– Says INEC broke from tradition by obeying court order when there is pending appeal
– Says courts in PH seemed to single out APC, ignored subsection 10 of the Electoral Act
– Rivers Govt urges APC to look elsewhere for their problems and leave Wike alone
By Codratus Godson
The forum of de-listed candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State still angry for being deleted from the ballot for the upcoming state and national elections have issued a huge threat warning the electoral umpire to return them on the ballot or forget elections in Rivers State.
The forum also demanded for enough time to also campaign like other political parties in the state in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act or they should forget the elections.
Addressing a crowded press conference on Thursday, January 24, 2019, at the Tonye Cole campaign headquarters on Woji Road close to where the 7-seven storey building collapsed recently in Port Harcourt, the forum members said the courts in Port Harcourt, both state and federal, have appeared hostile to the APC.
In a three-page speech read by Henry Odili, the de-listed candidate representing Onelga/Ohoada West Federal Constituency, gave three conditions the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would need to meet. He said: “In light of the above, we demand the following: that INEC should with immediate effect and with apology to the APC and Rivers people re-list APC candidates in Rivers State for the 2019 General Elections; that INEC should give the same enabling time and environment for political campaigns to the APC in Rivers State as they have given to the PDP and other parties; and that failing the above two demands, there should be no National Assembly, State Assembly and Governorship elections in Rivers State until all the cases pending before various courts have gone through their course to the apex court for final decisions, and our right to fair hearing guaranteed”.
Speaking further, Odili pointedly accused the state governor, Nyesom Wike, of being behind the crisis in the party and the behaviour of the courts to the party. He said the recent happenings in Rivers State and the judicial pronouncements have clearly shown to the world the person behind the intra-party issues within Rivers State APC and what the fellow hoped to achieve from it, which is to exclude the APC from participating in the 2019 elections for fear of his ‘guaranteed loss’ at the election because of poor performance in government. “We are surprised that Gov. Wike who prides himself as “Mr. Projects” and the PDP that claims to be the popular party in Rivers State are afraid to go into a free and fair election/contest in Rivers State with the APC. It is on record that Gov. Wike boasted and informed his party (PDP) members who have also made it their mantra long before Justice Nworgu gave his infamous judgment that APC would not have any candidates in Rivers State to run against him and other PDP candidates. And what has transpired between him, the courts, and INEC is a manifestation of this boast and his trepidation of going into election against APC candidates in Rivers State.”
The forum wondered why INEC decided to obey court orders when the orders had been challenged before various courts especially at the highest court in the land. “The electoral law gives political parties rights to carry out the process of nominating candidates for election in accordance with their own guidelines. Also the electoral law, recognizing that the electoral process is a time limited event arising from the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution (1999), was crafted such that the courts would not interfere with it, but the courts in Rivers State have willfully violated this, thereby affecting the rights of Rivers people to freely choose their leaders/representatives.
“We are aware that no section in the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) or the 1999 Constitution empowered INEC or the courts to de-list any duly nominated candidate whose name had been submitted by the party and acknowledged by INEC without their voluntary withdrawal or death. We are also aware that there was no suit, not to talk of (let alone) a subsisting court order, stopping APC from holding primaries in Rivers State. This is notwithstanding the fact that S. 87 (10) of the Electoral Act 2010, (as amended) clearly prohibits the Courts from stopping the holding of the primaries of any political party even pending the determination of any suit in Court.
“Thus, the recent premature action by INEC to de-list our National Assembly candidates from participating in the election without waiting for the plethora of cases pending before various courts to take their course through the apex court for final decisions all in a hurried bid to satisfy Gov. Wike is an invitation to anarchy which should be avoided. What INEC has done in this regard is to destroy or tamper with the “Res” of our appeals without their being fully determined.”
The de-listed candidates traced the political crisis in the state since 2012 and said there is too much bloodshed in the land and that over 1000 have died violently. They warned that the blood of more people in the coming elections would be demanded on the hands of those manipulating the courts and INEC.
The text said: “The law is supposed be to blind and without respect of persons, but in Rivers State, it has sight and is bent on recognizing only the person of Gov.Wike and his co-travelers but we leave that to God, the righteous Judge. We decry the unwarranted interruption of our campaigns by the courts in Rivers State but have obeyed it as law abiding citizens. However, the electoral guidelines published by INEC specify given periods for campaigns by political parties, hence we would also warn that we shall take same time to campaign from the day the order is lifted as what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.”
Answering questions, the members said the problems were from external sources because the APC did not have any problem with its primaries. They said they would not say what they would do if their demands were not met, until then.
On the vexed clause (Section 87 (10), they said their lawyers had pointed it out to show that the case was pre-election matter that should not be handled by the courts but that they were surprised that the courts in Rivers State ignored it and gave judgments.
Carry your cross and leave Wike alone; results will be lanlside
Reacting, Emma Okah, the director of communications of the Rivers PDP Campaign Council warned the embattled APC candidates to face their problems with courage by clearing the mess they allegedly brought upon their party instead of blaming Gov Wike for their woes.
Okah said the aspirants were being haunted by their greed and inordinate ambition to reap where they did not sow in the APC. He denied that Gov Wike was colluding with INEC or meddling in the affairs of the APC. “These candidates are being clever by half. They are running and they know what is chasing them. They know what they did in the APC to give rise to what befell the party” Okah said, pointing out that they need to summon the courage to eat the sour food they cooked for themselves.
According to Okah, Gov Wike has no hand in the self-inflicted problem the APC brought upon itself through recurring acts of impunity, lack of respect for the judiciary, and want of internal democracy in their party. “Wike is not a member of APC. He never asked the APC to disobey court order or refuse to resolve internal problems.”
Going further, Okah said this latter day lamentation was understandable and pathetic but could somebody tell them that those who play God dance the music the gods play for them. He advised them to appease their party men and seek the face of God.
“On the threat by the aspirants to disrupt the polls if they are not restored in the ballot,” Okah said it would be a joke taken too far, describing them as unrepentant products of lawlessness, impunity and disorder. According to Okah, no amount of press conference or insults on Gov Wike by these aspirants would stop Gov Wike from reaping the fruit of support and solidarity which the people of Rivers State have placed at his disposal. The result will be a landslide victory in the forthcoming polls.”