Bankole, Ekweremadu, Folarin in race to put names on ballot
By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor, KOLADE OLAREWAJU, DAPO AKINREFON & IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
LAGOS—THE legal net,         yesterday, entangled Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja issued an order barring the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from recognizing the Governor as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, pending the determination of the suit brought by his rival for the party ticket, Chief Ikechi Emenike.

Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State

This came as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and other embattled federal legislators enmeshed in court litigations are, this weekend, racing against time to be on the ballot for the forthcoming elections.

The Speaker and others, including the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, have until next Tuesday to work out a political solution or discharge court restraints against their participation in the elections.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole also issued the interim injunction restraining the electoral body from accepting or giving recognition to any other gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Abia State, apart from that of the plaintiff, Chief Ikechi Emenike and his nominated running mate, Dr. Chukwuemeka C. Okwuonu, pending the determination of a motion on notice before it.

Ahead of the Tuesday deadline for substitution of candidates for the National Assembly election, Bankole and other members of the Governor Gbenga Daniel group displaced from the ballot by the Olusegun Obasanjo group are meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, today, for a meeting to work out a political solution that could see a harmonization of the list for Ogun State.

Vanguard learnt that former President Obasanjo and leading elements of his faction of the party in Ogun State are equally expected at the meeting where a political solution could be worked out. Normally reliable sources said that Governor Daniel may have come to terms with accepting the candidacy of Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello for the Ogun Central senatorial seat that he had hoped to deliver to Mrs. Lola Abiola-Edewor, daughter of the slain winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

INEC on its part, yesterday, reaffirmed its determination to uphold the rule of law by adhering to all court orders with respect to nominations for the election.

Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, told Vanguard that there had been no alterations to the candidates as listed by the commission as at yesterday afternoon.

Events still unfolding —INEC

Kayode who spoke in reference to the court orders said the commission decided to comply with said: “As far as I know the list has not been changed. Events are still unfolding and INEC being a creation of the law will stand by the rule of the law.”

The assertion was a dash to claims by the PDP that Mr. Bankole had replaced Mr. Segun Alawode earlier listed by the commission as the PDP candidate for Abeokuta South Federal Constituency.

Besides Speaker Bankole and Senator Ekweremadu, other prominent federal legislators encumbered by court processes from participating in the election include the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin; spokesmen of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Senator Ayogu Eze and Rep. Eseme Eyiboh, among many others.

They may be barred from participating in the elections unless they get listed before the legally specified deadline for substitutions on Monday, February 14, 2011.

Under the 2010 Electoral Act, the parties have until Monday to substitute candidates for elections into the two houses of the National Assembly scheduled for April 2, 2010.

Section 35 of the 2010 Electoral Act states thus: “A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered by himself to the Political Party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission and which shall only be allowed not later than 45 days to the election.”

Bankole’s fate was worsened, yesterday, after the Obasanjo faction of the party in Ogun State filed a stay of execution against the execution of the judgment of an Ogun State High Court which recognized the Daniel faction as the legitimate faction of the party in the State.

Daniel who is the coordinator of the presidential campaign in the Southwest was absent at the Southwest zonal rally in Ibadan on Tuesday. He was allegedly held back by his aggrieved supporters who were peeved by the INEC refusal to recognize members of his faction in Ogun State for the election.

Bankole who is aspiring to return to the House of Representatives from Abeokuta South Federal Constituency was displaced by the nominee presented by the Obasanjo’s faction, Mr. Alawode.

Daniel on his part had obtained the PDP senatorial ticket to represent Ogun East senatorial district. A plan by members of his group to ditch the PDP for the relatively unknown Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, was held back earlier this week after presidential emissaries met with him for three hours on Wednesday.

Strong political force

Senator Ekweremadu who has been a strong political force behind the Governor Sullivan Chime faction and had emerged as the Senatorial candidate for Enugu West senatorial district is equally constrained by a court order obtained by the rival faction of the party in Enugu which produced Chief Anayo Onwuegbu as gubernatorial candidate against Chime.

A Federal High Court in Abuja had granted an injunction restraining INEC from recognizing Chime and members of his group as the PDP candidates. The final judgment is to be delivered next Monday. Members of the group are, however, hopeful that the injunction would be discharged.

Meanwhile, the faction of the PDP in Ogun State led by Bashorun Dayo Soremi and aligned to Obasanjo, yesterday, filed an application for a stay of the execution of the Abeokuta High Court judgment which Wednesday declared the Joju Fadairo led faction as the authentic leaders of the party in the state.

Justice Adetokunbo Jibodu had on Wednesday ruled that the Joju Fadairo executive loyal to Governor Olugbenga Daniel was the authentic leadership of the PDP in the state.

The faction, in the suit filed on their behalf by their counsel; Chief Ajibola Oluyede, is asking for the Order  staying execution of the judgment pending the hearing and determination of the application and an order setting aside the judgment delivered.

Stay of execution

Oluyede in his application said he was asking for the stay of execution because proceedings in the action, including the judgment, was a nullity as respondents in the action were not duly served with the originating processes as required by law and that no hearing notices were also served.

Moreover, he said that his clients did not instruct any counsel to appear for them in the matter and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter in the circumstances.

In a 21 paragraph affidavit deposed to by the Acting Secretary; Mr. Semiu Sodipo, the faction said that the judgment was given in the action against them when they did not participate at all in the proceedings.

Speaking with newsmen at the court premises after filing the papers; Counsel to the Soremi faction, Chief Oluyede said: “Our application is to set aside the judgment as parties in the suit were not served as required by law. We believe the court should reopen the case and hear it properly otherwise, the judgment would be seen as contrived for the purpose of saving the face of a faction of the party.

“Even if it was not a default judgment we will contest it at the appeal. Getting a stay is standard and by the filing of this application, the execution of the judgment is stayed.”

Interim injunction against Orji

Justice Kolawole who gave the injunction against INEC’s recognition of Orji as the PDP gubernatorial candidate for Abia State further made an order of interim mandatory injunction, compelling the INEC to keep open and extant, the slot of the PDP as one of the political parties entitled to contest and have its name and logo on the ballot paper for use in the April general election, for the office of the Governor of Abia State. He equally stressed that there was need to preserve the ‘Res’ of the suit pending before him.

He gave the orders on a day the PDP, through its national legal adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, challenged jurisdiction of the High Court to entertain an action it said bothers on an internal affair of a political party.

In a preliminary objection it filed in court, the PDP relied on the provisions of section 31of the Electoral Act, 2010, to insist that the emergence of Governor Orji as its gubernatorial candidate in Abia State, passed through the test of due process.

Frantic efforts by both the PDP and counsel to Governor Orji, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, to persuade the court to either hands_off the suit or alternatively dismiss it over lack of jurisdiction to entertain same, proved abortive, as Justice Kolawole not only granted the ex-parte motion filed by the plaintiff, Emenike, but further gave the Defendants till 2.00 p.m today to file their counter_affidavit in opposition to the substantive suit.

He asked counsel to all the parties in the suit to appear before him on February 16 to adopt their processes.
Delivering ruling after listening to arguments from both sides, Justice Kolawole maintained that “on February 1, 2011, I had ordered the Defendants to within 72 hours, appear in court to show cause why the reliefs sought by the plaintiff in his motion ex_parte should not be granted.

“There is an unchallenged assertion by the plaintiff that the Defendants were all served with the court process as far back as February 3, yet neither of the Defendants deemed it fit to make a re_turn to the order sought by the plaintiff.

The 2nd and 4th Defendants (PDP Acting National Chairman, Bello Haliru Mohammed and Governor Orji) only filed their respective counter-affidavits in opposition to the suit, though out of time.

“Taking the peculiar facts of this case into consideration and the fact that the INEC has stipulated a time frame for submission of candidates of political parties, I refrained from granting the order sought by the plaintiff on that day to enable me hear from the Defendants in the interest of justice and equity.

Issue of jurisdiction

“I have no doubt that once the issue of jurisdiction is raised, it ought to be resolved first, but the 1st Defendant, PDP, overlooked the elementary principle of law that gives the court powers to firstly assume jurisdiction in order to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction over a matter before it.

“Therefore, I will exercise my residual powers by granting the reliefs sought by the plaintiff in his motion ex_parte pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit. My utmost desire is to ensure that all the parties are accorded level playing ground to contest their case, consequently this matter is accordingly adjourned till February 16.”

He maintained that both the preliminary objection filed by the Defendants as well as the substantive suit, would be heard together on the next adjourned date.

The plaintiff, Emenike, had on February 1, urged the high court to restrain Governor Orji from parading himself as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Abia State, contending that he emerged from a kangaroo primary election that he said was organized by an illegal body.

The three reliefs were accordingly granted by the High Court yesterday.

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