About 10 weeks to the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State, the issue of the authentic candidates of the three leading political parties, the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and its fierce challengers: the People Democratic Party (PDP), and the All Progressive Congress (APC) continues unabated. The various litigation by the aggrieved members of the parties have cast a huge cloud of doubt on the chances of the three major parties. MICHAEL OVAT takes a look at the legion of court cases, the contradictory court pronouncements and the fate of the parties and their candidates.
As the Anambra State 2021 governorship election slated for November 6 draws nearer, internal crises have continued to be rock the three major political parties: APGA, PDP and APC with those embroiled in the crises heading to the court and securing injunctions and counter injunctions.
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The ding-dong legal actions, according to Sunday Tribune findings, have unsettled the affected parties, as their supporters are left in confusion over who, among the contending individuals, will fly the parties› flags.In APGA, for instance, the Victor Oye faction, being supported by the Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, produced Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo. But another faction headed by Jude Okeke has presented Mr Chukwuma Michael Umeoji as its own candidate. The development has compelled the state governor to set up a reconciliation committee, headed by Senator Victor Umeh along with Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, wife of the APGA founder, Dim Chukwuemaka Odumegwu Ojukwu to reconcile the two major factions and other aggrieved members. The effort, Sunday Tribune gathered, is yet to bear fruits, as the Okeke-led faction is insisting it is the authentic APGA that should be recognised.But speaking with Sunday Tribune by phone, a chieftain of APGA in the state, who pleaded anonymity accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the judiciary of fuelling crises in the party for financial gains.“How can INEC and the judiciary be announcing Umeoji today and Soludo tomorrow?” he queried.
“This is confusing and it is dividing the party more than ever. Most of our members have begun to hatch a Plan B …,” he lamented, adding that even the replacement of Umeoji with Soludo as the APGA candidate by INEC in its portal, has failed to allay the fear of APGA members, because the Okeke-led faction has taken the case to the Supreme Court. “The fear became palpable, given the fact that Nigeria is a country, where anything happens, especially with money.” the source stated.He blamed Obiano and the partys National Chairman, Victor Oye, for not allowing Umeoji to participate in the primary that took place on June 26, 2021 at Professor Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre.But all that is history as INEC while citing the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Kano included Soludo’s name on the candidates’ list.In a statement recently, INEC National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said that the timetable approved by the commission on January 18, 2021 provided for the withdrawal/substitution of candidates in line with Section 35 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).Okoye said that by the deadline of July 30, 2021, seven governorship and eleven deputy governorship candidates had been substituted by eleven out of the eighteen political parties participating in the election.He confirmed that the commission was served with the judgment of the Court of Appeal (Kano Division), which set aside the judgment of the High Court of Jigawa State on the leadership of APGA and the nomination of its candidates for the election.The INEC Commissioner said that the final list of candidates would be published on October 7, 2021 as provided in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election.A Special Assistant to the governor on media, Mr Chidiebele Obika, described the news as the best news of the year. He said it was a good omen for the party, coming just a day to the inauguration of its campaign council.
“This is to show that God’s hand is in this project”, Obika enthused.Meanwhile, to confirm the state government’s interest in Soludo, Governor Obiano inaugurated the campaign council of the Victor Oye faction of APGA, headed by him (the governor), his wife, Bianca Ojukwu, Senator Victor Umeh, and 4,200 others for Soludo.The inauguration, attended by all political appointees of the present government in the state, was held at Dr Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka.On the same day INEC listed Soludo as APGA candidate, the High Court in Owerri, Imo State, equally declared Chukwuma Umeoji as the APGA candidate for the Anambra governorship election scheduled to hold on November 6, 2021.The judgment also favoured Chief Jude Okeke as the Chairman of the party, as earlier recognised by the country›s electoral Umpire, INEC.The Court presided over by Justice V.C Isiguzo, in its landmark ruling, struck out a fresh court action brought by Oye to stop Umeoji, and reaffirmed her earlier judgment, declaring the Owerri convention that produced Jude Okeke as APGA Chairman valid and directed INEC to accept Umeoji, as the candidate of the party and include his name in all electoral processes for the Anambra governorship election.The ruling was sequel to an application for stay of execution and leave to appeal filed by Oye, wherein the court granted him leave to appeal, but refused to grant the order for stay of execution and went ahead to reaffirm its earlier judgment.The court expressly stated that INEC could not evade its duty to comply with the orders of the court declaring Umeoji candidate and therefore «has a legal obligation to continue to carry out, obey and comply with the extant, valid and subsisting judgment of this court delivered on 28th July, 2021, which declared Umeoji candidate and ordered INEC to continue to recognise him and Okeke pending the determination of the appeal filed by Oye at Appeal Court, Owerri”.By the ruling, INEC is directly restrained from attempting to remove Umeoji as candidate of APGA from its list as being rumoured that it was under pressure to do so.Interestingly, the Court of Appeal, Kano Division, had on 10th August, 2021 set aside another judgment of the Jigawa High Court, which also held that Okeke is the National Chairman of APGA and only governorship congress held by him shall be valid without making any orders as to who should be candidate of the party.The Kano Appeal Court did not delve into finding who between Soludo and Umeoji should be the candidate of the party. Instead of this, the court reversed its earlier ruling that the appeal is barred for bordering on pre-election, setting it aside as a nullity for want of fair hearing and lack of jurisdiction, without making any consequential order of who is APGA Chairman or candidate.
The implication of this is that with the judgment of Justice B. C. Iheka of the Owerri High Court, INEC is bound to obey and maintain the name of Umeoji as the candidate of APGA for the governorship election.Sunday Tribune also learnt that sometimes ago, INEC had accepted the filled nomination forms containing the name of Umeoji as the candidate of the APGA for the Anambra governorship election, following the Jigawa High Court judgment that nullified the candidacy of the former CBN governor, Soludo, and in accordance with Section 32 of the Electoral Act.But all that has since changed as INEC following the Kano appellate court ruling has listed Soludo as candidate of APGA with the Umeoji faction threatening to institute contempt proceedings against INEC, insisting that the candidate of his faction remains the flag bearer of the party in the November election.One of the supporters of Umeoji, who pleaded not to be mentioned, disclosed that the Umeoji camp «are currently undergoing prayer and fasting to seek the face of God and hope the Supreme Court judgment will be in favour of Jude Okeke-led APGA faction.But the camp of the former CBN governor has maintained that since the name of their principal had been listed in INEC portal, it was an indication that Soludo would succeed Obiano in March, 2022.They also stated that up till date, it was only Soludo that meticulously fulfilled the requirements enunciated by the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the INEC election manual and the 2021 electoral guidelines of APGA for the 2021 Anambra State governorship election.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its reinstated chairman in the state, Ndubuisi Nwobu, said the Appeal Court’s restatement of the state executive led by him shows that Mr Valentine Ozigbo remains the candidate of the party.Nwobu, who spoke to Sunday Tribune in a telephone interview, maintained that before the final list of candidates would be published on October 7 2021 as provided in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election by INEC, “all the crisis rocking the party would have been resolved amicably; the party candidate, Ozigbo, would be listed officially and the party will emerge victorious at poll by the grace of God”.He urged members across the state to continue with mobilisation and not to allow the development to demoralise them politically.Oye noted that 90 percent of aggrieved members including some former aspirants and their supporters had agreed to work and deliver PDP in the election.Sunday Tribune gathered that the Nwobu-led committee had been dissolved by the national leadership of the party, following a court judgment in a suit instituted by Mr Samuel Anyakorah, which challenged the leadership.But the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, in a judgment last month, reinstated the Nwobu-led executive, thereby validating the candidature of Ozigbo, who emerged from a primary election conducted by the party against Senator Ugochukwu Uba, who had emerged from a parallel primary election.He said: “You are aware that I’m back and the appellate court has put to rest the issue of the leadership of the party in this state. So I am assuring you that there is no cause for alarm. Ozigbo remains the PDP candidate for the November 6, election.
“We will commence moves to immediately reach out to our party members, especially the aggrieved ones and try to woo them back into the party. But for those who are not easy to bring back to our fold, and have proven to be consistent with fighting the party, we will show them the way out.”Sunday Tribune further gathered that the political tussle is between Chris Uba’s faction that has Senator Ugochukwu Uba as its candidate and the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) that produced Ozigbo, and that the case at the Federal High Court was adjourned to September 21, 2021.In the case of APC, the state Acting Chairman of the party, Chief Basil Ejidike, sometime during a press conference in Awka, said the party had resolved all the crises confronting its chances of winning the November 6 election, noting that with the defection of Senator Joy Emodi from the PDP to APC, the awaited two state Senators, top politicians in the state and the already existing unity among supporters, the party is sure of winning the poll.He announced that the party, at the time of filing this report, had a total of five hundred thousand active registered members in the state, insisting that Senator Andy Uba and his Deputy, Emeka Okafor, remained the flag bearers of APC for the election.He also said that with the like of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, his Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi and the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu being members of the Anambra APC Election Committee Council, it is certain that the party will win the keen contest.He urged all members of the party in the state to come out en masse and support the party during its campaign.At the time of filing this report, it was not yet clear whether INEC also listed Senator Andy Uba’s name as APC candidate on its portal.
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