The leadership crisis rocking the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) took a different dimension last week when notable members of the party took turns to tender their letters of resignation, Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Some of those that resigned their membership of the party blamed the alleged high-handedness of the former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, on the leadership of the party as the reason for their resignation.
Apart from Prince Tonye Princewill, an ally of Ameachi, who attributed his resignation to the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, others did not state clearly the reason for their resignations.
Prominent among those that have resigned from the party within the last couple of days are Prince Tonye Princewill, a frontline APC member in the state and a close associate of Amaechi; Mrs Tamunoibim Semenitari, a former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Elder Chidi Wihioka, a former member of the House of Representatives; Sam Chigbo Eligwe, a former member of the House Representatives; Golden Chioma, a former caretaker committee chairman of the party and onetime member of the Rivers State House of Assembly; Dr Dawari Goerge , a former member of the House of Representatives and Mr Marvin Yobana, a prominent youth leader in the Ogoni axis of the state.
Others are Owen Obediah, a lawyer and former CTC chairman of Andoni Local Government Area; King Tony Gboms, a chieftain of the APC in Obio Akpor Local Government Area; Chief Friday Nkee-ee Numbari, a former member of the State House of Assembly, and Mr Celestine Akpobari, a prominent right activist.
At the last count, over 50 members of the party in the state had tendered their letters of resignation in the last one week.
Elder Wihioka, in his letter of resignation addressed to his ward in Ikwerre Local Government Area, attributed his action to the high-handedness of the former minister of transportation. He accused Amaechi of running the affairs of the party in the state as a private company, alleging that the former minister imposed candidates on members against the wishes of majority.
Mrs Seminatari, who was one of the media handlers of Vice President Yemi Osibanjo’s presidential campaign, did not state the reason for her resignation but thanked the party leadership for the opportunity given to her to serve.
Eligwe, in his resignation letter stated, “I joined the APC in 2013 in the hope of creating a political power that would serve the needs of my people/constituency.
I envisioned a political party where all the people would be treated equally, regardless of age, educational achievements, status or ethnicity. I had hoped that all the people would be given equal access or opportunity for political participation. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I can no longer stand by and watch helplessly.
“Since 2015, I have watched the party being run as a fiefdom, where an individual has complete control over all the decisions regarding party positions, employment opportunities and contracts. This is definitely not democracy being practised.
Therefore, due to the above stated reasons, I hereby wish to resign forthwith, my membership of the APC.”
Also, Prince Tonye Princewill, a former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress, in his letter of resignation addressed to the party’s ward 3 chairman in Buguma, cited the Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC presidential candidate as the reason for his resignation.
Princewill, who thanked his associate, the former minister of transportation in his letter of resignation, stated that he could not defend the decision of his party for a Muslim-Muslim ticket against what he described as all protestations from well meaning Nigerians, across religious and political divides.
“It sets a very wrong precedent. It is totally insensitive, and even if you win, it will prove bad for good governance. Under these dire circumstances, I find no justification to still remain, in good conscience, a member of a political party that subordinates electoral victory over the safety of lives and the peace of mind of its citizens.
“The men and women of our party here in Rivers are the most loyal and faithful supporters I have met. They know right and wrong. And they know me. I enjoyed working with them and I am so sad to leave. But an APC party that totally disregards the basics of the same equity we preach is alien to me. Buhari resisted the same temptation and chose a little known Osinbajo and won. By doing this, Tinubu is saying that a northern Christian has no electoral value. My staying means I agree,” Princewill stated in his letter of resignation.
However, sources from the party attributed the mass resignation of APC members in Rivers State to two factors. One of the factors is the irreconcilable differences between Senator Magnus Abe and Ameachi. Another factor, according to the sources, is the recent resignation of the minister of transportation from the Federal Executive Council and his subsequent defeat at the APC presidential primary election.
Both Amaechi and Abe had been arch political enemies over issues concerning the leadership of the party in the state. Their differences had polarised the party into two factions with party loyalty divided among the two prominent political gladiators.
Their feud in 2019 over who would fly the party’s governorship ticket forced the party out of the general elections that produced Nyesom Wike as the governor of the oil rich state. Abe had accused the former minister of sidelining his supporters during the party’s congresses in 2019.
Abe was not happy that many of his supporters that bought forms for various positions in the party were not allowed to participate in the congresses. The issues arising from the party congresses in 2019 led to a protracted legal battle that made the party not to participate in the 2019 general elections.
The recent governorship primaries conducted by the party, which produced the founder of Sahara Energy, Pastor Tonye Cole, as its governorship flag-bearer in the state, reopened the political feud between Ameachi and Abe. The latter had boycotted the primary in the state, where he was awarded only three votes, citing irregularities.
Abe had again accused the former minister of singlehandedly installing Cole as the party’s governorship flag-bearer. He alleged that Cole was not a member of the APC and described him as a usurper who had come to hijack the party structure.
Apart from Abe’s opposition to Cole’s emergency as APC governorship flag-bearer, many of the party chieftains in the state who had aspired for the position of the governor on its platform, were disappointed when they were asked by the elders of the party to step down for Tonye Cole.
Many of the aggrieved party chieftains believed that the party elders’ decisions were influenced by Amaechi. The likes of Prince Princewill, Chief Ojukaye Flag Amachree, Dr Dawari Goerge, Dr Seconte Davis, Michael West, Mina Tender, Dr Dakuku Peterside and others, had earlier indicated interest to contest in the governorship primary election of the party but were asked to step down for Cole. Many of them, our correspondent learnt, were not happy and were said to have been working underground to frustrate the party’s standard bearer.
While both Abe and Ameachi are yet to settle the differences arising from the party’s primary that produced Cole as the sole governorship candidate of the party, notable members, some of whom are Abe’s loyalists, have thrown in their towels, blaming Ameachi for their decisions.
Sources close to Abe’s camp confided in our correspondent that Abe has lost interest in the APC and will, in a matter of days and weeks, defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The sources told our correspondent that the senator is in talks with the leadership of the party, and in conclusion of their discussion, the former senator will move with the remnants of his supporters in the APC to SDP, where he intends to contest the governorship election.
Another factor that led to the mass resignation of APC members in the state was the recent defeat of the former minister in the APC presidential primary election and his subsequent resignation as the minister of transportation. It is believed that with Amaechi’s defeat at the presidential primary and his subsequent resignation as minister, he may not have the capacity to dictate the tone in the APC and carry party members along in the state.
“The crisis in the APC, which led to mass resignation of members, is not far from the defeat of Amaechi in the presidential primary and his subsequent resignation as a minister. Many of his supporters in the party had thought that he would emerge victorious in the primary, but to the surprise of many of them, he lost out and also resigned as a minister.
“With his resignation, he may not have the capacity to influence anything at the federal level. In politics, nobody wants to identify with somebody that cannot bring anything to the table. So many of the people that resigned wanted to move forward and identify with a winning team,” a member of party who pleaded anonymity said.
John Chukwu, a member of the party in the state, blamed the former minister of transportation for the mass resignation of members.
He said, “I knew that one day, what is happening now in the APC would come to pass. We have a situation where one person dictates everything that happens in the party and if you disagree with him you become an outcast. This implosion is long overdue. The highhandedness of one man is what is causing this problem. Many of our members are tired of this type of leadership.”
But the publicity secretary of the APC in the state, Chris Finebone, said many of those who resigned had given them a big relief.