Thursday, October 9, 2014 3:22 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Nyesom Wike’s ambition to become Rivers State governor in 2015 threatens PDP’s plan to rule the state as other ethnic groups insist that power must shift from the Ikwerre to another stock that has never produced the governor
All is not currently well with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State. There are strident calls for the dissolution of the state executive of the party led by Felix Obuah, as chairman, and Ibibia Walters, secretary. The agitation, which is being championed by those angling for governor and other elective posts in the state next year, is also for urgent changes to be made in the state executive as it is presently constituted, by the national body of the party in Abuja because the state executive is under the vice-grip of Nyesom Wike, Minister of State for Education, who also nurses the ambition to succeed Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
A stakeholders meeting organised by some PDP chieftains in the state on 23 September, to air their disenchantment over the party’s decision not to obey the age-long zoning arrangement for the governorship position in 2015 election, became violent as party thugs alleged to be supporters of Wike and the Executive Committee of the party stormed the Delta Hotels in the Old GRA, Port Harcourt venue at about 12.30pm, temporarily disrupting the meeting. Chairs and bottles were freely used by the invaders and participants.
Before order was restored by policemen from the GRA police station, at,least nine persons were injured including some journalists who were not fast enough to escape the melee.
When calm was restored, the faction of the state PDP operating under the auspices of the Concerned Rivers State PDP Stakeholders, called for the dissolution of the state working committee of the party chaired by Felix Obuah.
Professor Israel Owate, a former commissioner for Education, explained that the state PDP led by Obuah has been docile, adding that the situation had made some members of the party to move to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The genesis of the problem was the manner of emergence of the Obuah-led Executive. It came via an Abuja High Court judgment delivered on 15 May 2013 that sacked Chief Godspower Ake and Adokiye Oruwari as chairman and secretary respectively; replacing them with Obuah and Walters. The judgement was challenged but at the Appeal Court level, the Obuah executive won.
The stakeholders are saying that good as the judgement may sound, it legitimised only two persons: Obuah and Walters, who were the plaintiffs.
They pointed out that the said judgment did not affect the other 12 members of the state working committee, just as it did not affect the ward and local government officers. Thus, the Rivers State PDP is accused of being run unconstitutionally by a two-man executive, “a situation which has made it a limited liability company of those who claimed they incorporated it in Abuja in the Abuja High Court”.
Based on the aforementioned, Owate alleged that this scenerio has disrupted the functioning of the party at the ward, local government and senatorial districts as the party does not have a proper membership register and does not have legitimate and properly constituted party officers at various levels because the PDP officers that defected with Governor Amaechi allegedly took with them membership registers. The situation, according to those accusing the party leadership and Wike, the party has been deliberately collapsed into the Grassroots Development Initiative, GDI, an organisation that is financed by Wike. GDI has been launched at the state, local government and ward levels.
To enhance the mobility of GDI coordinators, 23 new Coaster buses branded with GDI logo were donated to them by Wike. The PDP stakeholders, made up mainly of gubernatorial aspirants drawn from the Kalabari-Ijaw extraction, alleged that GDI now acts in place of PDP in the state.
The worry is that Rivers PDP has gradually been collapsed into GDI and has alienated party members at all levels, which would have a telling effect on the presidential and governorship elections.
The faction of the party said the planned imposition of the minister of state, who is from the same Ikwerre ethnic group with Amaechi, who was elected on the platform of PDP, contradicts the aims and objectives of the PDP that guarantees “adhering to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness”.
Owate further accused the two-man state working committee of stoking the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly by suspending 27 out of 32 members from the PDP, thus making the party to be in the minority in the state assembly.
Professor Owate, on behalf of the group said the caretaker committee should formally receive and re-integrate all returning members, most who are currently stranded, into the party; and nullify all arbitrary suspensions and expulsions from Rivers PDP.
Less than 24 hours after, the PDP stakeholders addressed the press to forestall the widely perceived governorship ambition of Wike on 24 September, when the Ijaw National Congress, INC, Eastern Zone, comprising Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, declared that it will not support any political party that does not field a candidate of Ijaw ethnic stock at the 2015 governorship election.