The peace moves initiated earlier in the year to reconcile Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, and Senator Magnus Abe, which crashed over demands, The Neighbourhood gathered, have resumed but this time, at the All Progressives Congress, APC, National leadership. However, mum remains the norm as no party source contacted by this newspaper was willing to speak on record.
Though mum was the response when The Neighbourhood contacted some senior members of the party, it was however gathered that such moves are ongoing but as a source confided in The Neighbourhood, “at a very slow pace”, and when asked the reason for the sad development, he said it was due to the “degree of hurt running in the party.”
Earlier in 2020, Senators Wilson Asinobi Ake, a pro-Abe disciple, who represented Rivers West senatorial district at the Nigerian Senate from 2007 to 2015, and Senator Andrew Uchendu, an Amaechi die-hard supporter, who represented Rivers East in the Red Chamber from 2015 until 2019, initiated reconciliatory talks. Each of the sides reportedly appointed about 5 representatives to negotiate the peace. Rivers State APC has been into internal crises that it could not fill a single candidate during the 2019 general election. The Abe side had instituted intertwine legal proceedings against the party which it accused of denying some aspirants purchase of Intent/Nomination Forms though they made required payments. Sources, in the course of this newspaper’s inquiry, denied the APC denied the aspirants the Forms but that the party’s Secretariat then run by the State Secretary, Emeka Beke, took the unilateral decision. The Neighghbourhood could not reach Mr. Beke as of the time of this report.
The Neighbourhood gathered that the Rivers’ State driven peace initiative failed over demands for the sharing of elective offices. A senior member of the party conversant with the meetings told the newspaper that during the discussions, some demands were placed on the table, and that included the conduct of fresh Ward, Local Government and State Congresses. APC had in 2019 scheduled Congresses in the state but had it aborted by a court order.
Then APC National Organising Secretary, Barrister Emma Ibediro, had, on behalf of the National Working Committee, NWC, fixed State Congresses on Friday, December 27, 2019.
That release added said that appeals to arise from the State Congresses would be entertained on Saturday, December 28, 2019.
APC also said Ward Congresses to elect Ward officials was to hold on Saturday, December 21, 2019, while petitions against the exercise (Ward Congresses) would be entertained on Sunday, December 22, 2019. A 5-member Interim State Executive Committee to be headed by Isaac Ogbobula, with Friday Owhor, Beatrice Amobi, Abolo Stephen and Baridon Badom, to serve as Secretary, was appointed.
However, that decision by APC’s NWC soon got sunk in murky waters as legal fireworks initiated by the Abe side drowned it
The fresh crisis came on the heels of a court in Port Harcourt voiding the caretaker committee appointed by the National Working Committee of the party for the state chapter
It would be recalled that political brawls between Amaechi and Abe’s factions had led to a flurry of litigations, resulting in various judicial pronouncements, which voided the party’s congresses conducted in 2018. As a result, the party was left without executive members at the ward, local government and state levels.
But Abe’s faction had rejected the NWC’s decision on the premise that the committee failed to reflect the diversity of the party in the state. This was followed by a fresh suit by Ibrahim Umar and 22 others, seeking an injunction restraining the APC from organising the congresses.
Similarly, Dele Moses and nine others said to be pro-Abe members had also approached the same court to seek for an order to compel the party to allow those who purchased forms for the botched 2018 congresses to take part in any rescheduled congresses in the State. The court granted their prayer.
Amid this, a former member of the House of Representatives, Igo Aguma, a former ally of Amaechi, approached a Port Harcourt High Court presided over by Justice George Omereji, to invalidate the caretaker committee appointed by NWC, and a declaration that he superintend over affairs of the state’s APC in the interim by virtue of his position as a national delegate and statutory member of the party.
Omereji was recently appointed Chairman, Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission, RSIEC, by Governor Nyesom Wike.
On Aguma’s suit, the court ruled that since the statutory members of the State Executive Committee were still in existence, the party’s NWC’s decision to appoint a caretaker committee was unwarranted. And since there was no section of APC Constitution that prohibited statutory members of the party not to carry out the duties of the State Executive Committee in their absence, Aguma’s prayer to superintend over the affairs of APC in the state was right and so, was granted by the judge.
Aguma had proceeded to hold an online(Zoom) meeting with some statutory members of the State Executive Committee, during which he stated that his primary mission was to reconcile the party and organise an all-inclusive congress.
Suddenly, two members of APC in Rivers State, Dele Moses and Azunda Wori, approached a court in Port Harcourt and were granted an order of interim injunction restraining APC from recognizing or regarding Victor Giadom, as acting national chairman of the party and members of its National Working Committee (NWC).
They urged the court to declare that sequel to the resignation of Giadom as deputy national secretary of APC in 2018, for the purposes of contesting in the 2019 general election as deputy governor of Rivers State, he was no longer the deputy national secretary of the party.
But the crisis rocking the party took a new twist, as Aguma, on the premise of the injunction against Giadom, proceeded to suspend him. Giadom was accused of alleged acts of gross infractions on the party’s constitution. In addition, Mr. Worgu Boms was purportedly nominated as replacement for Giadom as deputy national secretary of APC. While the court judgment that ushered in Aguma appeared to some stakeholders of the party as a unique opportunity to recover from the domino effects of APC’s exclusion from the 2019 general elections in Rivers State and a chance to avoid another fiasco, others viewed it as systematic plan and conspiracy to usurp Amaechi’s leadership of APC in the State.
The suspension of Giadom and nomination of Boms as his replacement spurred pro-Amaechi faction to move against Aguma by announcing Dr. Sokonte Davies as an alternate acting chairman of APC in Rivers State.
Senator Andrew Uchendu, an ally of Amaechi, had accused Aguma of using his proxies, Dele Moses and others, to secure an interim court order that removed Giadom from office; his subsequent suspension as a member of the party and without the authorization of the entire 38 statutory members of the State Executive Committee, nominated Mr. Boms to replace Giadom as a national officer of the party, which powers he did not have.
He acknowledged that following suit No. PHC/4355/2019 filed by Aguma, Justice George Omereji of the High Court of Rivers State delivered judgment in which the APC was directed to within 48 hours of the judgment constitute a fresh caretaker committee incorporating all statutory members with Aguma as chairman.
He noted that upon obtaining the said judgment, Aguma constituted himself into a sole administrator, relegating, abandoning and disregarding majority of the statutory members of the State Executive Committee and taking critical decisions that affect the party all by himself.
“Hon. Sokonte Davies has been selected by majority vote at this meeting to lead the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Rivers State Chapter pending the conduct of fresh congresses to fill the vacant positions in the organs of the party at all levels,” Sen. Uchendu had said.
Ogbobula was to later seek judicial intervention which was granted that returned him to the office.
It was in the midst of the staccato of litigations that the peace moves commenced.
A former member of the APC State Working Committee, SWC, not to be named as he has no authority to speak to the media on matters of the party, but who was a key participant in the party’s decisions, however, told The Neighbourhood that the peace moves by Ake and Uchendu collapsed over Abe’s demand that the offices be shared. “Abe was asking for the sharing of elective offices when we were talking about conducting Congresses to elect our officers. How could someone who flew the kite of being a “democracy champion”, who processed and canvassed party inclusion turn round to ask that offices be shared. We insisted that every prospective aspirant go to the poll to seek members’ mandate.”
But a pro-Abe loyalist denied that position saying that the Amaechi side was “over-lording it on us. They carried themselves as though the party was theirs. We wanted peace in the party and was determined to resolve all matters but they showed they were not interested in peace. Instead of their taking independent decisions, they would want Amaechi teleguide them. So, they were not negotiating for the sake of APC but for Amaechi.”
The source continued, “In negotiations, each party comes to the table with openness of mind but in their case, they came with the mentality of conquerors. So, when they claimed our side caused a collapse in the peace talks, they only turned the truth upside-down. If there was any side to be blamed, it was theirs.”
The Neighbourhood learnt that the APC Interim Caretaker Committee Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, has stepped to reconcile the warring parties. It was Bunu who had brokered reconciliation between Amaechi and Mr. Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s Minister for Petroleum(State) earlier in the year. Many in APC believe that Abe and Sylva are close and that Abe’s appointment as a member of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Board was orchestrated by Sylva to “spite” Amaechi.
Though sourcing information on the ongoing peace moves to reconcile Amaechi and Abe was similar to an attempt to squeeze water from a rock, a former State Chairman of the party, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, gave the closest yet unconfirmed nod such peace moves were ongoing. “The National leadership of our great party is very interested in resolving all disputes in various states, Rivers (State) in particular. In less than no time, we will have a united and formidable front as we approach 2023”, he told The Neighbourhood, and added that “Peace is always the best path.”