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Anambra; Supreme Court Decisions Throw State into Confusion!

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Andy Ubah

A full panel of Nigeria’s Supreme Court of Nigeria sitting in Abuja, on Friday, reportedly sacked all the senators and members of the House of Representatives from Anambra State.

Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision by Justice Chukwu of the Federal High Court laying out the proper procedures for selection of the PDP’s legislative candidates.

In December 2014, the Federal High Court had ruled that it was only the constitutionally recognized state party leadership led by Ejike Oguebego that could organize the party primaries. The Supreme Court’s ruling Friday purportedly reaffirmed the High Court’s verdict, declaring that the Ejike Oguebego-led PDP executive had the sole right to hold the primaries in Anambra State.

However, the Supreme Court had earlier held that the primaries conducted in Anambra State by Ejike Oguebego led PDP State Exco illegal. The Supreme Court made this pronouncement in the Appeal brought by Hon. Charles Odedo of Idemili North/South Federal Constuency against the election of Hon. Obinna Chidoka.

STELLA ODUAH

ORIGIN OF THE CRISIS

The Supreme Court is the apex court in Nigeria. Under Section 287(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) enjoins all authorities and organs in Nigeria to obey the judgment of the Supreme Court. In the fallout of the political crisis in the nomination of candidates in Anambra State for the 2015 elections, two parallel primaries were conducted to nominate flag-bearers of the party to contest the election.

One of the primaries was conducted by the embattled Anambra State Executive Committee of the PDP led by Ejike Oguebego. The other primary was conducted by the National Executive Committee of the PDP.

The primary conducted by the said National Executive Committee of the PDP saw the emergence of Dr. Andy Uba [PICTURED ABOVE], Stella Oduah [RIGHT], Obinna Chidoka and others as candidates for the election. On the other hand, the primaries conducted by the Anambra State Execuitive of the party led by Ejike Oguebego produced Chris Uba, John Emeka, Annie Okonkwo, Charles Odedo and others.

Before the primaries were held, Chief Oguebego had approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Hon. Justice Chukwu.

The Federal High Court in that case made an order restraining INEC from accepting any list of candidates emerging from primaries conducted by the Caretaker Committee set up by the PDP in Anambra State except the list emanating from the primaries conducted by the Oguebego led State Executive of the party.

There was an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Abuja, in respect of the matter that originated from the Federal High Court. At the Court of Appeal, Charles Odedo, one of the persons that emerged from the primaries conducted by Ejike Oguebego applied to be joined in the appeal. His application was refused and dismissed. He further took his grouse to the Supreme Court, asking the Supreme Court to make him a party in the proceedings.

The Supreme Court now had an opportunity to make a definitive pronouncement on the status of the primaries conducted by Ejike Oguebego led Anambra State Executive Committee of the PDP as opposed to the one conducted by the National Executive Committee of the party.

The pronouncement of the Supreme Court can be found and reported as Odedo v. Oguebego (2015) 13 NWLR (pt. 1476) 229 at 265-267 where the Supreme Court per Ogunbiyi JSC stated thus:

“It is the submission by the Appellant’s counsel that his client is a necessary party because he has substantial interest in the substantive appeal and a real and cogent connection, association or interrelation with the subject matter such that he will be materially affected by the outcome of the appeal. It is the Appellant’s contention also for instance that the interest he seeks to protect is a right to contest the 2015 general election. This is explicitly projected on the facts deposed to on the affidavit evidence in support of the motion for joinder at page 1060 of the third volume of the record of appeal wherein paragraphs 8 and 13 are specifically relevant and said:

8.That I took part and won the PDP primary election which was conducted under the Chairmanship of Ejike Oguebego, in line with the guidelines set by PDP for its primaries and INEC regulations.

13.That my name was forwarded by PDP to INEC. that my name was also published by INEC as the candidate who won the primaries under the Chairmanship of Ejike Oguebego.’

It is intriguing to restate that the entire reason for the application is predicated on the facts contained therein in paragraphs 8 and 13 of the affidavit supra. However, it is revealing also that the above averments have serious and legal implications on the appellant’s application.

it is deposed to clearly on the same affidavit per paragraph 1 that the deponent is the applicant in this application. At paragraph 9 of the said affidavit it is also confirmed by the applicant that :

“Ejike Oguebego is the substantive Chairman of PDP in Anambra State…”

On the affidavit evidence before us, the appellant has clearly shown that his emergence as a candidate for the election was as a result of the primaries conducted by the Anambra State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party.

As rightly submitted by the 4th respondent’s counsel therefore, the appellant has hoisted his application for joinder on the primaries conducted by the State Chapter of PDP.

This court had an occasion to consider the propriety of the Anambra State Executive Committee of PDP conducting a primary election for the nomination of the National Assembly candidates to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party in an election. This was in the case of Emeka v. Okadigbo (2012) 18 NWLR (pt. 1331) 55 or (2012) LPELR 9338 (SC) page 36. In that case, it was held that the Anambra State Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has no right whatsoever to conduct National Assembly primaries….

Suffice it to say that it is the National Executive Committee of the PDP that is imbued with the responsibility for the conduct of the Party’s National Assembly Primaries. Any purported attempt to conduct such primary by State Chapter of the PDP cannot be validly characterized as competent. The act is totally illegal and will confer no right as it is a nullity and also constituting an abuse of court process.” (underlining for emphasis)

In view of the above, Friday’s decision by the apex court has thrown the state into political confusion.

A popular interpretation of the decision is that it swept away a host of lawmakers from Anambra State, including the Senator representing Anambra North Senatorial District, Stella Oduah and her counterpart representing Anambra South Senatorial District, Andy Ubah. Also affected are members of the House of Representatives elected on the ticket of the PDP.

If followed by the Independent National Electoral Commssion, Chris Uba, younger brother to Andy Uba, and Prince Emeka will take over seats vacated by Andy Uba and Stella Oduah respectively, while Former Senator Annie Okonkwo is in line to represent the PDP in a forthcoming election to fill a senatorial seat held by Uche Ekwunife who was sacked last December by the Court of Appeal.

However, Barrister Ohaegbu told elombah.com, “INEC as a responsible organ of the State is bound to give effect to the above-cited Supreme Court decision, especially when the Commission was a party in the proceedings. It would be totally unlawful for INEC to accept list of National Assembly candidates from Chief Oguebego, the Chairman of the Anambra State Chapter of the PDP, the judgment of Hon. Justice Chukwu of the Federal High Court notwithstanding.

“This is so because the judgment of the Supreme Court arose from the proceedings conducted by Hon. Justice Chukwu being relied upon by Chief Oguebego. The case OF Odedo Vs. Oguebego (2015)13 NWLR (pt 1476) 229, per Ogunbiyi JSC and that of Emeka vs Okadigbo made it clear that the Anambra State Executive Committee of the People’s Democratic Party has no right whatsoever to conduct National Assembly primaries…

“As I have consistently maintained that the Supreme Court cannot make mistakes. The Supreme Court never chased anyone out of the National Assembly.”

In the midst of the confusion, the seeming beneficiaries of last weeks judgement while throwing parties are sending missives to INEC while the incumbent senators are sounding notes of warning to the electoral body.

Speaking to Elombah.com, Ms Oduah, former Minister of Aviation, decried the media hype that had been generated over the issue, saying it was needless.

Hear her: “I’m as surprised as many people who have been calling me. In all its entirety, it is false. I have gone through the court judgment and the judge clearly did not give any judgement to that effect. Indeed, what the judgment and the case is all about is state exco and as we all know, state exco do not do election, neither do they submit list.”

“So the issue of emergence of candidate, and the issue of candidates that won election was not the issue of this particular case. The Judge was very clear on its judgment and it clearly says its not about who emerges or the election but about the legality of the excos,” she said.

Echoing her position, Uba, argued that the dispute in the state did not affect the election, because the primaries were conducted by the national executives of the party. “It is the national executive of the party that conducts election. So, what the court decided was the issue of who is the chairman of the party and not who emerged in the primaries. The judgement did not affect us,” he said.

annie okonkwoANNIE OKONKWO

For their part, the All Progressives Congress (APC) have called on Chief Annie Okonkwo to prepare for elections.

In a statement made available to elombah.com today, the party said Annie Okonkwo was not even a candidate at the time the court of final jurisdiction annulled the election held in March 28, 2015 on December 7, 2015, “but is now a candidate by the implied provision of the Supreme Court judgment of January 29, 2016.”

“Therefore, we are not surprised that Annie Okonkwo rather than prepare for election  is involved in a cricket celebration, ordering swearing in clothes running into hundreds of millions of Naira, and making an acceptance speech that builds something on nothing”, the party stated.

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