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Published On: Wed, Dec 21st, 2016

Ugwuanyi’s fate hangs in the balance as Appeal Court fails to decide

The protracted legal tussle between the Enugu State governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and former senator representing Enugu North senatorial zone, Ayogu Eze is poised to last longer than anticipated as the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson last week Thursday, reserved judgment on an appeal filed by Eze seeking to remove Ugwuanyi from office.

In the appeal marked CA/A/157/2015, Eze had prayed the appellate court to remove Ugwuanyi from office as, according to him, he was the validly nominated candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the April 11, 2015 governorship election in the state, and not the incumbent governor.

Eze, through his lead counsel Mr. Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) contended in court that Ugwuanyi emerged candidate from a “fraudulent” primary conducted on December 8, 2014 by some leaders of the party whom he said simply handpicked him (Ugwuanyi) as candidate as the said primary election that produced him was according to him, conducted with fake list delegates. He insisted that the primary election held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enugu that produced the governor was in breach of section 87(4)(b)(I) of the Electoral Act.

According to him,  it was done in absolute disregard to the electoral guidelines for primary elections 2014 of the PDP and its constitution.

The former Senate spokesman equally alleged that Enugu State Electoral Panel of the PDP, in breach of a subsisting court judgment, discarded a list of duly elected delegates approved by a court of competent jurisdiction, and came up with an entirely different list of delegates which they claimed was handed over to them by the leadership of the party.

He insisted that no valid gubernatorial primary election of the party which the governor took part in took place in Enugu State on December 8, 2014, since according to him, no votes or results could have been recorded from the wrong delegates list.

He therefore prayed the court to set aside the judgment of Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja which had dismissed his suit against Ugwuanyi in March last year, 2015 and asked the court to validate the parallel primary held at Filbon Hotel, Enugu and consequently declare him as the governor elect of the state.

However, Governor Ugwuanyi, through his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) countered the argument and urged the court to dismiss the case as it was without merit.

Ugwuanyi equally filed an appeal marked CA/A/157b/2015, in which he challenged validity of the parallel primary election that produced Eze. He argued that Eze lacked the locus-standi to query his ticket since he did not participate in the primary conducted by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP having left the venue to go to Filbon Hotel.  He told the court that the former senator walked out on the committee and refused to participate in the primary.

He consequently produced the result of the primary he said was organized by the NWC of the party which contained names of all the governorship aspirants, including that of the former senator. The governor further noted although the document contained Eze’s name, no result was credited to him considering that he boycotted the process alongside another aspirant, Dr. Samuel Maduka Onyishi, who is the CEO of Peace Mass Transit Limited.

In a similar vein, the party through its lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) also sought the dismissal of Eze’s appeal. In an appeal marked CA/A/157a/2015, the party maintained that the high court which validated the said delegates list of Eze lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case because it borders on internal affair of a political party. After listening to all the parties in Thursday, a three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court led by Justice Akomolafe-Wilson reserved its judgment on the matter. The court said the judgment date would be communicated to all the parties.

It would be recalled that the state chapter of the PDP had towards the end of 2014, descended into crisis over who gets what in the run up to the 2015 general election, leading to the emergence of two factions of the party in the state, one led by the then governor, Bar Sullivan Chime and the other by the current Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

The fictionalisation was triggered by the sudden resignation of the party’s chairman in the state, Engr. Vitalis Ogbonnaya Abba who reportedly felt dissapointed that contrary to assurances by Chime that he would be be annointed for governor, the current governor, Ugwuanyi was eventually chosen instead of him.  In anger, Abba who at the time was the chairman of the party suddenly resigned his position.

In an attempt to prevent the party structure from falling into the hands of Ekweremadu who at the time was looking to retain his seat at the Senate having been disqualified from running for governor since it was zoned to Enugu North, Governor Chime who was also nursing senatorial ambition, quickly summoned an emergency State Executive Council meeting presided over by himself and elected Mr. Ikeje Asogwa, the then managing director of Enugu State Housing Development Cooperation as the new chairman, bypassing the Deputy Chairman, Mr. David Aja who was perceived to be loyal to Ekweremadu.

Aja, however, insisted that he remained chairman as long as Abba’s resignation stood and described the election of Asogwa as “illegal, null and void” as  according to him, it did not comply with the PDP Constitution.

Mr. Aja, who was at the meeting, maintained that he remained the authentic acting chairman of the party in line with section 47 (1) of the PDP constitution. He argued argued that he was the one duly empowered to convene the SEC meeting in the event of the resignation of the chairman and not the secretary or any other person. The meeting had also adopted Ugwuanyi as its consensus governorship candidate.

“I told them that under section 45 (1) of the party’s constitution, if the national chairman resigns, the deputy chairman takes over,” he had said.

“Even if it is for one day and he should be the one to convene the National Executive Committee (NEC) where a new national chairman will be elected, but they turned down my submission.”

Following the development, the party broke into two factions with Aja as chairman of one and Asogwa heading the other.

Accordingly, Ekweremadu, Ayogu Eze and the rest who felt cheated out of Chime’s plans rallied behind Aja. Aware of the constitutional and legal advantage they had, the Aja faction quickly held ward Congresses on November 1, 2014 and elected delegates for the party’s primaries ahead of 2015 polls and subsequently took the list of elected delegates to a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for confirmation. The plan of the group had been to produce Ekweremadu as senatorial candidate for Enugu West Senatorial zone and for Eze who is also from Enugu North as Ugwuanyi to run for governor.

However, after a long rift, the Asogwa and Chime probably having realized that that they were holding the wrong side of the stick decided to make peace with Aja and Ekweremadu. Chime shelved his senatorial ambition and endorsed Ekweremadu, the Senator in turn endorsed his choice candidate for governor, Ugwuanyi and the duo made peace leading to the unification of the two factions.

But as it turned out, Eze who had begun pursuing his governorship ambition under the Aja faction insisted on not backing down for Ugwuanyi.

On the day for the party’s primary, it happened that the party came up delegates list different from one that the Aja faction had drawn up and taken to an Abuja High Court for confirmation. Consequently, many of the delegates were stranded at the entrance of Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, venue of the primary election.

According to Eze, these “frustrated” delegates called him to Filbon Hotel where they had gathered to ponder on their next move to address them and when he arrived, they said they wanted to hold the primary there and in the end, he was elected as the party’s candidate

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