By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the political landscape appears tense as gladiators go back to the trenches to prepare the ground to occupy Brick House, the Seat of power in Rivers state. The PDP still want to maintain its tenancy of the Brick House while the APC, led by Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of the state and Minister of Transport wants the opposition party to be the new occupant of the Brick House.
The Source investigation shows that Peter Odili, a Medical Doctor and a former governor of the state; Uche Secondus, PDP Chairman; Felix Obuah, Rivers stste PDP chairman; Nyesom Wike and other PDP stalwarts across the political divide of the state have gone back to the drawing board to calm frayed nerves in the party over the alleged endorsement of Wike re-election bid on the ticket of the party come 2019 . The party stalwarts, according to a party source do want to make any mistake that could provide ammunition for Amaechi to strike and unseat the party from its control of the oil rich Rivers state.
Many believe that what the unity currently being enjoyed at the national may not be replicated in the state as politicians have become very desperate to occupy the Brick House . There are indications that what the party may enjoying was a fragile unity. This is because the Ijaw governorship Candidates who lost out to Wike at the state Convention to select the party flag bearer in 2015 and other entrants from the Kalabari axis of the state are not ready to shift ground in 2019.
Tamunoeni Ibieneye, a former Commissioner of Information in state may have spoken the mind of the Ijaw people in the party when he said that ”if the PDP fields Wike again for the 2019 governorship election race, the Ijaws will vote massively for the opposition APC Candidate, if it adopts Peterside, an Ijaw as their governorship Candidate in the election.
Ibieneye, who , incidentally happens to be the Spokesman of ” Kenegema Osaki”, the Kalabari advocacy group reportedly said the party must return to the zoning formula originally enshrined in the party Constitution which was 2015 by the party leadership to pave way for their favoured aspirants, even though it was not yet their turn to vie for the position.
The Ijaw nation had presented three formidable Candidates -Odein Ajumogobia, a senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, a Lawyer and Sampson Ngeregbara, an Engineer, and a former President of National Union of Rivers state Students, NURSS, to slug it out at the Convention , until Wike , the then minister of state, Educatin, under President Goodluck Jonathan emerged to clinch the ticket and went ahead to beat Peterside, the APC Candidate in the 2015 general election.
It is not surprising why the people are not ready to play a second fiddle in the party but to see that one of their own sons fly the flag of the party in 2019 and are said to be desperately working round the clock to actualize their dream.
The All progressive Congress, APC, in the state may not have learnt from the mistakes of the PDP in the past as it may have played into the hand of the PDP in the state as it has failed to put its house in order, a politician remarked . Trouble may have started in the party as Magnus Abe, a former Amaechi ally, representing , Rivers South East Senatorial district could not abide by the party decision to endorse Peterside, the NIMASA boss to fly the flag of the party in 2019. He was said to have made a bold statement when he made it clear to those care to listen he would not drop his governorship ambition for Peterside.
As a prelude to the party Convention to decide on the party flag bearer in the 2019 election, the party ward congress which kick-started on Friday, May 4, was engulfed in crisis with accusations and counter-accusations by supporters of Abe and Peterside, the two leading governorship Candidates in the party . The aggrieved supporters of Senator Abe were said to have raised alarm that names of delegates for the exercise had been illegally compiled by a faction of the party which had hijacked the process. They alluded to the fact that forms were not sold to Abe’s Candidate but only to those loyal to Peterside to give an edge over other aspirants.
The crisis in the party became pronounced last Friday when the aggrieved party members opposed to the party decision to endorse Peterside allegedly broke into the party secretariat and carted way materials needed for the Saturday, May 5, 2018, congress.
Amaechi, the minister of Transport was said to have laid the foundation of the crisis with the alleged platoon of soldiers and the over 200 SARS personnel who were with him in the state for the ward Congress. The Abe loyalists believe that the minister had come with the retinue of security personnel to provide a soft landing for Peterside to clinch the party governorship ticket at the state Convention, on a date yet to be announced by the party leadership.
In spite of the internal crisis that may have engulfed the two dominant parties in the state over the endorsement of Candidate for the 2019 election, Political analysts fear that the crisis in the state APC may take a turn for the worse because Abe is not ready to shift ground to Amaechi’s Candidate, Peterside. Speculations are that he may jump boat with his supporters if the national leadership fails to intervene to save the situation from degenerating.
The party may have played into the hand of Wike who is making mockery of their inability to hold an ordinary ward Congres. The APC leader, Amaechi has never hidden his plot to make Peterside , the NIMASA boss, the governor of Rivers state in 2019, since all efforts to actualize it in 2015 failed.
As a prelude to keep Peterside, political ambition alive, he was said to have facilitated his appointment of the Director General, Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency, NIMASA by President Muhammadu Buhari. The appointment, political observers said was made to enable him ”recoup his investments in the 2015 general election”. Indeed, the NIMASA boss , governorship ambition in Rivers state on the ticket of APC is an open secret in maritime circles.
Insiders confirmed that some APC Chieftains in the state, including Chief Davis , the party Chairman have been trooping to his office and official residence in Lagos and Abuja to hold consultations with the 48-year old Ijaw APC governorship hopeful from Opbo town, in Opobo/Nkoro Local government Area, The NIMS helmsman was said to have been visible in the political scene since 2002 both at the local, state and national level.
The minister may have flown a kite when he told the people of Opobo/Nkoro Local government Area recently that ”they should blame their Chief if their son, Peterside failed to emerge the governor of the Rivers state in 2019”.
He was said to have created the impression that the Ikwerre political leaders were not united in the struggle tore- elect Wike as the governor of Rivers state, stressing that” if the Ijaws failed to get the governorship position in 2019, they should blame their Chiefs for not having a united front”.
Appealing to the indigenes of the local government to join the governorship race, he urged them to mobilize strongly to sack Wike from Brick House in 2019. He may have provided a soft landing for the Opobo born politician to get the backing of the people when he disclosed that his Administration reclaimed much land in Oppbo town but could have done more but for the difficulty in getting sand from the river to continue the reclamation work.
It was corroborated by Peterside, who was the then Commissioner of Works. Andrew Uchendu, a Senator, representing Rivers East Senatorial District says the Ogoni born Senator, has no reason to cry foul because he was part of the decision to endorse the NIMASA boss at a joint meeting of the party elders stressing that the decision was taken to strengthen the party ahead of 2019.
The NIMASA boss may have known that he has been anointed to fly the flag of the party in 2019 when Amaechi, popular the leader, stepped aside from the day to day running of the party over alleged busy engagements and official duties ‘in 2015 and handed over to him.
Given the desperate stance of the governorship aspirants from the PDP and APC against their parties decision over the Candidate to fly the party flag in 2019, political analysts fear there may be alignment and realignment of forces in the political equation of the state.
This is evident going by the overtures that was said to have been made to the aggrieved members of the APC by Wike, using cronies urging them, to dump the party described as the sinking boat and join the ruling PDP in the state. The question on the lips of most people is: who takes over Brick House among the governorship aspirants in PDP and APC jostling for the position in the state?
Political observers in the state said that the disagreement between Amaechi and Abe, his former political ally will make Wike, the acclaimed PDP candidate, in the 2019 poll victory in the state a mission accomplished, an indication that there is no vacancy in Brick House, PortHarcourt.