Isaac Abott Ogbobula was recently inaugurated as caretaker committee chairman of the APC in Rivers State. But that development has continued to generate reactions from other stakeholders in the party, including Igo Aguma, who is also laying claim to the seat.
Ogbobula, in this interview, insists Aguma is now history as far as the leadership of the party is concerned. He also spoke on the presidential ambition of the transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi.
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It looks like the APC is still on fire in Rivers State. You have been inaugurated as caretaker committee chairman but Igo Aguma insists he is still the chairman.
The party at the national level met on Tuesday, the 8th of December 2020, the NEC of the party met, National Executive Committee met and discussed a number of issues and passed a number of resolutions, one of which was the complete and outright dissolution of all party structures in the state, local governments and the wards across the entire country and the FCT.
Thereafter, the tenure of the caretaker committee and convention planning committee at the national level led by His Excellency, Governor Buni, was extended for six months. Thereafter, the meeting reconstituted caretaker committees across the entire 36 states of the Federation including FCT Abuja, that was what happened.
Then on Friday the 11th of December 2020, the chairmen of the 36 states and the FCT Abuja, the caretaker committee chairmen were inaugurated in Abuja and then mandated to go to their respective states and inaugurate the local governments and the wards. First, inaugurate the state and then move on to the local government and inaugurate them and that way down to the ward level.
So on Saturday, based on that mandate, on Sunday, yesterday, we had the inauguration of our local government caretaker committees, first we had the state caretaker committee inaugurated and then we moved on to the local government and inaugurated them and then they moved on to the wards across the 23 local governments of the state and also inaugurated the caretaker committees at that level, both local government and the ward levels. Those are the few activities that have taken place these few days.
But the argument is that in Rivers State there was an existing caretaker committee.
What you have is a fresh mandate. There was complete and absolute dissolution of all existing structures by whatever names called, whether you call it the elected party officers or you call them caretaker committees, they were completely and absolutely dissolved. What you have is a fresh, fresh caretaker committee made up of more than five members.
I think the case in Rivers State is a bit peculiar because Igo Aguma team came into power by virtue of a court order, has that court order been seized?
(cuts in) Igo Aguma is on appeal to the Supreme Court and then the court of appeal stalled whatever had happened at the high court. The Court of appeal which is higher than Omereji’s high court had stalled whatever happened in Omereji’s court or in his judgement so we can’t be talking about Igo Aguma anymore.
But was the judgement that brought Igo Aguma set aside?
That order, the judgment was suspended.
You are a lawyer. When you say a judgement was suspended and when we say it was set aside what’s the difference?
That judgment is not operational because the court of appeal said so, it’s not effective, it’s not operational.
Okay, so between the instructions of the court which order is yet to be set aside and what the NWC of the party has done, which one is superior?
(cuts in) The Court of Appeal is superior to the high court. Court of Appeal has made an order, it’s binding on all lower courts. You can’t be talking about the high court judgment when the court of appeal has made a pronouncement.
Alright, APC has been in crisis for so long now. It’s part of the crisis that made it not to be able to field candidates during the 2019 election. It appears the party is going the same way this time again.
The party is not going the same way. There is no crisis in APC. We have disagreements which is normal in political gatherings, whether PDP or APC whether other parties, they have disagreements and they sit down, resolve their disagreements one way or the other, they find political solution to disagreements and all that. We do not have any faction in Rivers State, we do not have any crisis, the party is moving on, whoever does not want to jump on the train, we will leave the person behind and move on.
So, does it bother you that Igo Aguma is still fighting?
(cuts in) Igo Aguma is inconsequential, Igo Aguma is looking for relevance, Igo Aguma is no longer in the lexicon of APC as far as we are concerned. He is just looking for relevance. We don’t see Igo Aguma in this party, we are moving on.
Are you also bothered that as we speak today, because of the crisis in the APC in Rivers State, there is nobody from the party at any elective position anywhere?
Sure, naturally. What is the essence of a political party? The essence of a political party is to canvass for votes and get persons elected into offices, so if you do not have persons in office of course naturally you should be concerned and then you work harder to ensure that in the next elections, you fill candidates and then you have them elected into office.
Igo Aguma comes across as an unenlightened person. How can you have the pronouncement of the court of appeal and then you are still basking, what is he looking for? You are parading yourself around when you have the court of appeal’s pronouncement? You are not recognized by the national party; the party you say you belong to and then we are talking about Igo Aguma here.
Apart from Igo Aguma, let’s also talk about the people that are with him, party chieftains, APC chieftains.
Somebody like Senator Magnus Abe. I’m not sure he is in your group?
Is there a group? There is no group in APC, people are disagreeing, individuals are disagreeing as to one issue or the other and it doesn’t make it a group.
So what fence mending processes are you embarking on? Magnus Abe is a former senator so he is a major stakeholder in the state. There are so many of them like that. Recently, somebody like Chidi Lloyd left the APC and went back to the PDP. I’m asking, are you not bothered about all these issues that are arising from the party?
Like I told you before, there must be in every human grouping or relationships, some bit of disagreements. There must be. Individuals have their respective objectives, what they want, some of them are platform seekers, some of them are party members, that is party people, party men and women, so it depends on what you want out of a political platform, or a political grouping, or a political movement. So it depends on what you want. Each person is pursuing what he or she wants out of a political situation or circumstance and that is just it. So any person, people move according to what their objectives are.
We’ve had very high profile movements into the APC. In fact, as recent as last Saturday, we received former members of the house of assembly. We received former commissioners, we received very senior members of other parties into our fold. We have also received at least two serving House of Representatives members; the one representing Oyigbo Federal Constituency and the one representing Omuma-Etche Federal Constituency, they are in our fold and they’ve been attending all our functions. So people have their respective objectives and reasons why they move at any time.
Rivers State APC is a divided house. Can you go to war with a divided house…?
Rivers State APC is intact, it’s not divided, we’re moving ahead, the carnivals are ongoing, people disagree and resolve and agree and move on just like it’s happening in PDP and in other parties. We are going to this war, we will win.
So are you saying you will use local government elections coming up April 17 in Rivers State, to test the strength that you have in the state?
It’s a national decision, stakeholders, party elders, it’s a collective decision not what I can discuss with you here. The national will key in, the national will direct every election that we contest must have the buy in and the support of the national. We have not discussed that yet at the national level so we can’t discuss at this level.
I’m asking that question because you said even the governorship election you are going to win?
Governorship election is not a state election; governorship election is a national election conducted by INEC. Local government election is conducted by so called Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission, chaired already by card carrying member of the party.
In other words, you don’t have faith in RSIEC?
(cuts in) I’m saying that it has not been discussed, the party has to discuss, as an organized body from the national to the leadership to the stakeholders, to the members.
Do you have faith in Rivers State electoral commission?
(cuts in) I’ve told you already that it’s manned by persons known to be card carrying members of the PDP.
Meaning you don’t have faith in that commission?
I don’t have faith in it but it doesn’t mean that we have taken a decision whether we are contesting or not. It should be clear that first we do not have faith in that body. Of course that body from the beginning is made up of card carrying members of a political party but that does not mean that we have taken a decision one way or the other to contest or not to contest.
When you say card carrying member of the PDP, it baffles me because…?
Yes, one of the members is a lecturer in UNIPORT, I can’t remember his name, the lecturer in UNIPORT is from Ahoada East Local government area. That’s my local government area, a known card carrying member of the PDP, he was in the finance sub-committee campaign team of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at that time. He is known, he has been funding and holding wards and local government meetings in Ahoada East, I can’t recall his name now.
The other one, he works in the legal department of the house of assembly, and then from there he’s been appointed to the state electoral commission he was brought into the house of assembly….
Just like Mr. President, the other day nominated a card carrying member of the APC?
(Cuts in) Who told you? Onochie is not a card carrying member I have told you that Onochie is not a card carrying member of the APC and you can do your findings. He is not, not like in this Rivers State case where you have known card carrying members of the party. The judge that has been made the chairman of the board of the commission, don’t you know the judge? We have no confidence at all in that Rivers State Electoral Commission, no confidence, zero confidence. The facts are clear that these are card carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State.
There is speculation that the leader of the APC in Rivers State is likely, very, very likely to present himself…
(cuts in) Yes, he is eminently qualified, as qualified as any Nigerian and he should, in fact, we are urging him to present himself as a presidential candidate come 2023.
You didn’t allow me to land.
I have answered it, I know where you are going to go, we know it. The facts are obvious that he is very qualified and people are routing in the North, in the South and in the West to contest that position. No other person that has that kind of support so far from Rivers State and the South East and the South-South.
Has the APC zoned to the South-South?
He is eminently qualified to contest the presidency of this country and he should be encouraged and we are encouraging him to contest come 2023.
Now with Wike on the saddle in Rivers State, you think Amaechi has a chance of winning?
(cuts in) Amaechi has a chance in winning anything he wants to win both in Rivers State and at the national level. Wike, no Wike, is inconsequential to us.
But in 2019 Wike was able to rattle Amaechi and he lost out everywhere.
APC was not in the contest in 2019.
Don’t you think a similar thing may play out?
(cuts in) It won’t play out, 2021, 2022, 2023 are different years altogether and they are completely different from 2019 and other years.
What’s your perception of Wike? People call him Mr. Project, they call him…?
(cuts in) Wike has performed woefully as a governor. He has no idea, he doesn’t know what he is doing as a governor, he is loquacious; he talks. That’s all what he does, he stands in the church, pulpit and issues invocation and those are the things he does.
There is a brand new flyover just in front of you.
That’s a roll over, not a fly over. It’s a bridge, a roll over.
So you are saying Wike has achieved nothing
You want to compare two people, when Amaechi was in government, go to Ahoada East, go to my village, I have primary school that is upstairs with all the facilities; computer, laboratories, e-library, generating sets, brand new and all that with computers, fenced, secured, beautiful place to learn, good conducive environment, its replicated in virtually all the villages in my ward, ward 10 of Ahaoda East Local Government Area. It’s replicated in virtually every ward in my local government, you see beautiful schools. You go to the health sector; you will see all the structures put in place in virtually all the local governments in this state. Go to the roads, road network all over my area, I’m telling you what I know firsthand, what has he done, what has Wike done? A few roads here and there and you want to compare?
At what point will you be able to beat your chest and say that there is peace in Rivers State APC?
I am already beating my chest now. APC is moving on, I don’t know where you are seeing the threat to APC, we are moving on. We’ve been holding activities here, we are not missing out on anything, the party is alive and working and moving on, where is the threat? We are here, the secretariat is open, workers are there, party members are coming, they are holding events all over the place, state, local government, wards, you will see them in the days to come, we’ve just inaugurated them.
Okay, if you see Magnus Abe today what will you tell him about APC in Rivers State?
I will encourage him to be a good party man.