•Rivers Politician, Hon. TONY OKOCHA Opens Up On Rivers APC Crisis
Honourable Tony Okocha is the one term Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government area, former Personal Assistant to Deputy Governor GTG, Toby and former Chief of Staff to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi lives among his Nkpolu, Rumuigbo community. His expansive posh compound comprising a duplex for himself and his family with appurtenances.
Honourable Tony Okocha, is not a man gripped with fear as he remains a grassroots community fellow, known by his people of Rumuigbo, being a titleholder. When he is not holding community meetings with his people, he is busy writing and reading or consulting stakeholders searching for how Rivers state his home state will have the attainment of relative peace and tranquillity that will spur development.
The University of Port Harcourt graduate of Philosophy, Hon. Tony Okocha on Monday 4th of October, 2021 granted City People Magazine Port Harcourt’s Bureau Chief, Emeka Amaefula an interview where he spoke about his severed relationship with the leader of APC in Rivers State and Minister for Transportation, Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Read On.
What is the position with the last held All Progressives Congress Ward Congress, did you participate?
I was excluded as I didn’t participate.
The reason basically is the approach our leader adopted. You recall that in 2018 leading to the 2019 election APC had a similar problem. It was so much heightened that APC as a party could not be on the ballot. It also accounted for the fact that as we speak, no person who campaigned under APC was elected into office because they were not on the ballot. The reason was the Gustavo approach being adopted where people kept to the directives of the party at the National went to the bank and got tellers and proceeded to the party office for issuance of Forms but they were denied and these persons approached the court you know the matter travelled to Federal High Court and to Court of Appeal then to Supreme Court and then back. Before then it was late and Amaechi’s Lawyer at the Federal High Court persuaded the court to disqualify anybody who was of APC in fact he said that if not from their own camp and that it shouldn’t be from Senator Magnus’ Camp so, the court held as such and APC was completely not part of the election in 2019…now the same scenario played out 2021. first and foremost the Supreme Court had ruled that everybody who paid for Bank teller in 2018 is automatically qualified and should be issued with the forms in 2021 and that those who are intending to contest in 2021 who obtained Bank tellers should also be given forms in 2021 to contest as freshers and the Party following that judgement gave the directives in line with that but the case was different here. Now what happened in Rivers State was that a committee was dispatched from Abuja to come to superintend the issuance of forms in Rivers state just like they did in other states in the federation. This committee of course, you know the undercurrent was hijacked ab initio as they came here and they did the bidding of CRA’s Camp…how did they do it?… They gave Forms in bulk to the CRA’s bend, that is his faction, as the leaders in their faction got the Forms and went to the comfort of their bedrooms and shared them with their preferred candidates. While the same committee decided that every other person else of course knows that Magnus camp should come individually to the party office to collect the Forms. And you know the risk involved as people have to travel from Bonny Island and each Ward is about 27 positions who have to travel all the way from Bonny with the stormy sea and the raging tide to get the forms. Some from Andonni Local Government Area were as difficult as the terrain to come individually now for the Forms but the people braved it and they had their Tellers so, it was their right to be given the Forms. Of Course, the crowd was so surging that the Panel of 3-persons could not contend with thousands.
And did the party have a deadline?
Yes, they had a deadline for 3-days to do all that but they couldn’t so, at a point because of the crowd they were scared and I heard that there was a threat and they ran into the toilet and they appeared from the toilet and said that they want to go into recess as they wanted to go and eat as they are humans. So, the crowd waited for them to go and eat and as they came back, how many could they handle? First day it was like that and the second Day it was like that until the 3rd Day which was, of course, the final day it was like that as they couldn’t do any jack. And they claimed to have closed.
Now while this was on, the Party through the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee sent text messages to some of us in fact from the two divides to attend a Peace/Truce Meeting which we did and it was held in the residence of a highly placed Rivers state indigene
Whose residence in Particular?
Well, it was in the residence of the former Governor of Rivers State His Excellency Rufus Ada George. The two groups met there chaired by former Military Governor of Taraba state one Navy Commodore Kalio. He presided over the meeting because the former Governor was a bit indisposed, so he presided over the meeting and we brainstormed. What was the issue? How do we get everybody together and get everybody into one group instead of these divisions as the new congresses were to provide opportunities where we will choose for people to work together. At least for once, we have started talking again. We demanded to know if they had the mandate of the Leader Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Chairman of the party said yes and that he couldn’t have convened this meeting without having cleared it with him. And that he even had him in writing. Rt. Honourable Asita O. Asita the Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Maritime Management and Safety Agency -NIMSA who is also the Leaders’ confidante stood up and corroborated what the chairman said. And on our own side, we had the moral responsibility to also report to them what is on our own side.
Was Senator Magnus Abe there?
No, he wasn’t there. Our Leader was Senator Wilson Asiniobi Ake. So, Wilson Asinobi Ake now said that Senator Magnus was aware of the meeting and that he gave his consent and that anything that we decide will bind on him. Then Member Federal House of Representatives Elder, Rt. Honourable Chidi Wihioka corroborated it. So, we were good to go. We brainstormed and argued very decently. You know we weren’t quarrelling, we argued and we disagreed as usual as in human beings discussing. We couldn’t arrive at a thing at the first meeting but we at least know the essence. The meeting was reconvened and we came as we talked to the point where we agreed that there was a reason for the consensus. This is because the party said that it’s either that you go and do elections or you agree on consensus. So, we now agreed on a consensus. Now, what was the measurement or the ratio? Until we all left for that day. And a meeting was convened for the 3rd Day and we appointed from their group two persons and got them to a committee to go and design one, the ratio and the modality and report to the larger House on a Friday breaking Saturday for the Ward Congress, so scheduled that meeting to Friday 12 O’Clock to enable the Committee give their report and then enable some time for them to now pass information to their respective LGAs. So, the committee went and sat and by 12noon from our own side, you know we were sincere as there’s nothing hidden, we all came out and on their own side, no one came except the two committee members and Asita Honourable Asita. We waited there till past 2 pm nobody else came from their group but our own group. We were complete. We concluded that it was a ploy to keep us in check so that we’re not able to do anything because it was a game plan. So, we Okay no problem, Saturday came we were not on the list for those who I told that circumstantially, it was deliberate.
All these taking place in 2021, For Senator Magnus Abe’s camp, did you approach the court for redress on how you were maltreated by CRA led faction?
Senator Magnus Abe as a group did not approach the court but some young men who were sidelined 7 of them approached the court. They headed to the Court on Monday after the Ward Congress on Saturday and the Court granted an interim Order Ordering that the status quo should remain in other words the party should not proceed with any other thing until the matter is determined and that they should be put on Notice and the court went further to Order for Substituted service that they should be served which includes going to drop it on the ground or through Newspaper publications. After two days, we heard that the other group had appealed on the Court Order being ruled by the lower Court. And the matter was set to be heard at Port Harcourt here because the matter was entered at Port Harcourt but overnight, they transferred the matter to Abuja So moto. All of us know that the Court of Appeal is one just as the High Courts are one. They transferred the matter not that the Court of Appeal here were under any threat, not that the Court of Appeal here were in recess not that the Judges are incompetent and we got there at the Abuja division true to type nullified that’s overruled the High Court, then gave these people the leverage to carry on with subsequent elections. That is where we are.
Was there any appeal to the Supreme Court based on that?
No, we didn’t appeal to Supreme Court as they also shot themselves on the foot because what the court did first is that say we are removing the Order of status quo ante from the court and they now filed a fresh case alleging that the Plaintiffs at the lower court are not members of APC because they have not revalidated their membership by being registered and all that. So, in the course of that matter, the court came again and said “we have nullified this, we have nullified that and we are sending the matter back to the lower court” but not to the same trial Judge. And that the Chief Judge should reassign the matter to another Judge. That is where we are.
Why should the Appeal court not assign the matter back to the same trial Judge? Was there any element of doubt in the integrity of the trial Judge on this matter?
I don’t know about that as they have their reasons for doing so.
From the ongoing, one can deduce that the 2018n scenario is playing itself out, what will be the future of followers of Senator Magnus Abe in APC and in the coming 2023 Elections?
You know you should talk about the fate of APC and not Magnus Abe. We are the precipice. We are in a state of Hopelessness this is you cant be doing the same thing the same way and expect different results. Now the matter is back to the lower court one way or the other one group will win and the other group will appeal and something will happen there and it will go to Supreme Court and while we are doing that the opponent will now begin to stoke fire underground and it’s politics as you won’t blame them for it. When we are running from pillar to pole, they are busy consolidating. The time we would have used to put our house together we are divided running their house together and we are divided running from Pillar to Post. And with what the governor is putting on the ground, I say a thing, I was interviewed by Raypower Fm station the other day, now the issue is where are we really headed to as a Party? Have we really delivered on the promises that we made to Nigerians? APC climbed on the platform of Change, are we moving from best to worst? Or are we changing from worse to better?
Given the present economic circumstances in the country, there is a high cost of living and APC when they came on board in 2015 came with the Change mantra, Is it Change to what as a member of APC what is your opinion on this?
I was an integral part of the founding of APC in the state because I won’t talk about the nation. This is because we came into APC months after it has been registered as a political party. The leaders then of course of the four major political parties Change For Progressives Congress CPC, a segment of All Progressive Grand Alliance-APGA, Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN and All Nigerian Peoples Party-ANPP the leadership went around the country canvassing support. Of course, you and I know that the Nigerian economy was not doing well as we’re into recession and it was difficult for people to feed. So, it was very easy for those ideologies to sell. When somebody tells you that if I come, I am going to change this or that, remember the President went to Chatma House and boasted that within 6-months of his Presidency that Boko Haram will be history. He was boosted as much and people believed him because he was a Military General. He said Nigeria’s currency naira will compete and pursue Pounds, Euro and United States of America Dollars which were selling for N160 to one Dollar, then, how much is it today? It is N570 per US Dollar. Is the economy not biting very hard now? I told those people that you people are interviewing me. I am laying down in my bedroom and I have my Air conditioner on and see those paupers whose houses are under the bridges, go and interview them and know what Nigeria is and not me. For me I can manage to eke out a Living at least I can manage one meal for a day. So, what do you expect?. Our economy is in disarray and it has further deepened as we are into oblivion. That’s the most I can say about the economy.