Rivers governorship: Mutually assured destruction – Vanguard

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The two major political parties in Rivers State are engaged in political intrigues aimed at putting one another away from the candidates’ list in the Rivers State governorship election

By Egufe Yafugborhi

This week, the mind games of mutual destruction between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State and the leading opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) peaked with new twists trailing lingering cases in different courts.

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The court cases came against the background of the delisting of candidates of the APC from all elections in the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC upon issues arising from the conduct of the party’s congresses earlier in 2018.

Mr. Tonye Cole who emerged as the candidate of the faction of the party aligned to transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi this week gained two stays of execution from the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, renewing his hope of being restored on the ballot for the coming election.

INEC had earlier rejected his name and those of other candidates submitted by the APC upon the lingering court cases.

The case against Cole and his associates aligned to Amaechi flowed from dispute by the other faction of the party aligned to Senator Magnus Abe, a former ally of Amaechi over the control of the party.

Abe who had not hidden his interest in the governorship of the state was bypassed by Amaechi in the internal poll in favour of Cole. Besides the two of them, others in contention included the director-general of the Nigeria Maritime Safety Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, and Dumo Lulu-Briggs.

While Peterside took Amaechi’s decision in his stride, Lulu-Brigs defected from the APC to pursue his ambition in Accord, another political party.

Senator Abe, however, remained in the party on the insistence that he and his associates who emerged in parallel congresses organized by him were the right candidates of the party.

The issues in the APC have also repeatedly been hyped by the PDP which has sought to benefit from the crisis.

On the other hand, another suit seeking to bar the incumbent governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike from running for re-election for alleged forgery opened hearing on Wednesday in an Abuja High Court.

Remarkably, Wike and the Rivers state chapter of the PDP have not hidden their interests in stopping the APC from participating in the forthcoming election.

The APC, on the other hand, has sought to hide its hand in the case of the alleged forgery levelled against Wike.

However, there is no denial that key actors in the alleged forgery case against the governor are allies of Amaechi and where not, chieftains of the APC.

Last Wednesday was the opening hearing in the case that saw the Plaintiff expressing lack of confidence in the trial judge.

Beneath the public show of confidence, high hopes, and celebrations by Cole and his camp in the APC over the victories as it seemed that came from the stay of execution, the camp of Abe is insisting that it is not yet Uhuru for Cole.

Abe in a statement by his Media Aide, Parry Benson said, “Court didn’t order INEC to realist candidates. The facts are simple and sacred. The Court of Appeal granting stay of execution to enable all APC appear on the ballot box in Rivers is noted and welcomed as the court did not restore the name of anyone but merely gave a stay to enable the party prepare for the forthcoming general elections.

“The court has not ordered INEC to restore names of candidates for the 2019 Governorship, State House of Assembly and National Assembly elections. The main issue that must now agitate the minds of Nigerians is the position of the Supreme Court on the matter moving forward. Will the Supreme Court turn around to tell Nigerians that its former position on the consequences of disobedience to the orders of the courts no longer holds? Or can the court of appeal now overturn an existing judgment of the Supreme Court?”

The Abuja High Court’s reopening of the forgery case against Wike last Wednesday remains uncertain for political stakeholders in the state. That is because no one is sure where the pendulum in the case will swing as it would have strong implications on the political direction of the state.

An initial suit by a close associate of Amaechi’s, Achinike Wobodo had earlier been thrown out on same matter, but some observers believe the reopened case under a different Plaintiff, Elvis Chinda, with Woboso, now acting as the plaintiff’s counsel, could spring a shocking outcome.

Those holding this thought of danger for Wike point to concerns over the recent strange drama arising from the sack of Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, his contentious replacement and the new vibes beginning to flow from the apex of the judiciary.

A PDP chieftain told Vanguard on condition of anonymity that, “When Governor Wike accused his predecessor of masterminding the illegal ouster of Onnoghen, not every Nigerian was sympathetic towards the Transport Minister or his stern denials.

Following the displacement of Onnoghen, discerning Nigerians expect strange things to happen in the courts.

“The strange development is that we may not have to wait for post-elections struggle to see why Onnoghen was removed.”

Chinda, in his suit filed as FHC / ABJ / CS /1430/3018 among other reliefs, is seeking, “a declaration that the information contained in the Affidavit Form C.F. 001 deposed to by the 2nd Defendant (Wike) 29th October 2018 and presented to the INEC (1st Defendant) on the 2nd November 2018 for the purpose of the 2019 Governorship Election in Rivers is false.”

Under the threats to Wike and Cole tickets in the guber race, Dumo Lulu Briggs continues to soar turning himself into the third force that could clinch governorship. However, like almost everything in Rivers now, even his own ticket is also being disputed, though he was the one listed.

A chieftain of Lulu-Brigg’s Accord, Chief Donald Horsfall in an interview told v that the arrogance of the two major parties could turn into the gain of Accord which is new in the state.

Horsfall who is also standing as Accord candidate for Akuku, Toru/Asari Toru Federal Constituency in next Saturday’s National Assembly polls said the party was focused on winning against any other party in contention and not concerned about candidates being removed from the ballot.

Horsfall said, “Accord is gaining support across the state. Naturally, people love success. Not only PDP, but APC members have started joining us because it is clear that Accord is the one on ground making success. Every other person is entangled in some confusion. We are the ones who are free and on ground making headway. Dumo Briggs is the Accord party listed by INEC and it suits us. No reason to overturn it,” he said.

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