March 28, 2023

Rivers: Intrigues as politicians jostle to become Tinubu’s contact man 



By Davies Iheamnachor

THERE is an ongoing war of wit in Rivers State as politicians across party lines battle to fill the seaming vacant position of contact man of the President-Elect,  Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the state.

This jostle cuts across the All Progressives Congress, APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

In the fray are Governor Nyesom Wike; Senator Magnus Abe; and Chief Tony Okocha, a former aide to immediate past Transport Minister and former Rivers Governor, Chief Rotimi Amaechi. The loud silence of Amaechi, the leader of the APC in the state, who lost the APC presidential ticket to Tinubu, has only added fodder to the jostling.

After the APC presidential primaries, Amaechi distanced himself from the widely celebrated candidate of his party.

The two-time presidential campaign director that led the APC to victory in 2015 and 2019 polls undoubtedly pulled himself away from following Tinubu’s campaign train.

Amaechi also refused to talk publicly about national politics and the candidate of his party. He also abstained from leading the governorship campaign of his party’s candidate in Rivers State, Tonye Cole, until the election hour.

These developments provided a lacuna for other politicians to perch around for favour, hence the rush for who the President-elect would work with in Rivers State if sworn in. As it is, the scenario is building a new political order in the state.

Prior to the 2019 general election, it was rumoured that Tinubu, who was the national leader of the APC, was building a political structure in Rivers State, which would run against Amaechi’s leadership.

It was alleged that Senator Magnus Abe, then chieftain of the APC, currently the Governorship Candidate of the SDP, was at the fore of the new order in Rivers. This very fight cost the APC the opportunity to field candidates for any of the elective positions in the 2019 polls.

Although, Amaechi remains the leader of the APC, Chief Tony Okocha, Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff, who currently is pushing to be at the limelight.

The lynchpin of the fight is simply who becomes or makes inputs on who takes the ministerial slot that will be given the state? It is about who the Federal Government goes through to reach the state in the next dispensation under Tinubu’s presidency.

Battle for appointments

The battle is not just about the state but also about who calls the shots on the appointments that would come to the state in the new era. It is about who becomes minister, and the link between the state and the Federal Government.

Abe still in the race

A lot of persons feel that Senator Abe is no longer interested in the benefits of big games of the APC following the fact that last year he moved to the SDP to actualise his governorship ambition.

Abe had pulled out of the APC with other big wigs of the party, Tony Okocha, Forgiven Amachree, Austin Nwokocha, Elder Chidi Wihioka, Kadilo Kabari and others.

Abe, a popular politician of the Ogoni extraction had many supporters while in the APC, but when he left many of his followers and cronies remained in the party.

While in the SDP, some of his core friends who are still in the APC are working tirelessly to ensure that his interests are protected in his former party.

In a recent outing in Port Harcourt, the loyalists of Abe in the APC led by Austin Nwokocha, congratulated the President-Elect, Tinubu, on his victory, saying that APC under their watch and the people of the state who voted at the presidential polls for the APC made the victory of Asiwaju possible.

They claimed that the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike was not the reason for Tinubu’s victory in the state, adding that they worked hard for the success.

Okocha declares self leader

Some few days after the presidential election, Chief Tony Okocha, former ally of Abe declared his faction of the APC and congratulated Tinubu on his success.

Okocha declared himself the new leader of the APC, in the state, saying that his emergence was necessitated by the failure of Amaechi to work for Tinubu’s success at the poll. He accused Amaechi of working for the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the presidential poll.

Okocha had after the presidential election congratulated Governor Nyesom Wike for his support in ensuring the victory of the APC in the state, claiming that Amaechi did not work for the APC.

Last week, Okocha, while addressing press men following allegations that he was speaking for himself over his endorsement of the Governorship choice of Wike, noted that he is now the new leader of APC in the state.

“It is sure that our former leader, Rotimi Amaechi became leader of the party as a minister. But, a day to the election he (Amaechi) ordered his loyalists to vote for the candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He also voted for Atiku. That disqualifies him as the leader of APC. It is an anti-party activity.

“It is my faction of the APC that won the election so I am now the leader of APC in Rivers State. I want to use the opportunity, as the leader, to advise that Rivers State must not go into crisis because of this election.”

Meanwhile, Concerned APC PCC/ICC members in the state have exonerated Okocha of the allegations that he commended Wike for the success of Tinubu in the state without consulting members of the Tinubu’s Presidential Campaign Council and Independent Campaign Council, ICC, in the state.

Godspower Ebono, the leader of the Concerned APC PCC/ICC members, said Mr. Austin Wokocha, Ineye Jack and King Wenenda Wonukwuru, who were behind the statement, were no longer members of the APC.

Ebono said Okocha remained unarguably the vocal voice in the media on the aggressive campaigns for Asiwaju Tinubu in Rivers State under the auspices of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Support Vanguard, wherein, he is the State Coordinator.  

Why Wike allegedly worked for Tinubu in Rivers 

It is no more news that Wike worked for the success of the then APC Presidential candidate. The governor himself had at different events mentioned that his demand for equity and fairness in power sharing in the nation was given impetus by the APC.

Although, some unconfirmed sources claim that the relationship that exists between Wike and Tinubu dates back to 2019 when Tinubu helped him to retain office as governor after Amaechi worked hard to stop Wike’s re-election bid.

It would be recalled that after the APC and PDP presidential primaries  Tinubu and Wike met in the United Kingdom and a lot of issues that shaped what transpired in Rivers State on February 25 February were discussed and resolved.

Down the presidential poll, the Rivers State Governor set aside Orders 21 and 22 of the State Government and approved the use of Yakubu Gowon Stadium for the hosting of the APC candidate without paying the N5 million provided in the state Act.

It is noteworthy that the Rivers State Chapter of the APC could not use any government facility in its campaign in the state, following their refusal to adhere to the new rules of the government in the use of public facilities for political functions.

Notwithstanding, the self acclaimed leader of the APC, Okocha, had further disclosed that Wike made available financial and human resources to ensure the victory of Tinubu in the state. All these cannot just be flushed into the drains

Sources said the governor seeks to be in the good books of Asiwaju Tinubu and that the duo have agreed on some ‘terms and conditions’ before the ‘delivery’ started.