- Everyone free to contest, says party chair
The leadership crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State may have grown worse, as the Minister of Transportation and former governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, declares that Senator Magnus Abe, once considered his protégé, cannot run for governor in 2019 on the platform of the party.
Amaechi, instead, insists on the candidature of Mr. Tonye Cole, expressing disappointment with the conducts of Abe, whom he had accused of hobnobbing with his political enemies.
The minister, who was also a two-term Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting in the residence of a former Chairman of the state’s Local Government Service Commission, Chief Nnamdi Wokekoro, located at Rumukalagbo, Port Harcourt. Visibly agitated, Amaechi dared Abe to take his case to President Muhammadu Continued on page 20 Buhari or the First Lady, and see if he would achieve any aim.
Amaechi, in practical demonstration of his determination to bar Abe from getting the APC governorship ticket, went round core areas in the state, to upstage party leaders believed to be loyal to Abe.
The minister, after leaving Wokekoro’s residence, also held another meeting at the residence of the APC Chairman of Etche Local Government Area, Mr. Reginald Ukwuoma. Those present at the meeting included the state party chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya; state secretary, Mr. Emeka Bekee; member of the APC Board of Trustees, Dr. Sam Jaja; and other stakeholders of the party in Rivers State.
AMAECHI LISTS ABE’S ‘SINS’
At Ukwuoma’s home, Amaechi spoke extensively on why he did not want Abe as the party’s governorship candidate. Abe, he stressed, had betrayed his trust. “I have foreclosed Abe’s governorship ambition as far as the Rivers APC is concerned,” he said, saying, “If he likes, let him run to President Buhari; that will not change anything. If he likes, let him go to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari; nothing will change.”
Amaechi added: “In my capacity as the leader of the APC in Rivers State, Abe cannot be the governorship candidate of the party in 2019. Abe has no character. I heard the executives of about 15 local government areas were already working for him. I will see how far they can go.
“I am the only one that can determine who gets the party’s ticket in 2019. Suddenly, Abe has become something else in the party because he won his senatorial election. Was I not governor for eight years? Was I not speaker for eight years?” He asked.
Amaechi also warned that he would suspend any party leader supporting Abe’s candidature for 2019. “I remain the leader of the APC in Rivers State. Even if the 23 LGA chairmen of the party support him, it will not change anything.”
He traced Senator Abe’s antecedent, portraying him as an ingrate. “As the Speaker of the House of Assembly, I submitted his name to former Governor Peter Odili for appointment as Secretary to the State Government. But Odili turned down my request. Odili, rather, made him commissioner for information.
I have foreclosed Abe’s governorship ambition as far as the Rivers APC is concerned… If he likes, let him run to President Buhari; that will not change anything. If he likes, let him go to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari; nothing will change
“I appointed him as SSG in my first term as governor because I wanted to fulfill my promise to him. I recommended that he should move to the Senate in my second tenure. Because I now operate from Abuja, Abe has expanded his tentacles all over the place. Just imagine people who are not even politicians are now telling me that it is only Abe that can win the governorship seat for the APC in 2019.
“I am waiting to see how they will make him the governorship candidate of Rivers APC in 2019. We have the National Working Committee. We also have the National Executive Committee of the party. But no one will deny that I have made enormous sacrifices for the party to get to where it is today,” he said.
At Okwuoma’s residence, Amaechi also described Senator Abe as a “treacherous politician who is now fraternising fulltime with my political enemies in Rivers and Lagos states, including Abuja politicians who are always willing to flaunt their new-found political titles and connections.” The minister of transport fumed: “I know Abe is a Senator. But I also know that he is fraternising with my political enemies like the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. 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.”
AMAECHI MOVES TO ‘CUT ABE’S WINGS’
Amaechi, apparently determined to weaken the influence of Abe, suspended Worgu Boms, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, as the leader of the APC caucus in Port Harcourt Local Government area. He replaced Boms with Hon. Wokekoro. He exercised the power in his capacity as leader of the party in the state.
The minister of transport later met with stakeholders of the party from Obio/Akpor Local Government area, and there, suspended his former Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Tony Okocha, as the leader of the APC caucus.
Amaechi who met with top brass of the party from Etche Local Government area, similarly ratified the suspension of Chief Allwell Onyesoh, as the leader of the APC caucus in Etche. Chief Onyesoh’s suspension, last week, by a former member of the House of Representatives, Ogbonna Nwuke, had sparked a whirlpool of discontent among top notchers of the party in Etche.
Amaechi created the caucus, team or group, appointed its members and leaders and so can make any changes he deems fit with his personal group, team or caucus. But we must emphasise that these changes… have absolutely nothing to do with the party leadership structure
A leader of the party in the state, who expressed dismay at the gale of suspension sparked by Amaechi, hinted that Senator Wilson Ake would be suspended later on Friday as the leader of the APC in Egba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government area.
The minister had earlier removed Hon. Chidi Wihioka, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ikwerre/ Emohua Federal Constituency, as the leader of the APC caucus in Emohua. He replaced him with Chibike Ikenga, who is regarded as the minister’s ‘satellite.’
Some leaders of the APC in the state, preferring anonymity, disclosed to our correspondent that the minister had resorted to the suspension of party leaders in respective local government areas as a last ditch move to wrestle the APC from the grip of Senator Abe, solely, to forestall him from earning the APC governorship ticket in 2019.
NO CRISIS IN OUR PARTYAPC CHAIR
The Rivers State Chairman of the APC, Ikanya, has described reports of a crisis in the party as distorted, inaccurate and misleading. He said the authors of such publications dwelled on “a nonexistent crisis due to some purported changes in the leadership of APC in Rivers State.” He said such reports were untrue, claiming that no one had been removed or suspended from office in the party.
“We are aware that the leader of the party in the state, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, is making some changes in his personal political group, team or caucus in the state. It is his right and prerogative to make any leadership changes within his own political team, group or caucus.
“Amaechi created the caucus, team or group, appointed its members and leaders and so, can make any changes he deems fit with his personal group, team or caucus. But we must emphasise that these changes by the Honourable Minister of Transportation within his personal political team, group or caucus have absolutely nothing to do with the party leadership structure and does not affect the party leadership structures at all levels in the state,” Ikanya defended.
The party chairman added that no member of the party would be prevented or stopped from seeking any elective office and that Amaechi would, as such, never contemplate preventing any party member from contesting for a position of their choice.
“We know for a fact that as a consummate democrat, our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has not stopped and will not stop, prevent or even attempt to discourage any party member from seeking any political office,” he averred.