·Raises hands of Tonye Cole, Tony Okocha
By Ignatius Chukwu
The founder and CEO of Belemaoil, a cherished son of Rivers State, may have done what many never believed could happen.
He emerged in the last minute to raise the hands of two feuding factional leaders of the APC in the state at a venue many felt would be battleground on Monday.
Last minute efforts launched by a middle force in the midst of the rancorous All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State may pave way for their presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to touch down in the state capital Wednesday, February 15, 2023.
The middle force seems led by Tein T.S. Jack-Rich (Jnr) but it found a way to bring both camps together at the ‘battlefield’ where many expected a big fight to explode on Monday, February 13, 2023.
Both camps had addressed the press accusing the other of sabotaging the expected visit of Tinubu and cause violence. Each claimed to be the right party to organize the rally and take possession of the venue.
Tonye Cole is the governorship candidate of the APC in the state working closely with the state chairman and the leadership all loyal to Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
Tony Okocha is one of the foundation members of the party who left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013 with Amaechi but he fell off the Amaechi group at a point and followed Magnus Abe who too fell off.
Okocha has been accused of working closely with Wike and was said to be deliberately left behind in the party when Abe and others moved on to SDP and PDP.
Now, the APC (Amaechi group) say Wike kept Okocha to use him as ladder to climb into the party should need be. They say that the hour has come and that with Wike out of favour in the PDP, Okocha is paving the way for the plot to materialise, but the the APC said Wike wants to climb in through the backdoor.
This seems to manifest in the choice of venue of the rally for Tinubu on Wednesday, February 15, 2023.
The Amaehi APC said they applied for the Adokiye Amesiemaka stadium that can take 100,000 but surprisingly Okocha got approval to use the Yakubu Gowon stadium that takes far less.
The main APC charged for war, insisting they must be given the one they applied for, or be handed the one the governor approved, not to Okocha.
Okocha, on the other hand, summoned the press on Sunday, February 12, 2023 to inspect the Gowon stadium he said he secured.
He said not doing membership validation was not enough to stop his membership of the party, saying he is as old as Amaechi in the APC. He had full security cover and seemed to have financial war-chest, with the contractor repairing the place loyal to him. This added to speculations and accusations by the Amaechi camp that he was working with a very powerful force in the state (not less than a governor).
The major of the Amaechi camp however is that the Okocha group keeps quoting the national leadership of the party and the candidate as source of his power to led the BAT rally. The mainstream group thus wanted the Candidate and the National Leadership to tell them clearly who they wanted to work with, Tonye Cole/Amaechi camp or Tony Okocha/powerful man/(Wike) camp.
By Monday, both camps prepared to march down to the Gowon stadium to ‘inspect’ the venue but many said it was meant to be for a fight.
This ended in a climax as Tein jnr showed up and calmed the area.
The Belemaoil boss brokered peace among the feuding parties in the Rivers APC, barely 48 hours before the arrival of Tinubu.
Tein Jnr who met with Okocha and Cole with top leaders of the APC behind closed doors, at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium Elekahia, venue of the Wednesday Presidential Rally of the APC, later emerged from the meeting to announce that the APC had agreed to work as one, for the success of the Rally in the state.
In a video that has gone far, Tein was heard showing full recognition to Cole as the governorship candidate of the APC in the state, something Okocha had never stomached. Tein also showed full recognition to Emeka Beke as state chairman, contrary to those Okocha knows that went to court against this.
Tein however showed recognition to the good works being done for the Tinubu cause by Okocha. With full recognition to everybody, he grabbed the hands of both Cole and Okocha up and cheers exploded.
Meetings were said to be scheduled Monday to smoothen the emergency accord, but many issues still seem to stick up.
It was not clear what the forces behind Cole (Amaechi) and Okocha (Wike) were expected to decide in the matter because since 2012, they have not stood on same side of any matter in the state.
Sources said Tinubu may want to use the PH rally to test the true loyalty of Amaechi and Beke. On this, Okocha has continually said the state party structure was not campaigning for Tinubu. He thus moved in to take full control from his side of the camp.
This brought angry reaction from the Beke/Amaechi camp which said it was a ploy to create confusion and bring in Wike.
The Beke/Amaechi is however said to use the rally to see once and for all if Wike is trying to enter the party and is working with Okocha or not.
Wike has obtained a court injunction stopping his expulsion from the PDP. He has continued to say he would remain in the PDP to fight for the party he helped to build.
By this, many say his presence is fueling crisis and violence in the PDP in the state while also fueling heat in the APC.
By the patchwork of peace so far wroth, the Tinubu rally may come as a success but it is not clear it would be end of the Okocha factor in the Rivers APC as the election draws closer.