ANAMBRA PDP: Tumbling Through Self-destruct, Never Ending Quagmire
AS the haze settles after the ruling of the Appeal Court in Enugu on December 7, 2015 in the appeal brought before it by Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) over the conduct of the 2015 senatorial election in Anambra Central, the compelling import is the “disqualification” of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife.
This assumed or implied import in the ruling is in spite of the declarative statement of the same court ordering a rerun election within 90 days. Justice A.D. Yahaya, had in sum, noted the success of Umeh’s appeal against the judgement of the election petition tribunal of October 9, 2015 and ordered the “Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election into the Anambra Central Senatorial District within 90 days from today.”
Invalid PDP Primary And What Appeal Court Ruled
THE ruling brought a befuddling attention to the legal quagmire in the conduct of the PDP in Anambra. How much of this quagmire would be resolved in the days to the fresh elections in Anambra Central as ordered by the Appeal Court, is left to be seen. Initially, the judgement didn’t attract attention beyond the declarative ruling of a fresh election. But with the details of the judgement now public, attention has shifted to the “disqualification” of Ekwunife from participating in the fresh election scheduled early next year in Anambra Central.
If there was a “disqualification,” what was it for? Was she disqualified to run in the fresh election? “Certainly, not. If the court wanted to disqualify her, the court would have said that. To the best of my knowledge, the courts declarative ruling was clear,” said a legal practitioner in Enugu. According to Ekwunife, it is laughable that she has been disqualified from the election. She said: “The Constitution and the Electoral Act are clear on how a candidate for an election would be disqualified.”
However, she noted that “because of the absence of a valid party leadership in Anambra at the time of the primary last December and following the court observation that she was a product of an invalid exercise, the PDP in Anambra had fixed January 9, for fresh primary.
“I wonder why some people will start going through the entire body of the judgment and ignore the main issue, which is the enrolment order that fresh election be conducted for all the candidates.”
Perhaps in what might be a subtle hint that she might dump PDP for another party, she boasted that she beat Chief Umeh in the last election and will always beat him in any contest under the platform of any political party because of her antecedents and popularity. According to her, “what concerns me at this moment is how to go into the election and win again so as to continue to represent my people at the Senate and not to join issues with anyone.”
The central question is that the Anambra PDP didn’t hold National Assembly primaries in 2015; a development that contravened both the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic as amended and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. On its way to proving that the PDP didn’t hold any primary for the National Assembly election, a position, which Ekwunife attested to before the court, Justices, including A.D Yahaya, T.O Awotoye and B.G. Sanga in their judgement set out to determine whether the election petition tribunal correctly determined that Ekwunife “was qualified to contest the senatorial election within the context of Section 65(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Government as amended read together with Section 138(1)(a) of the Electoral Act as amended.”
On this issue, the court set aside the ruling of the tribunal and held that “the perverse decision, which held that the 11th Respondent (Ekwunife) had been properly and legitimately sponsored by the 12th Respondent (PDP), must and hereby set aside.”
Implications of the Appeal Court Ruling
BEYOND the impending fresh election, the PDP, more than Ekwunife has been on trial. And the point of that trial is the party’s overall conduct in the 2015 primary in Anambra State, as the party prepared for the election. Heading into the 2015 National Assembly elections in Anambra, with a factionalized state executive – Ken Emekayi and Ejike Oguebego factions- the aspirants were caught in befuddling uncertainty. While some aspirants sided with either faction, others settled for self-help and headed for the courts to declare them winners of an apparent nonexistent primary.
As arguments at the Appeal Court have thrown up, the PDP bungled its primary and preparations for the National Assembly election. Justice Yahaya aptly reflected on the scenario thus: “I must observe that a lot of the political parties in this country have still not stabilized, unfortunately. There are still a lot of acrimonies in the running of their affairs, and as a result, factions of the parties exist with various grudges mostly bothering on impunity.
“This may just simmer many times, but when elections are nigh, and the parties fail to put their acts together, to constitutionally arrive at properly-nominated candidates, disastrous consequences cannot be avoided.” A former senatorial aspirant in the state, said: “Our party operated without any form of order. There was no recognizable, acceptable or accepted state executive; we went into a primary without conducting Ward congresses from where the three man delegates would have emerged to conduct the election of the National Assembly candidates. Then, a primary was purportedly held and candidates elected. Who elected them?”
APGA, Umeh And Maxi Okwu Standoff
WHILE the PDP is sorting itself out, APGA and Umeh might be looking down the barrel of the gun if events elsewhere go against them. On January 15, 2016, with weeks to spare before the fresh elections, the Supreme Court may rule in the matter between Umeh and Maxi Okwu and settle the question of who is the rightful national chairman of APGA. The apex court will also settle the question of whether the convention of APGA that elected Okwu in 2013 in Awka was validly constituted and Okwu elected as chairman after Umeh’s tenure was considered to have expired all this while.
Initially, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Kafarati ruled in favour of Okwu as the authentic national chairman of APGA from April 8, 2013. However, the Appeal Court, holding that Okwu had no locus standi in the case, quashed that victory and returned the national chairmanship to Umeh. Whereupon Okwu and his supporters headed to the Supreme Court.
According to Okwu in an interview, “the Supreme Court will rule one way or the other. We believe that the rule of law will prevail and we are asking the Court to restore Kafarati. “If we prevail, it will mean that whatever that was done in the name of APGA from April 8, 2013 is null and void or voidable. A favorable ruling will be a game changer for APGA.”
One immediate implication of a favorable Supreme Court ruling for Okwu then will be the question of Umeh’s nomination and candidacy in the election. And even the position of Willy Obiano will have to be straightened under the circumstances.
Said a source in APGA: “Of course, if Okwu gets judgement, Umeh is out, unless Okwu in his magnanimity; chooses to adopt him. I know Umeh is also looking hopeful.” Inquiries revealed that the Okwu faction is very active and very alive in Anambra. The source added: “We meet every Wednesday in Awka, under the leadership of Dr. Chike Obidigbo, the former governorship candidate for the faction. I can say that this is where the soul of the party, the real APGA is right now.
“Obiano, the Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman of APGA has divided the party especially in the manner of his appointments, where he chose to favour his kinsmen in Aguleri and his friends from the banks. He is virtually running a one man show and despite the “Obiano is working” slogans, we are waiting to see what will play out at the end of his first term. We will see who his people are in APGA; maybe he is counting on Umeh. Those who should know are not fooled by what they call a relationship; it is all self-serving. The governor is acting as if the senatorial ambition of Umeh means so much to him. But this is the same Umeh who was ridiculed when he offered to be the chairman of the BoT and for Obiano to remain the Leader of the party. How did Obiano allow APGA to lose the House of Representatives seat of his constituency, Anambra West/East to Tony Nwoye of the PDP? “
Uba, Oguebego Axis
WHILE other cases are going on, there is the case instituted by Chief Chris Uba and the Oguebego faction of the PDP, at the Supreme Court, against the NWC. This faction held that it duly conducted a primary, which INEC observed and that PDP should sponsor its own candidates. Again, judgment is expected in that case in the Supreme Court, before the fresh election. The electoral commission has never wavered before any court that they only observed the primary conducted by the Oguebego/ Uba Faction.
And as PDP prepares for a fresh election, questions abound. Will the ruling of the Appeal Court force the PDP to drop Ekwunife from contesting the fresh election? Can the party conduct a fresh primary? Which factions will hold the primary? Can the PDP conduct Ward congresses to elect the three-man delegates and statutorily inform the electoral commission for the purposes of conducting a primary?
A former senatorial aspirant from Anambra Central, who prefers not to be named, said that, “the only way they, (PDP) may stand a chance of having a candidate and seek a way of resolving this quagmire, is to bring in the Chris Uba faction because they conducted the ward congress and elected the three-man delegates that elected their own National Assembly candidates, an exercise INEC observed.
“The implication is that Annie Okonkwo could push to be the candidate in Anambra Central because he was the candidate for the Oguebego/Uba faction. A far-fetched wider implication is that if any other court holds that Anambra PDP didn’t conduct National Assembly primary, then Senators Andy Uba and Stella Oduah, will vacate their seats. In the long run, the court ruling will put the party in a quandary because it will raise the question of what to do with Andy Uba and Stella Oduah.”
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