A chieftain of the All progressives Congress (APC) and former governorship aspirant in Rivers State, Tonye Princewill has decried the crises in the party and called on members to close ranks to move it forward. He spoke on other national issues in this interview.
A High Court in Rivers State has affirmed Igo Aguma as chairman of the caretaker committee of the APC in the state. Where does that leave former governor, Rotimi Amaechi in the political equation in Rivers?
It seems like every day there is a new court matter, so this will probably go all the way to the Supreme Court if we can’t make peace. I think it’s very fashionable to always link His Excellency, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of Transportation to Rivers State politics and ignore the other fighters in the ring. As a two-term speaker, two-term governor, two-term Governors Forum chairman and two-time Director General of a Presidential campaign that was successful, that is not surprising. But if you go back to the first open letter that started Igo Aguma on his chosen path, he complained that the APC is not just about Amaechi or Senator Magnus Abe or even himself. The APC is a large tent with a huge following, so what happens here affects everybody. I can say it with conviction – the vast majority of us want peace.
Amaechi is far bigger than Rivers State. He has survived without it in two elections. If it happens a third time, it is all of us who will suffer it. Not so much about Amaechi. So, when you ask me how Amaechi will fair based on the ongoing court drama, my answer is, he’ll do just fine. But I cannot say the same for the APC family. We don’t need these crises.
Why is it proving difficult for Amaechi and Senator Abe to bury their differences in the interest of Rivers APC; in the 2019 elections, the PDP won all the elective positions in Rivers State without batting an eyelid because the two APC factions failed to agree?
First, let me quickly correct you. There are more than two factions. There is the Amaechi faction which is by far the majority of the party, then there is the Abe faction which successfully thwarted us from presenting candidates in the 2019 election. In recent months, there is now the emergence from the same Amaechi faction of an Igo Aguma faction. When it emerged, I raised the alarm because I saw it as just as disruptive, if not more so. But I’ll come back to that.
On the question of my two elder brothers coming back together, that will be tough for several reasons. A lot of water has now gone under the bridge and egos have been severely bruised. Trust is now a major problem. As many of you know, there are two major political parties in Nigeria. When you despise your own party members so much so that you don’t mind them losing an election to the other party, a line has been crossed. Incidentally, the dynamic between Aguma and the Amaechi faction is also similar.
For those of us who belong to what I prefer to call the “peace faction”, we are very realistic. We don’t see them as coming back together like before. Not again. This is why Amaechi has his opponents in Abuja. They see him as a threat in 2023. They will do whatever they can to promote his worries at home and since he has chosen not to focus on the state politics, but instead focus on his national assignment, his silence is leaving a vacuum. My view is his opponents will continue to exploit it. Not sure how long it will last, but underestimating Amaechi is not wise. I would not advise it. What I would advise, is that my fellow leaders waiting for Amaechi need to behave like leaders and take their destiny in their own hands. We must make peace and promote unity. That is my message to them; a war is not in anybody’s interest. We can’t wait for Amaechi to run to Port Harcourt to put out flames. That would be an indictment on us and our leadership.
After the botched March 2020 National Executive Committee meeting of the APC and President Buhari’s initial reluctance to intervene in the crisis in the party, he has finally shoved Adams Oshiomhole aside. The action, however, seems belated given the crisis that developed in Edo and the subsequent move of Gov Obaseki to the PDP. What is your take?
The President is not going to make it a habit of jumping in to solve party problems. That’s not his style and that is not what he was elected to do. Some of us felt that this though was a unique situation and some of us felt it rose to a level that required his input, I personally quoted Newton’s first law of motion and I’m glad it worked.
I would not describe what happened as shoving Oshiomhole aside; that is a harsh way of putting it. My take is he was asked to close the door from outside and he was not alone. The entire NWC including Victor Giadom were also shown the door. That did not mean that they can not return tomorrow. Politics is a fertile ground for comebacks. What it means is give us room to find a neutral path to organizing a convention, where a new chapter can begin.
The party’s situation had become far too toxic and Oshiomhole as the captain of the ship, just had to take a bow. Governance cannot be sacrificed on the altar of politics and so many times in this administration, you will see the continuing evidence of a reluctance to intervene in politics. The priority for the administration is governance. Unfortunately, the public and the media will focus on the politics.