By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Jimitota Onoyume
The national leadership of the PDP last Tuesday rushed to inaugurate a new executive of the Rivers State chapter of the party a day after a controversial court judgment. The hurry and hush-hush actions are raising eyebrows.
THE image and reputation of the Nigerian judiciary is again under scrutiny as political hucksters take position ahead of the 2015 round of general elections.
The latest development is centered around the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Last Monday the court in an unprecedented pronouncement axed the executive of the chapter led by Chief Godspower Ake. Ake is said to be a strong loyalist of Governor Chibuke Amaechi.
In his place, the Abuja court ruled that Mr. Felix Obuah is the chairman of the legally recognized faction. Obuah served as a local government chairman during the Peter Odili era and little much had been heard of him until recently.
The court ruling was immediately flayed by loyalists of Amaechi who alleged that proper procedures were not followed by the courts especially with respect to examination of evidence tendered by both sides.
In a twist the suspended executive led by Ake last week obtained an injunction from a Port-Harcourt Court stopping the Obuah exco from suspending or tampering with the executives at the local governments and the ward levels of the party who came to power prior to the now controversial congress of the party last year.
Central to the grouse of the Ake executive was their claim that the Abuja court refused video evidence of the controversial congress where the returning officer, Chief Dan Orbih was allegedly seen conducting the congress.
Orbih, who is chairman of the Edo State chapter of the party and a fanatical loyalist of Chief Tony Anenih, had in an affidavit tendered to the court denied the results produced by the Ake executive and instead, endorsed the results tendered by Obuah.
Once the Abuja court declared its ruling annulling the election of Ake, the PDP national headquarters the following day inaugurated a new executive led by Obuah. The speed with which the PDP national secretariat inaugurated the executive immediately raised concern as if it was expecting the ruling.
Even more, a whole set of executive officers was inaugurated despite the fact that only Obuah and Mr Walter Opuene, who claimed the position of secretary were parties to the dispute who took Ake to court.
The question immediately asked by many was where the PDP national officers got the other persons who filled the other positions.
Many following the case allege the development was instigated by opponents of Amaechi in the presidential villa.
The chairman of the Rivers State caucus in the House of Representatives caucus, Hon. Asita Honourable at a joint briefing with other members alleged that the action was instigated by what he described as “Oga and Madam at the top.” The inference was not lost on anyone given the difficult relationship between Governor Amaechi and the first family in Abuja.
Amaechi is alleged to be critical of some of the actions of the federal administration and has used his position as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF to assert the claims of the nation’s governors on many issues including the strict application of fiscal federation.
Besides, he is alleged to be in cahoots with political opponents of the president in the race towards the 2015 presidential election. Amaechi has severally denied the allegations of pursing a presidential ambition or working directly against Jonathan.
It was widely alleged that the presidency was behind the alleged efforts to stop Amaechi from a second term as chairman of the NGF recently.
Remarkably, the points man of the opposition is Nyesom Wike, a former Chief of Staff to Amaechi during the first term between 2007 and 2011 and who also served as director-general of the Amaechi re-election campaign in 2007. How and why Wike became an instrument of the opposition to his former boss remains largely unknown.
Strongman of Rivers politics
He has, however, also been able to draw most of those opposed to Amaechi towards him. Among those who have now gravitated towards Wike are former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, former Senator Lee Maeba and the one time strongman of Rivers politics, Sergeant Awuse. Remarkably, all of them were present at the inauguration of the Obuah executive last Tuesday and at the tumultuous homecoming of the new executive on Friday.
At a press briefing within the week, chairmen of the twenty three local government councils in the state described the verdict of the Abuja High court as a travesty of justice, arguing that the judicial process was flawed.
Mayor of Port Harcourt, Chimbuko Akarolo who read an address by the local government chairmen issued under the aegis of Association of local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, Rivers state chapter said the court verdict was part of a grand design by a group of individuals to rupture the peace in the state.
According to the Chairmen, there had been an alleged plot to create an environment that would warrant declaration of a state of emergency with a view to illegally removing Chibuike Amaechi as governor of the state.
The address signed by the trio of Mayor of Port Harcourt/ Chairman of the body, Chimbuko Akarolo, his publicity secretary/ Chairman Bonny local government area, Bar Edward Pepple, and the secretary/Chairman Asari Toru local government area, Ojukaye Flag-Amakiri further opined that the alleged boundary dispute between the state and its Bayelsa counterpart was part of the scheme.
While declaring their unflinching support for the G.U Ake deposed executive council, the Chairmen pleaded with members of the party to remain law abiding, stressing that the matter was already at the Court of Appeal.
“That we took part and led the delegates who dully voted for and elected the Chief G.U Ake led executive council of PDP in Rivers state whose election had earlier been validated by a High court judgement in Rivers state, therefore we shall not support, recognise or do any business with any other state Executive council of PDP except one duly elected by us and the accredited delegates from our various local government areas”, they insisted.
A member of the House of Representatives from the State, Rep. Dakuku Peterside while pointing out that the PDP had a valid congress in the state affirmed that he and several other statutory members participated in the congress that was supervised by Orbih.
“I wouldn’t know because the party never had any problem at all and suddenly somebody just emerged from the moon and is beginning to establish parallel structures of the party. Before now nobody had ever challenged it, nobody had raised issues about a congress and this one is sudden. The implication is clear that there must be a fifth columnist somewhere. There is no doubt that there is an unseen hand pushing whoever the person is.”
Meantime, the new State Chairman, Mr Obuah and his team formerly took over affairs of the state secretariat of the party on Aba road on Friday. Mr Obuah who came in from Abuja was escorted by heavily armed policemen to the secretariat.
Addressing a cheering crowd who came to welcome him and his team Obuah assured that he would unite the party. In an apparent rebuke to Amaechi, he said the PDP was a political party and not a pressure group, adding that his leadership would encourage respect for party leaders.
He further affirmed the support of the state chapter of the party to President Goodluck Jonathan.
“We don’t run a pressure group but a political party. We must respect our leaders. We will give President Jonathan the support”.
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