By Dayo Benson, Abayomi Adeshida, Chris OchayiÂ & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA â€” Reprievecame the way of the Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, in his bid to contest next yearâ€™s governorship election in the state as the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, said Chief Chekwas Okorieâ€™s expulsion from the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, subsists until it (Court) delivers judgment on the substantive suit before it.
The court made the pronouncement when it refused to make an order of stay of execution on the ruling of an Abuja High Court expellingOkorie from APGA.
Hearing in the substantive suit has however been adjourned till November 2, even as Governor Obi vowed to take legal action if he is excluded from next Februaryâ€™s governorshipÂ poll.
The Justice Mary Odili-led three-man panel of Justices which presided over the matter yesterday also awarded a cost of N30,000 against the appellant/applicant (Okorie) in favour of the respondents, Chief Victor Umeh and APGA National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi.
The appellate court insisted that the April 16, 2008 ruling remains valid until a contrary pronouncement is made by a higher court on the issue.
According to Justice Odili, â€œwe cannot decide application for stay when the main appeal is about to be heard, it would amount to duplication. Nevertheless, as long as any court has not set the judgment of the lower court aside, it is still subsisting and binding an all the parties in the suit. The application for stay will be overtaken by events once we deliver judgment on this appealâ€, Justice Odili added.
The Abuja High Court had upheld the expulsion of Okorie for alleged anti-party activities, saying that it was done in line with the provision of APGAâ€™s constitution.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, Okorie had filed an appeal at the Abuja Court of Appeal, asking it to upturn the lower courtâ€™s judgment.
The issue has factionalised the party ever since as both Chief Victor Umeh and Okorie have been laying claims to the partyâ€™s leadership.
There was however a twist in the matter when the Independent National electoral Commission, INEC, which had all the while been dealing with Umeh as party national chairman made a u-turn.
INEC in a letter said it would be dealing with Okorie as the APGA national chairman citing an advice from its legal department.
To demonstrate this, the Commission recently handed over political party candidate nomination form for next Februaryâ€™s governorship election in Anambra State to Okorie.
The development which had earlier excluded Governor Obi from seeking re-election on APGAâ€™s platform had drawn the ire of Umeh who accused INEC of trying to truncate the forthcoming governorship poll in the state.
Iâ€™ll resist exclusion from 2010 polls â€”Obi
Meanwhile, Governor Obi yesterday hinted that any attempt to exclude him from the 2010 gubernatorial poll in the State would be resisted through legal means.
Speaking moments before he signed a joint agreement with the United Nations Development Programme, in the area of Human Development, in Abuja, Governor Obi hinted that his leadership style has endeared him to the people of Anambra State so much that he has been able to secure a ticket for the election.
In his words, â€œthe problem in Anambra was what to be done to stop Obi from becoming a candidate in the next election.
â€œThat was why you heard the whole noise from the State, and I can assure you that I am, by Godâ€™s grace, a candidate in that election now and I am ready for the people to vote me back into office again.
â€œI was with the people in INEC and I told them my mind that for anybody to exclude me from the election would mean that the results of the election would be canceled and we might have to repeat the elections again.
â€œWhen you go to the people of the State, they tell you that Obi is performing and the few powerful vocal ones will take a step further to tell you that though Obi is performing in the State, but he is not carrying us along.
â€œYou may want to ask, along to where? These people just want to come and hang around when I travel and as a matter of policy, I travel alone.
â€œThe other time I went to Kenya to meet the UN Habitat people when we were thinking of how to modernize our cities and the Nigerian Embassy and the UN Habitat people were shocked that the five vehicles they brought to the airport to receive my delegation was unnecessary because I went with only one of my Commissioners.â€
On the joint agreement with UNDP, he said, â€œthis is a historic occasion and what we are doing today shows our commitment to the turnaround of Anambra. I am grateful to UNDP for supporting the Stateâ€™s resolve to be an engine of growth for the country.â€
Speaking at the event, the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Turhan Saleh, enthused that his agency was always delighted to work with leaders like Obi, expressing happiness, â€œto resume programme support with Anambra State. We are looking forward to a fruitful partnership with the State.â€
Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the United Nations Development Programme will support the state government in the areas of economic governance, capacity for governance, private sector development and sustainability and risk management programmes.
In a related development, an alliance of 14 political parties which endorsed Governor Peter Obiâ€™s candidature for the governorship electionÂ have advised the electorate to defend their votes during the 2010 poll so as to stop political investors from hijacking the state.
Operating under the aegis of Patriotic Alliance of Nigeria (PAN), the parties insisted that the people of Anambra state must be allowed to exercise their rights.
Chairman of Citizens Popular Party (CPP), one of the parties in the alliance, Maxi Okwu, who made the remarks after the national convention of the party, warned gladiators in the Anambra poll to play the game by the rules.
He said, â€œwe call on all gladiators to play by the rules, no blow below the belt or off side goalsâ€.
â€œWe of PAN of which your party CPP is an active member have decided to keep a date with Nigeria political destiny on 6th February 2010 at Awka.
We have therefore â€˜burnt our boatâ€™ on this issue, there is no room or chance for retreat. Our case is that we must get Anambra right on 6th February 2010 or bye-bye democracyâ€.