By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Perez Brisibe (Ughelli)
NATIONAL Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, aka Oshio Baba, and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi, are entangled in a strategic struggle over who commands the party in the South-South geo-political zone.
Both party titans made their marks as former governors of Edo and Rivers States respectively, but Amaechi, who is also the Director General of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organization, was practically in charge of the affairs in states of the zone until Oshiomhole emerged as national chairman.
The strapping exception of Amaechi’s power is Edo, the only state the party governs at the moment in the region and which Oshiomhole, as the immediate past governor, installed one of his loyalists, Mr. Godwin Obaseki as his successor.
However, since Oshiomhole took over from the former national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who, during his tenure, did not struggle for supremacy with Amaechi, there has been a seeming leadership tussle between him and Amaechi.
The tussle in Rivers
In Rivers, Amaechi’s home base, the minister has never concealed his predilection for the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Mr. Peterside Dakuku, the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 general election in opposition to Senator Magnus Abe, representing Rivers South-East senatorial district. But Oshiomhole appears not favourably disposed to Amaechi’s pick.
Political watchers in the state recognize that if not for the unstated support of Oshiomhole, which Senator Abe has perfectly taken advantage of; Amaechi would have run him out of town in the horse-trading for the party’s 2019 governorship ticket.
The nervous relationship between Amaechi and Abe resulted in parallel congresses in the state in May with the latter declaring in a statement by his spokesperson, Parry Benson: “I am amused by some of these allegations and stories making the rounds. For the records, the disagreement between me and the minister (Amaechi) is political. He is the leader of the party but he has said publicly on several occasions that he can never support me.”
“That means the entire country knows that he cannot pretend to be neutral or an unbiased umpire in any matter in which my interest and the interests of those interested in me are concerned. Yet, as the leader it is his responsibility to provide a level playing field for us all,” he asserted.
Amaechi is still the principal of the party in the state just like Oshiomhole also holds sway in Edo state, but whether the national chairman will allow the director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organization to produce the governorship candidate of the party at “The Treasure Base of The Nation” yet again is imprecise.
Ogodo, first war casualty in Delta
In Delta state, indications of conflict between Oshiomhole and Amaechi are manifestly naked with the manner Oshiomhole tossed aside the parallel state chairman of the party, Mr Cyril Ogodo, produced by the leader of the party in the state and governorship candidate in the 2015 general election, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, who is more of an Amaechi faithful.
A leader of the party in the state told Saturday Vanguard that Oshiomhole was infuriated by an alleged effrontery of the Ogodo-led executive in sponsoring media publication distancing Delta APC from his endorsement by the APC, South-South for national chairman before the National Convention that voted him to power.
“Knowing that Ogodo’s boss, Emerhor, derived his authority from Amaechi, the national chairman did not waste time in sending Ogodo packing as soon as he mounted the saddle and enthroned his opponent, Prophet Jones Erue in his place.
“Until lately, Mr. Ogodo, who believed that he was legitimately elected in a congress that was affirmed by the former national executive of the party did not realize that he is a victim of power play between Oshiomhole and Amaechi, as the national chairman took to heart the fault-finding media publication by his executive,” the source explained.
Most APC stalwarts in the state, who gravitated towards Amaechi before the new sheriff came to town, have started retracing their steps. Even at then, Olorogun Emerhor has refused to accept the peace efforts of his former partner, Prophet Erue, who was directed by Oshiomhole to reconcile all the factions in the state to forge a common front ahead the 2019 elections.
Erue’s peace report
The chairman, according to an interim report obtained by Saturday Vanguard, met with AVM Frank Ajobena (retd), Chief Ayiri Emami, Chief Adolor Okotie-Eboh, Sir Richard Odibo, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and a host of others, besides a meeting of meeting of party stakeholders where he admonished all to embrace peace.
The Erue report claimed: “The interactions were fruitful as everyone affirmed faith in the leadership of the party and undertook to work for peace.” On the meeting with Emerhor, Erue reported: “On Wednesday the 8th of August 2018, the state chairman had a very fruitful discussion with Olorogun O’tega Emerhor on the need for total reconciliation in the party and he in return promise to pacify his people to embrace the ongoing reconciliatory moves by the party.”
Emerhor tears report apart
However, Emerhor in his reaction tore the interim report to pieces, describing it as pretentious, mischievous, disappointing and provocative. He stated that the statement ascribed to him, was “calculated to misrepresent him and confuse the mainstream Delta APC that is under his leadership.”
In a statement by his media aide, Aghogho Orotomah, he noted that “no peace currently exist in Delta State APC other than the peace of a grave yard.”
He said: “There exist two party Excos in Delta State, one by law, the other by recognition by the National Chairman. There are subsisting court cases that seek to overcome existing illegalities. These court cases will not and cannot be withdrawn unless genuine peace is negotiated.”
Describing the meetings by Erue and his executive as “jamboree of visitations, Emerhor fired, “a jamboree of visitations cannot cure the existing chasm but only genuine actions can, the mainstream of the party is ready for peace but peace at a fair cost to all.
“It is disappointing and provocative to carry on pretentiously that visits and political talk amount to peace and reconciliation. The wise thing for Erue to do is to use the leverage of him being accorded recognition by the national chairman to point the national chairman to act on his pronouncements on unifying the party. To assume peace has come is to not only pretend but to be mischievous and provocative.
“Those who are quick to celebrate peace and to release interim peace reports should be circumspect as they may inadvertently be creating doubts if truly they seek peace or are celebrating a pyrrhic victory. Let our genuine and collective desire for APC to win and rescue Delta State prevail,” he said.
Can Uduaghan bring Oshiomhole, Amaechi together ?
Delta is really going to be an interesting spectacle to watch for the newest political leader to join the party, the immediate past governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, is a friend to both Oshiomhole and Amaechi, and may have the enviable task of bringing together his warring buddies. Can he?
Top secret report on Delta governorship contenders
The Amaechi group in the party is tilted to a Chief Ogboru governorship ticket, which Saturday Vanguard learned has been deflated by party strategists, who prefer a Delta North candidate.
A privileged source hinted the party commissioned a report on the governorship battle and the strength of its aspirants, and the document narrowed the race to mainly two governorship aspirants from Delta North senatorial districts.
The most workable two, according to the report, are both defectors from the PDP. One is an Amaechi beloved, a plus point that may count as a minus for him in the current intrigues. The other is from the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of PDP, which gave the party load of troubles before finally parting ways.
While one who is the more affluent aspirant is considered to have “baggage” with PDP that may not augur well for APC if he is fielded in the opinion of some persons, others think that the other is most appropriate to give Governor Ifeanyi Okowa the fight of his life given his staying power.
Another eminently qualified aspirant is viewed as scholarly, but without grassroots support.
Nevertheless, nearly all the governorship aspirants from Delta North have agreed to cooperate with whoever emerges as the standard bearer in a free and fair primary of the party. They met recently with the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, restating the heartening position.
Edo at Comrade’s beckon
In Edo state, there is no battle between Oshiomhole and Amaechi. The national chairman is in control, but had to make a quick dart some weeks back to settle rising objections by some party leaders and stakeholders to the leadership style and some allegedly exasperating pronouncements of Governor Obaseki.
Oshiomhole’s finger in A’Ibom
However, the defection of the former Senator Minority Leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to APC, has foreclosed the struggle between Oshiomhole and Amaechi in the state. This is because Oshiomhole is one of the chief executioners of the plot.
And knowing that Akpabio installed the incumbent governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, and has the structure to give the PDP a fight in the state, the Minister of Transportation, despite his preceding influence in the state, cannot drag control of Akwa-Ibom with Oshiomhole at the moment.
Akpabio will now work with his former friends and associates turned enemies in the persons of the former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Don Etiebet; Managing Director, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), Umana Umana; Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and former deputy governor of the state, Nsima Ekere, Senator John Udoedehe, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang and a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, among others to deliver the state to APC in 2019.
A former Military Administrator of Ogun State and APC chieftain in Akwa Ibom state, Captain Sam Ewang (ertd), believes that APC will come out stronger in the South- South in the 2019 elections. His words: “APC is positioned to win most of the states in South-South in 2019.”
C’River, no man’s land
In Cross River state, it does not appear that there is a serious contention between the duo, as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani, a fellow cabinet minister like Amaechi and former Senate Leader, now Chairman of NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, are expected to lead other party stakeholders to unnerve PDP in 2019. Senators John Owan- Enoh, Florence Ita-Giwa and Bassey Otu are among APC chieftains being relied on to come up with strategies to oust Governor Ben Ayade, next year.
Sylva’s Bayelsa inclines to Oshio Baba
In Bayelsa state, a former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, who has pledged his loyalty to Oshiomhole is leading the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, former Managing Director of the NDDC, Timi Alaibe, to fight PDP in the home ground of former President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson, which unquestionably is the staggering for the party.