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Strength & Weakness of Rivers Chapter of the Action Congress

By Odimegwu Onwumere

On Wednesday 27th January 2010, the national vice chairman South-South of the Action Congress (AC), Austin Eweka led a team of AC officials from the South-South zone to the Rivers State chapter of the Action Congress chaired by Suage Badey. This was in accordance with the resolve of the National Body of the party to tour the 36 states of the Federation in its preparedness to wrestle power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) come 2011. The team was a bit belated (which meeting started by after 4pm) and apologized for their lateness to the teaming AC members in Rivers State, who were waiting patiently to welcome the August visitors. Mounting the podium in a hall at the Presidential Hotel Port Harcourt, the venue of the meeting, after an obvious observation, Eweka said, “Sorry that we are starting this meeting late, but this is because of our late leaving Uyo, the Capital of Akwa Ibom State. I thank the Rivers State Action Congress (RSAC) that women are very productive, as they came en masse, unlike some states in the South-South we have visited. AC is not known for any foul languages and I urge every person present to eschew that. Our coming is to look into any problem that could be existing among the AC members in this state that could hinder it not to take over power from the PDP come 2011. We need everybody, even those that perhaps are drifting, to come back to AC. Democracy is number. No one is here to superimpose any member of the AC in this state on the collective intelligence of the members. The members have to be democratic. And we are democrats. If you say you don't want this person or that person, how can we be assured that the state chapter of AC can take over the mantle of leadership from the PDP come 2011 since politics is about number in population? And if we don't consolidate this AC in the state, there is every tendency that AC might not win election in this state in 2011. We have not come here to pay allegiance to any person in this state irrespective of how highly placed the person might think he is, and we are not going to visit any leader of the AC in the state in his house. If we must do, it will be on a personal motive, but I will not make such a journey to any person's house. I will beg every member of this party to go out to the streets of Port Harcourt henceforth and scout for the moguls in the society to join our party. We must do this, even by begging. So, it is time for AC to wake up, if we are sleeping in this state. On a final note, but no the list, I want every member of this party in the state to come forward and air his or her mind on the things that could be the way forward to move this party in the state forward”.

Members' opinions for the way forward for the Rivers AC:

The chairman of the party, Suage Badey, after the opening speech by Austin Eweka, thanked the members of his party for turning out en masse for the occasion and urged every member of the party to be very conscientious on what ever he or she would want to say. He said that the party has become a formidable opposition party in the state and he earnestly thanked every member of the party and Prince Tonye Princewill for the time they had committed in the party this far. He urged the members to be law abiding.

Iyke Eche, a lawyer, who said he contested the Rivers State House of Assembly in the 2007 elections said, “I want the national body to note that the Govt of Unity run by AC and the PDP in the state is today an individual thing and not the entire vision of the AC. All are not well in the RSAC. The party in the state only exists on the pages of the newspapers”. Though, he praised the chairmanship of Suage Badey, whom he described as “a man of moral principle who has been fighting assiduously to rejuvenate the party from the shackles of oligarchs”. In another vein, he asked, “Where is the RSAC secretariat?” A comment the state chairman, Badey said exists, contrary to the statement by Eche. But Eche added, “If the secretariat exists, what are we doing in the hotel?” On that question, shrills from the forum said, “We are in the hotel to accommodate the population of the members and the invitees”. Eche was not stopped, he then asked the national body that if the state AC must move forward, the relationship of AC/PDP in Rivers State must be defined. Hear him again: “If we must move forward, the national body of the Action Congress should help us define the relationship of AC/PDP in our state.”

Dr. Edith Wele, who said she is the Women Leader of the RSAC in her approach said, “I want to correct an impression that the RSAC Women Wing is run as a personal enterprise” contrary to one of Eche's comments that the Wing was run as a personal enterprise of Princewill.

Gift Okocha, Chairman of the Forum of Chairmen of the RSAC in the 23 LGAs said, “The name 'AC' has no problem, but the problem is the people inside AC. We know that our RSAC chairman, Suage Badey will never tell us lies, and had not been telling us lies. I thank God today who brought the national body of our party to mend any grievances that might be existing in our state chapter of the AC. What I want to say is, what right does an individual has not to release to us registration cards for the new would-be members of the party? I heard that the cards were long time released for the purpose it was meant for, but a man generally addressed as the leader of the party hijacked it for who knows the reason. How can we move forward with this single act? I pray the national body to address whoever that is holding the cards to release them to us in order to register the new members. I must plead that we need party secretariats in the LGAs. Again, not even the Chairmen Forum has been empowered, as the national body once warned Princewill to do. I pray that rumours should be stemmed, like we have heard about allegations of bribes among members which were later found to be untrue”.

Mrs. Chika Odum, who said she is the PHALGA Women Leader, said, “What is killing RSAC is personal interest. Prince Tonye Princewill has been a very good leader. Princewill has done very well for the RSAC in our state. So, anybody that is indirectly saying that he has not tried is a liar. I must in earnest thank Mr. Suage Badey, the chairman of the RSAC, for being transparent in the course of his duty. He is a man who is steering the party to a greater height”. After that, the party resolved to take the RSAC to a greater height, collectively.

RSAC Members Resolution:

The forum said that Prince Tonye Princewill is not following the due process in the way he handles issues of the RSAC, even that he is trying on the area of leadership; the forum called on the national body of the party to call him to order. They said that he was good but since he started his (personal enterprise) Unity Govt., he has changed for worse. “Princewill always boast of money and doesn't respect members' opinion. He always boasts of publishing 100 publications on the newspapers should any member publish one against him,” the forum allegedly said. They said that even that Princewill is too boastful,

he is still better than their formal state chairman, Mr. Mmuen Kpagane, decribing Kpagane as an “excess man”. They warned that Suage Badey should be re-elected should there be congress in the state this year since he is acting as a Care-Taker-Chairman. The forum agreed that Unity Govt in the state should be effaced, but Badey protested and said that even if it will be effaced, it has to be a gradual thing. The forum agreed to go back to what it described as, status quo. The Secretary of the party, Mr. Okis Bob-manuel also objected the proposal to efface the Unity Govt in the State. He said: “The Unity Govt was not imposed on anybody in this party. If I still remember, all the chairmen of RSAC in the 23 LGAs signed in support of the Unity Govt when Princewill brought the idea. And it was money, I would say, that pushed us to this union, because we lacked finance, and are still lacking finance as a party, till date. We must recognize the constitution of our party and respect the different offices. The national body should help us with finance.

The National Body's promise:

The leader of the team, Austin Eweka said that he has heard all that were said and would convey the information to the national body of the party. He promised to relay the information that uptil now, the cards for the new members have not been released by who ever it was handed to and would make sure there is an investigation to know in whose hand the cards are. He said that the person would be brought to Abuja for quizzing. He thanked the members of the RSAC for their patience in waiting till about 9.00pm when the meeting ended. “After here,” Eweka said. “We will be heading to Bayelsa State the next day.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), and a Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Email: [email protected]