* But signals from Amaechi camp show red
By Simeon Nwakaudu (Govt House, PH)
The elections have come and gone in Rivers State. It was a turbulent period no doubt. It was a period when the people of Rivers State made a clear statement on the way forward. They preferred consolidation of the New Rivers Vision ahead of other alternatives placed before them.
They chose Governor Wike and the PDP ahead of other political parties. The reason for their choice is simple. Governor Wike has lived up to the expectations of Rivers people, delivering on all his pledges to the people.
All across the country, political commentators and social activists are tired of the repeated use of the institutions of state to undermine good governance in Rivers State. Everyday, a faction of Rivers APC work to destroy the fabric of governance in Rivers State and make the state ungovernable.
Rivers State has continued to make determined progress because of the courage and dedication of Governor Wike. The Governor has refused to be distracted despite the myriad of attacks on the mechanics of Rivers State Government.
Through the extended internal crisis, the APC in Rivers State was excluded from the ballot for the 2019 General elections. This legal tussle was widely reported in the media.
Explaining the crux of the Rivers APC failure to Channels Television, Factional Rivers APC Leader, Senator Magnus Abe said: “I think that people have to have some basic understanding of what actually happened. As you will re-collect, the NWC of APC had asked that the state should make a determination as to the kind of primaries they would use, whether direct or indirect.
“As there was an existing court order that nullified the new state Exco for the party – so the existing Exco made a request for direct primaries to avoid the existing complications that were already evident at that time.That is the end of the road, legally nowhere else for us to go.
“It is really unfortunate, everybody in Rivers State knew that the APC crisis will only benefit Wike. Anybody who pretends that he did not know that the situation we had will benefit our opponent, is not being truthful.
“The beginning of this crisis was when members of our party bought forms from the party to participate in our congresses and a decision was taken that they are no longer members of the party, that wasn’t what the constitution of the party says”.
The Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) excluded Rivers State APC from the ballot on the orders of the Supreme Court. This decision was accepted by the APC National Working Committee. The core decision of the Supreme Court came on February 12 , 2019. This was the same day that the APC had their Presidential Campaign Rally in Rivers State. The former APC Governorship Candidate, Mr Tonye Dele Cole was denied flag on that basis.
The lead judgment of the Supreme Court was read by Justice Amiru Sanusi.
In explaining the judgment , Justice Olabode Vivour described the appeal by Rivers APC as being academic.
The court ruled: “This appeal is from Appeal No: CA/PH/461/2018. That appeal was filed in the Court of Appeal on 23 October 2018. By the provision of section 285 (12) of the Constitution as amended the Court of Appeal must determine it in 60 days. That is to say on or before 22 December 2018.
“The relief sought by the appellant for the appeal to be remitted to the Court of Appeal for determination can no longer be granted as the Court of Appeal no longer has jurisdiction to hear the matter and no court has jurisdiction to extend the time stipulated in section 285 (12) supra. If the court extends time that would amount to judicial legislation which would be wrong. The legislature is to make laws while the judiciary is to apply the law and in the process explain it while it is the duty of discerning minds to study what the judiciary says.
“This present appeal is academic in view of the provisions of section 285 (12) of the Constitution. Preliminary Objection sustained. Appeal struck out”.
On 9 February 2019, the Supreme Court upheld upheld the order of a Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, nullifying the All Progressives Congress primaries in Rivers State. The trial court had held that the primaries were held in disobedience to a court judgement barring the party from conducting congresses pending the determination of a suit filed by 22 aggrieved members of the party. This particular judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt was premised on the Rivers State High Court judgment which has also been upheld by the Supreme Court.
According to reports, the Supreme Court invoked section 22 of its Act allowing it to take over a matter and give a final judgment to decide on the appeal.In a lead judgement delivered by Justice Sidi Barge, the Apex Court held that by virtue of section 11 Rule 5 of the Supreme Court rules, the appeal against the High Court ruling, having been withdrawn by the APC, was bound to be dismissed.
Justice Barge said since the Court of Appeal failed or evaded to make dismissal pronouncement for the said appeal, the apex court had no choice but to invoke section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to assume jurisdiction over the case and decide on it.
He said, “It is my considered opinion that this appeal must be given a decent burial. The appeal, having been withdrawn at the lower court by the respondent, is deemed distilled”.
The Rivers APC numerous suits were given a decent burial long before the elections commenced. Everyone accepted this as the reality of the 2019 Election Circle. However, those who believe that through the instrumentality of ” Federal Might “, they can change the dynamics of the legal system continued to fight. As such , they petitioned the Supreme Court and requested for a new panel to hear their matter.
By doing this, the Amaechi faction ensured that a pre-election matter before the Supreme Court became statute barred. A motion by the Senator Abe faction for this matter to be heard before the election was jettisoned because of the Appeal by the Amaechi faction. The Supreme Court wrote to Senator Abe and informed of their decision.
The Apex Court struck out the motion by Senator Abe seeking that the direct primary elections be recognized. .
Reacting to the decision of the Supreme Court, Senator Abe said: “Because of the delay in hearing the matter, the Supreme Court actually wrote a letter to us, a week before the election to say the matter could not be heard because the other Rivers State APC faction had written a petition against the Judges.
“Therefore, the Supreme Court had decided that the matter could only be heard after the elections, when a new panel had been constituted.
“For me, as a lawyer, I read that to mean a judgment of the court as far as the issue was concerned. This was clearly a pre-election matter. The effectiveness of the pronouncement would have affected the party going into the election when the court wrote that letter; I saw it as a decision on itself.
“When the suit was struck out, it didn’t come to me as a surprise. As far as we were concerned, the decision to strike out the suit was taken when a decision was taken not to hear the suit before the election”
Therefore, it was surprising that the Amaechi faction thought that it would create a needless constitutional crisis by seeking a review of the several positions of the Supreme Court on their exclusion from the ballot. Whilst respecting the decision of the Supreme Court, INEC conducted the 2019 General Elections in Rivers State without the APC on the ballot.
At the expense of the integrity of the Supreme Court, the Amaechi faction wanted the Supreme Court to reverse itself and subvert the free will of Rivers people in the process. They wanted to benefit from their disobedience and become demi-gods who are greater than the courts of law. In other words, had the Amaechi faction succeeded in convincing the Supreme Court to jettison its earlier positions, then it would be fashionable to shun the courts, act outside the law and wait arrogantly for the Supreme Court to act as a father Christmas.
If that had happened, the worst victim would have been internal party democracy. Political monsters would have ceaselessly raped the Electoral Process from hotel rooms and private homes, while the votes of the people will be thrown to the dogs. It would mean that the accursed “Federal Might” is right. Jungle justice would be the order of the day. In short, democracy would have been endangered. The calamitous ripple effect would devastate many states and the National Polity.
The Supreme Court had repeatedly declared the primaries and congresses of Rivers State APC null and void on the Premise of the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nwogu. It was on the premise of that judicial pronouncement that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) removed APC from the ballot for the general elections in Rivers State. The APC accepted its fate and declared an alliance with AAC during the elections.
As the Apex Court, the Supreme Court has once again risen above the evil machinations of the APC to uphold the rule of law. This verdict, more than anything else, would strengthen to pillars of internal democracy. It will also rein in greedy godfathers who prefer to exclude other party faithful from the party nomination process.
With the endless Rivers APC Case given the final burial by the Supreme Court, it is now time for well-meaning leaders of the opposition to accept the offer of re-elected Governor Wike to consolidate on the development process in Rivers State.
The state is greater than all other interests. It is greater than positions and ego. The State is about the corporate development of all components and the empowerment of her people. This can be better achieved through unity. In cases where the opposition leaders cannot contribute, they can at least desist from criminal acts to derail the development of the state.
Rivers APC leaders can start this cooperation by canvassing for projects to be sited in Rivers State. They should work towards the revival of the ports in Rivers State which are directly under the Ministry of Transportation.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike through the State House of Assembly set up the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency to address security challenges in the state. This agency was fashioned in line with that of Lagos State.
While some politicians used the Nigerian Army to frustrate the smooth take off of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency, the Lagos version participated actively during the 2019 General Elections. Indeed they have embarked on an election post-mortem at Lagos State.
The benefits of the consolidated Supreme Court judgment will come in the form of faster development of Rivers State without the distractions of Rivers APC . In unity, Rivers people will resolve all key developmental challenges, beginning with security issues.
One of the first benefits of the governor’s re-election is the reform of the State Pension Scheme to accommodate those under the Contributory Pension Scheme.
In line with his campaign pledge to address the challenge faced by Rivers State Pensioners under the contributory pension scheme, Governor Wike has sent an executive bill to the Rivers State House of Assembly to reform the scheme.
Leader of the House, Martin Amaewhule who presented the Bill said the Rivers state Pension Reform Bill from the Governor seeks to repeal the Rivers state Contributory Pension Scheme Law of 2012.
The bill seeks to repeal the Rivers State Contributary Pension Scheme for Employees in the Public Service Law (No.7 of 2009) and the Rivers State Contributory Pension Scheme for Employees Law ( Amendment No.1 of 2012).
Similarly, the State Government’s empowerment programme for civil servants and traders is taking firm root. Several other projects and programmes have been outlined to move Rivers State forward.
Governor Wike’s Hand of Fellowship
Rather than gloat and emasculate the opposition, the Rivers State Governor has extended a hand of fellowship to APC leaders. This is a clarion call to place Rivers State first.
“I appeal to our people to eschew all acts of acrimony, criminality, unrest, and violence throughout the State. I wish to recommit myself to continue to do all that is humanly possible to ensure the unity and peaceful co-existence of all our people irrespective of political affiliation”.
He directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner to review all pending criminal cases linked to politics before the 2019 elections and make necessary recommendations to promote reconciliation.
He said “I hereby direct the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to review all pending criminal proceedings filed against any person by the State and directly related to political activities prior to the 2019 general elections and make appropriate recommendations to me for necessary action to promote reconciliation among us”.
More Development for Rivers People
It is on record that Governor Wike is the best performing Governor in this dispensation. But, with this new mandate, he has pledged to improve on his performance for the benefit of Rivers people.
Governor Wike declared: “Let me also express my deepest gratitude to the people of Rivers State for the opportunity to serve you as your Governor for another four years. I am truly humbled by your continued trust and, I will not take this support for granted.
” For me, the collective interest of the people of Rivers State is the reason I am in politics. When you gave me the mandate about four years ago, I committed myself to be the Governor for all the people of Rivers State and stayed through to that commitment.
“Today, I recommit myself to be the Governor for all the people of Rivers State for the next four years. Accordingly, we shall form an all-inclusive government to advance the collective interest of all our people, irrespective of party, ethnic or religious affiliations.
“We have come along way in the last four years and accomplished a lot to be proud of. But there’s still a lot more to do to advance and realize the ultimate vision of our founding fathers for a truly united, secure, and prosperous State and we need the support of all our people to realize this bold vision”.
APC’s Eze Chukwuemeka Eze reacts
When contacted, a chieftain of the APC, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said that everybody knows that Wike does not mean well. He said the Amaechi political camp is yet to meet to take any decision and would react appropriately.
Tonye Cole reacts
APC die-hards should not be dismayed. We fought a good fight. I always say try and win your unit, or your ward, even win your LGA (if you can) and leave the rest to God. Many of you did that, but the gang up against Amaechi was too much. I feel for him and I feel for you. Many of us have sacrificed a lot and don’t talk. Amaechi is one. Some have sacrificed a little, but they won’t let you sleep. I expect them to go.
Here a just a few of the reasons, you are going through what you are going through. Justice and injustice comes in many forms. There are many courts. Worry not. Your tears will be transferred to their own faces soon. Remember:
1. Not everyone can resist money like you. There is plenty greed in the land.
2. Some PDP sympathizers have not forgiven or forgotten what Amaechi did to PDP in 2015. They hold Amaechi responsible for Buhari’s victory.
3. There are people insIde APC at the very top from the South West who don’t want to see a stronger Amaechi. Why? Because of 2023. If the Presidency is zoned to the South, Amaechi is a threat. He is already influential even without a Governor. Imagine if he has one.
4. There are people insIde APC at the very top from the North who don’t want to see a stronger Amaechi. Again why? Because of 2023. They believe that if the Presidency is not zoned to the South, Amaechi may disagree. He is already an influential voice without having a Governor. Imagine if he has one. What then?
Some of us are still standing, still fighting. We won’t rest until our justice comes. There will be big consequences for what we went through, because it’s never over until we win. Waiting for 2023 is not an option. It is already here.