Recently, the Court of Appeal delivered judgment in a case between two factions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State, represented by Valentine Ozigbo and Ugochukwu Uba, wherein the court upheld Ozigbo as the authentic candidate of the party for the November 6 election.
The decision threw the Ozigbo camp into a frenzy, especially among his uninformed supporters, while the Uba camp was left to lick its wounds with a N10m cost in damages.
Crux of the matter was the election of two candidates for the November election by the PDP. The party had split, on the orders of court, prior to the June 26 primary election of the party in Anambra. Both primary elections held the same day but at different venues. They were also observed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Uba happened because a high court sacked the Ndubuisi Nwobu-led executive of PDP in the state and announced another person, an agent of Chris Uba, as party chairman. Consequence of the development was that PDP held two separate primary elections, one by the National Working Committee of the party, which had appealed against the high court order, and another by the faction loyal to Chris Uba.
However, efforts to get the high court to stay execution of its order pending appeal failed. The judge insisted that his decision must be executed to the letter. He acted with draconian fiat. He refused to see the problem he was judicially creating for the party in Anambra. But that has always been the way of judges in Nigeria. The judge was adamant and unwavering on his insistence. But the problem had been created.
To fix the problem, Uba sought to enforce his rights as ‘authentic’ candidate of the party. He secured an order of a high court restraining INEC from recognising Ozigbo, but him, as PDP candidate. Attempts by Ozigbo to set the order aside failed at the high court and necessitated a move up the judiciary ladder. That move ended in Ozigbo’s favour. However, prior to the decision, the high court order that created Uba’s faction in the PDP had been set aside, also, by a Court of Appeal. In that judgment, the appellate court also restored the Nwobu executive to its original position as authentic leadership of PDP, whose four-year mandate lapses on December 5, 2021. Legally, by the fact of the action of the Court of Appeal in setting aside the order that created the Uba faction and restored Nwobu to his position, it meant that Uba’s claim to being PDP candidate collapsed. By implication, it meant that the decision of court affirming Ozigbo as candidate was mere academic and fait accompli. The foundation of the matter had been destroyed and there was nothing for it to stand on.
The wider implication of the decision is that Ozigbo was properly positioned to face the reality of the legal challenges to the legality and constitutionality of the June 26 primary election that produced Ozigbo. So, it is not yet party time for the party.
This is because, having identified Ozigbo, and not Uba, as the candidate of the PDP, the other cases instituted against PDP, Ozigbo and INEC seeking to put an end to Ozigbo’s celebratory dance, can now go on. These cases would have ended naturally had the court ruled that Ina was the candidate. Here, I refer to cases instituted by one of the aspirants to the June 26 primary election, Genevieve. Piqued by the conduct of that primary election, Genevieve approached a high court seeking an order restraining Ozigbo from parading himself as PDP candidate on the grounds that the conduct of the primary election did not meet statutory requirements of the constitution of the PDP for the conduct of primary elections. Besides Genevieve, there are other stakeholders, specifically, statutory delegates of the PDP, who had also gone to court seeking an order cancelling out the June 26 primary election on same grounds of having not complied with the statutory requirements of the constitution of the PDP. These are where the hurdles are.
In the case instituted by Genevieve, which joined all other aspirants that participated in the primary as defendants, including Philip Shuaibu, the deputy governor of Edo State, who himself constituted a one-man committee that conducted the primary election, Genevieve argues that the primary was held without statutory delegates, as legally required by the PDP constitution, but with an amorphous group called ‘super delegates,’ which itself is not known to the PDP constitution or any other law for that matter.
She also contends that the PDP constitution was jettisoned in the conduct of the June 26 primary to the point that the ‘state congress’ was disregarded in the conduct of the primary as required of the party by its own constitution. These, among many other weighty issues, like the non-formation of quorum, as required by the party constitution, are reasons Genevieve is asking the court to declare the June 26 primary null and void and invalid.
Also, the statutory delegates who are in court are seeking similar reliefs on almost similar grounds. They contend very strongly that their legal rights as statutory delegates of the party, with privilege to elect the party’s candidate, were flagrantly violated, and with crass impunity by the Uche Secondus-led PDP when, through a published statement, they were improperly set aside and denied their rights to vote at the primary election.
Beside the above, the issue of who is the chairman of the PDP, as at June 26, which conducted the primary that produced Ozigbo, is still in court. That matter, in its own, pulls the carpet from under Ozigbo’s feet, except there is a special arrangement through which the devil could be in church on Sunday and receive communion too.
This is because, prior to the primary election, specifically on June 25, a High Court had enrolled a judgment upholding Nwobu’s election as chairman of PDP in Anambra State. The court further entered a perpetual injunction restraining everyone, no matter his or her position, from interfering with, or bridging, or stopping Nwobu from executing the functions of his office as party chairman, one of which is to chair the state congress and oversee the conduct of the party’s primary election. That order, duly secured and served on all parties, was also flagrantly ignored by the PDP leadership by going ahead to hold the primary election without Nwobu’s participation.
In sacking Nwobu through a press statement, PDP violated his rights as party chairman and also abused, with impunity, the perpetual injunction against it. By interfering in Nwobu’s functions as chairman, the PDP leadership created a problem for Ozigbo who is now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either way, head or tail, he meets a legal brick wall that would end his dance too early. This is because, having conducted the June 26 primary in violation of the restraining order against it, the PDP leadership destroyed the foundation upon which Ozigbo’s certificate of return as winner of a primary election stands. And, normally, no one builds on quicksand.