CRS APC PRIMARIES: OSHIOMOLE”S ACHILLES’S HEELS.
Much has been said on the position of the law concerning the status of the Etim John-led Exco of the All Progressives Congress in the face of the conduct of primaries in the Cross River state Chapter of the party.
This may not be unconnected with the fact that an High Court of the Federal Capital, Bwari, Abuja had on September 20, 2018 delivered an interlocutory ruling,nullifying the congress earlier ordered by the party’s national headquarters,which produced the defunct Mathew Achigbe faction of the party in Cross River State. Apart from declaring the said congress a nulity having no effect whatsoever,the ruling ordered the party and all its organs to deal only with the Etim John-led State Executive committee of the party in all matters including nominations,and emphatically declared as a nulity any nomination made otherwise than through the aforesaid state Exco.The ruling similarly ordered INEC not to recognise any other state EXCO than the aforesaid state EXCO and to accordingly deal only with the EXCO.
This was the order before the party went into its primaries to nominate candidates for election to various elective offices.When therefore the National headquarters of the party appointed a primaries committee for the state to supervise the primaries in APC Cross River State, it was expected that the committee will hook up and deal only with the State Executive Committee of the APC Cross River State, and not with an illegal faction as it did in this case.
In contrast,using the guidelines made available by the national headquarters of the party,and with INEC officials in attendance to monitor the process, the state executive committee of the party proceeded and conducted the primaries in all the 196 wards of Cross River State.Rather than accept the result already achieved,the NWC primaries committee,which arrived Calabar on the date of the primaries,at first gave the impression that the primaries will be conducted using the illegal Mathew Achigbe-led Exco,on Monday,1st October 2018,only to turn up on Monday morning after the result of the previous day’s gubernatorial congress was released to newsmen,with a purported primaries result declaring Sent.Owan Eno,winner of a primaries that never held.
And on December 13, 2018 the same Court delivered judgement with consequential orders that:
- Nullified the purported State Congress conducted on August 22, 2018
- Ordered the defendant, APC to recognize and liase with Etim Goodwin John as the bonafide executive committee of Cross River State APC.
- The National Working Committee, NWC and INEC to receive all candidates emerged from Etim Godwin John led State executive for the 2019 elections.
To my mind,the authority that best speaks to the issues thrown up by the aforesaid development is the EJIKE OGUEBEGBE V.INEC case,where the Supreme Court on Friday,29th January,2016,nullified the elections of the Senator representing Anambra south,Andy Uba,and his Anambra Central counterpart,Stella Uduah,over pre-election irregularity of the type currently plaquing the CRS chapter of the APC.
In a unanimous judgment,the court said the sacked lawmakers were to be replaced by Chris Ubah (Anambra South) and Annie Okonkwo(Anambra Central).The third Senator from the state,Uche Ekwunife,had earlier been removed by the court of Appeal.All the three senators were elected on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party,PDP. PDP members of the House of Representatives were also fired.
FACTS OF OGUEBEGBE V.INEC.
The Supreme Court’s decision followed an appeal by a faction of the PDP in Anambra State led by Ejike Ogbuebegbe whose case for recognition as the authentic executive of the party in the state and therefore the right organ to conduct primary election prior to the 2015 election, was set aside by the court of Appeal in 2015.
A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Evoh Chukwu,had in a judgment delivered on 5/12/14 in suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/854/2014 filed by Mr Oguebego and the Legal Secretary of Anambra PDP,Chuks Okoye(For themselves and the State Executive Committee of the Party), affirmed Mr Oguebego’s leadership of the party.
The Appeal Court,in setting aside the judgment of the Federal High Court,recognised the PDP faction led by Augustine Akubundo and INEC, and therefore accepted the list of nominees for national Assembly posts from the faction.That list comprised Andy Uba,Stella Oduah and Uche Ekwunife as senatorial candidates.
Both factions of the PDP held separate primaries,but INEC accepted the list from Akubundo’s faction based on the verdict of the Appeal Court and recognition given to the faction by the national Secretariat of the PDP. Even after the Court of Appeal filled in favour of the Austin Akobundo faction,the Oguebego faction went ahead to conduct primary election because they were sure they would come out victorious at the end of the day.
The Oguebego faction held its own primary election on Saturday and Sunday December 6 and 7 2014,and selected its candidates for senate and House of Representatives.The primary election was monitored by INEC which eventually issued a report on the election.The election was held under the guidelines issued by the PDP headquarters.
The Oguebego primaries produced Chris Uba, John Emeka,and Annie Okonkwo as the senatorial candidates for Anambra south,central and north,respectively,in the March 28,2015 general election.Others such as Anayo Nnebe,Obinna Chidoka,Lynda Ikpeazu,Emeka Anohu,Eucharia Azodo,Chris Azubogu,amongst others,picked the ticket for the House of Representatives.
Instructively,the Supreme Court in its ruling,also reaffirmed the chairmanship of Mr Ejike Oguebego,as the authentic state chairman of the PDP in Anambra State,while declaring the list of candidates for various elective positions submitted by the other faction,illegal.
The decision of the apex court in the cited case is appossite and on all fours with the APC CRS experience.The cross River situation is even a more glaring experience as there is already an unambiguous, clear and positive ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction validating only the authenticity and actions of the Etim John-led CRS APC Exco.
It is not therefore out of place to advise the Mathew Achigbe group to rein in their activities and join the state exco of the party to build APC CRS to enviable heights,before it is too late.This is more so as all they have so far done to undermine the work of the authentic state exco is counterproductive,and liable to be set aside and declared a nulity by the court.
A stitch in time,saves nine!