BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Rivers State had been considered to be a united family until an Abuja court last Monday nullified the congress that elected the state executive
THE crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic party in Rivers state deepened Monday with the sacking of the Chief Godspower Ake led executive of the party by an Abuja High court.
The development has further divided the party along the loyalists of Governor Chibuike Amaechi and that of the Minister of State for Education, Bar Nyesom Wike. Wike was the former Chief of Staff Government House in the first term of governor Amaechi and was also Director General, Governor Chibuike Amaechi Re-Election campaign organization before he became Minister of State for Education.
It is not clear what informed the sudden crack in the relationship between the governor and his erstwhile political loyalist. But speculations in some quarters said it had to do with who becomes the Senator for Rivers East senatorial district.
While Wike is alleged to be interested in the Rivers East senatorial race in 2015, Amaechi’s disposition is not yet known as he could vie for the seat himself or sponsor a more trusted loyalist for the position.
The Chief G.U Ake led executive was perceived in several quarters to be loyal to governor Amaechi. For the Wike camp pulling down the Ake structure would be a big plus for the alleged Wike’s aspiration.
With the sacking of the Ake led PDP for many, the battle over who controls the soul of the party’s machinery and the politics of the state between governor Amaechi and his erstwhile Chief of Staff, Government House, now Minister of State for Education has just begun.
The court action has shocked many of the delegates who voted at the congress conducted on March 17, 2012. The PDP official mandated to conduct the congress, Chief Dan Orbih from Edo State had in a deposition to the court claimed that he did not certify the result claimed by Ake. It was a shocking development that has gripped many including legislators and local party officials who claimed that Orbih certified the result in the presence of INEC officials.
At the heart of the conflict is the allegation that presidency officials acting in concert with Wike are determined to uproot Amaechi’s hold on the party in the state.
It is an issue a member of the House of Representatives, Peterside Dakuku told Vanguard yesterday is contrary to the spirit of reconciliation that has lately been espoused by the party. Already the judgement has continued to generate myriads of reactions in the state. While those loyal to Wike fired crackers and jubilated round major street to celebrate the deposition of the Ake led executive by the court, the Amaechi team has vowed not to accord the new leadership of the PDP in the state led by Felix Obuah any recognition.
At a press briefing within the week, chairmen of the twenty three local government councils in the state described the verdict of the Abuja High court as a travesty of justice, arguing that the judicial process was flawed.
Mayor of Port Harcourt, Chimbuko Akarolo who read an address by the local government chairmen issued under the aegis of Association of local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, Rivers state chapter said the court verdict was part of a grand design by a group of individuals to rupture the peace in the state.
According to the Chairmen, there had been an alleged plot to create an environment that would warrant declaration of a state of emergency with a view to illegally removing Chibuike Amaechi as governor of the state. The address signed by the trio of Chimbuko Akarolo, Chairman of the body / Mayor of Port Harcourt Bar Edward Pepple, Publicity secretary/Chairman Bonny local government and Ojukaye Flag-Amakiri Chairman Asaritoru local government/ Secretary of the group further opined that the alleged boundary dispute between the state and its Bayelsa counterpart was part of the scheme.
“That in perfection of this plan by these disgruntled elements, Rivers state had been victimised, deprived , denied and alienated by the government at the centre of its resources and due benefits such as ceding unlawfully the oil wells of Rivers state to Bayelsa, refusal to develop or repair federal infrastructure in Rivers state etc”, the said.
“That the climax of the grand plot was executed by the sack of the duly elected Peoples Democratic Party’s PDP state executive council, Rivers state and the illegal swearing in of a group that never contested elections as the new executive members relying on an Abuja High court judgement”
While declaring their unflinching support for the G.U Ake deposed executive council, the Chairmen pleaded with members of the party to remain law abiding, stressing that the judgement of the trial court had been appealed against.
“”That we took part and led the delegates who dully voted for and elected the Chief G.U Ake led executive council of PDP in Rivers state whose election had earlier been validated by a High court judgement in Rivers state, therefore we shall not support, recognise or do any business with any other state Executive council of PDP except one duly elected by us and the accredited delegates from our various local government areas”, they insisted.
Meantime, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari has dismissed speculations in some quarters that governor Chibuike Amaechi was planning to move out of the PDP with his supporters.
At the time of this report, governor Amaechi had not personally spoken on the court verdict. Sources said he was out of the state. But the development had strengthen convictions in the minds of many that all had not been well with the party.
Party loyalists who spoke to the Vanguard said the new leadership of the party was not likely to operate from the Aba road secretariat of the party. Vanguard gathered that a building was already being renovated on Ada George road where Felix Obuah and his team would operate from.
Some ward chairmen of the Ake led executive members of the party who also spoke to the Vanguard on grounds of anonymity said they were standing on the fence watching where the pendulum would swing to. According to this group of ward chairmen they were yet to take side on the issue.
How the PDP manages the fall out of the Abuja court verdict would largely shape the political future of the state. On its part, the Action Congress of Nigeria, AC.N in its statement signed by the state Publicity secretary, Mr Jerry Needam prayed the PDP to learn from the embarrassing situation the court verdict had landed the party even as it hailed the judgement.