* Issues of ‘representation’ and jurisdiction’ now to be determined by Supreme Court
By Jeremy Godson
A big reprieve seems to have come the way of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State following its first ever victory in any court in Rivers State since may 2018. The federal appeal court in Port Harcourt has granted the party’s stay of execution to a federal high court order barring the party from presenting any candidate in the upcoming elections at both state and federal levels.
This leaves the key issues pending at the Supreme Court (representation and jurisdiction) to remain the planks of judgment at the apex court. The APC is contending that the person that represented the party at the Rivers High Court as lawyer was not mandated to do so, and that the high court had no jurisdiction to hear it, being a pre-election matter.
The matter seemed lost in the past few weeks as court after court including the Supreme Court granted one verdict or the other against the APC in the matter concerning its congresses in the state and the primaries. Magnus Abe of the same APC had secured an order at the state’s high court nullifying the congresses conducted after an order stopping it. The went up to the Supreme Court for stay of execution but the APC lost all the way.
Leveraging on this, Gov Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party went to the federal high court in the state to argue that since the primaries o delegates for the primaries were conducted by a nullified executive body, that the candidates that emerged were illegitimate.
The court agreed and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove all APC candidates out of the ballot. The action seriously dampened the mood of the party as none of their candidates was allowed to campaign. The wind blew in favour of the PDP that appeared like a sole party. Even the BBC deleted the APC from their debates.
Efforts to bring the party back to the ballot have been arduous starting from the happenings at the Supreme Court. When the appeal court tried to hear the matter last week Tuesday, a section of lawyers disrupted the proceedings under the NBA boycott of courts. The judge was furious.
The matter was moved to Friday, February 1, 2019 and ruling was moved to Monday, February 4, 2019. by 1pm, the Justice, Ali Gumel, began reading the verdict under tight security.
Immediately after, the Tonye Cole camp reacted, describing their ‘profound satisfaction’. The court had stayed the execution of the judgment of the Federal High Court which Ogbonnaya Nwuke for the camp said had stood between the APC and its right to participate in the forthcoming general elections in Rivers State. “In what was obviously an attempt to deny the Rivers people of their right to choose in an election year, the PDP and its leadership in the most bizarre manner moved to foreclose the participation of the APC in the electoral process. We are therefore elated by the ruling of the Court of Appeal which has responsibly removed all legal encumbrances that were hindering the progress of the APC in Rivers State.”
In his own reaction, Cole said all thanks should go first of all to God, and described the judge as brave.
The APC in official statement however said; “We have always said that the wheel of justice may grind slowly, sometimes annoyingly slowly, but surely justice comes ultimately. We believe that today’s judgment has vindicated APC in Rivers State. Now, anyone who has carefully and painstakingly followed our pending matter at the Supreme Court, especially, during the last sitting before the apex court reserved ruling, will easily and safely conclude that our victory at the Supreme Court is only a matter of time. The key issues of ‘representation’ and ‘jurisdiction’ which Justice Chiwendu Nworgu deliberately overlooked in tailoring his judgment to fit into a predetermined purpose, and yet bandy it as a consent judgment, will be completely deconstructed by the excellent legal minds on the Supreme Court bench. In this particular case, the end will justify our dogged efforts as we shall, once again, prevail by God’s grace!”
The PDP has cut back on the jubilation of the APC by promising to inflict heavy defeat on them at the polls.
The Rivers State PDP Campaign Council is aware of the order of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt granting stay of execution of the judgement of the Federal High Court obtained by the PDP against the APC in the State and we are not perturbed or worried in any way because it will not affect the fortunes of the PDP in the elections, says the Commissioner of Information, and PDP’s director of communications, Barr Emma Okah.
The guaranteed victory of the PDP in the forthconing elections is built on the strength of the Party and not on the weakness or unavailability of any political party or candidate. That is why the PDP is campaigning as if all the parties are in the ballot from the beginning. We are glad that we didn’t take anything for granted.
This was stated today in a press statement issued by the Director of Information and Communications of the State PDP Campaign Council Barr Emma Okah.
“The accumulated strength and capacity of the PDP in Rivers State is overwhelming and will defeat any political party or coalition that fields any candidate against the PDP in the 2019 polls” Okah said, noting that the APC in Rivers State is a perforated jumbo jet that cannot lift from the run way.
The projects executed by the Gov Nyesom Ezenwo administration in all the various local government areas of the State are too loud to be ignored.
According to Okah, since the campaigns began, the people of Rivers State have been showing much appreciation to the PDP for the life-changing projects the governor planted in all nooks and cranies of the state. So the projects will speak for the PDP at the polls and we challenge the APC to show their projects to the people.
Okah assured the people of Rivers State that the PDP train will continue to operate at top speed until the journey is completed.