Publish Valentine Ozigbo’s Name-Court Orders INEC

*Affirms Him As PDP candidate

By Ernest Omoarelojie

A Federal High Court sitting in Awka, the Anambra state capital, has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to publish the name of Valentine Ozigbo as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the November 6 governorship election.
The court gave the order on Monday after considering Ozigbo’s petition.
An Abuja Federal High Court had on Thursday, July 15, restrained INEC from publishing Ozigbo’s name as the candidate of the PDP in a suit that was however, withdrawn on Friday, July 16.
Valentine Ozigbo, the immediate past President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc, emerged the PDP candidate for the Anambra state governorship election after polling the majority of votes at the party’s primary election held on Saturday, June 26, 2021, at the Prof Dora Akunyili Women Development Center, Awka. Following the outcome and sequel to his victory’s certification by the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, he received his certificate of return from the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. However, another governorship aspirant, Chief Ugochukwu Uba, approached the court to seek an interim order for Ozigbo’s non-recognition as candidate of the party.
On Monday, July 5, the court granted Uba’s interim order which put a hold on Ozigbo’s status as PDP candidate for the November 6 governorship election. However, in granting the order, the presiding judge, Justice Obiora A. Nwabunike, averred that it subsist for 7 days in line with order 40, Rule 3(3) of the High Court Civil Procedure Rules which by procedure, the court is at liberty to renew. Otherwise it stands terminated.
On Monday, July 20, the court declined to renew the interim order, effectively conferring legitimacy on the status of Ozigbo as the candidate of the PDP.
“The order which restrained the Peoples Democratic Party from presenting, receiving, parading or accepting Valentine Ozigbo as the authentic governorship candidate for Anambra state stands vacated,” a party chieftain enthused after the ruling.

… Macabre Judicial Dance Unfolds
Meanwhile, a macabre judicial dance appears to be unfolding in the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, particularly with regards to who emerges as its candidate in the November 6 governorship election. The answer to the question, who is APGA’s candidate, is more like a bubble.
On Friday, July 16, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, listed Chief Chukwuma Umeoji in place of former Central Bank Governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, as candidate of the party. Among others, it cited court rulings as the basis.
While speaking with Seun Okinbaloye of Channels Television, Barr. Festus Okoye, Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, disclosed that the electoral body acted on the basis of a court order in taking a decision on APGA.
INEC also pointed at specific electoral provision as guiding light for its decision. For instance, it noted that it relied on the sections which stipulate that only authentic leadership of any party can submit details of its governorship candidate which, in the Anambra case, is the Jude Okeke-led faction, as ordered by a Jigawa state federal high court.
But among others, the court ordered INEC to publish the name of Chief Chukwuma Umeoji, currently representing Aguata Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, who emerged the party’s flag bearer in a parallel primary in Awka, as the party’s candidate.
“…we acted on the basis of two court orders, one from Jigawa state which affirmed that Chief Jude Okeke was the acting national chairman of the party. In the judgement, INEC was mandated to relate with the faction and also give cognizance to any party primary organized or conducted under the leadership. The judgement has not been upturned. But if a valid court order comes up tomorrow telling us that the candidate whose name we’ve published is no longer the candidate, and another candidate’s name is given, we will definitely comply,” Okoye disclosed.
But Soludo went on another federal high court to challenge the decision of INEC, insisting that his name should be listed as the authentic candidate. On Monday, the Court, sitting in Awka and presided over by Justice C. C. Okaa, ruled in his favour.
“What happened was that Justice C. C. Okaa of Awka High Court ruled that Jude Okeke and Umeoji are meddlesome interlopers. He ruled that Chukwuma Soludo is the authentic APGA 0candidate and therefore reinstated him”, Secretary of APGA in the state, Anthony Ifeanya, said.

…Okeke-led faction Kicks, Dismisses Ruling, Says Existing Order Subsists
Apparently amused by the outcome, the Jude Okeke-led faction of the party, dismissed the order as an exercise in futility. National Publicity Secretary of the faction, Ikechukwu Chukwunyere, said there is a subsisting high ucourt judgment which has not been vacated. Chukwunyere, who briefed newsmen in Abuja shortly after the ruling in Awka, noted that as a court with the same jurisdiction, the earlier judgment can’t be dismissed as according to him, only a higher court can vacate it.
“We have invited you here today to brief you on the happenings in our party and the desperation of some anti-democratic forces to desecrate the judiciary and jettison the rule of law principle which is fundamental in a democracy.
On Friday, 16th July, 2021 the Independent National Electoral Commission published the list of candidates for the Anambra State Governorship election in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines for the election,” Chukwuyere said.
A non partisan lawyer, Barr Chris Egbeyon Aghughu agrees with the position of Chukwunyere. Aghughu who practices in Benin City, noted that only a higher court has the power to overturn a ruling by a federal high court.
“It has no such power. It’s only the appeal court that can upturn a decision taken by a federal high court,” Aghughu said.
Whatever the case is, the unfolding drama in APGA remains one which only the Judiciary will resolve, at least, to redeem its image. promises to keep its esteemed readers abreast.

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