August 8, 2022

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APC civil war: Who will blink first?

Opposing factions in Rivers State’s All Progressives Congress (APC) have refused all entreaties to work together, leading to confusion arising from parallel executive councils at the grassroots, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu

WHEN the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on December 8, 2020, dissolved all the party’s administrative structures across the country and ordered inauguration of caretaker committees to replace them, some observers of Rivers State thought the crisis that has trailed Rivers APC since 2015 would fizzle out naturally.

They were wrong, for the NEC’s decision to appoint Isaac Ogbobula as the leader of the caretaker committee did not go down well with the Aguma faction. So, instead of abating, the crisis deepened further last weekend when the faction of the party, led by Igo Aguma, inaugurated parallel executive committees, arguing that the NEC’s decision to dissolve state committees was not applicable to Rivers State.

Inaugurating his parallel local government and ward caretaker committees in all the 23 local government areas of the state, Aguma reminded all that on June 9, 2020, the court declared him the APC caretaker committee chairman of the APC. He also said he had continued to adhere to the dictates of the judgement.

At the end of the brief ceremony, he charged the local government caretaker committees to go back to their various wards and reconcile all aggrieved members of the party.

He maintained that the APC had no structures in Rivers State apart from the state Caretaker Committee led by him, which, he reminded whoever cares to hear, was empowered by the court to lead the party.

He also argued that since the party still has unresolved cases up to the Supreme Court, it would be wrong for anybody except the judiciary to determine the leadership of the APC in the state.

Confusion, fear at grassroots
Explaining the confusion that has arisen as a result of the development, Mr. Solomon Ukpoma, a political analyst in Port Harcourt told The Nation on Friday that “the battle is still between former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe.  It is unfortunate that as the leaders, Amaechi and Abe, continue to fight rough, the crisis in the Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) continues to deepen. Go to all the 23 local government areas and you will be sorry for the inability of APC national leadership to reconcile Amaechi and Abe. APC members at the grassroots are confused and afraid as they do not know who to follow or what will become of the party and the members.

“I visited three local government areas last week and everywhere, you will see two factions of APC working against one another. It remains to be seen how a party that hopes to beat the ruling PDP in future elections would continue this way.”

Speaking while inaugurating his parallel executives, Aguma regretted that the face-off is deepening at a time another important grassroots election is around the corner. He said: “Sadly, another local government election in Rivers State is around the corner, scheduled to hold in April 2021, yet the party that should be playing formidable opposition is enmeshed in a crisis and put on the war path by known dissidents because of the selfish political interest of one man”, he said.

It would be recalled that the reconstituted committee, led by Ogbobula, recently suspended Aguma’s faction over alleged anti-party activities. According to Ogbobula, the party recommended the affected persons for expulsion. He explained that “the step was geared towards moving the party forward.”

An ally of one of the major stakeholders in the Rivers State APC, who supports the Ogbobula leadership, was quoted recently as saying that “the caretaker committee owes its existence to the whims and caprices of the appointing authority. What I mean is if the party’s executive at the national level or at the state level appoints any committee under any circumstance, the lifespan of that committee depends on the appointing authority. They can appoint you and tell you that the appointment has ended.”

The party leader, an activist added: “there is no provision in the party’s constitution or in the Nigerian constitution that stipulates a specific duration for a caretaker committee. The only argument Aguma and his people have is that the Rivers State High Court, under Justice Omerije, ruled that he is the right person to be the caretaker chairman of APC in Rivers, but the NWC appointed Ogbobula, who later went to appeal and got an order that the status quo be maintained. And the status quo is that he (Ogbobula) is the committee chairman. That is the situation we were in until about a week ago when the NEC, the highest decision-making body of the party, met and decided that all caretaker committees in all the states should be dissolved.

“And in their wisdom, the NEC decided to reappoint most of those who were dissolved. What that means is that the new committee has a new tenure, a new lifeline. So, anybody that existed before or had issues before, all those issues have been swept away by that singular action. Therefore, the existence of a caretaker committee nationwide in APC is a fresh mandate, which is from NEC and nobody can argue with that. So, for somebody of the old order, who has been swept away, his tenure has gone with time. Ogbobula is on a fresh mandate, not the one he contested with Aguma in court,” he said.

Aware of the likely effect of the face-off on the fortunes of the APC in the forthcoming local government election in 2021 and in the future major elections, concerned elders and stakeholders have been suing for peace.

One of the leaders that have openly pleaded for peace is Prince Tonye Princewill, a former governorship candidate under Action Congress (ACN). Explaining how the face-off would be resolved, Princewill recently told newsmen; “The only beneficiary in this whole thing is PDP. Aguma is my friend and Amaechi is my brother, friend and leader. Peace is still possible even if it is an awkward one. When both sides realise this, some of us will still be here to clean up the mess. Till then, I stand on existing protocol.”

Before this, some groups involved in the prolonged battle have openly sued for peace. One of such groups is the leaders and stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), loyal to Magnus Abe, who this year openly pushed for peace and unity in the Rivers State chapter of the party.

They made the plea as stakeholders drawn from the 23 local government areas of Rivers State. They made the plea in a communiqué issued at the end of their yearly meeting in the various headquarters of the councils in the state.

Signed by the Head of Media and Publicity, Sam Oburu, the communiqué condemned what it described as “the continuous political feud, which has kept the party where it is, even after the 2019 general election, with no APC member holding an elective position in the state.”

According to the group, “the party would have participated in the general election if the state and national leaders had followed the right steps during the congresses.

Oburu, in the communique, said: “While it recognises the challenges occasioned by the non-participation of the party in the last general election, which made it impossible for the party to hold any elective position in the state, the situation has not affected the massive support and patronage the party enjoys at the grassroots.

“APC in the state is in solidarity with thousands of members of the party who went to court to have their rights to participate in a free, fair and credible congress enforced and stand firmly to the judgment of the Supreme Court on the matter which asked the party to revert to status quo.

“The stakeholders therefore, condemn in very strong and terms, the unending political feuds that have bedevilled and characterised the party in the state due to the unchecked absolution and undemocratic practices exhibited by a supposed leadership of the party in the state.”

The group also “frowned at the impurity and lack of respect for the rule of law by the said leadership. The stakeholders urge the perpetrator(s) of the Rivers crisis whose stock in trade is the promotion of undemocratic values to desist forthwith and embrace democratic best practices that will help to restore the lost glory of the party in Rivers State.”

* Who will blink first?

As the contending factions hold on to their arguments, concerned observers and party members at the grassroots are pleading to leaders outside Rivers State to step in and save the party in the state.

But as Ukpoma told The Nation, the question today is who will blink first? “We all know there is no serious problem in Rivers APC. The primary problem is  pride. Since March this year, many important elders and leaders have made genuine efforts to reconcile the feuding parties. But because of pride, they gave impossible conditions and made unrealisable demands. This is both unfortunate unlike reasonable politicians. Politics thrives on the principle of give and take. You can’t plan to win all the time and expect peace and progress. The leaders must agree to make sacrifices. But who will blink first?”

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