By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
A faction of the APC in Rivers is now set to fully participate in the March 2, 2019 gubernatorial election, albeit by proxy, The Source has learnt.
This magazine had exclusively reported, penultimate week that the two factions of the party in the state were making separate plans to take part in the electoral exercise by adopting smaller parties should the Supreme Court eventually bar the APC from fielding candidates.
Before the Tuesday, February 12, 2019 Supreme Court’s final ruling in the disputed Rivers APC congresses which irrevocably dashed the party’s hope of fielding a candidate in the March 2 governorship election, a faction of the party in the state loyal to Transport Minister, Chibuike Amaechi was already exploring options aimed at remaining relevant in the exercise should the apex court’s hammer come falling
Sources claiming to be close to the faction have now informed The Source that an agreement has been reached with one of the fringe parties. According to the sources, barring a last minute change of mind, the Amaechi-led APC faction will, in a few days, formally announce its adoption of the party for the purpose of the governorship election. This will be followed by massive campaign tours which will be oiled by the faction.
Under the arrangement, The Source was told that the gubernatorial candidate of the party and his running mate were made to sign pre-dated resignation letters which, in the event of victory, will be tendered to the House of Assembly few months after inauguration, paving the way for the APC faction’s candidates to fill the vacuum, either by contesting the positions on the APC platform or on the fringe party’s platform, depending on INEC’s guideline for the by-elections.
“Should INEC insist that only the parties that contested the first election are eligible to contest the by-elections, the candidate of the APC will file out on the platform of his adopted stop-gap party, but will shortly switch back to the APC after victory”, one of the sources explained.
Meanwhile, a number of APC chieftains in the state have dismissed the proxy candidate theory and distanced the Transport Minister from such idea. They told The Source that, the Supreme Court’s decision, though painful and sad, the Rivers APC has accepted its fate. “Some mischief makers who are haunted by Amaechi’s towering political profile are not tired of linking his name to absurdities. This latest one is laughable. The Minister is not involved in any proxy nonsense. It is a wicked and baseless rumour”, one of the APC stalwarts told the magazine.
The Independent Electoral Commission, INEC’s decision to bar APC from fielding candidates in Rivers and the apex court’s validation of that action was predicated upon court rulings declaring the APC as having no candidates in all the strata of elections in the state. Fierce struggle between Transport Minister, Chibuike Amaechi and his erstwhile ally, Senator Magnus Abe, for the soul of Rivers APC had resulted in parallel ward, local government and state Congresses of the party as well as parallel legislative and gubernatorial primaries. While Senator Abe’s APC faction produced him as the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Amaechi’s faction threw up Tonye Cole, the billionaire owner of Sahara Energy.
The ensuing multiple court cases to determine whose faction is the authentic Rivers’ APC was to become tragic for both factions as the courts-High courts, Appeal court and now Supreme court- were to rule there were no valid APC congresses and primaries in the state and ,therefore, disqualified the party from fielding candidates for the elections.