The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State seems to be drifting further into chaos as two factions of the party lay claim to its leadership. The fresh crisis comes 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.
The verdict, which has elicited discordant tunes from the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, and Senator Magnus Abe’s factions, indicates that the warring sides are still bent on continuing the long-simmering tension that has paralysed APC in Rivers State.
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.
The NWC, in its wisdom to end the protracted conflict in the party, in September 2019 announced a caretaker committee, led by Mr. Isaac Ogbobula, who is alleged to be an ally of Amaechi, to oversee the conduct of fresh congresses scheduled to hold from 21th and 28th September 2019 respectively. 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.
On Aguma’s suit, the court ruled that since the statutory members of the State Executive Committee were still in existence, the NWC’s decision to appoint a caretaker committee was unwarranted. And since there was no section of APC constitution that prohibits 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 granted by the judge.
Aguma had proceeded to hold an online 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 might appear 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 view 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 does 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,” he said.
Key players in the party have since the court judgment continued to express divergent views on the way out of the debacle Rivers APC finds itself. On the contrary, analysts have observed that with the latest happenings in the party, dousing tensions and acts which would widen the cracks in the party is far from over.
For Senator Abe, considering the peculiar situation in which APC finds itself in Rivers State, the court judgment surely offers a unique opportunity for all sides to come together and put the party on a sound footing. He has, however, cautioned Aguma not to harbour any personal or hidden agenda. According to him, the party must come together and hold congresses that would leave no one out, and re-establish not just structures but hope and confidence in the party.
Former member of House of Representatives, Emmanuel Deeyah, also reckons that members of APC, who mean well, are now placed on a good pedestal to rescue the party.
Deeyah said that even when the party lost in 2015 and 2019 general elections respectively, he and others had been supportive of Amaechi as leader of Rivers APC even when the processes that threw up candidates in the party organisation were not inclusive. But the idea of a unilateral selection of a caretaker committee was unacceptable to them, he stated.
According to Deeyah, “We had all these and did not complain until he came up with this issue of caretaker committee again. And when he constituted that caretaker committee, he did not consult with anyone of us. We also knew that he was heading the direction that took us to where we would not want to be. We spoke, but we were not listened to, so Igo had to go to court to stop that congress.”
He observed if the rescheduled congresses planned for last September had proceeded unhindered, the court ruling saying all those who bought forms for 2018 congresses were those who should contest would have rendered it invalid and a sheer waste of time.
A close observer navigating Rivers State APC’s prickly and highly divisive politics requires skill to do so. Aguma’s altruistic motive and ability to break the deadlock between warring factions of the party are being viewed with cynicism by Ameachi’s camp, which has majority of members of state SEC.
A source close to Amaechi who would not want to be mentioned claimed that by functioning undemocratically by taking decisions without consultation was part of a grand plan to snatch the party’s leadership from him and when that fails, keep the party paralysed, divided and rudderless.
“Right now, there are people at the national level who are triggering Aguma,” the source said. “You may have heard about Third Force. Their schemes would have become even more visible by now if the former chief of staff to the president were still alive, because they have planned and concluded how to take the APC structure from Amaechi. That was the target of the Third Force.”
“How do you build reconciliation when people have deep-seated agenda that do not align? So those who shout for reconciliation innocently do not understand what is happening or they are being a bit economical with the truth. The truth is that Igo Aguma is running his agenda. Igo Aguma is not out for any true reconciliation. All of these are clear to the blind and audible to the deaf.”
There is also conspiracy theory that Aguma might be acting a script to superintend over affairs of APC in other to provide alternative platform for Wike’s preferred candidate in the event that some elements within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might resist attempt by the governor to foist a candidate on the party.
Former APC governorship candidate of the state during the 2015 general elections, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, is one of those not delusionary about Aguma’s sincerity to stop the infighting, which is at the heart of APC’s fragility.
He reckons that Aguma’s faction pledge to rescue the party from the current quandary was merely superficial, noting, “It is true that lately we are facing a lot of challenges, some of which are caused by the interference of non-party members in government, who want to see the party in comatose to their advantage and against the interest of Rivers State. But I’m confident that as a party, we shall overcome.”
Peterside said no amount of gang-up or manipulation of institutions by enemies of APC and Rivers State would succeed because they do not have the support of God of justice and the moral force of the law behind them.
Similarly, former publicity secretary of the APC, Chris Finebone, stated that for the time being, it would be suicidal to go into negotiation with Aguma’s faction because it was obvious it is on a non-altruistic mission.
“In our group, I don’t think that negotiation is given a thought at all,” Finebone said. “Let the matter run out at appeal and when we get there, we will know where to go from there.”
APC chieftain, Tonye Princewill, who understands conflict dynamics, said he still belongs to the group of Amaechi supporters that believe peace is better than war, especially having admonished Aguma to conduct himself with the wisdom the moment requires.
Princewill observed that a party that reflects only Amaechi or Senator Abe’s and any other interest and that of their supporters would not take APC to the promise land. He stressed that everyone should be given a chance to get involved at resolving the issues.