The major political parties contesting for the Anambra Central Senatorial seat have expressed mixed feelings towards the announcement of a date for the re-run election amidst controversial court judgements.
The election has been delayed by legal battles since the Court of Appeal sacked Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, as winner of the seat on December 7, 2015.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has fixed January 13 for the conduct of the re-run election to fill the vacant seat.
INEC’s decision followed a judgement by the Appeal Court which on November 21, 2017 ordered the commission to conduct a re-run election within 90 days.
Three weeks later, another judgement emerged from the Federal High Court ordering INEC to issue the Certificate of Return to Obiora Okonkwo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the validly elected senator for the district. Mr. Okonkwo had contested the PDP ticket with Ms. Ekwunife
INEC has not publicly announced if it would abide by the High Court judgement but the commission on January 4 commenced training of National Youth Service Corps members to serve as polling officials for the controversial rerun election. The move raised insinuations that INEC was going ahead with election.
The commission’s Head of Publicity in Anambra State, Leo Nkife, said the training exercise was an internal preparation by the commission and not in disobedience of any court order.
“INEC is still studying the two judgement from the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court Abuja,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in Awka on Thursday.
“We are a law-abiding agency and we are optimistic that with the resumption of work next week, the court will resolve every outstanding issue. What we are doing is an internal thing and every other thing after now is subject to the interpretation of the ruling by the two courts,” he said.
Some of the major political parties who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES expressed worry at INEC’s decision to go ahead with the election.
INEC must abide by High Court judgement – PDP
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, Kola Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said the party had written INEC to demand enforcement of the High Court order.
“The party has written INEC requesting that the certificate of return be issued to our candidate in line with the decision of the court. That is the position of PDP for now.”
In a letter sighted by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, PDP’s Obiora Okonkwo asked INEC to halt the planned re-run elections and obey a High Court judgement directing he be issued a Certificate of Return as the senator-elect for the seat.
The letter by Sebastian Hon and Festus Keyamo warned INEC that conducting the election will be “disastrous” for the commission.
He maintained that the commission has no justifiable reason to go ahead with the election since he has filed a suit against INEC and other political parties to stop the controversial re-run election.
“Is there any justifiable reason again, Hon. Chairman, to insist on the commission going on with this re-run? We strongly think not; and we hereby WARN IN UNMISTAKEN TERMS that going on with the re-run election will be legally and even morally disastrous for the commission and your good person,” the letter said.
“We do hope you and your commissioners and all decision-makers of the commission will appreciate the implication of going on with the planned re-run in spite of the weighty legal and factual issues raised in this letter.”
Mr. Ologbondiyan said the PDP will not be party to any other decision of INEC different from a return of certificate to its candidate.
“That will be presumptuous, we have to wait till when they want to go ahead,” he said when asked of the party’s next line of action if INEC goes ahead with the election.
We are not subordinate to INEC – APC
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress, APC, on its part said its interest does not lie in any of the latest court judgements as it has a pending court case to determine a replacement of its candidate in the re-run election.
An official of the party, Okelo Madukaife, in a phone interview on Sunday said the APC was not subordinate to INEC.
“We are not subordinate to INEC, we are not subject to INEC. Our party is our party. And our party is at the Court of Appeal trying to enforce our right to substitute our candidate after the withdrawal of Chris Ngige.
We are hopeful that there ought to be a pronouncement before any legal election takes place in Anambra Central.”
Stating that there are no conflicting judgements, Mr. Madukaife challenged INEC on why the commission has refused to obey the ruling from the High Court.
“There are no two conflicting judgements, there are two judgements on two different subjects, they don’t conflict. Our party is not partnering with any because our interest does not lie in any. Our interest lies in a larger umbrella of protecting the rule of law.
“There was a judgement of December 7 2015 which said elections should be repeated in 90 days. That judgement was obeyed by INEC. Another judgement came from another High Court which ordered INEC to list PDP as a contestant in the election. At that point, INEC did not see any conflict even though it was a different order from a different court. They obeyed.
“They did the election and went to defend their position at the Supreme Court until the matter was disposed of. Now, there is a different case altogether which is a pre-election matter coming from another High Court which INEC obeyed in the past.
“INEC has a duty to either vacate that order or respond to the issues until all the matters are figured out.
That does not mean that we agree with the subject of that judgement, but it remains an order that needs to be disposed.
“However, our interest lies in the matter that is in the Court of Appeal. Since Chris Ngige has withdrawn, the party has a right to replace him. INEC does not agree with that and we don’t agree with INEC on that. We are looking forward to have a judgement before any lawful election.”
Mr. Madukaife could not state what next line of action his party would take if INEC goes ahead with the election.
“As a matter of politics, we do not swing to the hypothetical, we will take it one day at a time,” he said.
We stand with INEC – APGA
For the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, the matter was long settled since INEC is set for a re-run election.
Despite the High Court judgement which ordered that the PDP candidate be issued certificate of return, the party is getting set for the election.
APGA’s National Director of Publicity, Ifeanacho Oguejiofor, speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday said all parties with grievances on INEC’s decision should approach the court.
“Our position is that INEC has already fixed a date (for election) and whoever feels otherwise should go to court. We are already on ground. INEC has already marshalled out a time-table for this election and INEC has not come out to say otherwise. Whatever anyone is saying is an insinuation, so, let’s take it as an insinuation,” he said.
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