ogbobula, as void, and give him the right to sit over the affairs of the party in the state by virtue of his position as a national delegate and statutory member.

Justice Omereji, in his judgement after the submissions of the claimant’s counsel, Echezona Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), declared that there was a case of injustice and violation of the civil right of the applicant.

He added that defendants in the case did not provide any evidence to show that Aguma did not exhaust all the avenues in the party before approaching the court. The judge noted that the claimant, being a former member of the House of Representatives, met the requirements of a statutory member.

The National Working Committee of the party had inaugurated the Abogula caretaker committee to spearhead its affairs in the state, pending the constitution of an administrative structure. Shortly after the court judgement, Aguma told reporters that the ruling had given the party the opportunity to make peace, adding that it was bigger than individuals.

As a step towards the reconciliation of all the warring parties in the protracted crisis in the party, Aguma, on Saturday, March 13, 2020, invited 32 members to a virtual meeting, where he claimed they would address all the lingering issues and chat a way forward.

Those invited to the meeting were Minister Amaechi; Dr Dakuku Peterside, the immediate past director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Senator Abe; Chief Rufus Ada Goerge, a former governor of the state; Chief Chibudom Nwuche, a former deputy speaker the House of Representatives; Lasbery Amadi, a former member of the House of Reps.

Others were Emma Deeyah, a former member of the House of Representatives; Dawari  Goerge, a former executive director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Ogbonna Nwuke, a former member of the House of Reps; Leyii Kwanee, a former deputy speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly; Chidi Lloyd, a former leader, Rivers State House of Assembly; Ike Chiwo, a former member of the House of Reps; Senator Wilson Ake and Senator Andrew Uchendu.

Our reporter learnt that the meeting was attended by 20 members of the party, mainly drawn from Abe’s camp, while Amaechi and 12  of his supporters, such as Senator Andrew Uchendu, Dawari Goerge, Ogbonna Nwuke, and Leyii Kwanee boycotted it.

A former chairman of the caretaker committee of the party, Abott Isaac Ogbobula, who is in Amaechi’s camp, had earlier issued a press statement warning all statutory members of the party to disregard the invitation circulated by Aguma. He stated that the national chairman of the party was directed to constitute a fresh caretaker committee within 48 hours of the judgement.

He said as a party to the suit that removed him  as caretaker committee chairman,  he had filed a notice of appeal on June 10, 2020, along with a motion on notice for injunction, pending appeal/stay of execution. He said the court processes were duly served on the party and its national chairman within the 48-hour timeline for the constitution of a fresh caretaker committee.

He said as a responsible political party, the APC could not proceed to execute the judgement of Justice Omereji in the face of his appeal and the accompanying application for stay of execution. But despite the legal authorities quoted by Ogbobula in his press statement, Aguma went ahead to hold the meeting, with 20 of his supporters in attendance.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Aguma said the primary focus of the caretaker committee reconciliation and conduct of congresses in line with the Supreme Court judgement. He said he was mandated to consult widely and come up with a comprehensive draft working paper on the way forward for the party, which would be deliberated upon in the next Executive Committee meeting.

He called on all APC members in Rivers State to support the caretaker committee to reposition the party. The political war between Abe and Amaechi appears not to have found any solution as the two political gladiators are not shifting grounds in their resolve to assert their authorities in the state chapter of the party. Amaechi’s camp has since inaugurated a parallel five-man party leadership headed by Sekonte Davis.

While Amaechi’s camp is supported by prominent politicians such as Senator Andrew Uchendu; Tonye Princewill; Tonye Cole, Dakuku Peterside; Senator Wilson Ake; Chief Rufus Ada Goerge; Victor  Giadom; Sekonte Davis; Ogbonna Nwuke; Leyii Kwanee;  Chidi Lloyd; Emma Chinda and Dawari Goerge,  Abe’s camp is backed by Emma Deeyah; Golden Chioma; Austin Okocha; Tony Okocha; Chidi Nwiyoka and Worgu Boms.

The two camps are presently operating two different secretariats of the party in the state and are engrossed in legal battles. (Daily Trust)

Source: News Express

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