Last week, Senator Magnus Abe appeared as guest in a television programme where he spoke about the recent Supreme Court judgement and other issues affecting the APC in Rivers State. Joining him via skype was the director-general of the Tonye Cole governorship campaign organisation, Dr Chidi Lloyd, also a lawyer.
TNN monitored the full interview. Here is the unedited version of that interaction.
Senator Magnus Abe, what is your reaction to the Supreme Court judgement yesterday? Does it mean that it is over?
Thank you very much. First of all, let me say that the Supreme Court is the final court in the land. While that was not the outcome we had prayed for or expected, that is the pronouncement of the court and as law-abiding citizens and as democrats, we have to live by what the court has decided.
But I think that people need to have some basic understanding of what actually happened. As you would recollect, the national working committee of the party had asked that the states should make a determination as to the mode of primaries they wanted, whether direct or indirect.
In Rivers State, there was an existing court order that had nullified the election of a new executive of the party in the state, and so the existing executive at the time made a request to the national for direct primaries to avoid legal complications that were already evident in the state at that time.
And we had wanted the Supreme Court to make a pronouncement on the legality or otherwise of that exercise, but because of the delay in hearing the case. When the matter was filed, the Supreme Court of Nigeria actually wrote a letter to us a week to the elections to say the case could not be heard because the other faction of the party in the state had written a petition against the judges and therefore the Supreme Court had decided that the matter could only be heard after the elections when a new panel would be constituted.
So for me as a lawyer, I read that as a judgement of the court as far as the issues were concerned, because this was clearly a pre-election matter and the effectiveness of the pronouncement would have clearly affected the party going into the elections.
So when the court wrote that letter we saw it as a decision in itself. When the court held this(last) week that the suit was not in order because we had removed the names of candidates for National Assembly which election was concluded before the suit was filed, that didn't come to me as a surprise when the suit was struck out. As far as we were concerned, the decision to strike out the suit was taken when a decision was taken not to hear the appeal before the elections. So it didn't come to me as a surprise.
Like I said, that was not the outcome we expected but we expect all law-abiding Nigerians to obey, respect and support the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Does that mean that is the end of the road because you have been saying what the Amachree faction did was wrong, are you agreeing with the fact that the primaries conducted in your own case is wrong?
Well, that is not what I understand. But if you are asking if I agree it's the end of the road for our quest to try to establish the legality of that particular primary exercise, I will say yes. Legally, that has come to an end. There is nowhere else for us to go. You know there is a saying that you have to find courage to change the things you can, you have to find the serenity to accept the things you can't change and you have to pray to God for the wisdom to understand the difference. So I think clearly, for us as democrats who had throughout this struggle followed it constitutionally and followed it within the ambit of the law, that has come to an end. There is really nothing to do again than to accept that with that pronouncement of the Supreme Court, we have no option to pursue the legality of that exercise. So that is where it ends.
Chidi Lloyd Joins...
Let's talk to Dr Chidi Lloyd that is joining us from Port Harcourt. You have heard the reaction of Senator Magnus Abe on this one. What is the reaction from your own side on the outcome of the Supreme Court judgement on Monday?
Well, I thank you for this opportunity. My reaction as a lawyer like Senator Magnus Abe is that the final court of the land has spoken and no theatrics will change that. The court has spoken, and as lawyers, just like Senator Magnus Abe, we have to agree with what the final court has said. And this we have been saying, what the Supreme Court did was to give vent to what we have been saying ab initio, that Distinguished Senator Magnus Abe charted this course, he knew the course he charted from day one when he boasted in several quarters that he was not going to stop at anything but to destroy the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, his benefactor.
And he set out on this road to perdition by eeh, eeeh, eeh, dangling up people, who, who, who, who masquerade as eem, eem, factional members of the, of the, of the All Progressives Congress. That tussle, that tussle, that self- inflicted injury, led us to be in the Supreme Court and ensured that eem eem we were not on the ballot.
But just as Magnus would say in eeeh, eeeh, in one of his landmark celebrations in his house somewhere in Abuja, he did say that eeh, only God has the final say. I remember vividly by seeing him in an amateur video that went viral at the time, that eeh, when he agreed that only God has the final say. And that eeh, eeh, all the efforts, eeh, eeh, to destroy the party in the state, have not eeh eeh, have not materialized because God of course who has the final say gave us an opportunity where the Supreme Court justices, seven of them in number, would look at all that had been done whether they were done with malice. Eeh, eeh, we will await the decision of the court but I want to point out quickly that Senator Abe has made some very dangerous insinuations against the Supreme Court when he said that eeh, eeh, when the Supreme Court wrote to them, they know that was a judgement itself. Eeh, I don't expect that from a very senior lawyer like Distinguished Senator Magnus Abe who opened, who started his opening speech by pouring encomiums on the Supreme Court only to go somewhere in the middle of his statement to begin to cast aspersion on the same, eeh, eeh, on the same eeeh Supreme Court.
Eeh, as lawyers, we are trained not to, not to, eeh not to comment on issues that Supreme Court has decided.
To Senator Magnus Abe
APC not being on the ballot in Rivers State, must have been something very drastic for the party?
First of all, let me thank you and to say that everybody in Nigeria understands what this struggle was about in the first place. So some of the remarks that was made by Dr Lloyd was in my opinion uncalled for and unhelpful to us in the situation that we have found ourselves.
There is no time that I cast aspersions on the Supreme Court. What I said is that we received a letter from the Supreme Court before the elections to say that the case could not be heard till after the elections, and as a lawyer, I decided to take that as a decision in itself because I felt that for the Supreme Court to intervene effectively in the Rivers matter, that would have been done before the elections. So that is my interpretation as a lawyer. That does not cast aspersions on the court.
Secondly, our struggle was about change, doing things differently in the party.
We left the PDP because we said that the attitude and behaviour of the leaders of the PDP would not help our country and would not help our state.
When the PDP decided that 16 people were greater than 19, we left there to go to the APC where we promised Nigerians change. And I am in the APC fighting for that change. I am interested in bringing that change to the doorsteps of Rivers people.
So our struggle has never been about pulling down anybody. And you will yourself confess that I have been on this programme severally, but I have never at any time said or done anything to try to pull anybody down. I have always tried to stick with the facts as far as the Rivers issues are concerned.
We will continue our struggle for internal democracy and for effective inclusion within the All Progressives Congress because that is the way you win elections.
The issue of the party being off the ballot is really unfortunate; it was not what anybody would have desired. But everybody in Rivers State understood that the crisis in the APC would only benefit Nyesom Wike. Everybody knew that. The minister knew that. I knew that. Chidi Lloyd knew that. So anybody who pretends that they did not know that the situation we had in the APC would benefit our opposition is not being truthful and the person is not being honest.
And so we need to actually be able to look each other in the eyes and tell one another the truth and act in such a manner that that truth will be able to help us to overcome our present challenges.
Chidi Lloyd knows that the beginning of this crisis was when members of our party paid for forms from the party to participate in the congresses and a decision was taken that they were no longer members of the party. But that is not what the constitution of the party says, and that is not what should have happened. And if we are real democrats and committed members of the APC, we should have acted at that time to ensure that the right thing was done within the party.
But this whole issue has been about trying to prove that certain people are irrelevant and certain people don't matter and that some people are the party and they can do without others. And I want to say here clearly that they cannot.
The whole idea of any one person being able to deliver the APC in Rivers State without the participation and the support and inclusion of others in the party is a mirage and it will not work. So, people really need to understand what the issues are and we need to work together to save the situation.
To Chidi Lloyd.
Is it all over for the Rotimi Amaechi side? This election has been won by the PDP and lost by the APC, or is there any hope?
I want to quickly say that I find it very offensive when you put, you put photograph of the Hon minister alongside that of Senator Magnus Abe. The Hon Minister of transportation at no time, constitutionally he is barred from contesting for position of governor of Rivers State, having done so an uninterrupted time of two tenure. The person that is at war with the, with the, that has contention with Magnus Abe is actually Tonye Cole and that is the photograph you should be showing not that of Rotimi Amaechi whose, who, who has been a boss to Magnus Abe at several times. Magnus you recall was, was, was...
(Slides of photographs of Abe, Wike and Tonye Cole shown)
Dr Chidi Lloyd there you have it, Tonye Cole here, Magnus Abe here and the man who won the election, Wike there.
Chidi Lloyd Continues
Yes, having said so, I want to quickly say, eeh, eeh, that as lawyers, eeh, eeh, the matter is subjudice and all I know is that the All Progressives Congress has appeals lying before the Supreme Court which will be heard on, on, on, on Thursday. That is what I can say in this matter. As to what the judgement portends for us, I, I, I, I want to eeh, I want to be, eeh, eeh, I want to guide myself in order not to say anything that will prejudice the decision of the court.
But as a Christian, as a Christian, as a practicing catholic, I, I, I have always prayed that God should do the needful and eeh, eeh, eeh, save Rivers State from the shackles of political buccaneers. That has been my prayer.
Senator Magnus Abe, you can shoot now.
What I will say is that like every other mature political group in this country, we knew after the 2015 elections that there would be elections in 2019, and we had the same time like other political groups and parties to put our house in order and prepare as serious people to take over Rivers State which we could have done very easily but because of the attitude and imperial nature of certain persons and the need to try to prove that certain persons are irrelevant we found ourselves where we are.
I think that the proper thing for us to do is to retrace our steps and put our party back together in a manner that will make it an effective political machine to take back Rivers State. That is what we should be doing at this time.