By Chris Ezeonoh
Political analysts in Rivers State are miffed at the endless and rancorous circus show being displayed by the former governor of the state who is the current Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his once trusted friend and confidant, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe.
Anyone who has been following the political trajectory of these two great sons of Rivers State cannot but pause and wonder the Lucifer who has put a seeming irretrievable wedge between the duo with inevitable collateral damage.
The relationship between the two political gladiators began at the Rivers State House of Assembly after the 1999 elections when both won elections from their various constituencies. Amaechi represented Ikwerre while Abe represented Gokana, on the platforms of PDP and APP respectively.
It was Abe’s exceptional brilliance at debates on the floor of the House even as the Minority Leader, that endeared him to Amaechi who was the Speaker.
Amaechi often consulted Abe who is an accomplished lawyer on anything that needed any legal interpretation before the House would conclude debate on such issues.
Soon, the two young politicians bonded the more which resulted in Abe defecting to the PDP to seal the bond of friendship with Amaechi.
The friendship also brought Abe very close to the then Governor Peter Odili, who was Amaechi’s benefactor, and this earned Abe appointment as Commissioner for Information in the second term of Odili as governor.
Abe stood with Amaechi through thick and thin even while Amaechi was in political exile in Ghana after falling out of favour in the Odili political family, The Trumpet gathered.
That was why upon Amaechi’s swearing-in as governor following the Supreme Court declaration, he promptly announced Abe as his Secretary to the State Government, SSG.
Abe later ascended to the National Assembly, the Senate, to be precise and spent two terms.
From the National Assembly, Abe started thinking homewards for the next logical rung to climb in the ladder of his political career and it became the governorship position.
But here he encountered what was to him like a benumbing anathema, akin to the Caeser-Brutus scenario as Amaechi emerged from a blind angle and impudently asked him to perish the ambition.
Amaechi had become the leader of APC in the state when he defected to the party from PDP, pulling most of his loyalists including Abe along with him.
A governor of the Ogoni extraction had been a long-standing demand within the political space in Rivers and Abe had felt that his relationship with Amaechi would make the realization of that desire even much easier.
But Amaechi against all expectations stone-walled every avenue to negotiate and according to insiders even swore that Abe would be governor over his dead body!
Amidst the rancour and acrimony occasioned by Amaechi’s rejection of Abe’s governorship bid, he, (Amaechi) had gone ahead and anointed the immediate past Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside to fly the governorship flag of APC in 2015.
This necessarily marked a turning point in the once blossoming relationship between Amaechi and Abe as they went their separate ways politically, though still in the same party, APC which became factionalized into Amaechi and Abe camps.
The crisis triggered in the APC by the avoidable face-off between the two gladiators culminated in the deleting of APC on the INEC ballot papers for all categories of elections conducted in the state in the 2019 general election as Abe’s faction succeeded in convincing the court that they were unjustly shut out of the congresses conducted by the APC in the state.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, the storm seems to be gathering very ominously again against the Rivers APC chapter as the two factions remained fixated on their extreme positions not to reason with each other to find peace.
Observers had expected that after the fate it suffered in the 2019 elections where it fielded no candidate in the election over internal crisis; the APC would look inwards ahead of the 2023 election and sort out its challenges.
But it appears history is about to repeat itself again as the faction led by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has announced Arch. Tonye Cole, the INEC rejected candidate in 2019 as the consensus governorship candidate of the party for the 2023 election, a development the faction loyal to Abe, has sworn would not stand.
In a three-paragraph statement addressed to party members, one of the elders of APC in the state, Senator Andrew Uchendu had broken the news of the emergence of Tonye Cole as the consensus governorship candidate.
He said, “Last night, our Leader, CRA, (Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi) set up a Committee of Elders of about 19 members to meet immediately and decide on the Governorship candidate of our party.
“We all met for about two hours and unanimously chose Tonye Cole. The committee immediately communicated this choice to our leader.
“I was a member of that committee and therefore invite all of you to accept this decision and communicate same to all our members. It is in our overall interest to do so. Let us get down to work for all our candidates”, he pleaded.
But upon hearing what had transpired, Senator Abe roared that nobody could enslave Rivers people, no matter the quantum of the person’s wealth or social status in the society.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Parry Saroh Benson, Abe noted that Rivers people could not be enslaved by anyone through crooked manoeuvring, and advised his supporters to brace up for the fight ahead which he said would not be easy.
“I have said it before and want to say it again, that Rivers people have never been slaves to anybody and nobody no matter the amount of money he has, nobody can enslave us here in Rivers State. We can chart our own destiny.
“Let me assure you all that the road ahead will not be easy but you have the power, the capacity and audacity and I know that we can do it. We will do it and we’ll win.
“I will present myself to the Rivers people and if they decide to choose a better person over me through a transparent process, I will support that person.
“We must have a clear and transparent process. But if they bring somebody through a Kangaroo process, we will not accept. We will challenge it”, Abe maintained.
He stated that the party needed everybody to be able to succeed, saying that to achieve this, the party leaders must make room to accommodate everybody.
He said: “As far as possible, we must be able to work together to bring our party together. Let us not deceive ourselves; this party needs everybody to be able to succeed. We must be able to make room for one another.
“We must be able to accommodate one another. In politics disagreements are normal and it is expected. What is not normal in politics is hatred such as people have been preaching amongst us here, the Rivers people.
“Whether you are APC or PDP; whether you are with Magnus or with Amaechi, you are a Rivers man. You are the proud son of your father and your mother.
“You deserve the best and the reason why we are doing politics is so that we can offer you the best. And that is why I am here.
We have a track record of saying something and standing by what we said”, he pushed.
Observers say the crude intransigence on the part of Amaechi and Abe over who gets what in the party could again scuttle the chances of the party to get a foot holding in 2023 election and ultimately consign the party to perdition in Rivers.