This report captures the gubernatorial voyage of Chukwuma Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, who is now gunning for the governorship of his state, Anambra.
By Jide Ajani, Deputy editor
REPRIEVE finally came the way of Charles Chukuma Soludo, the once-embattled governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the Anambra State gubernatorial elections slated for February 6, 2010, by way of a Supreme Court pronouncement. Soludo, who had been the victim of many machinations aimed at stopping his governorship bid should, indeed, be relieved that finally, he has the ticket of the PDP. For a man who many had wished never went into the race, suffering the kidnap of his father, a septuagenarian, Pa Simeon Soludo, it may not matter now what ignominy he may have had to put up with in this voyage.
Coming from the cool ambience of the executive office of a CBN governor, Soludoâ€™s sudden plunge into the murky waters of politics created its own fair share of resentment from many quarters, not the least from his party members. When four months ago Soludo decided to join the race for the governorship of Anambra, not a few of his kinsmen pooh-poohed the idea; and they seemed to have good reasons not to want him. First was the charge that he was being imposed on the people of Anambra State by those considered to be outsiders.
Following this was the charge that as CBN governor, he did not â€œdo enoughâ€ for his people. On top of this was his seeming aloofness which some scoffed at. From start to finish, there was nothing absolutely unusual in the way PDP conducted its affairs pursuant to the emergence of Soludo.Â It is a political party with its own peculiar, sometimes absurd, approach to issues. No matter, it has served it well. (See chronology of events above). The judgment of the Supreme Court last Thursday sealed the confirmation.
The five-member panel of the Supreme Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to include, with immediate effect, the name of Professor Soludo on the comprehensive list of nominated candidates jostling for election in the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial polls in Anambra State.
The order came less than 24 hours after the Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, stopped him from canvassing for votes with respect to the gubernatorial election or parade himself anyhow, anywhere, as nominated candidate of the PDP for the polls.
The apex court, which voided the two separate orders (interim and interlocutory) granted by the Abuja Court of Appeal against Soludo on December 4 and 16, 2009, respectively, declared that the injunctions were not only oppressive but were unfair and granted without jurisdiction. Besides, the apex court issued a separate order directing INEC to accord Soludo â€œall the rights, advantages and privileges available to all the partiesâ€ jostling for the exalted governorship seat in Anambra State. Justice George Oguntade was the presiding justice of the Supreme Court which delivered the ruling. He could not hide his revulsion at the orders of the Court of Appeal which stopped Soludo from participating in the polls. He said the orders were oppressive and issued without jurisdiction.
In a short lead ruling delivered by him, Thursday, in the case, Justice Oguntade said: â€œI have given consideration to the facts in support of this application and the submission on law by counsel. The submission of Mr Taiwo Abbey for the third and fourth respondents is that all the grounds of appeal challenging the exercise of discretion must of necessity be of mixed law and facts are grossly untenable.
There is no dispute that the first, second, third and fourth respondents have been the plaintiffs before the Abuja High Court. That court declined jurisdiction. The first, second, third and fourth respondents, then brought an appeal against the judgment of the high court before the court below.
â€œThe appeal on jurisdiction is yet to be determined. The courtâ€™s below duty as raised by the appellants before it is to determine the issue of jurisdiction. A court without jurisdiction cannot make a valid order. In other words, the high court could not have made the orders made by the court below. The firstÂ duty of the court below being primarily to resolve the election disputeÂ could not extend to granting relief to first respondent on the supposition that the issue of jurisdiction hasÂ been resolved one way or the other. There is no doubt that the court below could properly make preservative order which will ensure that the res in dispute is not destroyed such as to foist on the court a complete helplessness should the appeal succeeds.
But the court below did more than that. It pre-recognised a right in the first respondent to seek relief from court even at the time when the issue of jurisdiction was yet to be determined. I am unable to agree with Mr Taiwo Abbey that the appellants require the leave of the court below to raise to grounds of appeal that the court below granted the injunctions it did when the issue of jurisdiction has not been resolved. This, in my view, is clearly a question of law. Put in another language, it is whether a court without jurisdiction could make any order in an issue in contest without first determining whether it has jurisdiction.
â€œThe order made by the court below is not just a preservative order. It, in fact, prevents the appellants from taking part in the election. The court below should only have given an order which confines the parties to the state of things as it was before the litigation started. That in my view would mean that parties could not be prejudiced by the court orders or given an undue advantage over the others. In the light of the above, I make an order setting aside the orders made by the court below which restrained the first appellant and INEC from recognising, endorsing, accepting or ratifying the selection of the appellant in the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial election of Anambra State.
â€œThe order restraining the appellant from parading himself as a candidate of the cross appellant (PDP) is very unnecessary and uncalled for in the light of the available facts. It is directed that INEC accords to the appellant (Soludo) and cross-appellant (PDP) all the rights, advantages and privileges available to all the parties in the February 6, 2010 election and that they be not prejudiced in any manner.
This is without prejudice to whatever judgment or order made or may be subsequently made on the suit filed by the first and second respondents against the appellant (Soludo) and the cross-appellant (PDP),â€ to which they all chorused as the court pleases.
Justice Oguntade went further to explain the purport of his judgment thus: â€œIn other words, we do not say that any of them has won anything.
All we have said in totality is that the situation as it was before the first to fourth respondents went to the court should be maintained. Therefore, it is not a victory for anybody. It is only the balance of the case as it was at the commencement of litigation,â€ he added.
All other four justices also took turn to read their concurring rulings on the issue.
Soludo, dressed in a white native attire and a red cap to match, could not control his emotions last Thursday, dancing, saying his judicial victory was simply divine. Although he and his supporters did not show their faces when the matter began Thursday morning, they came in their dozens when news filtered that the Supreme Court had taken a radical decision to hear, decide and set aside the two orders which it described as oppressive.
Speaking and praying
According to Soludo, who appeared in court after judgment was entered in his favour, â€œI think today is a great day. God has spoken. The Supreme Court has spoken and millions of the AnambraÂ people are also speaking and praying. I think God has answered our prayer. The liberation of Anambra State has really begun. This is a divine journey. And, I believe that all the other forces, it is unfortunate that some of our opponents feel that the only way they could move ahead was to get us out of the ballot. I donâ€™t think that is fair. And, I think God has answered our prayers. I have interest and confidence in the judiciary of this country.
â€œWe were never ever in doubt that when the chips are down, the judiciary will do the right thing. And, I think today is a great day for the judiciary, for the Nigerian democracy and marks a watershed in the liberation struggle for the people of Anambra State. Anambra has suffered enough. And I think with this Supreme court judgment today, we can now move ahead and rescue our people from the stranglehold of those who have held it hostage for the past seven decades to the glory of God, in Jesus nameâ€ to which his supporters shouted a reverberating Amen.
His lawyer, Chief P I NÂ Ikwueto also said of the judgment â€œthe Supreme Court has again today confirmed its position as indeed the hope of the common man, the hope of the democracy. By this decision, the Supreme Court has also distinguished the Nigerian judiciary as one of the best in the world. The ruling today, the way it was done, the approach, shows that the Supreme Court is a court of integrity,â€ he added.
For the ruling PDP legal adviser and one of the lead counsel in the case, Chief Olusola Oke, he said he was the happiest by the judgment: â€œWell, as the legal adviser of the PDP, I think all of you can imagine how happy I should be on this occasion. It has been a great challenge and it was raising a novel situation in Nigeria where a political party that has duly nominated a candidate will be excluded from participation in an election. It has been a great challenge to my office as the legal adviser to PDP. I am happy that the Supreme Court has vindicated our position. That it is not right to tie the hands of a political party and prevent it from participating in election.
â€œThat whatever grievances the plaintiffs may have, they can always redress it even while elections are on and particularly I am delighted at the speed at which the Supreme Court was able to look into our application and be able to take decision on it. You will recall that those interlocutory orders of injunctions were granted about 24 hours ago. That the Supreme Court was able to get our paper, look into it and was able to take a decision is highly commendable. This is a new era for the Nigerian judiciary. I think it has rekindled the hope for the common man that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.
â€œWe use this opportunity to appeal to our members who are aggrieved with whatever step we have taken in this matter to bury the hatchets, join hands with our nominated candidate to fly the flag of the party and ensure victory at the election. I am sure that there are many advantages our members can benefit from our victory,â€ he added.
According to Christian Udechukwu, director, media and communications, Soludo Campaign Organisation â€œthe Supreme Court ruling is also a reaffirmation of the rights of political parties to conduct their internal affairs without intimidation and fear of external interference. â€œAll state, local government chairmen and ward officers can now redouble their efforts to turn out our votes for victory. Soludo Campaign Organisation calls on supporters and PDP members to seize on this momentum to mobilise for ultimate victory at the February 6th 2010 election.â€
And so, of the 47 aspirants (see box), only Soludo has made it. In an exclusive interview with Sunday Vanguard on his travails during the voyage and the propriety or otherwise of negotiating to get the ticket, Soludo told Sunday Vanguard he would not negotiate. Hear him: â€œI said it and I mean it. Iâ€™m not going to negotiate with the treasury of the state. If that is what it means to negotiate or to build consensus or to carry people along or be seen to be amenable to people, I wonâ€™t build consensus around the state treasury.
If it is for us to come and discuss how to share the money that is off limits! Coming to negotiate with me is not a problem but the state treasury is off limits. And because the treasury must have to be used, itâ€™s too little too miniscule to do the job then some people want to come and share out of it, no.Â If people say because I have spent so so billion to do this, then you must do this in return monthly or however from the state treasury, how?Â Itâ€™s not part of the negotiation and I wonâ€™t do that because it doesnâ€™t make sense. Why?Â Why?Â What for?â€
A JOURNEY IN BRIEF
The tortuous voyage of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in its bid to choose a gubernatorial candidate
*Total number of aspirants: 47
*PDP primaries suspended indefinitely
*1,357 petitions filed
*Six out of the 47 aspirants appeared before petition panel
*174 petitions were found to have merit and duly upheld
*1,183 petitions, thrown out
*Speaker Dimeji Bankole in charge
*Governor Suswan of Benue State brought in
*326 People from Benue State to conduct ward congresses
*Total number of delegates for primaries:Â 981
*Governor Suswam insists 285 delegates must be changed
*Some aspirants run to the courts to stop congresses
*PDP NEC holds meeting, picks Chukwuma Soludo to beat INEC deadline
*Aspirants take their case against Soludoâ€™s choice to high court
*Chris Uba alleges that Soludo has offered a bribe of $10m which he refused
*Some aspirants alleged that Soludo offered them N35m bribe to drop their case
*35 aspirants agree to work with Soludo as PDP gubernatorial candidate
*High Court grants their prayers stopping INEC from recognizing Soludo
*Soludo appeals and loses at the Court of Appeal
*Soludo goes to the Supreme Court
*Supreme Court orders INEC to recognize Soludo as PDP gubernatorial candidate
And then there was one
List of PDP gubernatorial aspirants from where Charles Chukwuma Soludo emerged
SenatorÂ Nicholas Ukachukwu
Lynda Chuba Ikpeazu
Professor Charles Soludo
Ugokwe Jerry Sunny
Kenneth Osita Odidika
Dr. Alex Obigolu
Senator Ikechukwu Obiora
Prof. Austin Okafor
Nwoye Tony Okechukwu
Mrs Eucharia Azodo
Barrister Mike Nkwocha
Lady Chinyere Ogualili
Mrs. Caro Nwosu
Senator Emma Anosike
Mrs chika Ibeneme
Princess Catherine Egwu
Engr. E. O. Efobi
Dr Harry Oranezi
Dr. Emeka Eze
Dr. Amachukwu Ezeike
Engr Bethram Dim
Mrs Ifeoma Love Eze
Mrs Nkoli Imo
Chief Okey Muo Aroh
Ogbagu Goodluck Ihuoma.
Sussan Ekinumfe Udemezue
Mrs Obiageli Okeke-Okwubanego
Mrs Oyibo Obasi
Victor Osita Ezenwa
Chief Tony Ezeani