There were jubilation in the camp of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, on Tuesday as fresh indications emerged that the Enugu Appeal court barred the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Senator Uche Ekwunife from taking part in the rerun.
The development has sent jitters down the camp of Ekwunife and the PDP.
With the development, Chief Victor Umeh of the APGA may be coasting home to victory as he would likely face less hurdles in the election. This is as the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate in the election, Dr. Chris Ngige is now a serving minister and may not take part in the rerun.
Recalls that although Ekwunife was declared winner, an Appeal Court sitting in Enugu voided the polls and ordered a rerun.
However, in a full text of the certified true copy of the Appeal Court judgment made available to journalists in Enugu yesterday, the court held that the 11th respondent (Ekwunife) “was not the product of a valid primary and was, therefore, not duly and legitimately nominated.
The court further held that such situation “has disqualified her from contesting the election into the Anambra Central senatorial District.”
The court cited Supreme Court ruling on Wambai Vs Donatus (2014) that “a person cannot be qualified to be a candidate of a party except and unless he is nominated and sponsored by a political party.
The court noted that neither Ekwunife nor the PDP led an evidence to prove that there was a primary and those who participated in such a primary where Ekwunife was elected.
Chairman of the Appeal panel Justice A.D. Yahaya who read the judgment said “after an election if a person wishes to challenge the result of the election on ground of nomination/pre election matter, he can legally do so before a tribunal under Section 138 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and it is wrong to hold that an election tribunal does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine such a matter.”
He, therefore, held that “nomination is part and parcel of qualification to stand for an election and since an election can be challenged on the grounds of lack of qualification, it follows that the appropriate forum to challenge it after the election is held is the Election Tribunal….”
The Court ruled that the tribunal was therefore patently wrong in its decision.
“It had completely misapprehended the case presented in that vein and that had coloured it’s vision, denying it the composure and dispassionate consideration of the case”, the court added.
It noted that once the tribunal held the opinion that the issue of nomination was an internal affair and not justiceable, denying it the jurisdiction to entertain the issue, it lost focus and that clearly was prejudicial to the interest of the appellants.
The court further held that “The decision arrived at was perverse and the right course of action is to set aside the decision.
“Consequently, the perverse decision which held that the 11th respondent had been properly and legitimately sponsored by the 12th respondent, must and is hereby set aside.
“In view of this, it is totally unnecessary to go into other issues raised for determination by the appellants, especially as we have set aside the judgment for being perverse. Nothing can be built on it.”
Speaking on the revelations of the detailed judgment Chief Victor Umeh, the APGA candidate in the election said, “the judgment has clearly removed Uche Ekwunife and the PDP from the next election” arguing that if one was not qualified to contest an election, the person cannot be qualified to be part of the re-run election.
“We have heard rumours that the PDP is planning to hold ward congress on January 7th and thereafter hold a primary on the 9th to nominate their candidate.
“So, it’s laughable because nomination for participation in this election ended in December 2014 and for that, withdrawal and substitution has also been concluded.”
Meanwhile, in a swift reaction, Ekwunife dismissed as laughable the claim that she had been disqualified from the election, noting that the enrolment order directed that fresh election should be conducted by INEC.
She noted that the constitution and the Electoral Act were clear on how a candidate for an election would be disqualified, explaining that nothing of such had sufficed in her case.
Ekwunife noted further that because of the absence of a valid party leadership in Anambra at the time of the primaries 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 primaries, observing that she was already prepared for the exercise.
She said, “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.
“It smacks of somebody who is jittery and not ready to face the popular judgment of the people. I will soon begin my campaign and Umeh is busy looking for what to blackmail me with.”
Ekwunife maintained that she beat Chief Umeh in the last election and as such will always beat him in any contest under platform of any political party because of her antecedents and popularity.
“I won’t join issues with Chief Victor Umeh whom obviously is still licking his wounds after I beat him silly in the last election. 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 him or his pay masters.
“My victory at the last election was an act of God and as such, I am not seeing anything as an obstacle to my re-election as my people have absolute confidence in me and that is why they voted me in at the first polls. Umeh is obviously very jittery about the re-run election because he knows he is not electable and as such will be beaten again”, she maintained.
She called on her supporters and people of Anambra Central senatorial zone to disregard the speculations and allegations being made by her opponent and promised to continue to strive to guard the votes of the people in March next year re-election in the zone.