By Kingsley Omonobi, Austin Ogwuda & Olasunkanmi Akoni

ABUJA—AGGRIEVED contestants in the April 9 National Assembly elections have, till tomorrow, to file petitions on perceived irregularities during the elections under provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act.

Meanwhile, rival candidates to Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan and Godswill Akpabio of Delta and Akwa Ibom states, yesterday, served notice of legal challenges to their declared electoral victories in the governorship election tribunals.

The legal attack against Governor Akpabio who flew the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, gubernatorial flag in last Tuesday’s election came in the wake of an internal crisis within the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, over a reported congratulation to the victorious governor by the state chapter of the party.

Meanwhile, some opposition politicians with progressive inclination have commenced consultations towards unifying their ranks in the aftermath of their botched effort in unseating the incumbent PDP administration. At the centre of the ongoing talks is Second Republic radical politician, Dr. Tunji Braitwaithe.

Under Section 134 of the 2010 Electoral Act, petitions against the declared results must be filed at the secretariat of the election petition tribunal in the state where the election was conducted within 21 days after the declaration of the results.

Most of the results of the elections from the National Assembly elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives were declared within three days after the conduct of the election on April 9.

The requisite provision of the electoral act states thus:
(1) An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the declaration of the results of the elections.
(2) An election tribunal shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the petition.

(3) An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed off within 90 days from the date of the delivery of judgment of the tribunal.

Ogboru heads for tribunal

Delta State Chairman of DPP, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, disclosed the party’s readiness to contest last week’s governorship result which returned Uduaghan, the PDP’s candidate as winner.

He told Vanguard: “We are putting in the necessary machinery in motion to pursue the case to its logical conclusion both the one held on January 6 that was the re-run and last Tuesday’s governorship.

“We are not going to collapse the two because they are two separate elections and let me tell you we are going to get justice by the grace of God. The tribunal is the final arbiter, we (DPP) won the election clearly, that is all I can tell you.”

Meanwhile, two election petitions tribunals have been constituted for Delta State.

Unlike in the past when only one tribunal handled cases arising from both governorship and legislative elections, one of the tribunals would now be in charge of the petitions from the governorship election while the other would handle only matters from thelegislative elections.
Secretary of the two electoral panels, Deborah Musa, told reporters that while the governorship election petition tribunal will be sitting at High Court 5, Umuda Layout, the legislative election petition tribunal will sit at High Court 3, adjacent the Asagba of Asaba palace.
She called on the would be litigants to also be conscious of the fact that litigants have 21 days from date results were declared to file petitions while the court has 180 days to dispose such cases.

ACN to challenge Akpabio’s victory

The ACN has also given its determination to challenge the declared result of the Akwa Ibom gubernatorial election in the tribunal. The party’s claim came against the congratulation extended to the victorious candidate of the PDP and incumbent Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio by the ACN chairman in Akwa Ibom State.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a terse rebuttal of the congratulation extended to Akpabio by Aniekan Akpan, the ACN state chairman in Akwa Ibom said the state chairman was a deviant who was acting on his own.
The party said Akpan acted on his own and that his action should be disregarded by all members and supporters of the ACN because it did not represent the stand of the party.
It said necessary disciplinary action would be meted out to the deviant chairman,adding: “Aniekan Akpan has not always acted in consonance with the ideals of our party, and his romance with Governor Akpabio is not a secret. But as a party that believes in fairness and justice, every member is entitled to the benefit of doubt until he or she decides to dance naked in the public square, as the Akwa Ibom state chairman has now done.
“The standard procedure is for the National Executive Committee to meet and deliberate on the elections, take reports from all stakeholders in the states and then set up a legal team to examine submission from the various states. It is only after this that the party can take a stand on the elections.’’

Opposition leaders rally to unify
Meanwhile, opposition leaders have commenced consultations on the need to unify their ranks towards avoiding the mistakes that cost them gains in the 2011 election.
The latest intervention, according to opposition leaders, became necessary in the light of what it termed ‘unproductive cleavages’ arising from discord over the 2011 alliance proposals as against the urgent need to give positive leadership to the mass frustration, which followed the 2011 elections.
Comrade Olawale Okunniyi, spokesman for the Progressive Summit Group, PSG, dropped this hint after holding preliminary consultation on the way forward with Dr Tunji Braithwaite, the Leader of the National Intervention Group, NIG.

, at his Victoria Island residence in Lagos.

Okunniyi regretted the inability of the progressives to strike an accord in the 2011 elections but noted the opposition would now have to learn their lessons the hard way. He was quick to add that with the growing frustration, impoverishment and political impunity pervading the country, progressive forces will be compelled to come together shortly and reclaim their lost opportunity.
The PRONACO scribe said “In the next few days, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, the Leader of NIG, assisted by others, will be expected to rally a host of key gladiators of the movement from the six geo political zones to review the state of our democracy and set a clear agenda for the country”.
“We concede that Leaders of conscience in the nation would still need to jointly intervene in re_negotiating the Nigerian state as the present dominant political structure can no longer take the country forward”
While lamenting the 2011 botched alliance between the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the CPC Governorship candidate in Ogun state, declared that “apart from the initial efforts by late Anthony Enahoro in 2008, under the banner of Summit Movement that later transform to National Democratic Movement and Patriotic Electoral Alliance of Nigeria, the CPC/ACN talk was the closest the progressive came to getting it right”.
“Life is a continuum and so is politics. This is the beginning of another intervention in the affairs of our people. There is no doubt that the progressives have failed the nation in the last elections, when it matters most, but in every human formation , success is not made out of inactions but in the trials made in our desire to find solutions to seemingly impregnable problems” Okunniyi said.
He submitted that given the post election violence in the northern part of the country “the nation urgently requires profound national healing and restructuring at this time, which the national summit of the progressives, whose shape shall be agreed in the course of consultation will have to address”.


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