With the recent pronouncement of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole regarding the fate of the leadership of the party, especially the faction loyal to the transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, it is becoming clear that the faction of the party is in utter confusion.
Amaechi himself seems to be at a loss on what to do at this time, especially as the party has, in compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court, annulled the outcome of the controversial congresses which Amaechi foisted on the party in the state.
Technically, since the party leaders that emerged from the annulled congresses have been sacked by the apex court, it follows that whatever they did, including the processes that led to the emergence of the gubernatorial candidate of the party, as well as other candidates, cannot stand.
When Chidi Lloyd, the DG for the Tonye Cole gubernatorial campaign organisation was asked by an online newspaper about the effect of the national chairman's pronouncement on the issue, his response was simple: “we'll look at the details.”
TNN called Lloyd for more than 10 times on Saturday for more explanations on the comment, but he would not take the calls. Also, calls to the sacked spokesman of the Amaechi camp of the APC, Chris Finebone were ignored.
When all of them refused to take our calls, TNN reached out to Cole himself. He rejected the call and later sent a customised message to say that he could not talk at that time. Repeated calls to his phone as well as text messages were ignored.
But one of the chieftains of the party who is a former commissioner told TNN over the telephone that the faction of the party was studying the situation. His comment was a confirmation of Lloyd's position.
But for the Magnus Abe faction of the party, what has happened will serve as a great lesson to politicians, including Amaechi.
Paul Osiago, media aide to the factional chairman of the APC loyal to Abe told TNN in a telephone interview on Saturday that “every society is guided by a set of laws so that there will be peace. Every leader must listen to their leaders because there can be no leader without followership.“Everybody should abide by the rule of law. The leaders should derive their powers from their followers, not the other way round.
He said with the Supreme Court ruling, coupled with the pronouncement of the national chairman of the party, Cole had reached the end of the road as far as the 2019 gubernatorial election was concerned.
Osiago also said the Abe faction was the authentic faction of the APC. “As far as we are concerned, by law, the Peter Odike faction of the APC is the authentic faction of the APC and being the legitimate faction of the APC, we are standing on the fact that whatever that legitimate faction has done from May till today, including the holding of direct primaries as was directed by the NEC, including submission of list of candidates, both for the state and national assembly and our governorship candidate, we are urging our national chairman to go the whole hog by ensuring that true justice is done, by submitting all the names of our legislative assembly candidates to INEC for the purpose of the 2019 general elections.”
But a chieftain of the party from the Amaechi faction, Forgiven Amachree disagreed with Osiago. He said it was wrong for Odike to parade himself as authentic chairman of the party.
“Parading Prince Peter Odike as the authentic party chairman and resorting to him howsoever is totally illegal and anything done by him in the name of Rivers APC Exco is null and void. “The Chief Davis Ibiamu Ikanya led Exco became functus officio as a result of the effusion of time. They were elected for a time definite, which in this case, four years. Their tenure expired on the eve of the 4th anniversary of their election. Anything done after that day without proper extension of their term by the appropriate authority is of no consequence at all.
“That APC Rivers State as led by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a law abiding party which obeys constituted and superior authorities. Since the National Working Committee of the party, through the chairman, Adams Oshiomhole has directed that there should be new congresses. I sincerely believe the party will comply, by following the guidelines to be produced.”
He expressed the view that “the directive and statement of Adams Oshiomole does not in anyway affect the primaries and candidates produced therefrom, as the directive is to congresses and not primaries.
Genesis of the crisis
Following an ex-parte application by aggrieved members of the APC, led by Abdulahi Umar, a high court in the state instructed the party members to suspend plans for the conduct of its local government congress on May 12, pending the determination of the substantive application alleging the marginalisation of some of its members.
Rather than comply with the court order, the APC filed an application at an appeal court and proceeded to conduct its primaries on the basis of the application filed.
In a decision on the matter on May 31, the lower court presided over by Chinwendu Nwogu, said the APC conducted its congress in outright violation of subsisting court orders. The judge described the said congress as a nullity.
However, in a counter ruling, the appeal court in Rivers in its ruling by the lead judge, Isarah Akeju, overruled Nwogu's nullification of the APC congress, resulting in a fresh application by Umar at the Supreme Court.
On October 22, a five-member panel of the apex court led by Centus Nweze berated the appeal court for affirming the congress and warned that the court would not tolerate attempts to undermine its decision by any Nigerian.
“It is unfortunate and wrongful for the Court of Appeal to entertain a party in contempt of a valid court order, to the extent of granting judicial favour by way of stay of execution of an injunctive order,” he held.
“It is a serious matter for anyone to flout a court order and in the instant case, it is clear that the respondent (APC) was in grave disobedience of two lawful court orders.
“It is sacrilegious, ill-fated and a suicide mission for the Court of Appeal to have departed from various decision of the Supreme Court that any party in contempt of court ought not to be granted judicial discretion and in this matter, appeal court is bound to follow Supreme Court final decision.”
Abe fights back
A few days ago, the party's spokesman at the national level had recently said that the Supreme Court judgement did not affect the emergence of Cole as candidate of the party, a pronouncement that attracted the ire of Abe.
In reacting to the statement, Abe had said that “it is most unfortunate that the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has allowed himself to be sucked into the current battle of supremacy between a faction of the APC in Rivers state and the Nigerian Judiciary.
"First, there is no conflicting interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment, as the judgment of the Supreme Court was clear and unambiguous. In simple English, the Court stated clearly that the party was bound to obey the Orders of the Port Harcourt High Court per Worgu J. The court further stated that the APC having acted in gross disobedience of the Orders of the court, they should expect no relief from the courts. The Supreme Court chided the Court of Appeal in very strong terms for availing its powers to the APC, when the party was clearly in contempt of the orders of Worgu J.
"The Supreme Court then proceeded to restore all the Orders of the High Court, in effect invalidating the congresses that produced the delegates that produced the candidates.
"The Order restored by the Supreme Court was the Order of the High Court prohibiting the APC from proceeding with the congresses. There is no interpretation needed to understand the fact that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has stated clearly that congresses did not hold in Rivers state.
"How does that not affect the indirect primaries in which delegates from the voided congresses voted to produce the candidates?
"More shocking to all lovers of justice in Nigeria is the fact that while the statement made copious references to the Supreme Court Judgment, (because it claims that it did not nullify the primaries) the statement made no reference whatsoever to the High Court judgment of Worgu J which clearly nullified the APC primaries.
"The judgment of Worgu J was served on the party by a Court Bailiff and for which there is an affidavit of service. Yet no reference was made to this judgment in the statement of the National Publicity Secretary.
"This is clearly a case of the party choosing which judgment to interpret and which judgment to disobey.
“The Judgment of Nworgu J made an order expressly cancelling the indirect primaries of the Rivers State APC, and until that Judgment is set aside that remains the position of the law in Nigeria. No statement can restore the candidates except another judgment from a superior court.
"The Origin of the present crisis between the Judiciary and a faction of the APC in Rivers State arose out of the penchant of the erstwhile State Publicity Secretary of the party to set aside Court Orders by public statements on national television.
“The current attempt by the National Publicity Secretary to set aside a judgment of the court by this public statement will equally fail.
"Members of the APC in Rivers State will recollect that prior to the botched State congresses, an expanded state working committee of the party was summoned by the then State Chairman, Chief Ibiamu Ikanya on the 2nd of May, 2018.
"At that meeting, we agreed on a formula to conduct the congresses of our party in an all-inclusive manner. Chief Ikanya based on consensus reached at that meeting set up a technical committee to work out the details of harmonization.
"The arrival of the Minister of Transportation brought an end to the effort at reconciliation and harmony. The Congress was moved to INTELS camp in Port Harcourt, and those not perceived as loyal to the Minister were unceremoniously excluded.
"It was this move that forced Ibrahim Umar and others to approach the courts. The case was initially filed in the Bori Division and transferred to Chief Judge of the state where it fortuitously landed in the court of Worgu J. Every Order made by the Judge to give the aggrieved members an opportunity to participate in the congresses was interpreted and overruled by the State Publicity Secretary of the party on national television. Indeed a physical attack was sponsored on the court premises to forcefully shut it down and prevent the State High Court from sitting on this matter.
"This was a golden opportunity, lost by the APC as the party of change to distance itself from the culture of disrespect for the courts and continuously setting aside and ignoring Court Orders and judgments on national television, the very acts that the Supreme Court condemned in such strong terms.
"This morning I have sent a copy of the affidavit of service of the Judgment of Worgu J to the National Publicity Secretary.
"Let me again assure members of the APC in Rivers State that the party conducted direct primaries in Rivers state, where over one hundred and forty-eight thousand members of our party voted, those elected therefrom are the only legal candidates for the APC in the 2019 elections in Rivers State, as there is a valid judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction that annulled the indirect primaries. The judgment is clear and unambiguously and requires no interpretation. We stand on that judgment.
"Members of the APC in Rivers State should remain calm; our determination to seek justice and ensure that the wishes of our party members are respected is not in any way affected by this statement. Our struggle will continue until justice is done.
"Kairos time is the appointed time. At the appointed time the God of justice will surely speak and every voice of injustice and oppression shall be still”.