By Henry Umoru
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, yesterday said that it still has rights to field candidates in next Saturday’s general election in spite of last Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court on a case brought before the apex court by some members of the party.
Speaking with Journalists in Abuja yesterday, Senator Andrew Uchendu, All Progressives Congress, APC, Rivers East disclosed that contrary to media reports, the APC and its candidates in Rivers State have not been shut out of the elections because what the Supreme Court ruled upon was the issue of jurisdiction.
Senator Uchendu who noted that going by the rulings of the Supreme Court in other cases, the court’s generally do not have any jurisdiction on the internal affairs or disputes within a political party, said, “The Supreme Court did not say our candidates for the forthcoming elections cannot participate in the elections. What I am saying is that the import of the Supreme Court judgement was on the issue of legal representation. Who is the legally appointed counsel of the APC in Rivers State at the trial court level? The Supreme Court said it is the counsel that was briefed by the APC lawyer. That was the matter that was settled yesterday (Friday) and it has nothing to do with whether there is a faction in APC Rivers or not and whether we should take part in the election or not.
“One issue I want to clear is that it is not that Tonye Cole is the only person that affected by what is goibg on. Nigerians dont know that all the National Assembly, Gubernatorial and State House if Assembly candidates; about 49 of us are affected. So it’s a whole state . All the candidates of APC in Rivers State are affected and not just the gubernatorial candidates. We are all involved in the case and we are very hopeful that we will triumph at the end of the day.
“We see the issue in court as dispute within the party. Ordinarily, we expected that the trial court should have upheld our case that it had no jurisdiction but it went ahead and heard the matter. The Court of Appeal upheld that and we are now at the Supreme Court.
“I am very, very hopeful, the court being the last hope of the common man and particularly when the courts have severally said that courts have no jurisdiction on the internal disputes of political parties, ”
The Senator who explained that the APC in Rivers State was not factionalised as its detractors would want the public to believe, said that they have remained under one executive committee recognised by the national leadership of the party, adding, “if we have our elected executives at the Ward, Local Government and State levels, that is the party structure.
“Fractionalization has to do with a cleavage in the structure. The rest of the people can come in and go any time. Now, after building the party and putting the structure in place, if the Deputy Chairman or Secretary feels aggrieved and takes control of a part of the party, then the party is fictionalise. But in our own case, the whole structure is complete from head to toe. Where is the cleavage? Where is the crisis ? The party’s executive committee is intact.”
Senator Uchendu who noted that it was wrong to insinuate that the APC in Rivers State was divided because of the court case instituted by Senator Magnus Abe against the party, stressed that the current legal tussle has its roots in an internal squabble with the APC in Rivers State over who should be the governorship candidate of the party in the coming election.
He however recalled that after the party lost the governorship election to the PDP in 2015, but that the Minister of Transportation and leader of the APC in Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi made frantic efforts to rebuild the party and prepare it for 2019 adding that the efforts at rebuilding the party were thwarted by certain individuals who put their personal ambitions above the collective interest of the party.
According to him, in the course of the struggle for the control of the party, Sen. Magnus Abe, one of the contending forces went to court to challenge the outcome of the ward congresses conducted by the party in Rivers State, even as he accused Abe of hobnobbing with Governor Nyesom Wike and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to undermine the fortunes of the APC in the state.
Uchendu said, “I sympathise with him (Abe) because history will be most unkind to him. They didn’t go for any congress from ward to state level They didn’t have any office. But after the national convention of the party, they now sat down and drew up some names of ward executives, local government executives and then hired an office, an afterthought. Somebody must have advised them to go and do this just to create the impression that there us a faction.
” National Executive said that it want to come for primaries; he went and organised his own primaries and declared himself the candidate. The party said the States should choose either direct or indirect system for the congresses. We met as a group and chose indirect but he chose direct when he never conducted any congress.”