The long-running crisis in the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, over divergent arguments on whether or not the party will conduct a governorship primary in selecting its candidate for the 2019 gubernatorial election has taken a new dimension.
Four groups within the party in the state held separate meetings at the weekend, in Port Harcourt, the state capital, and took a swipe at the leadership of the party, insisting that former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s resolve to anoint a governorship candidate and the willingness of Senator Magnus Ngei Abe to offer himself for nomination in the governorship primary, should there be one in 2018, prior the governorship election on Saturday, March 2, 2019, has further exposed members of the party to lingering hardship and dejection.
All four groups were unanimous in their condemnation of the crisis provoked by the topical debate on whether or not the Rivers APC will hold a primary as stipulated by the party’s constitution or ignore that provision in the APC constitution, as it happened in 2015, when Amaechi anointed Dr. Dakuku Peterside, then, a member of the House of Representatives as the party’s candidate, to sidetrack Senator Abe who was also widely acknowledged to be desirous of vying for the governorship position.
The groups at the close of their meetings complained that members of the party who worked assiduously for the party in the 2015 general elections have been left in the lurch. They insist that the failure of the APC to clinch the gubernatorial election, a contest that later terminated at the Supreme Court, on January 27, 2016, has left on its trail hunger and pervasive unemployment.
According to the President-General of M30, Ambassador Anosike Orduwa, a socio-political pressure group within the Rivers State chapter of the APC, rather than address the welfare of members of the party, the most prominent topic since the party lost the governorship election to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, is whether or not the party will conduct a primary for interested governorship aspirants or not.
He stated: “We in M30 are thoroughly displeased by what is happening in our party in Rivers State. For the past two years, our members have been suffering. There is no empowerment from any quarter. Rather than find ways to accommodate us in the scheme of things, our leaders are busy flexing their political muscles over who has the power to anoint a candidate or not.”
“All we are hearing is primary no primary. In the midst of this cacophony, members of the APC in Rivers State are suffering. Our members are hungry. Does it mean our leaders don’t know what is happening? Those who worked for the party at the 2015 general elections appear to have been forgotten.”
President of Ogoni Democratic Movement, Hon. Goddy Bazaari, called on the leaders of the party in Rivers State to concentrate more on how to create jobs for members of the party. He cautioned that the party will find it extremely difficult to call on members of the party who have been largely ignored to come and work for the victory of the party in 2019.
“Our leaders must realise that we have families, too. Our members need to be empowered across board. And what do I mean? Political patronage should not be limited to only those who contested elections and failed. Any attempt to ignore party members who drive the electioneering campaign of the party will not augur well for the party in 2019. APC members in Rivers State need jobs, too.”
President of the Movement for Progressive Change, Hon. Prince Akwekwe, noted that the most worrisome aspect of the crisis currently rocking the party “is not whether there should be primary or not, but the unmitigated wave of intimidation that has permeated all levels of the party in the state.”
He lamented; “Members of the APC in Rivers State are no longer comfortable attending sectional meetings in the state. Apart from the state executive council of the APC in Rivers State there are many other groups that coalesced into what is now known as the APC in Rivers State.”
“It took us about two week to impress it on members of the Movement for Progressive Change to attend this auspicious meeting. Why? We are reliably informed that there is an order from above that any member of the party that attends any sectional meeting other than those called by the state exco, or leaders of the party caucuses in the local governments will be severely penalised. The question is why?”
“We leant that anyone who holds a meeting other than those approved by the state exco will be ostracized. Our position is unambiguous in that regard. Any attempt to bully us from holding a meeting of our members will be tantamount to sheer intimidation and intimidation will not work. Our decision to join the APC was voluntary. If we held meetings with our members before we joined the APC, why can’t we hold meetings, now?”
“Sadly, most of those who took risks for the party, during and after the 2015 general elections have been abandoned. As it is, party loyalty has been reduced to loyalty to an aspirant that has been programmed to be anointed by those who believe they own the party. Political patronage is premised on loyalty to persons rather than working for the growth and development of the party. It has become suicidal for members of the party to attend political meetings other than the ones convened by supposedly preferred governorship aspirants,” Akwekwe regretted.
He asked: “If the Movement for Progressive Change held series of meetings before, during and after the 2015 general elections, why can’t we hold our meetings, again? Why has it become a crime to hold a meeting of like minds? Why can’t we hold meetings designed to reposition the party for the 2019 general elections? Such meetings were commonplace in 2014 and 2015. Let any leader in the APC who says otherwise challenge us to that effect. Meetings are an integral part of politicking.”
He recalled: “One of such groups is the Association of Non-Indigenes in Rivers State. Former Governor Amaechi and our candidate for the 2105 governorship election, Dr. Peterside, addressed that group at different occasions. So, why are our leaders jittery over the holding of meetings by political pressure groups within the APC in Rivers State?”
Publicity Secretary of Rivers Network for Positive Change, Mr. Bethel Ernest Chigozie, declared that the biggest problem confronting the Rivers APC is “disunity brought about by the open display of undue bias within the top echelon of the party. He stated that it was unproductive for the leaders of the APC at the state and local government levels to insist that no group within the party can proffer an innocuous opinion on how they think the party can be repositioned.”
He stressed: “Let me state for emphasis that the preponderance of views expressed by members of the Rivers Network for Positive Change at our meeting is how to foster trust and elevate the spirit of camaraderie in our great party in Rivers State. There is so much suspicion within the party. The process of how to select our flag bearer for 2019 has severely divided our party. So, we decided to educate our members on the need for unity. We need to continue to interact regularly to form a common bond while we wait for our leaders to inform us on how our governorship candidate in Rivers State for 2019 will be chosen.”
Chigozie emphasised: “We will not lose sleep over the crisis on how and who the party’s candidate will be in 2019. But we are truly worried about the disturbing scale of disunity within the party. There is ample disunity within the party at the wards and local governments in the state. Our leaders can’t deny that, but those of us who are active in the party know what the problem is.”
All four groups, the M30; Movement for Progressive Change; Ogoni Democratic Movement and the Movement for Positive Change agree that the lingering crisis within the Rivers State chapter of the APC has caused the party to drift away from its core values of justice, equity and fair play.
The groups claim that there is lack of coherence and purpose in the party. They regretted that while the PDP is busy mobilising its members to participate in the on-going voters registration exercise by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, leaders of the APC are busy scheming to outfox one another on who has the authority to present a governorship candidate, or otherwise.
President of the Movement for Progressive Change, Akwekwe, and the President for Ogoni Development Movement, Mr. Goddy Bazaari, lamented that “while Governor Nyesom Wike is busy empowering supporters of the PDP ahead of the 2019 general elections, the leadership of the APC in Rivers State is consumed in internal altercations and unnecessary brinkmanship on who is competent to call for a meeting of members and supporters of the party in the state.”
“Since January this year, all the meetings called by the state leadership of the party have been predicated on getting members of the party in leadership positions at the wards, local governments and even the state APC caucus to underscore their loyalty to the leader of the party which to us is not in dispute. It is also not in dispute that the leadership of the party has forgotten members and supporters of the party in their time of need.”
They charged: “From our findings, the underlining purpose of such meetings is to arm twist members of the party to support the emergence of a surrogate candidate who will be anointed through some form of fiat by the leadership of the party. And we think that is not the appropriate thing to do in a democracy. The leadership of the APC cannot make a detour to celebrate the same negative democratic practices that made us to leave the PDP. What the Rivers APC needs to do now is to empower its members and supporters to cushion the harsh realities of being out of government.”
President of Rivers Network for Progressive Change, Mr. Chigozie, and the President-General of M30, Ambassador Oruduwa, wondered why the APC has kept mum over the on-going registration of voters exercise, while PDP leaders in various local governments are arranging free transport for eligible residents in the cities to transport them to their communities to register in preparation for the 2019 general elections.
The groups are unhappy that rather than explore ways to create employment opportunities for members of the party in agencies under the ministry of transportation where former Governor Amaechi is a minister; or the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, where the 2015 governorship candidate, Dr. Peterside, is the director-general; or, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, where Mr. Derek Mene, is the executive director, finance and administration; or, the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, where Dr. Sokonte Davies is the executive director, operations, the party’s representatives are enmeshed in a political power-show.
FRANK JOE MEDIA GROUP
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