• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Rivers’ politicians in fight-to-the-finish over APC ministerial slot

FCTA will no longer allocate lands without development timeline — Wike

Food is ready but groups in the 2023 presidential elections in Rivers State seem to spare no spear in their fight-to-the-fish over who should collect the apples coming as fallouts of the hard-fought presidential election for the oil-rich state.

The biggest apple seems to be the ministerial slot for the state from the Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) administration.

The spokesman of the mainstream APC in the state, Darlington Nwauju, has issued a stay-away notice, saying those fighting over the slot happen to be non-APC members.

Nwauju reminded the world that ex-governor, Nyesom Wike, is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader in the state; Magnus Abe just lost as the governorship candidate of the Socuial Democratic Party (SDP) in the state, and his spokesman, Augustine Nwokocha, all went to the SDP; and that Tony Okocha, a Rumuigbo high chief, is not on the list of members submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the last election as required by law. By this, he said, Okocha did not revalidate his name and his name is no longer on the list with the INEC.

Nwauju said it was he who really was the authentic APC in the state that campaigned vigorously for all candidates of the party in the state including Tinubu.

Read also: Doherty calls for indigenes engagement in Lagos Island renewal plan

Give all APC’s slots to Wike to distribute – Tony Okocha

The gun was shot when Tony Okocha urged the BAT caucus to channel whatever slots due Rivers State to ex-governor, Nyesom Wike, who incidentally is a chieftain of the PDP. He told newsmen that Wike knows who did what and how to allocate the slots and booties of war.

Okocha justified the demand by saying though Wike was a PDP man, he abandoned PDP’s Atiku Abubabakar to fight for APC’s Tinubu for presidency. Okocha, who was once an aide to Wike and Chief of Staff to Chibuike Amaechi for four years, said Wike funded the entire campaigns and more importantly tore the G-5 States away from Atiku to the advantage of APC’s Tinubu.

Okocha said Abe and others left the APC to SDP and that Wike funded the APC faction that delivered Tinubu, wondering what would have been Tinubu’s fate in the state if everybody had left like Abe and Nwokocha.

For this reason, he argued that Wike made Tinubu and must be given all slots to share out. He said he as a person stood in the gap and provided leadership for BAT at a time he claimed the Amaechi APC worked for Atiku. He insisted that he who worked should be given the slots, and that he was the new leader of the APC in the state.

Okocha went ahead to put a call to Wike to make haste and move over to the APC and pick up the alleged vacant leadership right.

Angry Abe group ‘suspends’ Okocha

Fearing that Okocha may convince the BAT centre, the Abe group shot back, announcing the suspension of Okocha from the BATS Vanguard, not from the APC.

Describing the BATS Vanguard as one of the foremost sociopolitical groups that mobilised grassroots support for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the just concluded general election, the Abe group led by Nwokocha said the Vanguard had suspended Okocha from his position as Rivers State Coordinator.

The group accused Okocha of alleged ‘embezzlement and mismanagement of funds’ meant for mobilisation and campaigns towards the victory of their principal, now President Bola Tinubu.

The statement read: “We thus unanimously endorsed the ascension of the deputy coordinator Douglas Uzah as substantive coordinator of the group.”

The group accused Okocha of callous campaigns and attacks against Abe.

“We were shocked to read statements in the media credited to Okocha, alleging that our leader, Abe, and his associates embezzled the money meant for Rivers presidential campaign rally, and did not work for our amiable president, Tinubu, during the 2023 presidential election.

“It will interest you to know that Sen. Magnus Abe was the sole sponsor of BATS Vanguard in Rivers State. So how could someone who sponsored all functions and activities of BATS Vanguard in Rivers State also be the one to embezzle money meant for the group and for the campaign of the presidential candidate of the APC?

“We wish to warn the general public to ignore and disregard the unfounded allegations leveled against the very distinguished senator, Magnus Abe, as there was never a time when Abe and Wokocha embezzled fund meant for Tinubu’s campaign in Rivers State, as claimed by Okocha. Rather they were the arrow heads and key sponsors of all the political activities of BAT’s Presidential campaign in Rivers State, before and after APC presidential primaries till the election.”

The group claimed that Abe appointed Okocha as state coordinator of the Vanguard including his nomination into the APC Presidential Campaign Council. “This fact is undeniable. We also want the general public to note that the executive body of Rivers BAT Vanguard is made up of the structures of Distinguished Senator Abe in all the 23 local government areas of Rivers State and that these persons are still with our principal, Abe and are signatories to this press statement.”

The group, who were believed to have worked with Wike at a time, invited the public to note that Okocha was allegedly bought by former Gov Wike and that all his vituperations were to justify the billions of naira he allegedly collected from Wike for a purpose.

“The contract of character assassination is what they are executing. They called Okocha as ‘serial betrayer’ who they said once betrayed Wike. They also dug into the sour relationships involving Okocha, Wike, Amaechi, and Mbata. They said Okocha was almost lynched by Wike boys in 2015 and Abe had to take cannister bullets for Okocha, requiring foreign treatment.

“Election has come and gone, and this is time for governance. So, why is Tony Okocha restless, and running from one radio and television house to another?

“The public should note that, it is just a ploy to discredit Abe and put Wike in a better perspective before the President; but it’s too late because His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Asiwaju Tinubu, knows Sen Magnus Abe to the letter and knows those who want to come into his government to gain relevance and gather more momentum to pursue their presidential ambition in 2027.”

The Abe group asserted their rights to President Tinubu saying they were all members of the sub committees of Rivers APC Presidential Campaign Council and that they participated actively in the campaigns and the election of President Tinubu on the orders/instructions of their principal, distinguished senator Abe and, that the results from their various polling units were evidence to this fact.

They further accused Okocha of collecting funds from various donors. “The general public should please ask Okocha what he did, where he worked to acquire that mansion that he acquired for himself at Abuja before the 2023 Presidential election, and why he has refused to render the accounts for all the money he collected from Rivers top politicians, including Jachrich Tein Jnr, from whom he took N50m. We hereby pass a vote of no confidence in Okocha.”

They used the names of 23 officers of the BAT’s Vanguard to endorse the public memo.

You have no right to suspend anybody – BAT’s Vanguard overall boss

Reacting, the man believed to be the highest ranking leader of the BATS Vanguard, Danre Owotomobi, announced that Okocha remained the state and south-south coordinator, and that nobody has the right to suspend any member without approval of the national and global headquarters.

His words: “I don’t have a comment. I say so because as the global chairman of the BAT Vanguard, I was not informed. To the best of my knowledge, Chief Tony Okocha is the Rivers State coordinator. He also coordinates other chairmen in the South-South. This suspension news is strange to me.

“Those who issued the statement might have their reason, but they lack the power to suspend. They were not the ones that appointed Okocha. If there is anything, they needed to brief me.

“Even Chief Okocha the chairman cannot suspend anybody just like that. I see the allegations as petty politicking. Today Magnus Abe will speak on television, next, Okocha too will speak, trying to reveal who Sen Abe is and what he stands for. If Okocha is selling himself, we have to assess both men.

“Sen Abe is part of us (the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Vanguard) to the level of member of Board of Trustees (BOT). He was nominated to us by Chief Okocha. I see both as BAT disciples.

“On the issue on ground, we see Chief Okocha as the last man standing in Rivers State. Amaechi was the leader of APC in Rivers State by virtue of being a Minister. He had the structure of the party in his control, and he has a lot of influence, very close to President Buhari, but he contested and the Rivers State structure was against BAT candidacy. It was Sen Abe, Okocha, and few others that stood for us.

“After our principal (BAT) emerged, Abe left us for SDP, and in that wise, it was this ‘Chief’ Okocha that was the last man standing. It is Okocha that did not allow the house to be vacant, he was a chief occupant.

“I do not know how any reasonable person would say he is suspended. They lack the power to do so. If Sen Abe says he wants to come back, nobody will stop him because nobody asked him to leave in the first place.

“Abe happens to be my close friend based on his support for Asiwaju, but I was not briefed that he was leaving. On the other hand, Okocha called me and sought for my advice. I said, no you cannot leave now that our man has emerged. If it remains only you, stay there. He obliged.

“If some people still think they belong to Asiwaju, I do not think there is any issue. What I see is politicking. If they approach me, we can settle it. But the issue of suspension is a no, no, no.

“Okocha and Abe are complainants in this matter; none can be a judge in his own case. I saw the suspension as very laughable.”

Mainstream APC reacts, disowns Okocha, Wike, Wokocha, Abe

The mainstream APC in the state sprang up with a press conference where they declared all those fighting for the ministerial slot as total strangers. He particularly said Okocha was not an APC member and that his name is not on the INEC list from Rivers APC.

He described the fellows impersonators attempting to use the Rivers APC’s platform to ingratiate their paymaster.

“We particularly want to draw public attention to the activities of these individuals who have been paid handsomely to engage in the serial blackmail and impersonation of the Rivers State chapter of the APC. We advise the general public not to have anything to do with such characters whose stock in trade is established megalomaniac prebendalism.

“Rivers State APC wishes to warn both those claiming to have an order of a Port Harcourt High Court which was manipulated by the ex-governor. We warn all the NGOs and groups to desist from deceiving the public about their membership status of our great party as the party has no record of membership of such persons especially the former Chief of staff to former governor, Chibuike Amaechi.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the procured Order of a state High Court in suit no PHC/925/CS/2023 issued (better still awarded) on the 13th of April 2023 had a shelf life of seven days and has long expired giving the fact that the two members of the State Executive of our party entered an Appeal on the said matter in Appeal No.CA/166/2023 and there is no other court in Nigeria as at today, that is entertaining any issue whether touching on the two State Exco members or the entire Executive of the APC in Rivers State.

“The implication of this is that the purported suspension can only take effect with the endorsement of the NWC of APC!

“It is therefore hallucinatory for any individual or group to continue to lay claim to an Order of court that has long expired (13th April – 19th April 2023). The APC is an organized political party with a Constitution and body of rules. We are at a loss why an Exparte Order of a Court in Nigeria can be so mocked as to be converted into the judgement of Court and an instrument of destruction of our party by individuals who never meant well for the APC in Rivers State.

“We wish to alert Nigerians and lovers of democracy to the ceaseless promotion of democratic brigandage in Rivers State in the name of politics of interest. For emphasis, this Exparte Order cannot be ad-infinitum and has been properly challenged before a Superior Court, thus, doing anything that will seem to further recognize that this ‘suspension’ can last forever beyond seven days or if renewed on Application by the Court *suo motu* 14 days, amounts to an affront on the Court of Appeal.”

The APC thus warned that any individual or group of persons attempting to impersonate Rivers State APC executives by sponsoring miscreants disguising as our youth wing or as members of the State Chapter of the APC for the purposes of calling for the appointment of Nyesom Wike as Minister of the Federal Republic or any other matter(s) in favour of the immediate past Governor, shall have law enforcement agencies to contend with”.

Conclusion:
It seems the cancerous political crisis in Rivers State in 2012 that pitched two kinsmen and allies (Wike and Amaechi) that led to Amaechi and his supporters moving over to the newly formed APC is not about to end.

Observers say by the latest development, which ever camp that wins this ministerial position battle would still have wars on their hands for a very long time to come, justifying Amaechi’s warning at the onset warning the faint-hearted to stay behind and not join him without deep reflection because it was going to be a ‘long battle’.

Now, it seems to be a long battle, indeed. Yet, the end seems not yet in sight.