By Ehichioya Ezomon
THE Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is probably on a suicide mission. The party is positioning itself to miss out in participating in the 2019 polls with the courts ruling them out so far.
Recently, a chieftain of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, boasted that the state governor, Nyesom Wike would be “the easiest to beat” in the 2019 general election.
But with unfolding events in the chapter suggesting that APC might not field candidates for elective positions in the election, how would the party beat Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
While Eze’s boast finds an apt expression in the maxim, “You can’t build something on nothing,” the party’s situation is summed up by two pithy sayings, “A child doest know when sleep takes food from his mouth,” and “The fly that doesn’t listen to advice will follow the dead body into the grave.” Two factions of the party, each led by the Minister of Transportation and former governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, have shunned all counsels for restraint, reconciliation and accommodation. They instead waged a supremacy battle over who controls the Rivers chapter.
They have deployed all antics, and finally dragged their party’s internal affairs to the courts. The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt finally ruled that the party was ineligible to field candidates for all elective positions in the 2019 general election and ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to register any candidates presented by the party.
Amaechi, Abe and APCs losing battle in Rivers
Abe, a soul mate of Amaechi back to their days in the Rivers House of Assembly, wants to be governor. It is an aspiration Amaechi is fiercely opposed to. The minister prefers a business magnate, Pastor Tonye Cole, who is also endorsed by the party’s national headquarters. The party had duly sent Cole’s name to INEC as its governorship candidate in Rivers.
The Senator has asked the court to recognize him as the party’s “authentic” candidate. The court refused, rejecting Cole also in the main. who, by the court’s ruling, ought to be very concerned, and sober.
On live television, both politicians have clung to their positions, seemingly unaware or sobered by the weighty implications of their situation on the party.
Abe and Cole, and not Amaechi, have a lot to lose in the stalemate fuelled by ego, a bane of Nigerian politicians.
On Amaechi’s watch as governor and Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO), APC lost Rivers in the 2015 elections to the PDP. Thus, the court verdict is a severe blow to Amaechi’s hope of making up for that.
APC is running out of options with only 47 days from January 14 to the March 2 elections. Yet, the combatants are digging in, talking about appealing and cross-appealing the judgment of the Court that barred their party from registering them to contest in the polls.
Can the Appeal Court and Supreme Court resolve the plethora of cases within this time ahead of the election? This certainly is impossible in the nations slow judicial system, which has virtually defied the reforms in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015!
Perchance the impossible becomes possible, does the APC expect a different judgment from the ruling of the lower court?
The present logjam is predicated on the May 2018 ward and local government congresses that the Abe faction alleged its members were excluded. Consequently, 23 of the aggrieved members went to court, which granted a restraining order on the Amaechi camp, to maintain the status quo until the determination of the substantive suit.
Rather than comply with the injunction, the group conducted the state congress that produced the Ojukaye Flag-Amakree-headed state executive council. It is this disobedience of the order of court that has become the Achilles Heel of the APC in Rivers.
The courts – High Court, Federal High Court, and the Supreme Court – have ruled that because the Amaechi faction flouted the order of the high court, it would not get the prayers to quash the case(s). The courts also held that any action taken therefrom, including the conduct of the party primaries, would be vitiated. Hence, the order that all candidates nominated for the governorship and legislative positions are precluded from the March 2 polls.
As the court rulings have become an albatross, a remote but viable option the combatants haven’t looked down on is reconciliation.
I had in previous articles, I had explored options on resolving the situation. It I s not a question of appealing the judgment of the court; it is whether, in the face of the various rulings, the gladiators can embrace peace, such as was demonstrated by Senator Buruji Kashamu (PDP, Ogun East), who though listed by INEC as the governorship candidate, chose to respect his party’s choice of Oladipupo Adebutu.
A few days before INEC publishes the final list of candidates for the election, can Amaechi and Abe, agree to a truce, to enable APC field candidates for the elections in Rivers? It is the last opportunity to deflect an avoidable political catastrophe.
Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.