Chief Willy Ezugwu is the Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). He speaks, in this interview with FELIX NWANERI, on the forthcoming general elections, particularly the Enugu State governorship, security situation in the country and the ongoing continuous voters’ registration exercise
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is carrying out its Continuous Voters’ Registration ahead of next year’s general elections. How would you assess the exercise and the electoral umpire’s preparedness for 2019 general election?
INEC has done well so far with the continuous voters’ registration exercise. Some people were apprehensive when the rumour mill had it that the exercise would end in January. But the commission cleared the air by refuting it. I encourage those who have not registered to go and register to enable them choose the right leadership for the country. It is those who do not vote that are always in the majority going by the history of the Nigerian elections. This actually aids the emergence of bad leaders.
So, every Nigerian should take advantage of the exercise to register and ensure that they vote. On the time table for the election, I would have preferred the presidential election to come last, after the governorship and House of Assembly elections.
The problem with presidential election coming first is that after the emergence a president, the electorate may be persuaded to vote along that line during the governorship and State Assembly elections. Therefore, if the stakeholders want free and fair election in the country, they should support the National Assembly, which has put the presidential election last. I stand with the National Assembly on the presidential election coming last.
Some people are afraid that the security situation in the country may threaten next year’s general elections next year. Do you entertain the same fear?
Of course, yes. The increasing killings in some states may affect the polls. Though security is the primary business of government, it is everybody’s business.
We have to find a way of dealing with the situation before the election. Beyond the killings, the current hunger in the land is even a bigger threat to a credible election.
The number of hungry unemployed youths in the country is alarming and the politicians may unleash them against their opponents with peanuts in their hands as political thugs. I will advise the government to do something very fast to arrest the trend. We need peace and security to have a credible election in 2019 if the government is committed to that. If the security situation doesn’t change before the election, it will be difficult to hold the general elections.
Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has received series of endorsements for a second term half way into his tenure. What is your take on that?
It is obvious that the series of endorsements the governor is getting from the citizens, market women, civil societies, local and international groups remain a testimony that Governor Ugwuanyi is a performer. And mind you, it did not begin with his becoming the state governor. His history of performance dates back to when he was a member in the House of Representatives. He touched lives everywhere in the state.
That was why he got unprecedented support as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when he joined the governorship race, which eventually resulted in his election as governor. And since he was sworn into office, he has continued to touch lives everywhere in the three senatorial districts of the state.
Today, no person in the three senatorial zones is complaining or crying of marginalisation because he is working simultaneously in the entire state at the same pace. He has done well, in the various sectors – education, health, rural development, security, sports, workers’ welfare, name it.
He is the only governor in Nigeria today that pays salaries in advance to the workers at a time some other states are owing salaries up to 11 months. Uguanyi’s leadership quality is unusual and I will tell you why; former governors of Enugu State either had cold war with their deputies throughout their tenure or had obvious political difference with their deputies due to their overbearing political leadership style.
But Governor Ugwuanyi is carrying his deputy along in whatever he is doing. In most occasions, you will see the governor sitting with his deputy.
So, when a governor has nothing to hide, he is free with people around him. That is Governor Ugwuanyi for you. I am not in the same party with the governor, so I have no reason to sing his praises unduly.
But some people indigenes of the state have criticised the governor for non-performance. They accused him of erecting billboards even on bad roads. How do you react to that?
You see, everyone is entitled to his opinion but your opinion may not be the truth. I know one of them criticizing the governor, but I can tell you that he is not telling the truth. In his constituency, the road from Obolor Afor to Nsukka and the one from Opi to Nsukka as well as Odenigbo and Oba-Echara roads, to mention a few, were abandoned for years, but they have been fixed by the Ugwuanyi administration.
Enugu is developing so fast that if you leave Enugu State for one month, if care is not taken, when you return, you will miss the road to your father’s house because massive construction work is constantly ongoing. For those who are resident in Enugu State, the governor has touched everywhere.
He has so far opened up several rural communities, linking them with good roads and bridges and the people are very happy with him. That is why many people are saying that there is no vacancy in the Enugu State Government House come 2019. His victory at the polls in 2019 is undisputable; not because I said so, but because that is what the people are also saying.
Come to think of it, if somebody like the Archbishop of Enugu Diocese, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, an Anglican Bishop who is known be a vocal critic, is commending Governor Ugwuanyi for the good job he is doing in Enugu State, and I, the Eze Ogbozarra the third of Opi Kingdom is telling you that the governor is a performer; then he is doing well. One of such commendation by Bishop Chukwuma was on the 2018 budget prepared by the Enugu State government, which he described as realistic. That is Governor Ugwuanyi for you, he is always realistic.
The most recent was the commendation at late Chief Alex Ekwueme’s funeral service, where Bishop Chukwuma urged other governors to emulate Ugwuanyi on being close to the people at the grassroots, so that when they leave office, the people will not desert them.
If someone like Bishop Chukwuma, who is not a politician, is openly commending the governor, then you will understand what I am talking about. But no matter how good a leader is, some people may choose to criticise him and no matter how bad a ruler is, he will have one or two followers. But majority of the people of Enugu State have eyes and can see what the governor is doing.
So, in 2019, he will win with a landslide because he is the people’s governor.
On the issue of erecting billboards, I can tell you that most of the billboards were erected by people who are only appreciating the good work the governor is doing.
I can tell you that because I know some individuals and communities that have on their own erected such billboards. It is misinformation to say that the governor is erecting billboards, not to talk of erecting them on bad roads. The billboards in the state are only speaking of the work the governor is doing in communities and towns.
Recently, the court ratified the rejection of Ibrahim Magu’s nomination as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). What is your reaction to the ruling?
The court verdict is a confirmation that the Senate was acting within its constitutional powers, when it rejected Magu’s nomination as EFCC chairman. I can only agree with the court’s decision on the matter.
I don’t think that Magu is the only good Nigerian to hold that position. There are other good people who can do the job even better, who are serving or retired officers in all the federal law enforcement agencies. The EFCC Establishment Act did not state that only police officers can occupy the position as EFCC chairman. Why is it that only police officers are nominated for the position?
The Senate decision on Magu should be respected by the executive now that the judiciary has ruled in their favour.
Tinubu to Oyegun: You are frustrating APC’s reconciliation
The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) assumed a new twist yesterday as the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, accused the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun of frustrating the reconciliation effort initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari. Tinubu, who heads the APC National Reconciliation Committee, made the claim in a letter he personally signed and addressed to Odigie-Oyegun, dated February 21. Copies of the letter were forwarded to President Buhari; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
The APC national leader particularly accused Odigie-Oyegun of seeking to undermine the mandate given to him by the President to reconcile aggrieved members and ensure party cohesion by engaging in dilatory tactics. His words: “Drawing from your behaviour in Kogi, Kaduna and with regard to the state chapter assessment requested, I am led to the inference that you have no intention of actually supporting my assignment. Instead, you apparently seek to undermine my mandate by engaging in dilatory tactics for the most part.
“When forced to act, you do so in an arbitrary and capricious manner, without the counsel of other National Working Committee (NWC) members and without regard to our internal procedures.” The former governor of Lagos State, who recalled that the APC was established as a party of internal democracy, lamented that its internal institutions have been actively undermined or allowed to atrophy. According to him, the spirit of a new and better Nigeria that guided the APC to unprecedented electoral success has been steadily replaced by the bankrupt and ruleless ways that brought the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) low. He said: “Since the election, there have been several reports of lack of openness and fairness which have led to internal crisis in some of our states.
There have been allegations of self induced crisis resulting from merchandising of internal processes. We all must agree that the party was bound to suffer growing pains but not to the extent of losing part of the substantial goodwill that brought us to power.
“However, that which concerns me has little to do with the manner by which the party is growing. What concerns me is the manner in which the crisis is developing that can lead to serious erosion of party cohesion and confidence.
Were I alone in this concern. I would discount my observations as a sign of my own misperceptions or infirmity. However, I stand not alone in this worry. My grief is shared by so many party members that I would not be accused of exaggeration if I said substantial party leaders are worried about the course of our vessel.
“I believe it was from this sober concern that President Muhammadu Buhari recently appointed me to lead the consultation, reconciliation and confidence-building efforts in our party. Upon the appointment, I gave the president my word that I would work diligently and objectively to achieve the goal set before me.
“In this vein, my first port-of-call after receiving this assignment was our party’s National Secretariat to present myself before the National Working Committee (NWC), with you as one of its members by virtue of your position as Chairman of the party.
“During my interaction with the NWC, I enjoined its members to freely express their views concerning the state of the party at the national, state and local levels. I listened attentively to the views of every member of the NWC present. On your part, you promised unalloyed support for my mission. Consonant with that vow, you said you would provide all Information at your disposal and you vowed to act as a liaison between me and the state party chapters.
“At that very meeting, I announced I had formally started the assignment handed me by President Buhari. I offered to keep you abreast of my work. I said that I wanted the NWC to be like an informal advisory council and board to me in the discharge of this presidential mandate. “Unfortunately, the spirit of understanding and of cooperative undertaking to revive the party seems not to have lived beyond the temporal confines of that meeting.
I assure anyone who cares to know that this positive spirit of cooperation did not meet its demise at my hands. “My position was and is that we can only restore the party by resolving its current deficiencies in an unbiased, neutral manner that allows us to strengthen our internal democracy by annealing those internal institutions and processes vital to such internal fairness. I stated this position then and still hold to it with all sincerity.
“Yet, disappointment greeted me when I discovered that you had swiftly acted in contravention of the spirit of our discussions. Instead of being a bulwark of support as promised, you positioned yourself in active opposition to the goal of resuscitating the progressive and democratic nature of the APC.”
Tinubu further accused Odigie- Oyegun of contributing to worsen the crisis in some state chapters of the party through unilateral decisions. He said: “As a party, we have strived to be the best, present hope for the nation. Yet, your goal appears to be something of a lesser pedigree in our discussion.
You personally mentioned Kogi, Kaduna, Kano and Adamawa states as places afflicted by serious party issues given your assessment. These were states where I believed cooperation between you and I should have been intense and detailed. Instead, you have taken it as your personal mission to thwart my presidential assignment in these key states. “In Kogi, you rushed to the state to unilaterally inaugurate a new slate of state officials, parallel to the officials already heading the state chapter of the party. While this may place you in significant affinity with those parallel officials you handpicked, this machination suggests no improvement in the welfare of the party in Kogi or at the national level.
This usurping of authority exacerbates conflict and confusion; it does not resolve them. “It is my understanding that your dissolution of the duly-constituted state executives and the hurried naming of the above-mentioned caretaker group was not approved by the NWC. This arrogation of power sets you at variance with members of the NWC as evidenced by National Publicity Secretary Malam Bolaji Abdullahi s statement condemning your improper and unusual action.”
Tinubu also blamed Odigie-Oyegun for the lingering Kaduna APC crisis, saying the eruptive state of affairs is a direct and proximate result of the inability of the party under his leadership to follow the dictates of the party constitution and regulations to arrive at a result that all may agree was rendered objectively and in harmony with the principles by which this party was founded. On the imperative of time over his assignment, Tinubu insisted that the national chairman make available to him the status reports and all other pertinent information regarding the state chapters without further delay if the President’s mandate is to be achieved. He advised Odigie-Oyegun not allow personal issues he has with him to affect the party’s fortune. His words: “You may have personal qualms with me.
That is your right as a human being. However, you have no such right as the chairman of this party. This party belongs to all of its members. You have no greater claim on it than any of the rest of us. Whatever personal qualms you may have with me are secondary at this point. “You have a moral and professional obligation as the party chairman to act in the party’s best interests. Your hurried and unilateral actions belie the important agency you hold for the party.” “I beg that you refrain from taking any more improper unilateral decisions with regard to the national and state chapters of the party.
As the chairman of the party you must ‘work within the confines of the duties and responsibilities enumerated under the party constitution. You must not stretch beyond them. If you continue to do so, I fear you may undermine the party in no small degree. You may well cause internal fractures and dissension difficult to repair yet visible to all. I fear this can undermine our goodwill with the electorate and make the approaching challenges to the party materially more difficult than they need to be.
“As the chairman of this party, you should not want this to be your legacy As a member of this part from its inception, I don’t want this to happen to the party and I don’t want such an awful thing to be your legacy.” When contacted by New Telegraph last night for his reaction, the APC National chairman said he will reply Tinubu very soon.
2019: Gale of endorsements for Ambode
Even though he has not officially declared interest to run for a second term, it has been a gale of endorsements for Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, from different groups and individuals across the state, Muritala Ayinla reports
In Lagos, the progressive beat goes on 32 months after the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was sworn as the fifth executive governor of the state. In spite of the obvious economic challenges in the country and dwindling allocation from the Federal Government, which has practically forced many state governments from functioning, Lagos under the Ambode administration has stood out. Projects are springing up across the state just as the tempo of governance is advancing.
Efforts towards ensuring safety of lives and properties, which are the fulcrum of any government, are being enhanced with infrastructure that directly and indirectly affect the lives of the residents and boost the state’s economy.
Consequently, to some residents and politicians in the state, there is no vacancy at the Alausa seat of power. They of the view that the various ongoing developmental projects embarked upon by the governor across the state are worth earning him a second term. Others have categorically urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to bother conducting gubernatorial poll in the state, saying doing so would amount to a waste of resources because Lagosians are determined to return Ambode to power come 2019.
From Lagos West to the East and Central senatorial districts of the state, the songs are the same with rallies and conferences to announce support for the Epe-born former Accountant General of the state. The beats of solidarity with the governor are the same across the five divisions namely: Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos Island and Epe.
The echoes of “Ambode Lekan si” (Ambode for one more term) are taking over major functions and political events in the state, with party stalwarts singing solidarity songs to express their interest in the second term project.
Only recently, members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Federal House of Representatives from the state endorsed the governor for a second term in office, citing the massive infrastructural development and his strides in all sectors.
The APC caucus in the House led by the Majority Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who presented a letter to the governor at Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja, asking him to re-contest in 2019, said the decision to unanimously endorse him for a second term was as a result of his brilliant performance in office in the last two and half years.
He said: “We are members of the House of Representatives of APC caucus from Lagos State. We all came into Lagos today to perform a very unique an sacred duty; something we did not take very lightly at all; something we deliberated over a couple of days ago and we spoke with one voice.
“Because of the strides of our amiable governor in the last two and a half years in governing the state; because of the things he has done across board, across all the local government areas, across different sectors, we sat together and we decided without a dissenting voice to seek his audience and endorse him for re-election in 2019 as the Governor of Lagos State.”
The House Leader, who described the endorsement as history repeating itself, as the caucus was the first to endorse the governor for election in 2015, said it was instructive that there was not a single dissenting voice in the decision to support Ambode for re-election.
“So, we are here today as stakeholders across all the local governments and federal constituencies of the state to present a very unique letter to our governor seeking for him to run again in 2019. We will give him unflinching support and have him re-elected overwhelmingly as governor in 2019.”
The Badagry Division of the APC and the 10 local government chairmen in the area had before then threw their weight behind the governor’s re-election bid. The council chairmen are those Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Amuwo -Odofin, Ojo, Badagry and their counterparts in six Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) – Iba, Oriade, Ifelodun, Oto-Awori, Badagry West and Olorunda.
The chairman of the party in the division, Chief Rabiu Oluwa and Mr. Abdul-Fatai Ajidagba of Ajeromi-Ifelodun, who spoke on behalf of the party chieftains and 10 council chairmen, said Ambode was adopted as their sole candidate because of his achievements in the past three years.
According to them, the governor’s total dedication to duty coupled with the enormous developmental projects and his desire to make the state a better place to live, automatically earn him a second term in office.
Ajidagba said: ”Talk about commerce and industry, good health care delivery, good roads across the state, quality education and prompt payment of workers’ salaries and arrears. In our division too, we can see the records, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Badagry Deep Sea port and other road projects. These are some of the things that placed the governor ahead of his contemporaries nationwide.”
Also leading thousands of Ejigbo/Oshodi-Isolo, Ikotun residents to endorse the governor, the state Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef, said conducting the 2019 gubernatorial election in the 36 states of the federation would amount to wasting the country’s resources as some political office holders, who had performed, could be returned unopposed.
According to him, in states where the incumbent has a cutting edge over others, or where the electorate indicated the incumbent should continue, the electoral commission should spare them of the rigour of election.
He said: “The reason is that in those states that there is need for election, the aspirants have started indicating their interest. Also, aspirants for the Presidential election have also started making their stance known to the electorate. But for Lagos especially, we are yet to see anyone who has indicated intention to contest for the governorship position. So, conducting election in such state will result to waste of the country’s resources.”
“The Federal Government should conduct referendum on whether to conduct election in some states. Conducting in some states would lead to wasting resources. We need to look at states, where the incumbent has cutting edge advantages. Any state, where the people can come together and decide that their governor should continue in office, such state should be spared of the rigour of going to the poll again. If we embark on such act, the governor will be able to work hard because he or she now knows that the social contract he signed with the citizens must be respected to the fullest.”
Chairman of the Liberal Minds Grassroots Forum, Mr. Leke Adekoya, who spoke on of Shomolu-Bariga residents at a meeting organised by the group, said that only the continuity of government in the state will sustain the dividends of democracy, which Lagosians have been enjoying since the inception of Ambode-led administration.
Also emphasising the stance of the party chieftains in Lagos East senatorial district, the senator representing the area, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said the people of Epe, Ikorodu, Ibeju Lekki and other areas in the Lagos East are committed to the re-election of Governor Ambode.
The gale of endorsements, notwithstanding, the leading opposition party in the state – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – has said it would defeat Governor Ambode in the 2019 poll, even as it decried what it called “gross violation of the Electoral Act” by those calling for the re-election of the governor.
The party’s spokesperson, Taofik Gani, who made the boast, called for the disqualification of the governor for allowing his supporters to violate the Electoral Act through solidarity rallies and events, especially the three million-man match organised by a group in the state.
Gani, who was reacting to the state’s Commissioner for Home Affairs (Abdul-Lateef) statement, said Lagosians are wise and can never be deceived.
But, the commissioner in a swift reaction to the PDP’s claim said Governor Ambode is more concern about ensuring that the Lagosians have the best in terms of having dividends of democracy.
His words: “I want to assure Lagosians that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will not be distracted by the statement by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The governor will not be distracted by political Lilliputians whose current retrogression has compelled them to operate as dysfunctional silos.
“Akinwunmi Ambode is irrevocably committed to the completion of all on-going projects in the state. He has just presented before the Lagos State House of Assembly a budget size of N1.046 trillion worth the size of about nine states of the federation.
“Where does he have the time to respond to them if he has committed himself to the completion of Agege Pen Cinema flyover in nine months? He has said the Oshodi world class transport interchange, which comprises of pedestrian bridges, shopping malls, CCTVs which will regenerate Oshodi into becoming a world class business district will soon be completed.
“Where does he have the time to respond to worthless statement from a failed party when he has committed himself to the completion of the Oshodi International Airport Road in 15 Months, imagine the governor that is busy looking for how to build four stadia in the four regions of the state?”
“The projects of Ambode will campaign for him. Lagosians are the most enlightened, the most informed people who are witnesses to the unprecedented infrastructural renewal being witnessed in Lagos state.”
While the governor has remained silent amidst the endorsements, arguments for and against as, his deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, who reacted to endorsement by the Badagry Division, said the support will motivate the governor to continue to prioritise the growth and development of the state as well as continue making the needs of residents a top issue.
Receiving the endorsement letter from leaders of the division, Adebule said: “Population is what drives election and Badagry Division has the population. Therefore, this endorsement means a lot to the governor. The endorsement will motivate him to continue to prioritise the growth and development of the state as well as continue making the needs of residents a top issue.”
Rivers APC crisis: Amaechi, Abe battle on
EMMANUEL MASHA reports on the deepening feud between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe over their battle for the control of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
The extent of the crisis within the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was laid bare recently, when the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi and the lawmaker representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Abe attended, two different party events. While Amaechi chose to attend a political event that was organized by his loyalists in Bori, the headquarters of the Ogoni; Abe was the epicenter of a thanksgiving event for APC lawmakers in the state and National Assembly. It was not an accident that the two events were held on the same day. Some observers say it was a clear political maneuvering by one of the two politicians to reduce the impact of the event on the other rather than watch without acting.
In Bori, Amaechi was surrounded by top Ogoni sons, especially those who served in his administrations. They have been piling up the political pressure in the Ogoni axis on Abe, painting him as an overrated politician, who cannot win election in Ogoni let alone win the governorship election.
But, they know that the senator is not a pushover based on his popularity and outstanding political credentials. Abe has enjoyed a steady political rise since 1999, when he was a lawmaker in the state House of Assembly. Then he was in the opposition, but because he was a thorn in the flesh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-dominated House given his superior arguments in a sage-like manner, he became a beautiful bride that the Peter Odili administration could not resist.
His defection to the PDP brought relief to some politicians in government then. He turned out to be an asset that both the Odili and succeeding Amaechi’s administration tapped from to run the state. Today, Abe is battling what some observers have described as the biggest political battle as a politician. By taking the battle to Abe’s backyard, Amaechi was making a bold statement that he has made more contribution in the development of Ogoni than Abe, hence remains very popular in the area.
He was equally making it clear that when the time comes, it is not Abe that will deliver Ogoni votes, but his men. Ultimately, Amaechi was preparing the mind of Ogoni people that although they have a popular and accomplished son in Abe, but he is not qualified to run for the governorship of Rivers State in 2019. In Port Harcourt, Abe played host to Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the governors of Rivers, Imo and Sokoto states, Nyesom Wike, Rochas Okorocha and Aminu Tambuwal,. Others who graced the thanksgiving service were former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylvia; Minister of State for Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, members of APC National Executive Committee (NEC) and the party’s state chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya.
The First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha sent representatives. It was mid last year that rumour first surfaced that Amaechi was considering fielding Dr. Dakuku Peterside as governorship candidate in 2019. Recall that Amechi chose him in 2015, but he lost to Wike. Peterside was in the House of Representatives then, while Abe was in the Senate, and was seen by some as better qualified for the ticket. Those close to Abe say it was a big blow to him.
For the Ogoni, it was another opportunity for the governorship that they didn’t get. After Peterside got the nod, the leaders of the APC went to work to ensure that he carried the day, and not Wike, but the PDP and Wike carried the day. In the aftermath of the 2015 governorship election, some party leaders voiced out their displeasure over the manner through which Peterside emerged, arguing that rather than being singlehandedly picked by Ameachi, there should have been a level playing field, where the most qualified candidate would have emerged. Some of those party leaders, especially serving lawmakers are in the camp of Abe, and he appears to be banking on them in order to make 2019 count.
But based on the dimension the feud between Amaechi and Abe has taken, those very close to the senator feel that the former governor does not just want to keep the governorship ticket beyond Abe’s reach, he might be plotting to force him to an early political retirement by equally preventing him from returning to the Senate.
If that is Amacehi’s intention, the caliber of politicians within and outside Rivers that were present during the thanksgiving service in Port Harcourt, it means that it won’t be an easy task to make Abe politically irrelevant.
He seems to be at peace with APC lawmakers in the National Assembly given the way they rallied round him. But the Transportation minister feels that Abe is not a loyal party man. He sees him as a politician who wants to put his interest first before that of the party. For that reason, Amaechi, has insisted that he will not support Abe’s governorship bid.
The former governor who said at a recent meeting with Ikwerre Chiefs and Elders that there was no crisis in the party also made it clear that the position of governor in the state is rotational among the various ethnic groups, noting that it would amount to greed should Ikwerre hold on to power for more than 12 years. Amaechi said he would support a person from the riverine area to occupy the position of the governor for eight years before power would move to Ogoni.
“There is no fight in the APC. I am not in any way stopping Abe from running for the governorship, but what I know is that I will not support him. Abe is daring me, an Ikwerre son. He is abusing me every day. I will ensure I use Ikwerre vote on him,” he said. According to the minister, his Ikwerre ethnic group had 1.1 million votes out of the 2.5 million eligible voters in the state. He added: “At the moment, we have not chosen a candidate. Only God will decide who will become the next governor.”
It is worth stressing that both politicians understand each other like the back of their palms having been involved in the Rivers project for almost two decades. They know each other’s strong points and would prefer to fight the coming battle and smile at the end. In a recent interview, Abe revealed how his face-off with Amaechi started after the former governor visited his Abuja residence to ask him not to nurse any ambition of becoming the state governor under the APC come 2019.
His words: “The truth of the matter is that the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi came to my residence in Abuja on December 29, 2016, few weeks after the rerun elections for what I initially thought was a normal visit. “My entire family received him with much joy.
After some chitchats, he asked to speak with me in the presence of my wife. He then disclosed that the real reason he came was that he had heard from two very important Nigerians that I was interested in running for the governorship of Rivers State in 2019, and he came to warn me not to dare it. “I told him that no one had started running yet, because it was not yet time, but I pleaded with my friend to give everyone, including me and Peterside a chance but he said no, that Peterside was out and that he could not consider me because I did not support Peterside in 2015.
“I was shocked to hear that and I told him then that those who were saying I did not support the party in 2015 would answer to God. I also told him that I had not taken a decision on the matter. Two things struck me from that visit. “If the party structure was set up for Peterside, it meant the decision to make him the candidate was taken before the party structure was set up. Secondly, if you knew I could not win the primaries, why not just allow me fail honourably if I decide to contest.
I think he was offended by my response because he called another meeting, this time with my elder brother, Dr Abe, who has always been like a father to both of us in attendance with my wife and stated same position. “But I still insisted that I would say amen anywhere if anyone had said I would be governor.
So, Senator Uchendu knew about those meetings and he knew about Amaechi’s position. The meeting at the Dome was just window dressing, but I played along and I refused to talk about the private meetings for obvious reasons.”
As it stands, both gladiators in the Rivers APC supremacy battle are not prepared to yield ground, but the possibility of reconciliation and negotiation ahead of the general elections cannot be ruled out as politics, to many, remains a game of interest masquerading as a contest of principle.
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