We need Wike in APC – Tony Okocha

Recently the mantle of leadership of the crisis-ridden All Progressives Congress (APC) in River State fell on Sir Tony Chinedu Okocha, a one-time Chief of Staff of Chief Rotimi Amaechi and former Executive Assistant to Chief Nyesom Wike. After two months on the saddle of party leadership, he shared insights with select journalists into happenings in the party in the oil-rich River State. 

How has been the journey so far since your committee was inaugurated?
We were inaugurated about two months and a few days ago, precisely 24th November, last year. I can say so far so good. It has not been easy taking the party from the ruins, struggling to reposition and reengineer the entire process for it to qualify to be called a political party instead of the hitherto social club. It has not been a walk into the park, but we are footing the bill.

Can you enumerate those obstacles, finance, mobilisation, and others?
One would have thought that after our inauguration, something would have been advanced to the party, at least to get an office, some stationery and to get to work, but that was not what we saw.

We had a party secretariat in Rivers state and two days after our inauguration, we visited the office and received by the Admin Secretary who was acting against the intentions of the hitherto leadership. He conducted us round the offices that were opened because some of the occupiers left with the keys. We assured them that we were one family and not there to witch-hunt anybody.

Coming the next day to resume work, we noticed that the place was locked and all attempts to open it that day failed. We were served a letter from a lawyer, informing us that we were not qualified to be there and that the party owed unpaid rent in arrears of two years.

They specifically told us that the place was no longer available and that we should come back to renegotiate. It opened a new page for us because we cannot run the party from our homes. To the glory of God, we have the finest office after the Abuja headquarters. We were able to acquire a storey building housing eight offices with very expansive halls to hold any kind of meeting.

The environment is very conspicuous along the road and far better than what we had before. As of now, we are still struggling to fix some of the offices. With the good accommodation, we are on course. We have also started receiving, in droves, defectors and decampees into the party, including the 27 State House of Assembly members that ported to join our party, the APC, recently and have become part of what we are doing.

What is the relationship of your committee with the dissolved APC state executive?

There is no relationship because somehow they seem to be wallowing in their self-deceit, thinking or believing that something else will happen, but looking at the entire scenario, APC Rivers state has one nationally recognised chairman, which is I.

I don’t know where they draw their strength from and like I said, not even a piece of paper was handed over to us.

Have you been able to visit Rotimi Amaechi since you took over, at least to know his status in the party, considering your relationship with him?

My answer is an emphatic no, I have not done that. Both of us are Ikwerre, and even though we are not from the same village, our cultures are the same. Truth be told, our relationship has gone so sour even before he aspired to be the presidential candidate of the party. It was not because of money or interests in our lives, but because, in his totalitarian attitude, the party became a social club.

It was bad that the party didn’t even field candidates for elections and where we managed to do, they wanted to withdraw. It is about weakness, not any other thing. I have told them that it is not going to be business as usual because the APC they saw yesterday is not the one under me that they are seeing today. We are going to participate in the election in all the wards. We will not only contest but contest to win.

The soured relationship got to a crescendo during the presidential election because they felt that I should have supported my boss having served as his Chief of Staff previously. But I was on the side of Asiwaju. His problem is that he has no time to listen to his followers because he is arrogant, nobody means anything to him and he wants everything to be at his whims and caprices.

Again, he announced to his followers to vote against Asiwaju. I did not bother to find out his status in the party because we have members of the caretaker committee who are from his camp. It is also completely wrong to claim that we are trying to shut his camp out.

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The caretaker committee didn’t come from only one faction. Don’t forget that three groups came to the national headquarters and each of the groups expressed their side of the story. There is no way anyone can emasculate the other. And the Chairman kept emphasising one thing to the point of alliterating that there is no peace in the state party.

The seven-man group is an amalgam of the three groups. I wasn’t from the Amaechi group, my secretary and the PRO all came from the Amaechi faction. The truth is that they shot themselves in the foot because pride goes before a fall. They feel reluctant to identify with us.

I believe in the philosophy of the more the merrier. I am not willing to sacrifice three persons to go in search of one big man. And I am not the shepherd Jesus Christ referred to in the Bible that left 99 sheep in search of one missing sheep.

The risk is that it is possible that before you come back from your search, the other 99 may have derailed. I am not ruling out the possibility of reaching out to Amaechi but it must be gradual and rule-bound. I will not be stampeded into going to search for one big man.

Will Gov. Fubara joining the APC bring the desired peace in Rivers State?
I don’t know what you mean by that and I don’t know how to answer you, but take it this way. Governor Fubara was the candidate of the PDP and his joining the APC is not the problem.

The problem is that there is already a scare in the relationship that appeared cordial but was a decoy and some kind of subterfuge. There is that scheme to outsmart the other person. It has opened a scare and if he joins the APC, what will he possibly tell the State Assembly members?

He is not just sincere especially about the terms of agreement in the peace brokered by Mr President. In one breath he will probate and reprobate at the same time. He comes out to say that he is doing something but behind he will be doing another thing entirely.

For example, we know that he has resubmitted the names of the Commissioners who resigned, but we are also aware that he will not be in any hurry to swear them in. However, the one that will hold him at the jugular is the issue of re-presenting the budget. But, as far as we are concerned, the state budget has not been presented.

From his insincere actions, it is that the matter will continue because he cannot run the state without a budget. And there is no budget in the eyes of the law. So, if he joins the APC because he is scared, it is not as if he wants to join but to save his job.

His entry into APC, for me as the chairman, is what I am praying for. We want them to have more crises so that we can populate our party. That was how they benefitted from APC in 2015. Some were anti-party, and others defected.

It cannot be said that his entry into the APC will solve the problem. It will not. What will solve the problem is that he must obey the dictates of that proclamation that he willingly accepted in the presence of Mr President.

He made a statement that day, thanking Mr President for his intervention. He promised to do every part of the resolution. He even announced another day that the proclamation document is not a death sentence. But, the elders, crying more than the bereaved, said that it was a death sentence.

He is the one funding them from behind. So, for us to have relative, not absolute peace in Rivers State, the governor must show sincerity. Don’t say one thing during the day and another at night. It will not work.

Why did you want the status quo maintained by the governor and you are not compelling the defected State Assembly members to return to the PDP?

Incidentally, it was not among the requests that the governor made. After reading the proclamation document before the President, he made only one request that those who fought along his path should not be victimised. One of the persons, who came with him, Adokie Amasiemeka, had requested that the lawmakers should return to the PDP.

But, the President laughed and said that it was a case of telling his children who left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea to return to Egypt again. If you were the one and remembering that we have had these huge rich harvests, would you ask them to go back? The good thing is that there was no iota of duress mounted on Governor Fubara.

What is your reply to those claiming that you are Wike’s puppet?

What is wrong with that? I don’t owe anybody any apology. There is nothing wrong with that. The man you are talking about is the person who helped APC to win the presidential election.

APC would not have won the presidential election in Rivers state if not because of Wike. We lost almost all the legislative seats but won the presidential. Wike is the magic wand. He has the minder’s touch and till tomorrow, like or hate him, his name politically cures malaria.

Those saying that he is stroking fire in the PDP should know that the party is already like a fuji house of commotion. The problem of the PDP is just ego. They are the architect of their problem in failing to manage the leadership crisis that rocked the party during the general elections last year. The party is still in serious crisis to date.

What do you tell those claiming that Wike is now a mole in PDP and morally, financially, and psychologically in APC, and how soon will he join the APC?
I have taken to the podium and even the streets a million times to beg Wike to come to the APC. I have used the words, come to Macedonia and help us. We have been begging him to come to the APC.

He is the magician and the dean of politics of Rivers State. He is the grandmaster as of today. And having defeated everybody back to back, he is the champion. How many lions can someone kill before they can be called a lion killer?

On the claims that he is psychologically and every other thing in APC and a mole in PDP, I will say that people are entitled to their opinion. Wike has never attended any APC meetings. He is also not the only person from the opposition party that is in the federal cabinet. All I can say is that he got the reward for the impact he made in helping APC win the presidential election in Rivers State.

Only God can help us. All those attempts have been made in the past. Incidentally, all of us are from the same Ikwerre tribe and this issue has been discussed at a larger forum of pan-ethnic organisation, Ogbako Ikwerre, which is an umbrella body of Ikwerre sons and daughters.

The leadership of the body has waded into it but as I said, pride goes before a fall. Amaechi may not want to cave in because he remembers when he was Wike’s boss and even when Wike became the governor, Amaechi still sees him as his boy while Wike wants him to realise that status has changed.

The attempts did not work because of political interest. We strongly believe that only God’s intervention can bring peace between them and make reconciliation possible in their lifetime.

Why would you have a soft spot for Magnus Abe returning to APC but trying to foreclose Amaechi?
I have earlier told you the charge the party’s national chairman gave to the Caretaker committee. The summary of it is to reunite members and get the parties more robust to win the election. The President is of APC. We want to win an election in Rivers State. Rivers, Lagos, and Kano are key states to win elections for any party. Our doors are open.

But my worry with Magnus Abe, who is my friend, is the same issue I raised earlier about pride going before a fall. He felt undone just like all of us and we fought intellectually trying to cripple the Amaechi group. It paid off on time because we supported Tinubu, who eventually won.

We were not delegates during the primary, according to the constitution of the party, but after Tinubu’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate, I told my friend Magnus Abe that we had struck gold because there was no way President Tinubu would want to do something in Rivers without recourse to us that supported him.

After the victory Magnus visited and told me that he wanted to run for the governorship. I discouraged him because Amaechi had foisted Cole as the APC governorship candidate on the people and there was nothing he could do again. I told him that yes, we had a case in court but it was watery.

After consultation, he left the APC despite the attempts from many quarters to discourage him. He formally resigned his membership of the APC. He joined the SDP and became the governorship candidate of the party. In his bid for reconciliation and return to the APC, he is making our job easy, but he is using the wrong approach. He ought to look at what the party constitution stipulates about becoming a member of the party.

It did not say the person should start from the national level. Joining the party must start from the ward and if there is no ward like in the case we have now, the person should come to us, the caretaker committee.

Magnus Abe has been junketing from one radio station to television station announcing that he has re-joined our party and I ask how. I am now beginning to see sinister motives. However, we will discuss it because Magnus has value to add.

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