By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR & GABRIEL EWEPEU
THERE is no going back on the disqualification of former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo and five other aspirants from participating in Anambra State governorship primaries of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, holding on August 26, National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, has said.
According to Umeh, the process of screening and clearance of aspirants for the primaries have been concluded in line with the guidelines of the party without interference by APGA hierarchy and those screened out knew they were not qualified to continue to aspire on APGA’s platform.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard yesterday, Umeh dismissed allegations that APGA did not follow its constitution in constituting the screening panel and described insinuations that he had a hand in the disqualification of some aspirants as unfounded.
Asked if the disqualification of the aspirants could be reconsidered, he said: “The process has been concluded. It is no longer subject to review. The panels were unbiased. I did not interfere with their work and the aspirants after the screening commended the panel for doing a good job and said they would accept the outcome. We don’t want to be distracted by the complaints. We want to be focused on conducting credible primaries on August 26 for those who are qualified and go ahead to win the elections on November 16.”
Okwu sues Umeh, Shinkafi over APGA leadership
However, the factional chairman of the party, Chief Maxi Okwu, has dragged Chief Victor Umeh, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to a Federal High Court in Abuja demanding to be recognized as the authentic leadership of the party that would nominate candidates for the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State.
In suit no: FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2013 dated August 18, 2013 filed by Oba Maduabuchi, lawyer to Maxi Okwu and four others elected with him in the party’s national convention of April 8, 2013 in Awka, the plaintiffs averred that the APGA convention and election on February 10, 2011, in Awka in which Umeh was re-elected national chairman and Shinkafi, national secretary, including other members of the National Working Committee, NWC, was by voice vote contrary to Article 18(4) of the party constitution that stipulates that elections shall be by secret ballots only.
The plaintiffs also asked the court to determine, “whether the 2nd defendant (Shinkafi) can still validly occupy the position of National Secretary of APGA in 2013 when the constitution of the party provides a maximum tenure of eight years and he was first elected as national secretary of the party on January 10, 2013, 10 years ago”.
The plaintiffs prayed the court for an order directing Umeh, Shinkafi and all the officers purportedly elected with them in February 2011 convention by voice vote to vacate their various offices as their “election” was not in accordance with Article 18(4) of the APGA constitution which prescribes that elections shall be by secret ballot. They argued that the convention merely ratified the tenure of the National Working Committee members by affirmation. They also sought an order directing INEC to henceforth relate with the Maxi Okwu-led leadership of the party.
Okwu is on a futile mission—Umeh
Reacting to the fresh litigation yesterday, Umeh said Okwu and his team were on a futile mission because the law courts had trashed out the issue of who remained the authentic leader of APGA.
According to him, Okwu was elected chairman at a controversial convention in Awka on April 8, 2013. He said thereafter, Okwu got a judgment from the Chief Judge of Enugu State that he (Umeh) was not the chairman of the party. However, Umeh said he appealed the court ruling after which the Court of Appeal on July 17, 2013 set aside the judgment of the Enugu High court and affirmed him as the authentic chairman of APGA
Umeh said: “They have no convention in law. They are no officers of the party. Their convention is standing on nothing. I was told they took us to court to distract us. Okwu has no locus standi to sue APGA or any officer of APGA. He was expelled in 2005. He challenged his expulsion alongside Chief Chekwas Okorie up to the Supreme Court and lost. He was chairman of the Citizens Popular Party, CPP, up to February 2013. What does he know of APGA in the last eight years he has been in CPP? He is standing on nothing.”