*Amaechi, Abe’s supporters shut down Port-Harcourt Court Complex
*Court restrains APC from holding Rivers LG Congresses,
*Amaechi faction vows to go ahead
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Egufe Yafugborhi & Davies Iheamnachor
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and several other leading lights of the All Progressives Congress, APC who lost out in the intrigues that characterised last weekend’s ward congresses of the party are this weekend weighing their options amidst confusing signals on the local government area congresses scheduled for today.
Besides Okorocha, among other leading lights who lost out upon claims of failure to conduct ward congresses were Senators Magnus Abe, Shehu Sani, Othman Hunkuyi, minister of communication, Adebayo Shittu.
The battle for supremacy in the Rivers State chapter of the APC was on knife-edge yesterday after supporters of Abe obtained a court injunction to stop today’s local government congresses in the state. The injunction was preceded with much drama in Port-Harcourt yesterday as the court complex as APC supporters allegedly belonging to the mainstream camp of the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi occupied the court complex to prevent the issuance of the injunction.
They were, however, pushed aside by a combination of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP partisans and supporters of Abe to allow the court to issue the injunction. The melee inevitably drew the attention of Governor Nyesom Wike who flayed Amaechi for trying to instigate violence and cripple the Rivers State judiciary.
Meanwhile, after being outsmarted by his rivals in the Imo State branch of the APC, Governor Okorocha was yesterday weighing his options even as he launched a tirade against one of his leading political antagonists in the party, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume.
The governor was yesterday insisting that fresh congresses would hold, a claim that has been dismissed by his rivals led by his deputy and onetime right-hand man, Prince Eze Madumere. The Madumere camp comprising of Senators Ararume, Osita Izunaso, and Benjamin Umajumogu, Hope Uzodinma, Okorocha’s former Commissioner for Information, Theodore Ekechi among others, however, insist that they are forging ahead with the local government congress today.
A source in the national leadership of the party told Saturday Vanguard yesterday that the local government congress would go ahead in Imo State saying:
“Okorocha has lost out, and the best he has been offered is to get his nominees into the local government congress panel, but that can be of no respite to him as he lost out at the wards.
Saturday Vanguard could not immediately confirm the next political moves of the governor who last Thursday warned that the APC was now behaving like the PDP of old. Yesterday, the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo warned that Ararume and his group would not frustrate Okorocha’s plan to foist his son in law, Uche Nwosu as governor in 2019.
“In case they do not know, APC members in the state will never, never allow them to reap where they never sowed. And they will never be allowed to destroy APC.
“They cannot do all these. And by the grace of God, by 2019 Uche Nwosu will be voted into power by Imo people as their governor, in whom they are well pleased,” the statement said. It could not be confirmed the directions Shittu, Senators Sani, Hunkuyi would trudge to sustain leverage in the party.
However, Senator Abe who complained that there was no congress in Rivers State obtained a court injunction to stop today’s local government congress.
The order was given as Governor Wike and the state Attorney General, Emma Aguma, SAN expressed worry over the conduct of some APC members who temporarily shut the state judiciary for hours in attempt to arrest the eventual court judgment.
The chaos escalated when a counter force of youths, allegedly including elements from the PDP moved in to break the locks on the court gates, paving the way for the court sitting where the injunction was given.
In the melee journalists, litigants and lawyers present at the court complex were brutalised by thugs as policemen shot sporadically to disperse the crowd.
Following the restoration of calm, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, issued an injunction barring the APC from going on with the LG congress and adjourned further hearing till 26th June.
Henry Bellow who appeared for the applicants said: “I am counsel for members of the APC unconstitutionally excluded from participating in the purported congress even after they had satisfied the conditions precedence to their participation according to APC guidelines.
“They paid money for nomination forms. They paid but got to APC secretariat, it was locked only to hear winners have emerged in the Congress and it is against the constitution of the party.”
There was, however, more confusion when Cuturu Eddeh, counsel for the APC defendants, said to have been sent from the national office to take over the matter, accused the state legal adviser of the party, Chiwikpe Chieme of professional misconduct, adding that he (Chiwikpe) had no mandate to represent APC on the matter. He said that Chiwikpe had been suspended from the party since last year.
The attorney general of the state, Aguma, expressed strong reservations over the crisis, said: “APC supporters came here and closed the court, but youths of Rivers came and opened it. The police behaved well except for the men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, who were shooting at Rivers youths.
“What is happening is not related to court. It is APC verses APC, and they came to close the court. Tomorrow they will come to say that the state is unsafe.”
Wike raps APC, Police
The situation also caught the attention of Governor Wike who visited the court later in the day to inspect damages, warning that he will not allow the APC to breach the rule of law in the state.
The governor said, “This is very unfortunate. Do not trivialize this invasion by saying it is just an attack by the APC on the judiciary. This is a complete coup by the Nigerian Police and the APC to overthrow the Rivers State Government.
“We have said it before, and we have been vindicated by this callous joint invasion of the Rivers Judiciary. We cannot continue to rely on the police to defend us. We must all stand up to defend democracy. What has happened is a sign of what APC and Police have planned.
“APC Federal Government is not prepared for election. Therefore, they want to truncate the nation’s democracy. They are fomenting trouble to create an avenue for the military to take over.
“The APC Federal Government sponsored Senator Omo-Agege at the Federal High Court. Nobody invaded the court. This action by the Police and APC is not acceptable.”
The governor who accused his predecessor, Amaechi of masterminding the youth violence at the high court, further said, “We must defend ourselves and the nation’s democracy. We cannot continue to rely on the police. Remember, it was the police that kidnapped a sitting governor.
“Nigerians have rejected the APC, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Since they are unpopular, they want to truncate the nation’s democracy.”
He commended Rivers youths for rising in defence of their mandate by mobilising to open the courts, despite the shootings by the Nigerian Police.
LG congress must go on — APC
Reacting to the development, Spokesman for the Rivers APC, Chris Finebone, insisted that the LG congress would hold in Rivers despite the restraining court order. Finebone said, “What happened today is proof that our earlier alarm that a small group in APC collected money from Governor Wike to destabilize and sabotage the party came to lights as PDP came to distabilize the protest of APC around the court.
He accused the PDP of mobilising the thugs that besieged the court.
“Our position is that the Congress has started long ago. The train has long left the station. Our congress is not a stand-alone thing. Legally there is nothing anybody can do in a process that has started.
“The LG is a continuation of it. The party has not also been served any letter of Injunctions. So the Congress will hold as planned including that of May 19th. The intervention of PDP is not necessary. It shows the Government of Rivers is out to pocket the judiciary.”