Two developments of the past week set the tone for a pallid future for the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which for all practical intents and purposes, qualifies as the house that was built by the Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi. Without doubt each of these developments has the potential of altering the course of political fortunes in the state either for good or bad, depending on follow-through circumstances. Firstly but not earlier, was the train of events which marked the commissioning by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal building last Thursday. The mere absence of Amaechi at the event was conspicuous enough not to be noticed. As the overall head of the Ministry of Transportation, Amaechi should have qualifiedly served as the chief host of the event.
But that was not to be as the actual host was the Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika, who runs the Aviation wing of the ministry. More significantly, the development tells a lot about Amaechi’s vaunted sacrosanct status in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. By the way is it not the same Sirika who had earlier sidelined the Port Harcourt International Airport by replacing it with Benin Airport as the aviation hub of the South South zone?
Secondly and earlier in the week, was a sad downturn of events following a Supreme Court judgment which virtually swept the carpet away from the feet of the party in the state and is likely to alter the course of its politics, including vitiating the fortunes of the party towards rendering it a less potent force. The party which in recent times has been subjected to a debilitating contest for supremacy between at least two factions – had witnessed a massive hemorrhage of its critical fortunes in the manner of a house that is divided against itself. As is already public knowledge, the two leading factions remain the one that is loyal to Amaechi – also a former governor of the state, and the other whose loyalty is to a serving Senator – Magnus Abe. And the issue at stake is the unmasked, hell-bent disposition of Amaechi’s camp to deny Abe any semblance of opportunity to aspire to or even contest for the office of the governor of the state. Abe has since the judgment been parading himself as the APC candidate for the state. But that is a matter for another day.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court judgment has literally conjured an end game scenario for the party in the state by pushing its fortunes into the vortex of deep crisis from which options for escape now constitute the core concerns of the APC, even at its national level. In essence, the Supreme Court judgment upheld the ruling of a Port Harcourt High Court which had earlier nullified the election of delegates, who in turn emerged from local government and state congresses conducted by the state chapter of the party in May this year. In its verdict the Supreme Court voided a ruling of the Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt which had earlier ruled against the Port Harcourt High Court judgment.
The foundation of the issue was when Magnus Abe and his supporters had gone to the Port Harcourt High Court to seek redress over their complaints of being denied participation in the congress polls in breach of the APC Constitution. However virtually on the day of judgment on the matter, there was reported gunfire around the Port Harcourt High Court premises, and vandalisation of same. Nevertheless, the trial judge braved the odds, sat and ruled the result of the congresses null and void. That High Court ruling has remained the reference point in the cycle of trials for the APC, leading to the Supreme Court ruling under consideration.
Expectedly the Supreme Court judgment has been subjected to varying interpretations with each camp striving to outdo the other in gaining pubic appeal for its position, while the key difference between them hinged only on the scope of impact which the judgment has on the fortunes of the rival camp. For instance, the Abe camp which resorted to the judiciary at first instance and eventually went to the Supreme Court, contends that its judgment effectively rendered null and void, all activities based on the ascendancy of such delegates. By their contention its effect also includes the nullity of the election by such delegates, of executive officers of the state chapter of the APC as well as nomination of candidates for any office in the land. Meanwhile, the Amaechi faction argues to the contrary claiming that all is not lost for them with respect to the impact of the judgment.
Yet less important is the issue of who is right or wrong in the matter than the more profound matter of how much negative impact the developments – namely the airport terminal event and the judgment are having and may still have on the political turf of the state, especially with respect to the sanctity of the rule of law. Because at the end of the day, the real victims of any misguided political battle remain the citizens who in error conceded power to unsuitable beneficiaries. Politics after all is all about citizens ceding their rights and privileges to elected individuals who in this case are political actors, trusted to act on behalf of those bestowing the trust. Just as well does the onus lie on the trusted agents of the people especially those in high public office, to act in line with the trust bestowed on them. It was the great leader Uthman Dan Fodio who is credited with one of the most profound narratives on trust when he said that “Trust is a burden”.
Meanwhile the issue of Amaechi’s absence at the commissioning of the now completed Port Harcourt International Airport remains significant. While the trending reason for his absence was the exclusion of his name as one of the speakers at the occasion by the Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika, it must have been for good reason. Against the backdrop of his serial disagreements with Sirika, Governor of the Rivers Nyesom Wike, Magnus Abe and all other prominent politicians of both the APC and PDP as well as others, it was patently discretional that he was denied the opportunity to create any distraction through the likelihood of an off-the-cuff comment by him.
This article had started with reference to Rivers APC as the house which Amaechi built. Nothing can be taken away from this assertion, if the political realities of 2014 in Nigeria are recalled. It needs also to be feared by his followers that just as he built the APC in the Rivers State he may also be on the road to wreck it. The issue of the Supreme Court judgment has Amaechi’s imprint behind it. Just as well, his absence at the commissioning of Port Harcourt airport is making tongues wag. Who knows what out-of-the-ordinary development will involve him next, given his proclivity for theatrics?