The political cold war between Minister of Transportation Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and former senator representing Rivers southeast, Magnus Abe, resurfaced last weekend in Port Harcourt over the yet to be conducted congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Amaechi had, at a reception organised by his supporters shortly after being sworn in as minister, urged them to go back to the state and prepare for the party’s congresses.
The two political gladiators were best of friends until the irreconcilable differences on who would fly the party’s 2019 governorship election set them apart. They were locked in bitter cold war shortly after the party’s congresses in May last year.
Abe claimed that his supporters were disenfranchised during the APC congresses to elect delegates for both governorship and presidential primaries of the party.
Having failed to resolve the differences, he set up a parallel state secretariat of the party in Port Harcourt and went ahead to organise the governorship primary election, where he was elected as a factional governorship flag-bearer. Amaechi’s faction of the party also conducted their own primary election and produced Tonye Cole as its governorship flag-bearer.
The disagreement between the two politicians ended up in a long drawn litigation that climaxed in the Supreme Court.
From the state High Court to the apex court, it was declared that there were flaws in the conduct of the APC primaries in the state. All the court verdicts were in favour of Abe, on account that he and his supporters were disenfranchised during the primaries.
The court directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove APC logo from the ballot box.
Subsequently, the legal battle between the two politicians denied the party the opportunity to present candidates in the 2019 governorship, House of Assembly and National Assembly elections.
In a face-saving drive, Amaechi adopted the African Action Congress (AAC) governorship candidate, Biokpomba Awala. He eventually lost the governorship election to Governor Wike.
The political alliance between Amaechi and Wike has gone sour and the two politicians have since gone their separate ways. While Wike occupies the Brick House, Rivers State seat of power, Amaechi moved to Abuja as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The cold war between the two prominent politicians was reignited last week with Amaechi’s advice to his supporters to go back to the state and prepare for the party’s congresses, which are yet to be decided by the national leadership of the party. In a swift reaction, Senator Abe described as unacceptable, the announcement by the Minister of Transportation on the conduct of congresses of the APC in Rivers State.
Abe, who spoke in Port Harcourt when members of the APC Visionary Media Team paid him a courtesy visit at his residence, noted that rather than concentrate on how to achieve the needed national development as minister of transportation, Amaechi is creating another avenue for tension and crisis in the political structure of the party. He urged the minister to demonstrate his sincerity in rebuilding the party by consulting others and showing respect for the rights and feelings of all members of the party.
Abe appealed to members to be resolute and committed to the growth of the party in the state. He assured his supporters that he would continue to be committed to the development of the party, no matter the position he occupies, insisting that peace, inclusiveness, progress and commitment of all members were needed to move the party forward.
“Look at the state of our party here today in Rivers State, yet the minister of transportation, on assumption of office, first announced congresses in Rivers State. And this was the same kind of behaviour that led the party to where it is.
“Everybody in Nigeria knows that the origin of the crisis in Rivers APC was from its congresses and how it was handled. There were extant judicial pronouncements on the last congress, which the party was misled to ignore. And we have all kept quiet, in the hope that by so doing we would create room for resolution of some of these challenges so that the party would move forward.
“Instead of moving forward, you become more brazen in your challenge to the rights, feelings and interest of others within the same political party. How do we do that and expect to make progress?
“What kind of congress is he talking about? Is he the chairman of the party? Is he the National Working Committee? Is he the court? What gave him the power to announce a congress on the day he was inaugurated as minister?
“Rather than address the issues of the country and those of his ministry, the first thing he could do was to reopen the sourest point in the hearts of members of the party. It is on that basis that party members are deprived of all rights and benefits in a structure we all suffered to build. Is that how to grow a political family? Is that how to grow politics? We will not accept that congress.
“Sometimes we keep quiet out of respect for the party and out of understanding, but we all know that without justice there can be no peace, and without peace there can be no progress.
“We must all recommit ourselves to the need for peace in the party. And the way to get peace in the party is by ensuring that there is justice and fairness in the party so that everybody can feel free to work together and gather support for the party. We must try as much as possible to be instruments of peace, unity and progress within the APC.
“The minister cannot sit in his office and make a pronouncement on a matter he and several other people have interest. People have gone to court and fought for their rights. He is determined to continue to create confusion because he wants to prove to the world that he is a conqueror. As I said before, nobody can conquer Rivers people.
“If you want the support of Rivers people, ask for it, work for it and you will get it. Nobody is against anybody. We all left our homes to serve, improve our society and ourselves, and to do that, we need to work with other people.
“If we work with others and respect the views and sensibilities of others, it will help in creating an avenue for this party to move forward. Any other way is nothing but a pathway to self-immolation for the APC in Rivers State. And we will not allow anybody to set the party on fire and destroy it.
“I have said repeatedly that I remain a committed member of the APC. I am out of office but not out of politics.
“Every politician cannot hold office at the same time. I really wish to restate that though I am out of office, my commitment to our party, the development, progress, peace and prosperity of our country remains unchangeable. And whatever position I find myself, I will continue to pursue those ideas,’’ Abe was quoted as saying during a meeting with his supporters.
Responding to Abe’s comments, Amaechi wondered why he started “showing early signs of apprehension’’ for the forthcoming congresses of the APC in Rivers State.
In a statement issued by his media aide, David Iyofo, in Port Harcourt, Amaechi expressed surprise that Senator Abe would “resort to unguarded language to express his indisposition and fear for congresses, even when he (Amaechi) did not give date and time of any congress to his supporters.’’
“I addressed my supporters and told them to go home and prepare for congresses. I didn’t give them any date and time; that’s the responsibility of the national secretariat.
“Senator Abe has no reason to be afraid of congresses. He should tell his supporters to also prepare for congresses of the party in the state since he says he is very popular. A popular politician should be very happy anytime congresses are on the table,” Amaechi declared.
Although the national secretariat of the APC is yet to announce a date for its congresses, there are ominous signs that the two politicians will go on each other’s jugular anytime the party fixes a date for state congresses.