Major stakeholders in the All Progressives Party in Cross River, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Rivers are either celebrating or mourning, following the turn of events at the end of Saturday, the day the part was expected to elect its ward executives.
In Cross River, the party members were up against two ministers of the federal republic-Rotimi Amaechi and Usani Usani, who were plotting to hijack the process as a way of making sure that Usani's men emerged at the end of the day.
Usani, known to be Amaechi's 'boy,' however failed to achieve the dream as stakeholders battled and prevented him from manipulating the processes. At teh end of the day, the exercise was put off indefinitely.
Recall that it was Amaechi, as governor of Rivers State, that facilitated the emergence of Usani as chairman of the party in Cross River State. Also, it was Amaechi who was said to have made it possible for Usani to become minister of Niger Delta.
Although stakeholders in the party have always kicked against the seeming domineering tendencies of Amaechi in the affairs of the party in the state, the minister, according to the party men, have always had a say in the running of the party.
For example, it was learnt that Amaechi played some roles towards the emergence of John Etim, Usani's protégé, as acting chairman of the party. Sources said Usani has been looking at Amaechi's direction as he dreams to contest the gubernatorial election.
On Saturday, the panel sent to conduct the congress was forced to surrender to the will of the people. All the stakeholders brought in the police and the materials were moved to the police headquarters. That done, the plot to write the results in a hotel was scuttled and Usani was disgraced.
Sources said on that the police commissioner was approached on Sunday to release the materials to Usani's men but that the police boss insisted that the materials would not be released until all those who signed and handed over the materials to the Force for safe keeping were present. Usani has however refused to talk to TNN on the issue
Before this drama started playing out on Saturday, there was serious tension and near violence as some party members threatened to disrupt the peace as events began to unfold that day. Heavy security presence at the party's secretariat on Barracks Road in Calabar and further reinforcement and sporadic shooting prevented a total breakdown of law and order.
The chairman of the congress panel, Dr. Stanley Ekezie, was pointedly accused of compromising the entire process as he was allegedly caught in the hotel he lodged in Calabar with materials meant for the ward congresses already tampered with.
Usani was accused by the party's stakeholders of being actively involved in the entire process designed to rig the congresses.
Prominent stakeholders who spoke one after the other at the party's state headquarters in Calabar, expressed their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the panel's chairman sent from Abuja to come and supervise the process and condemned him for his alleged despicable conduct.
Presidential aide, Obono Obla accused Usani of being dodgy and shifty. He said prior to the congress, a meeting was held by the south-south caucus of the party at the instance of the Amaechi and that it was hosted by Governor Obaseki of Edo State where it was resolved that a transparent process should take place during the congresses.
According to Obla, “for that reason, a meeting was to be convened here in Calabar on Saturday, 5th May. We agreed to organize an all-inclusive congresses. After waiting for about three hours without seeing those scheduled to take part in the meeting, we traced them to a hotel and met Etim John (the controversial state chairman of the party), Eteyen Umanah and others. They had in their possession documents for the congresses with already elected ward leaders. We got hold of the materials.
“When Usani heard that we had seized the materials, he called Obaseki and lied that the materials had been hijacked. Obaseki immediately called the National Chairman (Oyegun). With what has happened, it is impracticable to hold the congresses. This is to avoid violence.”
Senator Owan Enoh also added his voice that no credible process could take place given what had happened.
“Abuja needs to know that that Cross River APC has rejected the panel. They should not come and do a hatchet job here. The congress can't hold,” he said.
He said the panel's chairman, Ekezie called him on phone on Friday to know which local government area he came from and he told Ekezie that he did have to know his local government to do what he was sent here to do, neither did he need any favour from him.
The senator said he told Ekezie that all that was needed was that he should conduct a transparent process.
A stalwart of the party, Chief Wilfred Inah, also expressed his disgust about the fiasco and said since almost everybody had lost confidence in the panel, it should disqualify itself.
“Disqualify yourself from conducting the congresses. When you get back to Abuja, tell the people who sent you that this was the resolution of the stakeholders,” Inah said.
He said on 20th February this year, Prof Etim Nyong and himself were mandated to go and see Oyegun and the issue at stake was the congress to be held in Cross River.
“I told him you were a governor before. Think about your integrity. But he still went ahead to ask Senator Osita Izunaso to go ahead with the resolution we did not agree with, “ he said, and added “this has led to a situation where there is now a gulf in the party and not the initial crack.”
Another stakeholder and governorship aspirant, Venatius Ikem said in view of the development, “we have lost confidence in the congresses panel.”
Also speaking earlier, Utum Eteng told Ekezie that “it is not an easy task that you have come to perform. You have come to meet a bottled anger. Use your discretion to make this come to a successful end. “
Ekezie who spoke before stalwarts of the party reacted had said he had come here to listen to the stakeholders.
“After listening to them, I will do what I was sent here to do. I have not come here to make trouble,” he said.
While making his remarks, he was booed by party supporters who had surrounded the secretariat and were peeping through the windows to monitor what was going on inside the secretariat hall.
After most of the elders had spoken, with the majority saying they had lost confidence in Oyegun and Osita Izunaso, while others said Amaechi was the problem of APC in the state, a chieftain of the party, Cletus Obun moved the motion for a vote of no confidence to be passed on those who appointed the panel that came to conduct the ward congresses in Cross River.
They also said only the party's board of trustees should appoint those who should come and conduct the congresses next time and part of the motion which was overwhelmingly supported by the leaders of the party present was that the congresses should be suspended until a new national executive of the party is installed after the 13 June national convention. Obong Mkpanam seconded the motion which was adopted by all.
Thereafter, Obono Obla said since the state party executive had ceased to function as it stands dissolved, a caretaker committee should be set up to run the affairs of the party in the state, pending when a state congress would be conducted to elect new officers.
When journalists sought the reaction of Ekezie after all the allegations heaped on him and the lack of confidence in him and his panel, he simply said “the people have spoken. I have nothing else to say.”
- Amaechi battles to get soft landing for Dakuku, Abe still crying
What Amaechi could not achieve in Cross River, he seemed to have achieved it in his home Rivers State. Amidst complaints and tears from the camp of Senator Abu, a gubernatorial aspirant and former ally of the minister, Amaechi successfully had his way and got his faction to have what they called a successful congress.
Signals that all was not well in the party emerged on Friday, when party loyalists in the camp of Abe started crying and accusing Amaechi of hijacking materials meant for the congress. When Amaechi arrived the state, he had boasted in a veiled reference to Abe, that anybody who thought he was popular should appear for the congress to prove his popularity, saying the exercise was going to be free and fair.
At the end of the day, Amaechi had his way, while Abe is still groaning. Amaechi'e men, including the 2015 candidate of the party, Dakuku Peterside who is suspected to be Amaechi's Man Friday and choice candidate for the 2019 election, have been rejoicing over the outcome of the congress.
A statement from his media team said “the 2015 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers, Dr Dakuku Peterside has expressed satisfaction with the party's Saturday's congress that took in place in the 319 wards of the state.
Dr Peterside, who stated this in Port Harcourt after receiving field reports from the party's hierarchy, commended APC faithful for their “maturity, peaceful disposition and the orderly manner the congresses were conducted.”
“The APC has once again risen to the occasion and proven to be a party of choice for Rivers people. Unlike what happened when the other party held its primary, our members displayed maturity and shamed apostles of doom.
“Nobody lost his life in the congress in the state. Wike's condolences are part of his cheap mischief, he is mischief personified, he should go and condole families of those he rode on their graves to get to power.
“Rivers people know Wike for who he is and are not surprised at his antics. There is a level you can take propaganda to but the governor seems to be reinventing himself everyday in his ability to tell lies. Rivers people are no longer deceived by his antics.”
Also, the state chairman of the party who is believed to be in Amaechi's camp, Dr Davies Ikanya, has congratulated those believed to have emerged winners during the controversial congress.
His media aide, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze said in a statement that those who vandalised the party secretariat would be brought to book.
He said what happened during the congress was indication of “good prevailing over evil, light shining out darkness. With this success, we are convinced that Governor Wike and his agents in APC will not only be ashamed but counting their losses.
“The (congress) committee under the chairmanship of Barr Amachree the party Administrative Secretary with Chief Emeka Bekee the party's secretary as its secretary will assist the police in her investigation of this evil plot envisaged to ruin our party and cast aspersion on the party's leadership”
“The party describes those behind the vandalization of her secretariat as cowards and enemies of democracy and urges the Police to ensure that the law takes its full toll on all those implicated in the wanton vandalisation of the party's secretariat situated at old GRA Port Harcourt.
“The APC also reassured her leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the erstwhile governor of Rivers State and the incumbent Minister of Transportation that the party will collaborate and assist him in rebuilding the party to the enviable status envisioned by the founding fathers of the party in the State . The party maintained that those who want to pull down the party structure in the State will live to regret their actions.
The party emphasised that anyone who evaluates today's Congresses that took place in the 319 Wards of the party as not peaceful, credible, free and fair must be operating from outside the State or have a different agenda as the event was applauded by the International, Local Independent observers, INEC and APC National Leadership that supervised and conducted it.”
While Amaechi's men are congratulating themselves, the senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Magnus Ngei Abe is complaining that there was no ward congress of the in the 319 wards of the 23 Local Government Areas in the state.
Abe, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt by his spokesperson, Parry Saroh Benson, said those who had paid and were issued tellers were not allowed to purchase forms and participate in the exercise.
"We had a South-South Caucus meeting, where it was agreed that every leader should call all leaders of the party to an all-inclusive meeting between Thursday and Friday where all issues including how to guarantee fairness and transparency in the exercise will be discussed and agreed upon.
“It was further decided that party members should be briefed by the congress committee from Abuja before the commencement of the exercise. Non of that happened in Rivers State rather, party men and women were asked to go to their wards and wait for the congress.
"The development is against the guidelines of the party congresses, that purchase of nomination forms should end 24 hours before the commencement of the congress."
"Our worry is that some leaders of the party deliberately want to obstruct the Ward, Local Government and State Congresses to achieve a predetermined result. We are appealing to the National Leadership of the party to do what is right to ensure a free, fair, peaceful and credible congress in Rivers State.
"It is the hope and aspiration of stakeholders of our party in Rivers State that National Executive Council (NEC) will respect the opinion of the people of the state."
Sylva Rules in Bayelsa
The ward congresses was said to have held peacefully in Bayelsa State, with the leader of the party in that state, Chief Timipre Sylva giving direction.
Sylva was to address journalists after the congress, where he also spoke on the reported reinstatement of a former chairman of the party, Chief Tiwei Orunimighe. He said the injunction was a black market order, as there was a pending case in the court of appeal on the same issue.
In fact, he said the NJC would be approached to discipline the judge who gave the injunction which he described as commercial injunction.
In a separate interview with TNN, a former House of Representatives candidate of the APC during the 2015 election, Chief Samuel Ungbuku said the party would follow legal processes to settle the issue.