By Stephen Ubanna
Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and now minister of transportation and Nyensom Wike, a former minister of State, Education, under former President Goodluck Jonathan Administration and the current governor of the state appear to be back to the trenches for control of the state in the 2019 general election.
Amaechi had made the first attempt to take over the state from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP when he decamped to the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the 2015 general election because of his frosty relationship with Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of the then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Adol Dakuku Peterside, an indigene of Opobo -Nkro local government area and the APC, governorship Candidate in state sponsored by him had lost to Wike of the PDP. The minister did not find the loss of the state to the PDP funny as he had assured the national leadership of the party that he would deliver the state to the party. But that was how far he could go.
The Rivers state born minister of Transportation may have gone back to the drawing board to redeem his sinking image in APC political circles by being a politician of note by ensuring that the party take over the state from the grip of PDP in 2019.
Given the state party officials impression that what happened in July governorship election in Ekiti state might happen in the state with the support of the Federal might, the party leadership, may have zoned the governorship Candidate to the Riverine Area of the state and the Deputy governorship Candidate to be selected from the upland.
It was not surprising why the party leadership had thrown the door open to all governorship Aspirants from the Riverine area to go ahead and buy the governorship Form . The Magazine learnt that the last count Toye princewill, Tonye Cole, Chairman of Sahara Energy, Dumo Lulu- Briggs, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe and Peterside, Director General, National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had paid the N22.5 million each to collect the party governorship nomination Form.
The Magazine learnt that there have been pressures on Cole, Princewill, Lulu- Briggs to step down for the Amaechi’s annointed Candidate, Peterside. The fear in party circles was that if the Riverine governorship Candidates who had collected the party nomination fail to heed to elders appeal to step down for peterside who had slugged it with Wike in 2015, Senator Abbe, may get the upper hand in the primaries and which might give Wike a smooth ride back to Brick House , the Seat of power in Rivers state.
The argument in party circles was that the Amaechi’s annointed governorship Candidate , from Opobo/Nkro local government was the only APC governorship Candidate among the lot who could easily beat Wike in the 2019 general election.
Given the determination of President Muhammadu BUhari and the APC National leadership to take over Rivers state from PDP, The emergence of a new National Working Committee, NNWC, in the party, led by Adams Oshimhole, was ostensibly to gurantee an exciting and democratic contest for the nomination of the party’s Candidate for the 2019 general elections in the state and other states of the Federation through the introduction of direct primary mode of electing Candidates, an offficial said. The intervention of the National leadership in supervising the party governorship primaries in the states may have provided a level playing field for the Candidates in Rivers state, who feared that Amaechi and his handpicked state party Executive might impose Peterside on them to slug it out with Wike of the PDP in the 2019 general election.
Oshimhole was said to reassured the governorship Candidates in the states including those of Rivers state that not ”only would the NWC instill internal democracy in the party, but that nomination of Candidates will be by direct primaries, where all the registered members of the part will be eligible to vote for the party’s Candidates to test their popularity”.
The arrangements, according to a party source, may have put to an end a situation in the past where one or few godfathers had handpicked Candidates and imposed them on the party, described by many as an arbitrary method which caused the party to lose in past elections in the states due to ”imposition of unpopular Candidates”, particular Rivers state.
Information filtering out from Peterside and other APC governorship Candidates Camp in Rivers state shows that the situation was getting to a feverish pitch as the Aspirants prepare to slug it out at the primaries. It would be recalled that Amaechi, the minister of Transport and the leader of the party in the state had unilaterally handpicked Peterside, the NIMASA Director General as the party governorship Candidate in the 2015 general election against Senator Abbe, described as the most popular among the governorship Aspirants. There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the NIMASA boss may lose to Abbe this time around because of sympathy votes from members. It is not surprising why Amaechi had been talking to Lulu-Briggs, Princewill and Cole to step down for Peterside to be able to beat his former political son, Abbe, in the party primaries.
A close source told the Magazine disclosed that Amaechi had been waxing very cool since the party came up with the direct primaries mode of electing the party governorship Candidates in the states. He had expected as usual to be allowed to handpick the party governorship Candidate, who could have been, Peterside and impose him on the party in the state.
Many had had expected him to endorse the new party arrangements like Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the National leader of the party did in the south west geo-political region. H e was said to have asked both serving governors and other potential governorship Aspirants to be ready to present themselves in the party primaries to test their popularity.
But Wike, Amaechi’s arch political rival in the state said APC has no reason whatsoever to worry about presenting a governorship Candidate to slug it out with him in the 2019 general election, stressing that something is fundamentally wrong with the party. The governor declared apart from plot by the party to rig in the state, the Candidate may not have the platform to Campaign upon in the state. He expressed regrets that as the APC does not believe in credible polls, but ”rigging and fraud , a credible would not emerge in the party primaries to challenge him the 2019 polls. .
He has raised alarm that the party want to win the state at all cost but warned of the dangers ahead. ” All their meetings and all their gatherings at the Federal level ,they must have Rivers state in their agenda, he said. He fears that the party optimism of taking over the state s from the PDP was anchored on the deployment of sodiers, Federal Anti Robbery Special Squad, FSAR, and DSS personnel to the state, to maintain security during the election. The governor Challenged Amaechi, as minister of Trasportation to show the projects he has attracted to the state. Wike, who could beat his Chest , thatas the minister of State, Education, under the then President Jonathan Administration, claimed he brought Faculty of Law to University of PortHrcourt . He also claimed to have brought a grant of N500 million to Ken Sarowiwa Polytechnic and Inatius Ajuru University of Education in the state.
He disclosed that for the APC and its state leadership to have even think of bringing up a governorship Candidate this time around to challege him, whether, he has something to show or not, was an indication that something was fundamentally wrong with the party .
Many ebelieve that the governorship contest may end up being a straight fight between the incumbent state governor, Wike, and Abbe or Peterside because of the powers behind them. Political observers posits that February 16, 2019, would determine new occupant of the Rivers state Brick House in Port Harcourt: PDP OR APC governorship Candidate.