All seems not to be well with the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the Monday, January 7, 2019, Federal High Court ruling that the party cannot present any candidate in the state during the 2019 general elections.
However, the leadership of the party in the state said it would appeal against the judgement.
Following the ruling of the court, political parties in the state are taking advantage of the crisis in the APC to woo voters to their side.
As it stands, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), aside other parties, stands the chance of winning nearly all the electoral seats in the state if the situation does not change before the elections.
In a statement issued on its website, the Rivers State chapter of the PDP said the judgement was a right step in the right direction.
Commenting on the ruling, counsel to PDP, Dike Udena, expressed satisfaction, saying the APC failed to comply with the electoral act.
Taking advantage of the situation, a chieftain and founding member of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Dr. Acho Nwokogba, called on patriotic and visionary members of the APC in Rivers State to join ADP en masse.
Nwokogba said the ADP had demonstrated commitment, organisation and focus, attributes he said had made the party a credible alternative to the major parties.
He said, “We hate to sound like we are beneficiaries of our opponent’s misfortunes, but we have always presented the ADP as a credible alternative to both the APC and the PDP.
“We are a very peaceful party with good programmes and plans for the state. Our manifesto is there in public domain. We are suing for peace and good governance. So we are calling on APC members to join us because we plan to eradicate poverty, hunger, as well as restore honour, order and security to the state.”
The state Chairman of Labour Party (LP), Ruben Favour, said their governorship flag-bearer, Dumo Lulu Briggs, had all it took to win the forthcoming governorship election in Rivers.
The clamour by other political parties in Rivers to woo APC members started when a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt nullified the primaries conducted by both the Rotimi Amaechi and Magnus Abe factions of the party. The two political gladiators have been locked in personality clash over who will fly the party’s governorship ticket.
Specifically, the court ruled that the APC cannot participate in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.
Delivering judgement in the case: “Sen. Abe and others vs Rivers APC”, Justice Kolawole Omotosho declared that the party must bear the consequences of its disobedience to law, noting that the primaries conducted by both the Amaechi and Abe factions were illegal, null and void as they were held in defiance to a suit before Justice Chinwendu Nwogu of the Rivers State High Court.
The court, therefore, held that the names sent by the Amaechi faction and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 general elections were illegal and should be disregarded.
The court also said the direct primaries conducted by the Sen. Abe faction were illegal because the NWC of the party did not monitor or participate in the processes.
Omotosho further granted a mandatory injunction directing INEC to remove all APC candidates from ballot papers and other electoral materials, further imploring INEC to obey the judgement of the Rivers State High Court.
In another verdict, the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt granted an injunction stopping all candidates of the APC in Rivers State from presenting themselves as candidates for the 2019 general elections.
Counsel to Sen. Abe, Henry Bello, said the judgement was the consequence of imposition of candidates, but that they they would appeal.
Similarly, counsel to APC, Emenike Ebete, expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict, adding that they would appeal.
The Publicity Secretary of APC in the state, Chris Finebone, said, “We have just received excerpts of the judgements delivered by Hon. Justice Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, in two separate suits. One was filed by Sen. Magnus Abe and 49 others, asking the court to declare the candidates of the APC in the 2019 general elections in Rivers State, and another filed by the PDP, asking the court to declare that APC has no candidate for the elections.
“However, we do not agree with the court…the APC has absolute powers to schedule, reschedule or even cancel its congresses, noting that the party effectively terminated its ward, local government and state congresses of May 5, 12 and 19, 2018, respectively.
He further pointed out that the party’s primary elections, based on the unchallenged results and outcome of subsequent congresses, were lawful and valid.
“Under the Electoral Act, 2010, a third party can only challenge the nomination of the APC candidates as prescribed in Sections 31(5) and (6), or challenge their return in accordance with Section 138(1),” he stated.
Spokesman of Tonye Cole (one of the factional APC gubernotrial candidates) Campaign Organisation, Ogbonna Nwuke, said the party was already in court challenging the judgement of Justice Chinwendu Nworgu of the Rivers State High Court.
It would be racalled that the crisis over who will fly APC’s tickets started during its ward congresses in May, 2018, where Abe claimed that many of his supporters were disenfranchised. The unresolved crisis led to the two prominent politicians setting up parallel party secretariats which held parallel congresses. While the faction led by Ojukaye Amachree produced Tonye Cole as the party’s governorship flag-bearer, another faction led by Prince Peter Odike elected Abe as the party’s governorship candidate.