Struggle for 2019 Rivers APC Guber Ticket: Critical Examination of Forces, Factors                                                                    

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•By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze•

Preamble•

In 2014, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the undisputable leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Niger Delta region and incumbent Minster of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reiterated that, “You see, there are two Nigerians from Rivers state that I respect their level of intelligence and they are Senator Magnus Abe and Odien Ajumogobia” and by 2018, he stated that, “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 may have caused these two great allies to be at daggers drawn is one of the major aims of this treatise.

In carrying out this onerous task, I must confess that I have done over one hundred and fifty five (155) articles on the politics of Rivers State from 2007 to 2018 but today, I am embarking upon this article that even the devil would dread to handle. An article that will expose the genesis, the forces and factors to determine who becomes the Flag-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 29th May, 2019. This article therefore 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 weakened before the 2019 general elections.

In short this treatise will be centred on the current plot to destroy Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and dismantle his political structure by the combined forces of his former political associates and allies which 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.

The main and contending characters:

  1.     Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi

A Nigerian of Ikwerre extraction, an international figure of repute, a humanist, an Administrator per excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, respected, a pragmatist and exemplary leader by the grace of God is the undisputable leader of APC in the South-South region of Nigeria. An alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State and was the Rivers State Speaker of the 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 Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015.

A recipient of the prestigious National award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and an Associate Fellow of the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR), Geneva, Switzerland, he is currently the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the major target of the ongoing macabre dance in Rivers State.

  1.     Chief Barr. Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike

Chief Nyesom Wike an indigene of Rumuwike Ikwerre and a lawyer by profession, a political tactician of note and a strategist of the first order. He was the National President of All Local Government of Nigeria from 2003 – 2006 (ALGON), the umbrella Forum through which all the 774 Local Government Council 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 in Rivers State, an office he used to redefine and exhibit his special brand of governance.

An ardent hand at grassroots mobilisation. Chief of Staff to Governor Amaechi from 2007 to 2011 and from 2011 appointed by ex President Jonathan as the Minister of Education State of Federal Republic of Nigeria. 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.

Being the Director General of the Campaign Team that executed successfully the second bid venture of Gov. Amaechi to the Rivers State Government, 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 currently 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.

  1. Most Distinguished 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 a Minority Leader and later served as Commissioner of Information from 2003-2007 and stand as the best Commissioner for Information ever from Rivers State.

Under the administration of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, he was called to serve his fatherland as the Secretary to Rivers 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

  1.     Sen. Andrew Uchendu

ANDREW IGBONULE UCHENDU an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).and recipient of the Federal Government 1992 National Productivity Merit Award. This award is the highest honour that can be conferred on any Worker in the Public Service in Nigeria.

Andrew Uchendu disengaged from the services of Risonpalm in September 1993 where he distinguished himself and in 1994, the 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 28th May, 2015, he represented the Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency and is now the Senator representing the Rivers East Senatorial District.

During his tenure as a Member of the House of Representatives, he sponsored three fundamental Bills in the House. There are: the 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. In 2007 – 2011 he served as the Chairman of the South-South Parliamentary Caucus and is presently the Chairman, House Committee on Public Service Matters.

He is the current Senator representing the Eastern District of Rivers State

  1.     Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside

Dakuku Adolphus Peterside one of the most educated politician from Rivers State and an alumnus of University of Port Harcourt, Georgia State University Atlanta and Harvard-Kennedy School, University of Harvard where he was an outstanding student union leader who gave hope to his generation and exhibited great passion about a bright future that lies ahead..

He was elected to represent Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Area in the House of Representatives in 2011-2015. While in the lower chamber he served as chairman of the strategic Petroleum Resources (Downstream) committee that oversees the management of the key driver of Nigeria’s economy (Petroleum Industry).

He is also served in the House most important committees of Anti-corruption, National Ethics and Values; Drugs, Narcotics and Financial crimes; Co-operation 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 in Rivers State;

He was the All Progressives Congress (APC) Rivers state Governorship Candidate in 2015 general elections and 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.

  1.     Ambassador Oji Nyimenuate Ngofa

Nyimenuate Ngofa is a son to a no-nonsense Chief Ngofa, who was a renowned teacher, unionist, politician and one-time State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT who later became an Honourable Commissioner for Education in Rivers State.

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

On the political sphere, Ambassador Oji Nyimenuate Ngofa’s name has become a brand in Eleme in particular and Rivers State in general since his divine nomination by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as its chairmanship candidate, including this election and subsequent swearing in as the Executive Chairman on 25th April, 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 brilliance performance as Council Chairman led to his elevation and election as three time Executive Chairman of Eleme Local Government Council is of course a record as it broke the aged-long jinx that nobody in Eleme was allowed to run for a second tenure in office despite what might have been his performance in office.

He was elected Vice Chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) Rivers State, until when his second tenure of 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 Council, on 31st 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, APC, at its first National Convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja on Saturday 14th June, 2014.

On 14th July, 2018 he has the singular honour of becoming the first Ambassador of Nigeria to Netherlands to host his visiting President when he hosted President Muhammadu Buhari who was on a State visit to Netherlands.

Hon. Oji Nyimenuate Ngofa, is an orator, a speaker extempore, speech writer, grassroots mobilize and is currently the Ambassador of Nigeria to Netherlands.

  1.     Senator Wilson Ake

Two-term Senator that represented Rivers West and hails from Erima town in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government area.

  1.     Elder Chidi Frank Wehioka

He 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 one-time Lecturer in the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Elder Wehioka cut his political teeth in 1999 as a protégé of Dr. Peter Odili.

A kitchen cabinet member of erstwhile Governor Amaechi and a political warlord and strategist of note, he is elected member of the Federal House of Representatives under the platform of APC representing the Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency.

  1. Hon. Barry Barinada Mpigi

He is a progressive politician from Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, representing the constituency of Tai–Oyigbo–Eleme. First elected in 2011, he was re-elected to a second term in December 2016. So far Tai area is concerned politically; he is the Commander in Chief.

  1.     CHIEF ALLWELL ONYESOH

A seasoned and sound Political activist with strong pedigree in supporting a winning Governorship candidate having done the same thing in 1998/1999 when he joined forces with Dr Peter Odili against the then popular chief Sergeant Chidi Awuse of Peoples Democratic Party-PDP. And Dr. Peter Odili finally won the Governorship election in 1999. Allwell Onyesoh immediately turned around successfully RESTORATION FAMILY a political pressure group of Dr. Peter Odili that later metamorphosed into PDP, he was appointed Commissioner For education 1999-2003 and Commissioner for Sports from2003 to 2007.

When in 2007 he put his neck for Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s Governorship candidature as against the popular PDP substitution of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi with his first cousin Barrister Celestine Omehia at the end of the legal challenge it was Amaechi’s Supreme Court Victory that instantly made Allwell Onyesoh a political juggernaut and he earned an appointment as Chairman of Senior Secondary Schools Management Board to which he performed creditably by making Amaechi’s Administration School revolution a legacy project in Rivers state history.

Today, Chief Allwell Henacho Onyesoh is behind the Governorship aspiration of Senator Magnus Ngei Abe and he had joined hands with other political pressure group of Senator Magnus Abe.

  1. Hon. (Chief) Tony Chidugan Okocha

A Master’s degree holder in Philosophy from University of Port Harcourt and a political strategist of note, the Rumuigbo in Obio/Akpor LGA strong man was a member of the kitchen cabinet of erstwhile Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

He was the former political leader of Obio-Akpor. The immediate past Chief of Staff to the erstwhile Governor Rotimi Amaechi and one-time Chairman of the Care-Taker Committee of Obio/Akpor LGA one of the richest LGAs in Nigeria and one of the most populous in the country. An unassuming but with powerful character.

Now that the major characters in the ongoing macabre dance of determining who fly the flag of the APC come 2019 are presented, I will at this juncture presents the issues and how it plays out.

*The Bond amongst These Great Political Strategists

Apart from Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who is the major target of the ongoing self ignited crisis in Rivers State chapter of APC and excluding Dr. Dakuku Peterside who is also the second major target, Senator Andrew Uchendu and Ambassador Oji Ngofa who are bonded with Amaechi, it is 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 one time political strategists of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi have all teamed up to destroy and decimate not only the person but the political structure of their erstwhile ally and political leader in pursuit of the obvious elusive gubernatorial vision of Senator Magnus 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.

*The Genesis of the Struggle to Unseat Amaechi

To some onlookers, the struggle for the realisation of the gubernatorial aspiration of Senator Magnus 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.

According to Senator Abe,  “The truth of the matter is that the Minister of Transportation, Rt. 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 chitchats, 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 how Amaechi was been disparaged and reduced almost to nothing on 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 gubernatorial aspiration.

But the above scenario is actually not the genesis of the struggle for the realization of Senator 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, Senator Magnus Abe was said to have buckled to the supremacy of the ex- governor, Rotimi Amaechi albeit grudgingly when Dr. Dakuku 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 of pursuing his gubernatorial aspiration without the support and approval of the Rivers State APC Leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the major cause of the situation of things in the Rivers State chapter of APC by today.

*But how and why was Dakuku chosen ahead of Abe?

Throwing light on how Peterside emerged as Consensus Candidate to fly the flag of APC during the 2015 general elections, the then State 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, Rt. Hon. 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 having 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 great leaders in the persons of Most Distinguished Senator Magnus Abe, who is representing the zone in the upper chambers of the National Assembly, Engr Tele Ikuru, the then Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Hon. Dr. Dakuku Peterside and Barr. George Feyi, the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government, among other great leaders.

Any of them so chosen will still defeat whatever any other party may present in the 2015 elections but in a every given contest, one person must emerge and when the party decided to address the riverine issue Hon. Dr. Chief Dakuku Adol Peterside from the Riverine area of Opobo/Nkoro LGAs, member of the Federal House of Representatives and Chairman of the Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) who is a symbol of unity of both to the Ogoni people and both 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 Decision Did Not Get Down Well With Abe and His Camp

Three days after the election of Dakuku to fly the flag of APC some youths were mobilized against his candidature. Reacting to the protest against his nomination by some youths said to be from Ogoniland, Dakuku 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 ten 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 (OBR) 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 interests. 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 Dakuku Peterside makes no impact to 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 is what most of us are still suffering.

*How They Played on the Humility and Innocence of Dakuku Peterside

After the elections they came together and succeeded to influence Dakuku of the need of him footing their Tribunal cases which he obliged. What later happened is before the public domain.

*Strategy to Undermine the Chances of Dakuku in the 2015 General Elections Adopted

The Abe’s camp adopted a strategy with 2019 general election in mind. In their calculation if Dakuku Peterside wins the 2015 general elections then he will ask for 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 mobilize our people in their villages and wards and kept them in their hotels in Port Harcourt until after 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 caliber of persons in league with Abe – Senator Ake, Elder Wehioka, Chief Allwell Onyesoh, Hon. 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 Ambassador 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 Senator Magnus Abe thinking that Amaechi will be intimidated by their regrouping. It is Amaechi’s refusal to buy into their plans that made them to go public and teaming up with Wike who is very keen and interested in any project that will undermine Amaechi and his political structure.

*Steps That Amaechi Took to Address the Danger Ahead

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 Dakuku Peterside as the consensus candidate, he cut short his national assignment as the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Team of then General Muhammadu Buhari to address the stakeholders, elders and leaders of the party at the Council Chamber of the Government House. He used the opportunity to caution with the strongest words the 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 loss 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 reassure him of our resolve to work as a Team to deliver the State accordingly.

*Why Wike’s Involvement

Not minding the thinking of anybody, Governor Nyesom Wike is a political strategist who knows the implication and the dangers ahead of him should APC captures 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 Amaechi 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 capitalized on his plot to assist him destroy both Amaechi and the party.

*Implications of This

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 Flag-Bearer he has no chance of defeating Wike at the 2019 polls. I said assumingly if 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 I have too much respect for but how he will survive God can only determine the macabre dance he has initiated.

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.

Part two of this treatise will be who flies the APC ticket in Rivers State.

  • Eze is a media consultant based in Port Harcourt



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