Rivers 2019: Senator Abe as APC’s battle against PDP?

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• Rivers South Senator endorsed by stakeholders from 23 LGAs
• Says in 2014, party zoned governorship to Rivers South East
• Rivers APC’s State Working Committee denies knowledge of any zoning arrangement

From Port Harcourt, NATH Omame Jr. writes that the race to the Rivers Government House come 2019 has intensified, what with stakeholders from 23 local councils in the State endorsing Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, the Senator representing Rivers South East Senatorial Zone in the 8th for APC governorship ticket, to the discomfiture of the Minister of Transportation and former governor, ChibuikeAmaechi’s camp, which is believed to favour Dr. DakukuPeterside, current DG of NIMASA.

Former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, ChibuikeAmaechi’s insistence that Senator Magus Ngei Abe, representing Rivers South East, will not get his (Amaechi’s) nod to vie for the 2019 gubernatorialelection on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), may have brought to the fore, events that intermingled to save Amaechi’s second term from being truncated in 2013.

On Tuesday, July 9, 2013, five state lawmakers that had aligned with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), had claimed that it had purportedly impeached the then Speaker, Otelemaba Dan-Amachree. The five anti-Amaechi lawmakers led by Evans Bipi, representing Ogu/Bolo state constituency, wereKelechiNwogu(Omuma); Victor Ihouwon(Port Harcourt 11; Michael Chinda( Obio/Akpor 11) and Martins Amaewhule (Obio/Akpor 1).

Chaos had erupted on the floor of the House when one of the lawmakers, Bipi dragged the Speaker from his chair, took over the seat and read a motion for the Speaker’s impeachment, which was supported by the other four anti-Amaechi lawmakers. There was commotion on the floor of the House as well as around the Assembly Complex as thugs allegedly ferried to the Complex were spoiling for action.

In the ensuing confusion, word got to Amaechi that the Speaker loyal to him had been purportedly impeached. Amaechi drove to the House with some of his security details to restore calm. The role played by the then Leader of the House, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, representing Emohua State constituency when he cudgeled the head of Chinda with the Mace, the official symbol of the House has been widely chronicled.

With the presence of the armed security men that accompanied Amaechi to the House, Speaker Dan-Amachree was prevailed upon to hold a fresh sitting, which he did, using the leverage to hurriedly adjourn sitting indefinitely. The sitting of the 27 lawmakers loyal to Amaechiand presided over by Dan-Amachree conferred legality on the continued tenure of the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

This development is public knowledge because it was widely reported by the print and electronic media. However, how the decision that inspired Amaechi to race to the House to save his governorship was taken may not have been told. The events that metamorphosed into that face-saving move was disclosed recently at TANA Events Centre, King Perekule Road, GRA Phase 2, Port Harcourt, where stakeholders from the 23 local government areas in the State, met to endorse Senator Abe as the preferred candidate to contest for the 2019 governorship election under the aegis of the APC.

The event tagged “The Meeting” was organized by “like minds”, meaning, stakeholders in the APC who are in support of Abe’s ambition to vie for the Rivers APC governorship primary in pursuance of his quest to govern the state in 2019. It was at the event that Senator Wilson Ake, who represented Rivers West Senatorial District in the 7th Assembly, from 2011 to 2015, gave a graphic narrative of what actually transpired at Government House, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Recalled he: “I was at Government House when the news broke that five anti-Amaechi lawmakers had impeached the Speaker. There was some confusion on what to do. It was at that point I told Amaechi to quickly proceed to the Assembly Complex to ensure that the bonafide Speaker reconvened the House and preside over its session. I insisted that five members could not possibly override the vote of 27 members.”

“The former governor left with his security details to the Assembly Complex, restored order, and the Speaker was able to hold another session which he presided over by suspending proceeding, indefinitely,” Ake further narrated. “That singular act gave legitimacy to Dan-Amachree’s continued legitimacy. The then PDP-controlled government led by former President Goodluck Jonathan was poised to remove the Speaker to pave way for the Speaker’s impeachment thereafter.

“To convince the National Assembly that Amaechi was still in-charge, Senator Abe and I sat with the Senate leadership for six hours, impressing it upon them that with two Senators out of three supporting Amaechi, the former governor was still in-charge and in full control of the state; that whatever happened on the floor of the House was mere grandstanding.

“It was, thereafter, that the Senate moved that proceedings of the State House of Assembly be taken over by the Senate, pending when there was relative peace in the State. Senator Abe and I did all that for Amaechi. Then, we did not betray him. We stood by him because we felt, and rightly so, too, that an act of injustice was being perpetrated and supported by the then PDP-led federal government.”

Senator Akestressed: “Now that Abe is exercising his fundamental right to aspire for the governorship of the State on the platform of the APC, Senator Abe and all those who support his quest to govern the state, including my humble self are being accused of betrayingthe former governor, who is the leader of the party. We followed him to the APC because we were appalled by the open act of oppression and injustice being meted out to him.

“We staked our political future for his political survival. Supporting Amaechi and moving over to the APC cost elective politicians in the Rivers APC dearly. He wants us to continue to follow him even when his decisions are clearly inimical to our collective growth and development. Is that fair? None of us who are supporting Senator Abe to vie for the 2019 governorship of the state under the aegis of the APC has betrayed Amaechi.”

“In 2019, we shall play another match and the coach is saying that we shall bench Lionel Messi again. Will that happen? We shall not bench Messi, we shall change the coach (Amaechi).” Abe’s ambition to run for governor has pitched him against Amaechi , who as the leader of the APC in Rivers State has remained adamant that Abe will not represent the party as long as he remains the leader of the part in the state.

Caucus leaders of the APC in some local governments who are perceived to support Abe’s quest to vie for the APC governorship primary were removed from their position by the minister of transportation in August to demonstrate his rejection of Abe’s ambition. To further neutralize Abe’s growing acceptability among members of the party, Amaechiwas said to have, without recourse to anybody, changed elective ward and local government congresses to a non-elective one, thereby, depriving them and their supporters of their right to actively participate in the process.

A petition sent to the APC Appeal Committee is being handled by the national leadership of the party. Members of the APC sent by the national leadership of the party to conduct the congress did not leave their rooms atNovotel Hotel, where they lodged along Stadium Road, Air Force Bus/Stop, in Port Harcourt. Electoral materials meant for the exercise were also not distributed.

Senator Abe’s supporters and stakeholders in Rivers APC who are in support of Abe besieged the APC s state secretariat at Forces Avenue, GRA Phase 1. They later left for Novotel Hotel when they realized that the officials sent by the national leadership of the party to conduct the congress were holed up in their hotel rooms.

It took the intervention of the Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed to calm frayed nerves.
Leaders of three groups, those sent from the APC headquarters in Abuja, those loyal to the minister of transportation, and those supportive of Senator Abe had to sign an undertaking in the office of the Commissioner of Police that they wouldresolve their differences peacefully with a proviso that no elective congress held in Rivers State, since electoral material were not distributed to the voting centres.

According to the Deputy Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 2007 to 2015, Dr. Robinson Ewo’s,“if Amaechi listened to his mentor, former Governor Peter Odili, in 2006, he would not havevied for the governorship, and he would not have become governor of Rivers State.”

“Amaechi decided he would run for governorship on the platform of the PDP even when Dr. Odili was against his desire to govern the State. K-leg and all, Amaechi eventually became governor of Rivers State. So, there comes a time when we must take decisions that will shape our future. The worst thing a leader can do to his supporters and followers is not to tell them the truth. We learnt the bitter truth in 2015. And the truth for us in Rivers APC is that Abe is our best candidate for governorship in 2019.”

After about two hours of extolling Senator Abe’s virtues of honesty, integrity and capacity for building bridges across ethnic, social and party lines, stakeholders of the Rivers State chapter of APC, endorsed his candidature for the governorship election of 2019 in the state.

The group under the aegis of “The Meeting” (of like minds) unanimously called on Senator Abe to offer himself for the party’s governorship primary, stressing that “Senator Magnus Abe is the candidate with the temperament, courage, honesty, integrity and capacity as a bridge builder across ethnic, social and party lines to lead the party into actualising its resolve to win the 2019 governorship election.”

The group in a six-point communiqué issued at the end of the expansive meeting stated: “Without equivocation and with the power and support of both the APC constitution and the Nigerian constitution, “The Meeting” stated that Senator Magnus Ngei Abe’s eminent qualification to aspire to the office of the governor of Rivers State under on party’s platform could not be questioned.”

The group declared: “Accordingly, ‘The Meeting’ called on him to present himself for the 2019 gubernatorial under our great party, APC, as he clearly has the support and approval of a vast majority of our party faithful across the State.”

The stakeholders in endorsing Senator Abe for the Rivers State 2019 governorship election insisted that its position was in tandem with the stipulations of the APC constitution and the Nigerian constitution that sanctions the right of individuals and groups to freedom of choice, speech, association and assembly.
“The Meeting affirmed the right of all party members to have ambition within the party, openly express it and canvass and lobby and rally support for its actualization without fear and within the laws and constitution of the party.

The stakeholders appealed: “The Meeting” strongly urged the State Working Committee to strive for independence, impartiality and inclusiveness if the party must come out of the present low morale of members.”
On the sudden changes made to the leadership of local government caucuses of those perceived to be sympathetic to Senator Abe’s governorship ambition, by the leader of the APC in Rivers State and Minister of

Transportation, ChibuikeRotimiAmaechi, ‘The Meeting’ expressed its gratitude and appreciation to all well-meaning members of the party who are currently dismayed and heart-brokenand fiercely discriminated against in the party on account of their political orientation and the style of leadership which instills fear and threats for associating with Magnus Abe for not leaving the party but have continued to stay on and contribute meaningfully to the advancement of the party.

The motion for the adoption of Senator Abe was moved by Elder ChidiWihioka, Member of the House of Representatives, who represents Ikwerre Federal Constituency, and supported by HonShedrackWenzu(Mrs). The motion was unanimously supported by a voice vote by stakeholders from the 23 local government areas in the State.

‘The Meeting’ was attended by former councilors, local government chairmen, members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Members of the House of Representatives, commissioners, Chief Of Staff Government House, Chief Tony Okocha, Senator Wilson Ake and different groups within the APC in the State.

Speaking at the event, Chief AllwellOnyesoh, a former commissioner said only Senator Abe could defeat Governor NyesomWike in the 2019 gubernatorial election. Two former commissioners in Amaechi’s administration, Dr. Ipalibo Harry and WorguBoms declared that Senator’s Abe’s gubernatorial ambition is not an act of betrayal but a courageous act and mission to rescue the Rivers APC from the jaws of defeat in 2019.
A communiqué issued at the end of ‘The Meeting’ was signed by ChidiWihioka; Maurice Pronen; Felix Nwaeke;

Marcus NleEjii; Augustine Wokocha and Dr. Ipalibo Harry.
The event represents the largest gathering of APC stakeholder since the 2015 general election, which the APC lost to the PDP when it fielded Dr. DakukuPeterside as its governorship candidate who contested against NyesomWike of the PDP.

The national leadership of the APC appears to be taking developments in the Rivers chapter seriously. On Saturday, September 30, two days after Senator Abe was adopted, a conflict resolution committee led by the former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole arrivedin the state capital and held a meeting with leaders of both groups. Minister of Transportation, Amaechi; the 2015 APC governorship candidate and Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. DakukuPeterside, whom Amaechi prefers, and Senator Abe attended the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, Abe left for Aleto, in Eleme Local Government Area to commission a 500 KVA transformer, which he donated to members of his constituency who have been without light for some months.
Speaking at the event, Senator Abe stated that APC stakeholders had at a meeting held in Government House, in 2014, zoned the APC governorship ticket to the Rivers South East Senatorial District. He stressed that as a representative of Rivers South East Senatorial District, he had not done anything against the directive of the party. He added that the decision of the party has not been revised.

Following the contrary position ofAmaechion his governorship ambition, Abe urged his supporters not to engage in hostile verbal exchanges with those who have aligned with Amaechi in his bid to re-present Dr. Peterside as the party’s candidate in 2019. “I have no enemy. Please don’t quarrel with anyone because you are supporting me.”

“There may be some differences in the party leadership, but I am confident that whatever challenges that we have will be amicably settled through internal party mechanism. We don’t need to overheat the system for any reason. All APC members want to win the 2019 governorship election so we should refrain from statements and actions that will further divide us.”

Chairman of the APC in Rivers State, Chief Davis IbiamuIkanya, said: “There is no rife in the party. The leader of the party, Minister of Transportation, ChibuikeRotimiAmaechi, has not stopped anyone from contesting the 2019 governorship election; he has said repeatedly that all hands should be on deck to re-build the party in preparation for the 2019 general elections. What some people are doing is creating the impression that Abe is a victim. Amaechi has not said anyone should vie for elective positions.

“The leader of the party has asked all members of the party to go to their constituencies and strengthen the party in preparation for 2019. He has asked all interested aspirants to stop surreptitious campaigns for elective positions. Amaechi’s position is that it is too early for campaigns. At the right time, all aspirants for whatever positions they are interested in can then come out to contest and candidates for elective positions will emerge through the right process. All the stories that Amaechi does not want Abe to run for governorship are lies and mere propaganda. There is nothing like that.”

Similarly, the State Working Committee (SWC) of the APC denied knowledge of any meeting held in 2014 to zone the party’s governorship to the Rivers South East Senatorial District. The state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chris Finebone, stated: “I am reluctant to discuss sensitive party matters in the press. Please the media should be patient with us. As for the governorship ticket being zoned to the Rivers South East, I am not aware of any meeting where that decision was taken.”

Meanwhile, Senator Abe has continued with his expansive consultations in furtherance of his governorship ambition. Abe who spoke at K-dere, during the declaration of a youth wing of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), for the APC after a Thanksgiving Service, in Bodo, in GokanaLocal Government Area, Sunday, assured members of the APC that “intimidation and harassment of our members that characterized the 2015 general elections will not be allowed to re-occur in 2019.”

He declared: “PDP members have one head like any one of you here. Therefore, do not allow them to intimidate you during the electioneering campaigns. Don’t be intimidated by their fiery statements. Don’t be cowed by their political positions. Don’t be cowed by their wealth or retinue of aides.”
Senator Abe stated: “You have nothing to fear when you are on the path of truth. Eschew violence and hate speeches. All you have to do is to propagate the policies and programmes of the APC. Tell the voters why you believe that your candidates are better suited for leadership than the candidates of the PDP who are vying for the same positions.”

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