(Being Senator Abe’s response to Senator Andrew Uchendu who appeared on AIT’s Democracy today to amongst other things, accuse Senator Abe of not having balls to follow his conviction. Senator Abe appeared on same station the following day and cleared the air on Uchendu’s deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Please read and enjoy)
Thank you very much. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come here today to also contribute to the ongoing debate about the future of The APC in Rivers State.
First of all, I am not here to accuse anybody, or to point fingers at anybody. I believe that any sensible politician who understands politics and can see where the APC in Rivers State is today, after all the sacrifices that members of this party had made over the years would be very unhappy, and I am indeed very unhappy at where we are. So any reasonable politician at this point will be looking for solutions. We have been trading blames for years now and it has not really helped us.
But I will just have to set some issues straight, so that in looking for solutions we don’t waste our time chasing after red herrings.
First, Senator Uchendu was here, the reason I decided to come on the show is that he made a lot of what I would call wild, baseless and childish allegations. Senator Uchendu went as far as describing me as not having the balls in his words. I don’t know who made him the inspector of balls in Nigeria, but I do remember that in 1999, my constituency in Gokana held the entire state to ransom over the governorship election of Dr. Peter Odili. Yes it is on record, I had the balls to do that then.
I also do remember that in 2015 when we were facing the challenge from the former PDP government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, I had the balls to stand. I was in front of every demonstration, every crisis, every problem, every thing that happened in Rivers State. I was in front. I didn’t lead from the back and I didn’t see Senator Andrew at that time in front of anything we were doing. I had the balls then.
I was in the National Assembly, I was Chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream that investigated the fuel subsidy scam in this country, we opened the lead on that, I know the pressures that I went through, I had the balls then.
When we were transiting in Amaechi’s government—I was a commissioner in Dr. Peter Odili’s government, at a point, I was the only commissioner left that was supporting Rotimi Amaechi in the cabinet, to the point where his expulsion letter was handed over to me because I was the only person that would still agree that I was in touch with him. I had the balls then. So where are Andrew’s balls?
Today we have a crisis in the party, Andrew sat here and he talked about me being desperate for power, being driven by inordinate ambition to be a governor at all cost. I will respond to that.
First of all Ijeoma, the two times that my name has come up for governorship in Rivers State, both times were not brought up by me. In 2014, before the 2015 elections, it was Rotimi Amaechi who invited the Ogoni leaders to a closed door meeting in government house. I sat by his side, when he got up, asked the cameras to leave and was explaining to the Ogoni people why their son must be a governor at this time, next time it must be an Ogoni man.
And of course, because of my proximity to him, all the Ogoni leaders who were there—remember he didn’t do it once, he did it three times—assumed he was talking about me. I held my peace. When it came to the time of the transition he invited myself and Dakuku and said he was going to choose between Magnus Abe or Dakuku Peterside. That was how my name became synonymous with the governorship thing in 2015. I didn’t call any meeting to say I wanted to contest for Governor, he called that meeting.
And of course as soon as he made that pronouncement everybody took sides,you either had to be with Dakuku or with Magnus. Andrew himself was with Magnus. He took me to his family house and introduced me to his family meeting. His brothers are still my supporters till today, because they said he cannot bring me to their family house in their family meeting and they would go back with him. They refused to go back, they are still supporting me till date. So where are Andrew’s balls if he is talking about balls and where is the desperation of Senator Abe in that narrative?
As for 2019, I was in my house, Rotimi Amaechi came to my house and said he heard from two people, two people Ijeoma, two human beings that I said I would run for Governor in 2019, and he came to tell me not to try it, if I try it he would deal with me, he would fight me, he would do this. He said all this in front of my wife. He finished that, I held my peace, I even went to the radio to try to defend our relationship when insinuations started flying.
He now called a meeting of the entire party. In the meeting he was the one who got up and announced that “Senator Magnus Abe is going to run for governor” and that he would not allow it, that anybody who wants to follow Senator Abe can leave the party. That was how the party broke into two. So it was not me. I didn’t call any meeting to lobby anybody to be governor, he started it, both times. So where is the desperation of Senator Abe to be Governor by all means? Of course once it was in the public domain and people identified with me I agreed that I would contest, and I gave it a good shot which is where the question of balls come in.
At this stage, part of the problems we have is that if we have elders like Senator Andrew Uchendu who is almost more than 80 years old can be saying the things he said, you can begin to understand why a small problem between children in the house would escalate to this kind of monstrous embarrassment to all of us, and he should be more embarrassed than anybody else.
ABOUT THE BASELESS ALLEGATION THAT SENATOR ABE WAS BEING OR IS BEING SPONSORED
You know, everything in Nigeria is not about money. If you follow the sequence of events of what happened to the APC in Rivers State, it is not different from what happened to the PDP in 2007 when Amaechi was to be Governor. In 2007, the Supreme Court gave a judgement in Imo State, saying that Ararume was the candidate of the PDP and the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo took his plane to Imo State and announced that PDP had no candidate in Imo and in effect reversing the judgement of the Supreme Court. And of course you know the court must defend its integrity. In response to that, all the other judgements of the court were designed to show that between the PDP and the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is Supreme to the PDP.
In Rivers State what happened, Senator Uchendu came here and said the the problem of APC in Rivers State started in PHALGA Ward six with Igo Aguma. That is a lie. Over 19,000 members of the All Progressives Congress paid for forms to participate in the congress. We held a meeting, all of us, everybody was in that meeting. Ikanya was the Chairman of the party, and this issue of forms was discussed in that meeting. In that meeting, which was an expanded stakeholders meeting we all reached the agreement on how we were going to conduct the congresses. We set up an all inclusive committee made up of people from every faction to make peace in the party.
When the minister heard about that meeting, he cancelled the committee, cancelled everything and directed that non of those 19,000 people who paid for forms should be given the forms, because they were supporters of Senator Abe. And when that news came out, Ikanya who had publicly addressed all members and assured everybody that forms would be made available to everybody was forced to backtrack, and these people who had paid for forms invaded the secretariat of the party, so how can he say the problem started from ward six Port Harcourt? It was a statewide issue and was on national television. It was on NTA, AIT, Channels, it was all over this country. People saw the demonstrations, police came and everything! It was there. So how can you come back and rewrite what everybody knows?
Moving beyond that, when they demonstrated and the police came and tear gassed them and everything, they went to court and they filed a case in Bori High Court.
Chief Uchendu said here that both the file and the judge were transferred, that is a lie from the pit of hell, it is not true. In deference to his age, maybe he doesn’t remember some of these things that happened, but if he doesn’t remember before talking on national television he should at least ask. The judge in Bori declined jurisdiction on the basis that there was a practice directive that political cases of that nature should not be heard in outline jurisdiction, they should be brought to the center. And that decision of the judiciary I think was done to try to avoid a situation where people could just go to any jurisdiction and be getting orders and counter orders to embarrass the judiciary and the parties.
Now the case was brought to Port Harcourt, before the judge could sit the very next morning, people claiming to be members of the APC in Rivers State went to the court and padlocked the entire judiciary. This incident was shown on all national TV, yet somebody sent in a question about that and Uchendu refused to respond to that.
That action of going to padlock the entire judiciary was at the bottom of what happened to the APC in Rivers State, because that was now a challenge to the court. So who is he blaming for that?
BUT YOUR OWN FACTION ALSO SOLD FORMS FOR THE PRIMARIES?
No, you are jumping the issues. This what what happened in the congresses. After that people went to court and the court held that the congress which they held, because when they went to attack the court, the court gave an order suspending the congresses, the party went ahead and announced on national television that they would not obey that order. It is that disobedience to the order of the court that is at the foundation of the katakata that now happened between the APC and the judiciary in Rivers State. It has nothing to do with any third party, it had to do with our own behavior inside the party.
People keep making references to Wike, Wike was the governor of Rivers State at the time we had the rerun election, he fought me, fought us to the point where nobody was campaigning in the state. I was campaigning, the whole country knows that. Ask Uchendu where he was. And when we went into that election, we defeated PDP and Wike and we won. He didn’t win, he had to go to court. So if Wike was that invincible, how did we win him?
And the truth of the matter is that if you are living in an area that is prone to earth quake, you don’t go and build your house with Bamboo sticks, because at the slightest shaking of the ground the sticks would fall apart. So we know that we have a formidable political opponent with a large war chest that is our opponent in Rivers State. If we a building a structure to confront him, we must build a structure that will overcome him, so if your structure is not strong enough to overcome the man, then every time you say it is Wike that did this, it is Wike that did that, do you need Wike’s cooperation?
Is it true that Wike is bankrolling your party?
How can Wike bankroll my party? Which bank? People went to court and you disobeyed the court, the court became angry with you, set aside your congresses, you refused to set it aside, you continued to use it, the court set it aside again, you were fighting the court. It didn’t need any money. Like what I was telling you happened in 2007, was Amaechi richer than PDP and Obasanjo? He won them in the court! Who bankrolled him then? So all this kind of talk like I said is childishness.
Where we are, I have said it repeatedly, the APC in Rivers State is in a hole and we need to stop digging, all these accusations and counter accusations will not solve anything. Everybody has his case. You know if you look at the world today, you know this slavery that we are talking about and all of us are condemning it and saying it is evil, people defended it, preachers preached in support of slavery.
If you went to Germany during the Nazi Holocaust, the Nazis were packing children, women and everybody and gassing them, and people were defending it that it was the right thing, so there is no course of action that a human being will take that people will not come out to defend if it suits their interest to defend it.
So as far as the problem of APC Rivers State is concerned, those that suits their interest to say that Senator Abe is the one who has destroyed the party will continue to say so. Those that suit there interest to say it is Amaechi who did this and that will continue to say so, but at the end of the day, where does that lead the party? For those of us who have sacrificed so much for the APC, looking for solutions become imperative.
You see Ijeoma, with all due respect to all the contending parties, we need everybody in the party to move it forward, nobody can argue with that position. People who kept deceiving the minister into thinking that some people were irrelevant—because what is the whole battle about? It is to prove that Senator Abe is irrelevant in the politics of Rivers State and nobody can prove that because it is not true. So it doesn’t matter how hard you try, politics is a game of people. You must gather more people than your opponents. If you play your politics around chasing people away, you will be left with fewer and fewer people and so you will lose. That is just the simple way of it. That is one.
Two is that you need the sympathy of those who are not politicians in order to win elections, so while your political supporters who are direct beneficiaries of your power can agree to everything you do and praise everything you do, there are objective bystanders who are not direct beneficiaries of your power and they are in the majority, they are the ones who will make the comments that will make people feel that what you are doing is wrong because it is wrong. So when you are taking decisions and actions, you don’t just look at your political supporters, you must look beyond them. What does the public make of this?
You know, everybody in Rivers State is not a 100 supporter of Wike, but if an issue comes up, and Wike takes a position like this, you take a position like this, people are going to look at the foundation between the two positions, and in one particular situation more people might go his way, in another situation more people might go your way. So if you are a smart politician, you manage yourself in such a way that at any given point in time, the public will see that what you are saying is right, it is not what your supporters are saying that is right, because your supporters may not be objective especially if you don’t give them the opportunity to do so.
ABOUT SENATOR UCHENDU SAYING ABE SHOULD SACRIFICE HIS AMBITION BECAUSE HE HAS SACRIFICED HIS
You know IJ, Senator Andrew honestly is really unfortunate, he has no ambition to sacrifice, nobody will support him. Let me tell you why.
This is a man who went to Etche and promised the Etche people that he will only contest one term. It is on video, it is everywhere, it was in a rally he said that. And when he finished that term and he wanted to contest again, he went back to the Etche people and said you know, this thing the party asked me to contest again. He did not have the balls to stand by his own words. So who will support such a person? So there is no ambition for him to give up. Let him go and contest, he will not win. They will not support him. He said it publicly that he would do one term and give it to the Etche people, but when it was time to stand by his own words, he said leadership asked him to contest that he must obey the leadership. My brother, you must have balls to be able to tell the leadership that this thing you are doing is not good for me. That is the balls he doesn’t have. I have it, he doesn’t have it.
Having said that, let me say also that as far as this party is concerned, I keep insisting that we need everybody. The problems we have are people like Senator Uchendu who will tell the Minister that you can do without everybody, that we will do whatever you want, we will deliver whatever you want, and they don’t have the capacity to deliver anything. We need to bring everybody together, even Uchendu is necessary in the party if he will behave like an elder.
We need everybody. We can’t just keep chasing each other in public. This is a colleague of mine, we sat together in the Senate so common decency demands that there are certain things we shouldn’t say about one another in public, but that decency he cannot respect.
So if we change our behavior, we rearrange our ways, we curtail our supporters, it will be difficult because people are so hurt and so upset and so angry and so obsessed with this whole question of who is right and who is wrong.
I am ready to do whatever we need to do to bring everybody together, but if the foundation of peace in the party is to say that Senator Abe should announce that he has no ambition, I will not make that announcement. No I won’t say that.
DO YOU HAVE AMBITION TO CONTEST FOR GOVERNOR AGAIN?
It is not a question of whether I have ambition or not. Let me tell you IJ, I am not a child. People supported me for the governorship because they could see I was close to the fruit, that if they pushed me a little I could catch it, that’s why people came from everywhere and thronged behind me. Today I am far from it, so people know that even if they push me now I may not catch it. So I am not going to stand here and tell you I am going to contest or I am not going to contest, but if I am close to it of course I will go for it, but if I am far from it and somebody else is close, I will support who is close. That is practical politics, but I don’t have to sit here and tell you that.
And let me say something else, Uchendu sat here and said that I was at a meeting in Amaechi’s house where I said I am the greatest investment of Amaechi, and then I went back to hold another meeting, that is a lie.
The statement I made that I am the greatest investment of Amaechi was made at a rally in the heat of the crisis in my village, the pictures are there. The video is there. And what I had on the paper was that Amaechi is our biggest investment in the politics of Nigeria, but when it came for the time to say it, I decided not to say it that way because I was looking for peace, I felt that if I said it that way it would be too challenging and too contentious for the man who was my governor and my boss, so I switched it around because I wanted to appeal to his sense of humanity that you cannot build a house and destroy it.
So I said listen, I am your biggest investment, in other words, don’t come and destroy the investment that you have made. We built Amaechi, we supported him, I can go into that, but that is not what we need to do now, but we have all helped one another and we are all friends and we must respect one another.
SO WHY NOT SAY IF YOU WILL CONTEST OR NOT?
Ijeoma, listen, you have to be fair to me, I am 54 years old, Uchendu is almost 80 years old, he can sit here and say he doesn’t have ambition, I will not say that. I am in politics. I don’t use my words carelessly. You know if I sit here and say I will not do something, you know I have the balls to stand by whatever I say, so that is why I don’t make statements carelessly. I ponder my statements and I gauge them, so I don’t talk carelessly. So if that is the only condition for peace then forget it. But I believe that in an atmosphere of mutual respect and mutual acceptance, we can make compromises that will move the party forward, it doesn’t have to be me being governor, that is not the foundation.
WHAT IS THE POSITION OF THE NATIONAL BODY OF APC?
I am not the national body of the party. You have the phone number of our National Chairman, you have the phone number of our National organizing Secretary, you can call them.
I have always said that we need peace in the party. We need to change our language, we need to stop talking the way we talk, we need to do things differently so that we can get a different result and we need to respect each other. These are very very simple things that we can do.
I agree with Igo Aguma, you can’t go and handpick three boys of the Minister in this kind of situation and make them caretaker committee members and expect us to go and contest congresses under them. We will not go. And even if you do that congress and you get a structure of the party we won’t accept it. So how will it work?
What we need is that there needs to be some cooling off. Another lie that Andrew told here was that Amaechi has been reaching out to everybody, that is not true. You know Ijeoma, I have been here several times, I have tried to be very circumspect in my choice of words when talking about Rotimi Amaechi in public. I did that deliberately until I found out that he wasn’t respecting that respect that I was giving to him, and I said it then that if anybody talks about me again, I will come back and I will respond in kind.
But I have tried as it is humanly possible. Andrew said that Igo said Amaechi is the leader and that Igo doesn’t have a faction, I have always said that Amaechi is the leader, so what is the difference there? What we are saying is that if you are the leader, lead in such a manner that all your supporters and followers can have confidence in the leadership that it is not a leadership that is designed against anybody, or any group. It has to be a leadership that will encompass all of us, both good people and bad people, that is how you lead.
We need to begin to, first of all people like Senator Andrew Uchendu must speak with more decorum. They should speak like elders. It will help. Every little gesture that tends to cool things down will help. Secondly we need to show respect to each other. Nobody is dispensable and nobody is indispensable. We are all necessary and relevant to the APC in Rivers State.
We need a neutral party that can be able to call all of us together. Aregbesola came, we met with him, till today nobody knows what he said. And probably the reason nobody knows what he said was because what he wanted to say is not what some people wanted to hear.
- Senator Magnus Ngei Abe was in the Nigerian Senate from 2011 to 2019 and Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of Rivers, 2007 to 2011.