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By Egufe Yafugborhi & Omeiza Ajayi, PORT Harcourt

Stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the South-South, especially in Rivers State, including candidates for the 2023 elections, have called on the presidential candidate of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and governors of the South-West to stop hobnobbing with Governor Nyesom Wike.

The stakeholders, comprising National Assembly and State House of Assembly candidates and other party faithful, said it is discouraging for members of the party in Rivers State to see APC leaders they look up to, romancing a known political opponent like Governor Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

They frowned on the fact that these leaders go as far as visiting the state to inaugurate projects on the governor’s invitation, thereby helping to campaign for the PDP in Rivers by heaping praises on Wike, ahead of the general election.

They spoke at a one-day consultative meeting of the South-South executive committee presided over by  APC National Vice Chairman of the zone, Chief Victor Giadom, in Port Harcourt, Sunday night.

The stakeholders also accused President Muhammadu Buhari and the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, of neglecting Rivers APC.

They spoke amid grumblings in the APC over the inability of Senator Adamu Abdullahi-led National Executive Committee, NEC, to meet over pressing issues.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the Presidential Campaign Council will hold today as scheduled last night, with a member of the council assuring that Asiwaju Tinubu will return from London this week.

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Rivers APC angry

Rivers APC Legal Adviser, Dike Iheanyi Zubi, while speaking at the meeting, said it is unfair for governors of the South-West to hold nocturnal meetings with Wike and return to their states without bothering to interface or speak with their party members in the state.

Zubi further said the action of Tinubu who had held meetings with Wike abroad and the action of the governors concerned were tantamount to anti-party activities and urged President Buhari to call them to order.

He said: “It is very discouraging for the APC here in Rivers State to see a situation where the presidential candidate of our party, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and his handlers, including South-West governors of the APC coming to the state to undermine our party here in Rivers State.

“They begin to hobnob and hold nocturnal meetings with Wike, who is seen as a contender with the APC here in the state. So, we as APC members here frown at such action because it doesn’t encourage us here. We consider it as anti-party on the side of Ahmed Tinubu and his cohorts.

“Instead of coming to strengthen the Rivers State chapter of the party, they are busy hobnobbing with Governor Wike, who is a PDP member. For the APC in Rivers State, we see it as an affront and anti-party activity.

“So, I call on the national chairman of the party and President Buhari to call him (Tinubu) and his cohorts to order. They should stop dividing Rivers APC.  APC is one family.”

Similarly, a former caretaker committee chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and State House of Assembly candidate for the 2023 election, Professor Lawrence Chukwu, said the action of the party leaders is embarrassing to APC members in the state.

“As a party, the kind of embarrassment we are receiving from our leaders who come to Rivers State is unbearable. Imagine that Governor Wike is abusing the president (Buhari) and our leader (Rotimi Amaechi) every day. Yet, our leaders and some governors of the party will come to Rivers State to commission projects in Rivers State.

“They will not even bother to visit members of the party before leaving. It is very bad. The APC in Rivers State has what it takes to win elections here. All we need is support; we need financial support from the national,” Chukwu said.

Chief Sydney Nyechie, APC chairman, Obio Akpor Local Government Area said: “We are toiling day and night to ensure come 2023 Rivers APC takes over Rivers, then South-West APC governors and the Speaker of the House of Representatives will come to Rivers to say they are commissioning projects and be singing praises of Governor Wike. 

“By doing that they are ridiculing us before Wike and Rivers people. Those people (Rivers APC South West leaders) have no business coming to the state to romance Governor Wike. The embarrassment we are receiving from APC leaders at national is too much. We will not take it.”

Ininasiya West, APC candidate, Akuku Toru/Asari Toru Federal Constituency, said: “I’m particularly concerned that Senator Magnus Abe, even after leaving the party to be SDP governorship candidate, still has the authority and mandate of the APC presidential candidate.

“Tinubu cannot be sitting on the fence in Rivers anymore. He should come out and say where he belongs so that we who are still in the party know how we move. We are here, ready to win the election. Tinubu must make a clear statement on Rivers.

“Another concern is there are various court cases against Rivers APC candidates by Wike, hiding under PDP, again trying to win through the back door. You are aware he is pressuring the court to remove the party from the ballots as we suffered in 2019.

“I don’t know how the APC national has taken this. Perhaps the national APC has been blowing Wike’s trumpet and the man feels it is in support of him to go on with the matter. We want national (APC) to be proactive. Let us not wait to take steps only after the deed has been done.”

On his part, state APC chairman, Emeke Beke, who said he was speaking as an individual, expressed dismay that none of the party members from the zone whose names were submitted to the national level of the party made the list of the APC presidential campaign council.

Beke told Chief Giadom to relate it to the national level that state APC chairmen in the zone took a position and have written to the President and national officers in that regard, even as he called for a refund of 25 per cent from the proceeds of the sale of forms in the state.

 “We have written to the President, to the national chairman, to the candidate (Tinubu), to the chairman of the governors’ forum and the Director-General of the campaigns. You people asked us to nominate five, five names for the campaign council.

None of the five names we sent appeared on the list because they don’t like Rotimi Amaechi. From the zone, not one (name) appeared. The chairmen have taken a position on that. We will down our tools.

“As you go back, tell the national chairman that Rivers State bought forms of over one billion naira. And what we are asking, remit to the state 25 per cent of that money.

“If that money is not remitted to Rivers State, forget about coming to Rivers State to campaign for a presidential candidate. “We will vote for our national assembly, state house of assembly candidates and focus on the governorship candidate of this state and we will win.

“The truth is that what has happened to Rivers State is because they don’t like Rotimi Amaechi. I speak as Emeka Beke, not as Rivers APC chairman.

“I have heard and seen Wike’s comments on television and social media respectively. Wike dines with leaders of our great party. If the nation does not listen to the APC Rivers State, we will take our destiny in our hands.”

He said Governor Wike does not have the political spread to win an election but is luring its leaders with financial inducement, even as he expressed worry that respected leaders of the party are constantly visiting the state and dining with Wike, a few months before the general poll.

He said:  “We have been out of government for eight years. Now we want to win elections. I can tell you that Wike does not have the political base to win an election in Rivers State. What Wike is doing is bribing leaders of our party to short-change the APC family in Rivers State.

“My candidates and members in Rivers State have suffered. Candidates are selling their land, selling their property to make sure they win the election and keep APC in power, and then leaders that we look up to will come here and campaign. At the end of the day, they will dine with Governor Wike at night. Please, tell them not to dine with Governor Wike again. Let them support this party in the state. We are party men, but tell them if they don’t support us, we will not support them.”

They’re being honest — Giadom

Responding, the APC national vice-chairman, South-South and former acting national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Giadom thanked the party faithful in the state for their frank comments and contributions.

“This is my own constituency and I am from Rivers State. I know exactly that everything that you have said here is true.

“Everybody in Nigeria knows that what you are complaining about is true. The speaker (Femi Gbajabiamila), Governor Kayode Fayemi, and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, all came here (Rivers) to commission projects, and by doing so, praised Governor Wike.

“By doing that, you are marketing our opponents against the APC. So we will put it to them, we will make them know.  I can also tell you that we are passing through very tough times.”

Speaking to newsmen after the meeting, Giadom said: “The reason we are here is to collate what we feel are the challenges in the party, with the aim of providing solutions to them or be ready to face the consequences.

“We have come, we have listened to them, we have heard them clearly, and we are going to put them together and report to the national party in Abuja to ensure that we find solutions to all the things that we know will help us win election in Rivers State.

“I know the pains of my people, which are also our collective pains. We were not on the ballot in 2019, which of course we know that I was supposed to be a direct beneficiary of that ticket. “But the manipulation of the system denied us from being on that ballot. So, people have the right to be apprehensive, they have the right to be worried.

“But I can assure them that, by the grace of God, we will be victorious this time around and APC will win in Rivers State and recapture our possession of becoming in charge of Rivers State leadership and we will form a government and be in Government House.”

Grumblings over APC’s ‘dormant’ NEC

The inability of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC to convene a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, might be leading to a groundswell of dissent within the ranks of the party, Vanguard has learned.

This is as the APC Presidential Campaign Council, PCC is set to hold its inaugural meeting today even as it prepares to welcome its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, back to the country this week.

Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, who is also Director of Public Affairs and chief spokesman of the Council, confirmed that the meeting will go on as planned.

Asked when and where the council will flag off its campaign, Keyamo simply said: “I have no such information for now, but we have a meeting slated for Tuesday (today).”

Although party spokesman, Felix Morka did not respond to calls and messages seeking answers to the questions, the Director, Media and Publicity of the campaign council, Mr Bayo Onanuga, said Tinubu is expected back in the country this week.

“Asiwaju will return this week. As to campaign flag-off, I will get back to you,” he stated.

Meanwhile, there are grumblings among party chieftains on the continued exercise of NEC powers by the Adamu-led NWC. The APC NEC had on April 20 delegated its powers to the NWC to act on its behalf for the next 90 days.

Announcing the decision, National Secretary of the party, Otunba Iyiola Omisore, disclosed that while the motion was moved by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai seconded the motion.

El-Rufai was said to have added a caveat that the NEC must meet at the end of the 90 days to review its own decision. While the 90-days lapsed on July 20, the NEC was supposed to have met around that period.

However, the NWC had consequently taken a decision to convene an NEC meeting within September, but the current crisis regarding the composition of the campaign council has made the party unable to hold its NEC.

The NEC, which is the principal executive body of the party is constitutionally mandated to meet every quarter or at any other time decided by the NWC.

Although, the first mandate of the highest organ of the party, the National Convention, is to “ratify policies and programmes of the party” such power is held in trust by the NEC which is saddled with discharging all functions of the National Convention in-between national conventions.

Consequently, it is the duty of the NEC to ratify the composition of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, said a top official of the party.

Although, he conceded that APC had always acted in the breach in the past by not convening the NEC to ratify the council, he, however, added that the seeming altercation between the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC and the presidential candidate of the party, Tinubu is one reason having the NEC meeting is germane.

“The NEC is very important with respect to ratifications of policies and programmes. Apart from discharging functions of the National Convention in-between National Conventions, NEC in Article 13.3(A)(VI) of the APC 2022 Constitution (as amended) is mandated to ‘create, elect and appoint any committee it may deem necessary, desirable or expedient and assign to them such powers and functions as it may deem fit and proper

“You would recall that on Monday, January 7, 2019, a special NEC was held at the International Conference Centre, ICC, for the inauguration of that year’s Presidential Campaign Council. It is supposed to be a one-item NEC, to ratify the campaign council, but obviously, certain persons are scared of convening an NEC meeting.

“Our party has always been in breach of our constitution. The constitution provides for a National Advisory Council whose inaugural meeting should have been convened by the national secretary within one month after the national convention in June which gave birth to the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC.

“Now, where the National Convention, NEC or National Caucus are ‘unable or unwilling to meet’, according to our constitution, it is the duty of the National Advisory Council to convene such meetings of the above organs,” he explained.

A member of NEC from Kogi State, who pleaded anonymity, said it is the NEC and not the NWC that has powers to tinker with the composition of the campaign council.

According to him, all issues regarding the council would have been laid to rest if an NEC meeting had been convened before now.

On what is expected of NEC at such a meeting, he said: “It is the duty of the NEC to vet and approve the structure or organogram of the PCC. NEC will also harmonize the structures in the states, senatorial districts, local governments, wards and polling units level as well as harmonize the manifesto of the candidate with what currently exists as a manifesto of the party so that we can have a single document.

“Just last week in Kogi state, the governor inaugurated the campaign council. Now, I do not know if such an organogram has been approved. In Kogi, the governor, like in other states is the Campaign Coordinator. The deputy governor is the deputy coordinator. The state party chairman is the assistant coordinator while the Chief of Staff to the governor is the director-general of the campaign. The Secretary to the State Government is the Secretary of the campaign council in the state. The governor equally replicated nearly the same structure in the three senatorial districts. Now, this is why NEC should have met before now to give a direction as to how this should be done.”

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