Ganduje, APC and burden of managing 2023 election victory

Among the myriads of political heavyweights, chieftains, leaders, stalwarts across party lines that visited to consult with the national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, a faction of the Rivers State chapter has remained the most controversial.

Since Ganduje’s resumption, courtesy visits have constituted major part of his schedule of activities. They are so much that the former Kano State governor may have actually lost count of the numerical strength of the dignitaries he has hosted on courtesy visit since resumption in August this year.

If he was not hosting amalgamated traders from Kano and Abuja, it would be forum of 2023 presidential candidates of other political parties, coalition of deputy governors, countless number APC governors, National Assembly members, stakeholders and physically challenged persons, across all geopolitical zones.

Visitors are actually queuing up daily to meet the party’s boss. Whether unintentional or arranged to legitimize his controversial emergence to the position or to shore up his image, what is incontrovertible is that courtesy visits on the APC national chairman have never been in short demand and supply.

While majority of the visitors came to seek relevance and lobby for one federal appointment or the other, others visited to seek the mandate of the party’s leadership for urgent intervention in the escalating crises festering in the state chapters of the party.

And from every indication, beyond the implicit and explicit purpose of their visits, the undeniable fact is that the secretariat of the ruling party has suddenly become the new theatre of war in the endless political show of force between two gladiators and former governors of Rivers State over the real political leader of the state.

From the remarks by the factions during the visits and the body languages of the delegates, it was very apparent that the political contestation between former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the current Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, has shifted from Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, to Abuja.

Among the high-powered delegation and dignitaries during the courtesy visits were factions very loyal to the gladiators, and the leaders, chieftains and members of the party in the state.

The purpose of their visits may be multidimensional, but the mission is exactly the same and certainly not unconnected with the continuation of the unending battle by the two politicians desperate to outsmart each other for recognition at the federal level.

Their appeals to the party majorly were for recognition of their factions, extension of Federal Government appointments to them, and blacklisting of those they tagged hordes of pretenders, masquerading as members yet worked against the APC during the 2023 presidential election.

The first faction to visit the headquarters of the ruling party in Abuja, a fortnight ago, after several postponements, were ably led by the 2023 Rivers State APC governorship candidate, Tonye Cole and other notable chieftains like Dakuku Peterside.

Amaechi did not physically visit the secretariat with them, but several pundits have already concurred that he must have endorsed and propelled the visit.

Their mission was straightforward and simple. They complained bitterly and even expressed utter dismay that President Bola Tinubu could snub them and opt for non-party member, who previously used the state resources to crush APC to submission in the state.

Admitting that Rivers State chapter has a unique past and horrific experiences, the delegation however expressed gladness that they now have a new national chairman to look up for advice, direction, and unity in the efforts to rebuild the party in the state from the ashes of the past.

The delegation, perhaps expressing grievances against the party’s leadership, also complained that they were abandoned in their efforts to legally pursue and reclaim their governorship and other mandates in court.

“Our legitimate challenge to the electoral malfeasance visited on us by a combination of factors under an APC-led Federal Government sabotaged our best and honest efforts this year. Not only were our governorship and other candidates not allowed to get materials from INEC to file their petitions at the Tribunals after the elections on February 25 and March 18, 2023, but our party also withdrew as a petitioner soon after we completed the filing process.

“That has never happened in the history of Nigeria’s major political parties. The party that sponsored our candidates pulled the rug beneath their feet when the party was needed the most,” they complained through the speech presented by Tonye Cole.

And unveiling their main mission to apparently register their disappointment over the appointment of a political enemy, Wike, the delegation noted: “If the event described above shocked us a little, what happened next was card-carrying PDP members of Rivers State got appointments in our APC-led Federal Government and left us completely confused and very upset.

“Those rewarded are PDP members who spent huge state resources trying to destroy APC in Rivers State since 2013 and failed, primarily because these loyal APC members here resisted them fiercely.

“Your Excellency would be shocked that as we address you in this meeting, the Rivers State chapter of the APC has no representation at any level of governance in our country. There isn’t a single Rivers APC member appointed at any level of the federal, state or Local Government.

“Things are much worse now than they were in 2015 and we are being foreclosed from exercising our right to challenge the results of elections that do not represent the expressed will of the people of Rivers State,” they angrily complained.

Not done yet, the faction loyal to Amaechi, in their prayers, requested that; “we can only urge the President and leader of our great party to do more for God’s glory and the APC’s good. This includes appointing our sons and daughters to key positions and other forms of empowerment of our members to cater for our faithful supporters who despite the human and material losses encountered have remained longstanding in faith with the APC.”

However, if the Amaechi-backed faction thought they have won the battle, they soon realized that the war is yet to be over. It was evidenced when the faction supposedly loyal to Wike visited the leadership of the ruling party in Abuja last week.

The mission of the delegation led by Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff, Tony Okocha, was simply, according to them; “to express worries over the recent frolicking between the national secretariat of APC and some hordes of pretenders, masquerading as members of APC, Rivers State.”

Reeling out their mission, they tagged the other faction as; “group of persons who we liken as watermelon, with the characteristic feature of presenting “green in the outside but red in the inside”. They insisted that; “they have long abandoned the APC and are “ipso facto” disqualified from speaking for the APC Rivers in any forum or fora.”

Cataloguing what they went through in the hands of Amaechi, the Okocha-led faction accused the former Transportation Minister of reducing the party to only good in attending burial ceremonies of members’ relations, child dedication services, and night parties.

Hear them; “the “nunc dimities” of once robust party in Rivers State was composed in 2015, when the then leader, Rotimi Amaechi tactlessly rammed his whims and caprices down the throats of the party in the unilateral decision of a governorship candidate of the party for 2023 election in the state.

“The bad blood which the self-centered decision generated accounted largely for the very spectacularly loss of the state to then opposition PDP. Secondly, nerves of relevant and crucial stakeholders were unapologetically frayed, and no rational attempt made to reconcile the tendencies that had become diametrically opposed to each other in exponential manner.

“Not even the woeful/abysmal performance of the party in the general elections in Rivers State in 2015, invited any iota of circumspection or self introspection. Rather, it became worse.

“Critical stakeholders who showed aversion howsoever and whatsoever, were disdained, chastised and utterly rejected, for speaking up against tyranny. The issues became wantonly irreconcilable, so much so, that the arena shifted to the turf of the judiciary,” they lamented.

Continuing, the faction told the national chairman that; “in 2019, APC Rivers had no one elected under her aegis, into any office whatsoever in Rivers State. The party became famous only in attending burial ceremonies of members’ relations, child dedication services, night parties.

“Let us for the sake of brevity, submit in summary that APC Rivers State qualifies for a social club, owned by an individual whose powers of influence were elastic,” they quipped.

And still undone, the faction raised an unsubstantiated allegation, claiming that; “in Rivers State, the leader of the group which Cole and Dakuku, et al, belonged, had helmed up alliances with the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.”

“Atiku and not Tinubu should be voted for in the presidential election. This wicked resolve against the APC in Rivers was openly announced in a meeting at the instance of the leader at his private residence in Port Harcourt, thickly attended by Mr. Cole, Dakuku, Chukwudi Dimkpa, et al, members of the innermost caucus.

“It was handed down that Tinubu must fail in Rivers State. They were thus mandated to transport their supporters in the 6868 polling units, 319 wards and 23 Local Government Areas in Rivers State.

“Was this obnoxious decision opposed by anyone of them either in words or actions? Will they deny ever attending such a meeting and receiving such dastardly instruction? We have pictorial, visual and individuals’ testimonies to this,” they questioned rhetorically.

The faction therefore wondered how Amaechi-backed faction visited the leadership, asking; “how did they contribute to the party’s presidential victory in Rivers State and unable to deliver their members who contested National Assembly elections on same day?

“We are aware and wish to share with our indefatigable national chairman and well experienced NWC members that the incessant visits of those pretenders to the national secretariat, smacks of sinister motives. Otherwise, why should the essence of their visits not border on how the fragmented APC Rivers will be rebuilt? Why the rush to Abuja, assuming there are skirmishes in APC Rivers to resolve?

Is the Rivers State APC chapter in controversy with the national APC? Why is the knack for benefits palpable in their presentations?” Okocha’s faction asked.

Asking the rationale behind Amaechi’s faction requesting for appointments, they queried what they did with all the position given to them during President Muhammadu Buhari era in touching the lives of members of the party in the state.

“Didn’t APC Rivers in 2015, benefit immensely in federal appointments, particularly those of Ministry of Transportation, Niger Delta Development Commission, Nigeria Maritime Agency, NIMASA, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and other very juicy appointments?

“How did these translate to the building of the APC Rivers and empowerment of her memberships? Why does that sentiment suffice only in the mouths of those who were then key players?”

And for those still in doubt or asking the involvement of Wike in the activities of APC Rivers State chapter, the submission of the delegation, will rest your curiosity.

“Finally, we pray Mr Chairman to discountenance the machinations of the pretenders, who via hues and cries and trumping up lies, want to negate the natural law that aptly recommends that “One reaps where one sows. Those persons never supported the party nor are they sincere in their hearts, to be happy that President Tinubu made it to the Presidency.

“Mr. Chairman, we summaries that the only group in APC Rivers State legitimate to seek compensation for the victory of APC/Tinubu in Rivers State, is the one here. Please contact us through the leader of the political infantry in Rivers State, who is serving in the federal cabinet presently,” they rested the curiosity of those still in doubt.

Like the judge with the deciding gavel, Ganduje was sagacious, firm, diplomatic and smart in handling the delicate controversy before him without rocking the boat.

To the Tonye Cole faction, he pleaded with them to open their arms to receive new entrants and the Okocha faction; they should eschew tendencies to overheat the polity and be ready for dialogue.

In his reply to their appeals, Ganduje clearly told them that; “APC as we know it in Rivers State, very many of you left the party to form another party to contest elections. But I think with your determination to rebuild the party, we urge you to create an even environment to keep your doors open so that those that left the party no matter how big they are in another party where they went for sabbatical leave, will come back to their original base and to their original employers.

“Also, some people who have not been in the party before, we will also like them to join the party. You will keep your doors open as we are because what we need is to rebuild our party so that we become solid and it must be so.

“What we are saying is, yes, there is confusion in the party but we don’t want members to overheat the system, we are focused, organised, we work scientifically in politics. We have to capitalise on what we have, we have to capitalise on the fact that we have won the national election in River State.

“We are not extracting anything less again but give us a chance to see how we can have both the states and the national election together.

“Whatever it is, we have received your address and the party will come in and see how we can get a solid party leadership that we can move forward.  But what we are begging is do not overheat the system.

“Overheating the system, some will go for litigation and then a vicious cycle will come again. We don’t want too much analysis because they say too much analysis leads to paralysis.

“So, give us a chance so that we can consult, so that we look at the constitution of APC and then wait and see how we can put things in order,” he appealed.

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