The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has barred the All Progressives Congress (APC) from fielding candidates in Rivers and Zamfara states and this decision has dire consequences for the party. The commission said it took the decision because of the failure of the party to hold primary polls. Except a last-minute change, the APC would keep regretting its inability to put its house in order.
In the case of Rivers, the two factions of the APC led by Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, and Magnus Abe, a serving senator, held parallel congresses but they were voided by a Port Harcourt high court. None of the duo was willing to compromise.
AMAECHI’S BATTLE WITH ABE
Amaechi and Abe were allies until the 2019 governorship ambition came into the picture. While Abe was persistent in becoming the governorship candidate of the APC, Amaechi queued behind Tonye Cole who emerged governorship candidate of the faction. On the other hand, Abe emerged the governorship candidate of his faction.
Amid the fight of who becomes the authentic governorship candidate of the party, Abe recognised Amaechi as his leader despite their disagreement. But Amaechi wouldn’t take any of that. “I am not Magnus Abe’s leader,” he had said. “How can I be Abe’s leader when he and the minions sponsored by him (Abe), privately and publicly abuses, insults, cast aspersions etc on me, my wife and members of my family, daily? Is that how a follower treats his Leader?”
The hope of the opposition party in Rivers to wrestle power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) first suffered a set back in October when the court nullified the congresses of the two factions. Chiwendu Nwogu, the judge, had held that the congresses were illegal because the process were not conducted in line with the APC’s guidelines and constitution.
The Rivers APC described the judgment as “an evil collaboration between Abe and Wike.” However when the matter got to the appeal court a stay of execution was granted to the order of the lower court.
The appeal court granted the verdict after Amaechi’s faction asked the court to allow them to participate in the elections.
The solace was shortlived. On February 12, the supreme court struck out an appeal challenging the decision of the lower court to void the congresses.
The verdict of the apex court shows that the APC has lost 50 elective offices. Rivers has 13 house of representatives positions, 32 house of assembly positions, three senatorial seats. There are also governorship and deputy governorship seats.
AMAECHI THE LOSER?
In the end of it all, Amaechi appears to be the main loser in the party’s misfortunes in the state. For one, as the APC leader in Rivers, both as a former governor and serving minister, no governorship candidate means he will be losing hold of his stead. Secondly, APC not participating in the elections is more or less an express pass for the PDP. This means Amaechi will be forced to remain in the opposition watching his main political rivalry stay in office for another four years. And not just for the governorship position; none of his “faithful” will come close to power either at the national assembly or the state house of assembly. Tragic!
LIKE RIVERS, LIKE ZAMFARA
In Zamfara, the internal rancour in the APC led to the inability of the party to hold primary elections. On different occasions, the exercise ended in violence. While Abdulaziz Yari, the governor, opted for indirect mode for primary elections, Kabir Marafa, senator representing Zamfara central; Mansur Dan-Ali, defence minister; Aminu Jaji, serving house of representatives member; who were all governorship aspirants, wanted the direct mode.
Yari is backing Muktar Idris, his finance commissioner. On January 29, two high courts gave different judgements on the Zamfara matter.
While the Abuja federal high court held that INEC was right to reject Zamfara APC candidates, a high court in the state ordered the electoral commission to recognise candidates in Yari faction.
Jaji appealed but later withdrew it. The appeal was struck out at the appeal court in Sokoto on Wednesday. Based on that Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), asked the electoral commission to consider APC candidates in Zamfara based on the high court order subsisting in the state.
But if INEC does not rescind its decision, it means that the party will lose seven house of representatives seats, three senatorial positions, 24 house of assembly seats, governorship and deputy governorship seats – a total of 34 legislative positions.