All is not well with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State. Factions loyal to governor Chibuike Amaechi and Mr. Nyesom Wike, the current minister of state (Education) are locked in a supremacy battle for the soul of Rivers state politics. Our Correspondent, Anayo Onukwugha, in this expose x-rays the development.
On Monday, April 15, 2013, an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello sacked the executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State led by Chief Godspower Umejuru Ake and ordered the swearing in, with immediate effect, a former Chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state, Mr. Felix Amaechi Obuah.
?The sacked Ake-led executive were alleged to be loyal to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, while Obuah, who ironically hail from the same local government area as Ake, enjoys the sympathy and support of several political heavy-weights in the state, including; the Minister of State for Education, Barrister Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, Senator Lee Maeba, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, Dr. Abiye Precious Sekibo and former governor and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Sir Celestine Ngozichim Omehia, amongst others.
?The legal battle between Ake and Obuah, popularly known as ‘Go-Round’ started when the latter filed a suit in November 2012 challenging the process that led to the election of Ake as the Chairman of PDP in the state in a state Congress that took place on the 17th of March 2012.
?Obuah and a former Chairman of Okrika Local Government Area of the state, Walter Ibibia Oruene, had in the suit, which also had Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), chairman, and secretary of the electoral panel of the PDP in Rivers State, Chief Dan Orbih and Barrister Steve Emekieze respectively, as defendants, alleged that a total number of 924 delegates were accredited for the congress but on the result signed by INEC about 984 delegates were accredited.
The plaintiffs had through their counsel, Barr. Godwin Obla argued that further discrepancies were uncovered in the names of the secretary who signed the result as the secretary who returned the result was known as Odoke Oruware but in the report by INEC, which is the second defendant, the name of the purported secretary was Adoke Oruwari.
Obla wondered how the result recognised the 5th defendant as Chairman, while the 3rd defendant who was chairman of the electoral panel was not present at the time the congress ended, but the results presented were purported to have been signed by the same person.
The matter was first heard before Justice Adamu Talba in December 2012, before the state chapter of the PDP applied to be joined as an interested party. The matter was however transferred to Justice Bello following the suspension of Justice Talba after he gave the judgment on the Director of Police Pension Fund.
The progress made the legal tussle apparently lead to the division in the ranks of members of the ruling PDP in the state, with federal and state lawmakers as well as Chairmen of the 23 local government councils in the state, finding themselves in two different camps within the same party.
?For example, the State House of Assembly has 32 members, who are all card-carrying members of the PDP, yet they find it difficult to speak with one voice when it comes to matters that have to do with the state and the party. In March 2013, a lot of ‘opposition lawmakers’ within the ruling party, refused to sign a resolution passing a vote of confidence on Governor Amaechi.
?Also, on many occasion, several commissioners and council chairmen have either been relieved of their duties or suspended for a period of time for associating with members of the opposition within the PDP.
?The judgment, which was delivered after noon time Monday 15, 2013 had generated mixed reactions from all caliber of people, including major stake-holders, some of who feel it was well decided, while others have some reservations considering the possible negative impacts it would create as the nation prepares for 2015 general elections.
?First to react to the judgment of the court was the Rivers State government, which condemned the ruling describing it as an abuse of court process, saying that the judgment was unacceptable and a miscarriage of justice.
?According to Mrs. Ibim Seminatari, the state commissioner for Information and Communications, “How can the court give leadership of the party to someone who did not even purchase a form for the position?”
Seminatari said the PDP congress that brought Ake to office was well attended by over 2,000 delegates, adding that members of the party in the state would not sit down and fold their arms and allow the injustice.
?She said; “Clearly there is an oppression going on. I believe as a member of PDP in the state who voted at the congress, I am very upset that anybody will say that my voice will not count. I think that if I feel this way, every other PDP member in the state will feel the same way because we cannot imagine that somebody will come and foist over us a man who neither took form nor was present at the election.
“I do not know where this happens in any part of the world. It is a shame. It is an embarrassment. It is unthinkable that this will still happen in today’s world when we are talking about democracy. It is especially shocking when the party is talking about reconciliation.”
The commissioner however disagreed with insinuations that President Goodluck Jonathan might have influenced the judgment, saying; “I do not believe that Mr. President will lend himself to such grave injustice. I do not believe that Mr. President will be part of this kind of undemocratic thing.
?“I do not believe that Mr. President, who himself is a product of democracy and who received about two million votes from Rivers State, will be part of this travesty of justice. I do not believe Mr. President will like to kill PDP in Rivers State. So I don’t think President Jonathan is involved.”
Apparently borrowing a leaf from the state government, the state executive of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), met and addressed newsmen at the official residence of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Sir Tony Okocha, in Port Harcourt, where they vowed to continue to recognise Ake as Chairman of PDP in the state.
?According to Hon. Chimbiko Akorolo, Mayor of Port Harcourt, and Chairman of ALGON in the state, state chairman of ALGON; “We hereby declare our unflinching support for the governor of Rivers State and leader of our great party in Rivers State and the Godspower Ake-led executive council while we appeal to our teaming supporters and party faithful to remain law-abiding and go about their normal businesses.
?“We took part and led the delegates who duly voted for and elected the Ake-led executive council of PDP in Rivers State, whose election had earlier been validated by a High Court judgement in Rivers State.
?“Therefore, we shall not support, recognise or do any business with any other state executive council of PDP except one duly elected by us and the accredited delegates from our various local government areas.”
?Akorolo stated that the sack of the Ake-led of the PDP was a bad luck to democracy to the state and Nigeria in general.
?The ALGON chairman said there was a calculated plan by a group of individuals to cause a breakdown of law and order in the state, which would warrant the declaration of state of emergency and subsequent removal of Amaechi from office as governor of the state.
?He said; “There is a calculated and orchestrated plan by a group of individuals to cause a breakdown of law and order in Rivers State. The above stated plan is aimed at creating an environment to warrant the declaration of state of emergency and illegally remove te duly elected Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. One thing is clear in the present situation in Rivers State, the removal of the Ake-led executive of the PDP may lead to a new dawn in the history of the ruling party, as those aggrieved members of the party, who left to join the opposition political parties, especially, the ACN and APGA, may return to the party when the coast becomes clearer.