The Senator representing Rivers East Senatorial District, Andrew Uchendu, at the weekend said that the Supreme Court did not bar the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State from fielding candidates in the February 16th and March 2nd elections.
He said that the APC has the right to field candidates in the elections despite last Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court on a case brought before it by some members of the party.
Uchendu insisted that contrary to some reports, the APC and its candidates in the State will participate in the elections as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He noted that what the Supreme Court ruled on was the issue of jurisdiction which in no way shut out APC and its candidates from the elections.
The lawmaker said that taking into cognizance the rulings of the apex court in other cases, it is settled that the courts do not have any jurisdiction on the internal affairs or disputes within a political party.
He stressed that the APC in Rivers State was not factionalised as is being painted by its detractors.
He noted that members of the party have remained under one executive committee duly recognized by the national leadership of APC.
According to him: “The Supreme Court did not say our candidates for the forthcoming elections cannot participate in the elections.
“What I am saying is that the import of the Supreme Court judgement was on the issue of legal representation. Who is the legally appointed counsel of the APC in Rivers State at the trial court level?
“The Supreme Court said it is the counsel that was briefed by the APC lawyer. That was the matter that was settled yesterday (Friday) and it has nothing to do with whether there is a faction in APC Rivers or not and whether we should take part in the election or not.
“One issue I want to clear is that Tonye Cole is not the only person that is affected by what is going on.
“Nigerians don’t know that all the National Assembly, Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly candidates; about 49 of us are affected. So it’s a whole state.
All the candidates of APC in Rivers State are affected and not just the gubernatorial candidates. We are all involved in the case and we are very hopeful that we will triumph at the end of the day.
“We see the issue in court as dispute within the party. Ordinarily, we expected that the trial court should have upheld our case that it had no jurisdiction but it went ahead and heard the matter. The Court of Appeal upheld that and we are now at the Supreme Court.
“I am very, very hopeful, the court being the last hope of the common man and particularly when the courts have severally said that courts have no jurisdiction on the internal disputes of political parties.”
He said that in the course of the struggle for the soul of the party, Senator Magnus Abe, one of the contending forces, went to court to challenge the outcome of the ward congresses conducted by the party in the State.
Uchendu accused Abe of allegedly hobnobbing with Governor Nyesom Wike and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to undermine the fortunes of the APC in the state.
He said, “I sympathize with him (Abe) because history will be most unkind to him. They didn’t go for any congress from ward to state level. They didn’t have any office.
“But after the national convention of the party, they now sat down and drew up some names of ward executives, local government executives and then hired an office, an after-thought. Somebody must have advised them to go and do this just to create the impression that there is a faction.”