Abe says court did not ask Tonye Cole and Co to return to ballot, but APC insists


There is jubilation all over Rivers State after the Federal Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt awarded a ‘stay’. This is the robe that the Rivers APC (Amaechi faction) needed desperately to hang on till the Supreme Court would speak. All other courts had ruled against the party to the extent that all their candidates were WAFfed.

Just as the jubilation was going on, a statement emanated from Mangus Abe, the senator that may not be senator anymore from February 16, except something goes right. He wanted to contest for governor but ran into a hitch because he led his own faction, conducted his own primaries and his name has not got anywhere near the gate of INEC, let alone the ballot papers. It is not clear if Abe is a senator, a governorship candidate or a Wike ally for 2023. One of these will materialize as time goes on.

Abe, presently representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, said in a statement signed by his media team that the ruling of the Court of Appeal granting stay of execution to enable the All Progressives Congress (APC) appear on the ballot box in Rivers State was noted and welcomed as the court did not restore the name of anyone but merely gave a stay to enable the party prepare for the forthcoming general elections.

Abe, according to Parry Saroh Benson, said the Court of Appeal did not order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to restore names of candidates for the 2019 Governorship, State House of Assembly and National Assembly elections. He said that it had always been of his view that what was required in APC Rivers is a dispassionate review of the issues in contention so that a clear and definite decision could be made on those to fly the flag of the party in the forthcoming elections.

Many understood this to be a call for dialogue in the APC and harmonizing the factions and choosing the candidates to be submitted to INEC. He does not seem to agree with the Amaechi camp that the ruling implied that the status quo in INEC ballot be maintained, which would mean, all names go back to the ballot.

He said; “The facts are simple and sacred. A faction of the party led by the Minister of Transportation and the DG of the Presidential Campaign conducted congresses and indirect primaries in clear and open violation of the orders of a court of competent jurisdiction. This was done in the full glare of the entire country”.

According to Abe, the issue was taken up to the Supreme Court, and the court in its wisdom held that having disobeyed the court so openly they were not entitled to any relief from the courts. “This position was clearly set out in Ibrahim Umar & Ors Vs. APC as reported in Part 1650, 18. Nigerian weekly law reports at page 139”, he maintained.

He went further to say that all the actions based on that illegality were voided and remained void. “The judgment that is now being stayed was based in part on that position of the Supreme Court”. However, he stated, “What Nigerians are witnessing now is a desperate attempt to reverse the law to get the President to raise the hand of candidates that the law has said does not exist. The President’s decision to abide strictly to the correct legal position is the reason for the current pressure on the Judiciary”.

Senator Abe who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on FERMA congratulated their Lordships for the decision which according to him, is in line with the position of all Nigerians that APC must be on the ballot in Rivers State. He further stated that the application to declare any faction as the authentic candidates of the party was specifically rejected.  “That issue is the subject of series of pending litigations before Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal”, Abe added

“The main issue that must now agitate the minds of Nigerians is the position of the Supreme Court on the matter moving forward. Will the Supreme Court turn around to tell Nigerians that its former position on the consequences of disobedience to the orders of the courts no longer holds? Or can the court of appeal now overturn an existing judgment of the Supreme Court? “The indirect primaries did not hold by law, but the APC conducted a valid, and lawful direct primaries that clearly puts the APC on the ballot without legal entanglements.

“Let me assure all lovers of justice that a change of the judges does not automatically translate into a change of the law. Therefore, we should all remain calm. The struggle for justice in the party will continue until victory is achieved”, he stated.

His mention of the ‘change of judges’ was understood by many as the issues around the Chief Justice of Nigeria 9CJN). If it is so, it is instructive. The other remark is that the president has decided that only the correct legal interpretation is what he will support. This confirms rumours that Buhari does not want to get involved in the Amaechi/Abe imbroglio, meaning that whoever wins in court will be allowed to march forward. This could explain why both parties are acting their fiercest without fear of it being dubbed anti-party. So, whatever you can do within the courts to win, you go ahead and show the result to the president? This must be Treasure Hunt.

The catch 22 is; without specific declaration by the Court of Appeal asking INEC to return Amaechi camp’s names, would INEC return them by mere understanding that the judge said so? Its important to read Abe’s lips. Another angle someone mentioned is, do you stay an execution that has been executed? Abe and Wike who actually owns the case have enough lawyers and contacts to use such snags to cause havoc. Is the coast clear yet for Tonye Cole and Amaechi?

Whatever, the Amaechi camp is going ahead with their celebrations. Chris Finebone, the publicity secretary, said any APC member that is not happy with the ‘stay’ victory the party secured at the Court of Appeal is not a member. He said it all; the stay is to allow all appeals resolve themselves. This means what Omotosho ordered should not be executed, and nothing more.

His full response: “The essence of a ‘Stay of Execution’ is to ensure that ultimately justice is not denied the person who has sought justice in court just because of time. Therefore, a ‘Stay’ helps to preserve the status quo such that he or she who is seeking justice does not still lose out because the matter has been overtaken by time.

“In the matter in question, the Federal Appeal Court said that it had to grant a ‘Stay’ considering that all parties appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court (Justice Omotosho) and that it will be unfair not to grant a ‘Stay of Execution’ of the judgment. That speaks for itself.

“The governorship candidates of the APC, Tonye Cole, and others applied for a ‘Stay’ to preserve the status quo and the court agrees, so be it. It simply means that nothing should change as a result of the judicial pronouncement of Justice Omotosho.

“If the individual you mentioned is canvassing anything against the granting of the ‘Stay’ which Tonye Cole and others applied for on behalf of Rivers APC, then the person is simply re-enacting the exact Biblical position of the woman who agreed that King Solomon should cut the child into two halves knowing full well that the child would be dead by so doing.

“In conclusion, I have said it elsewhere that anyone who claims to be a member of Rivers APC who is unhappy with the ‘Stay of Execution’ granted our party to enable the party have candidates in the 2019 elections, such a person has only succeeded in making a nonverbal statement. You can make your conclusions by putting two and two together.”

Cole’s position that; “We were up against it. We still are…” however seems to be an important interpretation. Road blocks still lie ahead because whoever is Amaechi’s enemy is still strong, alive and kicking. What matters is who will hold the four aces at last.