Magnus Abe: New star of Rivers’ succession politics
While Governor Nyesom Wike and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, are in the trenches slugging it out for who becomes the overall political leader of Rivers State, a new star is shooting from the east, threatening to outshine both. He is Magnus Abe, the senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial Constituency. The intelligent and smart former commissioner of information, former lawmaker in the state, and former secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), has been a joint ally of both Amaechi and Wike before he broke away with Amaechi to face the wrath of then minister, Wike, from the federal side.
Now, he seems to have broken away from Amaechi now a minister but seems to drift to Wike, now governor, in what looks like my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Abe was skipped in 2015 to make Dakuku Peterside the APC flag-bearer to contest against Wike. Abe went to win back his senate seat with huge support from the APC and presumably Amaechi. Now, he wants the heart of the meat, the governorship ticket of the APC or nothing. This seems to create bad blood between him and his friend, Amaechi, and the dispute has been allowed to play in front of children.
Abe has in recent time warmed up to Wike since the line between him and Amaechi is getting colder every day. Now, some APC lawmakers joined in a visit to Governor Wike and openly commended the governor for performing well, a position that the home APC loathes. Abe came out to defend the visit. Next, he led a senate committee on environment to Ogoni but first branched to pay homage to Wike who lambasted the APC FG. Abe came out to explain what Wike meant and strengthened the governor’s neck. Next, 16 SUVs were bought by Governor Wike for all the federal lawmakers from Rivers State, to perform their duties better, as Wike said.
This last straw seems to hit harder in the APC camp. They say it is bribe and reward to destrabilise the APC. The world is waiting to see if Abe would claim his, but many say the gift must have been induced in the first place by the warmth from Abe.
Magnus Abe and 15 federal lawmakers from Rivers State were given the posh cars (Sports Utility Vehicle, SUV, or Jeep) by the governor. Abe was not on ground to collect his car but the leaders of the Rivers caucus in the National Assembly collected for all others.
Wike had since said Rivers did not know recession, saying the Rivers economy was connected to heaven. This seems true, though some murmur that section of workers such as the RSSDA have not been paid for almost one year.
The gift came on the heels of outcry from a section of the Rivers APC family that Abe, is getting too close to the PDP governor. Abe has reacted to the outcry, saying he has had a political history of politics without bitterness, going back to his opponents for handshake.
Abe had once survived an open teargas attack in the hands of the police believed to have been instigated by the PDP lords in the state. This was at a time the police authorities in the state were being accused by the APC of being used to destroy those opposed to the then PDP-led federal government. Wike was a strong ally of the then president and PDP stalwart.
Governor Wike released the 16 SUVs to elected members of the National Assembly from Rivers State on Monday, December 4, 2017, at the Government House in Port Harcourt to the glare of media cameras.
A government statement explained that three of the vehicles were for senators representing the state. Abe is the highest in rank. The other 13 are said to be for members of the House of Representatives from the state.
Members of the House of Representatives led by Betty Apiafi, leader, Rivers Caucus of the House of Representatives and Bari Mpigi, deputy leader, Rivers State Reps caucus, took possession of their vehicles.
Making the presentation at the Government House Port Harcourt, Wike said that the vehicles were acquired to aid the federal lawmakers in the discharge of their official functions. He said the vehicles were for all members of the National Assembly irrespective of their party affiliation.
He charged Abe and the others thus: “Defend the interest of the state wherever you are. This is from the Government of Rivers State which you are part of. This is to aid you to carry out your official functions in Abuja”.
Responding, Apiafi thanked Wike for providing the support for members of the National Assembly to carry out their duties. Mpigi, on his own, commended the Rivers State Governor for reaching out to all Rivers people.
Those close to the lawmakers said none of the recipients of the SUVs had less than four Jeeps or posh cars in their garages. Some wondered if the expensive car gifts were the priority of the state at this point in time.
‘Rivers Reps consulted Abe before meeting Wike’
Abe stepped in to say the APC lawmakers that joined the PDP lawmakers from Abuja to visit Wike in Port Harcourt committed no political crime. In fact, he said he permitted it. Observers say this alone gives indicated that he is calling the shots in the party in Abuja for Rivers State APC.
Abe however said contrary to media reports, the federal lawmakers were at Government House, Port Harcourt, on the invitation of the governor. The senator said the comments made by the member representing Tai/Eleme/Oyigbo Federal Constituency, Barry Mpigi, had been manipulated by those seeking to score cheap political points.
Abe said; “On receipt of the Governor’s invitation I was consulted by the House of Representatives Caucus and I did not just agree, I insisted that members honour the Governor’s invitation (which for the first time was extended to all parties). It is important that though we belong to different political parties we should maintain lines of communication within the government that will enable us to serve our people better, which is the reason we were elected in the first place. Rivers state is not the only state where some lawmakers and the Governor are from opposing parties”.
I will not quit APC – Abe
As the heat comes, Abe has declared he was not throwing in the towel in the APC. Many said he was hanging on to destroy the party before quitting to join his new friends. Abe has declared that the suspension of an All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Azubuike Chikere Wanjoku, goes against the grain of decent legislative practice.
Abe has vowed that despite the needless provocation and unwarranted bitterness against him, he would not leave the APC for another political party. This is as he traced the current crisis rocking the APC in Rivers State to the March 4, 2017 meeting convened by the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
Abe, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt by his Spokesperson, Parry Saroh Benson, said every member of the party knows the actual cause of the crisis rocking the party in the state. “When it was time to battle Governor Wike, who were those in the forefront? And who are those talking now? When the time will come to confront the governor who are the members of the APC that will not just stand, but stand out? When we wrestled with the Jonathan Government who were those in the forefront?”
“I will not leave the APC even in the face of needless provocation and unwarranted bitterness. As I told the State Chairman of the party last Sunday, every member of the party knows the cause and the reason for the present crisis in the APC in Rivers State and I will also state it here.”
How Amaechi started the crisis of Rivers APC – Abe
Abe, who is the chairman, Senate Committee on FERMA, alleged that during the March 4, 2017 meeting, which attracted prominent leaders of the party in the state, Amaechi made certain pronouncements that led to the current crisis in the state.
Abe said: “We all can recall that the Rivers APC was in relative peace and harmony until March 4 this year, when the Hon. Minister of Transportation and our former governor called a meeting of all leaders of our great party at the Dome on Odili Road in Port Harcourt. In that meeting, the Hon. Minister made several shocking pronouncements that herald the root of our present crisis.
“The Hon Minister of Transportation publicly declared that Senator Magnus Abe and Dakuku Peterside were both running for governor, and that he had ordered both of them to stop. He said Peterside had stopped and Senator Abe had not, and that anyone supporting Senator Abe should leave the party immediately. He went on to name party leaders sympathetic to Abe and declared that they must leave the party”.
According to him, “The Minister of Transportation declared at that meeting that anyone who failed to show absolute loyalty to him personally should receive no benefit or recognition from the party whatsoever, including contracts and patronage. He also declared that any party officer who associates with Senator Abe or those relating with him should consider themselves out of office and out of the party. He concluded that if the party stakeholders refused to heed to his decree, he would destroy the party and rebuild it in his own image”.
Abe further said: “It was after that meeting that the Minister started to openly remove those he perceived as friends of Senator Abe as leaders of LGA caucuses in an embarrassing fashion. Ever since then, every action within the party has been calculated to implode the party and cause untold bitterness amongst party members in the state in order to enforce those directives.
“We cannot stop Governor Wike from playing his own politics as an opposition governor but what is important for us in the APC and for the Federal Government led by President Buhari is to continue to vigorously pursue our commitment not just to the clean-up of Ogoni land and the Niger Delta, but to keep faith with our country men that in our time there will be justice for all, no matter the cost.”
Abe weighs in suspension of APC lawmaker
Abe said the suspension of Wanjoku, who is the member representing Ikwerre Constituency in the House, was calculated to stifle the voice of opposition and suppress divergent views necessary for good governance and the sustenance of democracy.
Abe, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt expressed worry that some actions of the present leadership of the House of Assembly could affect the reputation built for the House by the collective labour of Rivers Legislators over the years.
The Senator called on the House to rescind the suspension of the APC lawmaker and restore his legitimate constitutional rights, and the right of the people of Ikwerre Constituency to be represented in the affairs of Rivers State.
He said: “I have been very concerned since I got the news of the suspension of Hon. Chikere Azubike Wanjoku, member representing Ikwerre Constituency in Rivers State House of Assembly by a resolution of the House.
“My concern stems from what that decision portends for the institution of the State House of Assembly as the suspension is calculated to stifle the voice of opposition and suppress divergent views necessary for good governance and the sustenance of democracy”.
He further said: “The decision suspending Wanjoku goes against the grain of decent legislative practice. He was not given fair hearing neither were the issues against him canvassed to the knowledge of the public.
“As a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, I am concerned that some of these actions at the end of the day could affect the reputation built for the House by the collective labour of Rivers legislators over the years”.
It is what Abe says or does now that makes waves in Rivers State because he is creating a tripod in Rivers politics. He has also created the unpredictability factor, because both Wike and Amaechi can easily be predicted ahead 2019.
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