By Clifford Ndujihe & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
FORMER member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Chike Okafor has attributed the failure of the South-East to clinch the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the actions taken by the member representing Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency of Imo State, Mr. Emeka Nwajiuba.
Okafor, who was Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services in the Eight Assembly and frontliner in the race for the Speaker of the 9th House before his removal courtesy of a judgement by the FCT High Court Kubwa and replaced with Nwajiuba, who contested the election on the platform of Accord Party, said his abrupt exit from the speakership contest greatly affected the fortunes of his zone.
He decried what he described as the failed promise Nwajiuba made to members of his constituency and the people of Imo, that he would win the election to be Speaker, if he was elected into House.
The former Commissioner for Finance in Imo State, in this chat, said that he and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, have filed a suit at the Court of Appeal, challenging the ruling of the FCT High Court which led to INEC presenting Nwajiuba with a certificate-of-return.
According to him, “Nwajiuba was supposed to be a long standing member of the APC. But his actions have cost our party and its supporters in Imo and the South-East a whole lot. His actions just might have cost the South-East the opportunity to gain much in the House. So, his actions dented the popularity of my party in my constituency, state and zone because we have suffered a setback with the loss of better placed candidate for the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker.
“We heard a lot of false promises back home, things like President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to defect to Accord Party and then that the President promised him the he would be made Speaker. A lot of disaffection was created back home with all of the falsehood and the situation is worse now as it is glaring that his promise of speakership was untrue.
“Honestly, if my brother Emeka Nwajiuba had been elected as Speaker or Deputy Speaker, I wouldn’t have gone on appeal. The election was shown live on TV and we saw how he (Nwajiuba) was anonymous.
“This is in great contrast to 2015, when as a new member I seconded the nomination for Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who eventually emerged Speaker. I came close to being a principal officer, but due to the fact that I was a first term lawmakers I was denied.
“You will recall that immediately I declared for Speaker, the South-East Caucus of the APC met in Enugu where they stated their support and I was applauded. So his (Nwajiuba’s) actions dented the popularity of my party in my constituency, state and zone because we have suffered a setback with the loss of a better placed candidate for the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker.
“I am a founding member of the APC having joined the party with by former governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha, so I was in better position for consideration as principal officer, more than my sister, Hon. Nkiru Onyejeocha, who though qualified to be Speaker only joined the APC about a year ago.”
“I have taken my case to the Court of Appeal, where I strongly believe that the people of Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency, who freely elected me will get justice. My party will also get justice as they have stood by me, to ensure that the wish of the electorate is upheld and the culture of democracy sustained across the country, ” Okafor added.
Asked how Emeka Nwajiuba and not him was inaugurated as the member representing Ehime Mbano / Ihitte Uboma / Obowo Federal Constituency of Imo State, he said: ”Let me put in on record that, Emeka Nwajiuba was a member of the APC. He contested the APC primary for our constituency and I came first, while he came third and another guy came second. Thereafter, he moved to Accord Party to run against me and other candidates in the general election. I went out to campaign. But suddenly in February, we saw posts from his (Nwajuiba’s) social media handlers, that the APC candidate (my humble self), had been stopped by a court. It turned out that a ruling was made by the FCT High Court Kubwa, so, I sent my lawyers across.
Reading the ruling, I discovered that one Maryanne Uzoma instituted a matter in that court on January 26, challenging the primary in my constituency. I am emphasizing that the date the matter was instituted because a candidate ought to challenge the outcome of a primary within 14 days, after which you are statute barred. The APC primary for my constituency was held on October 6, 2018. I also need to add that upon sighting the ruling, I noticed that I wasn’t a party to the suit. Rather it was INEC, APC and Nwajiuba, that were defendants in the suit. Like I said, I wasn’t a party to the suit instituted by Uzoma, I won the primary, I had the party ticket and by the time the ruling for the suit in February, it was four days to election.
What I took out from what happened at that time was that, all that Nwajiuba wanted was for me to be barred from contesting because he knew that there was no way he could win the election with me as a candidate. My lawyers wrote to INEC to make sure that things were clear and that the ruling was made based on the erroneous assumption that Nwajiuba was APC candidate or that he won the primary. Another issue from the ruling was that, it was made based on a non-existent constituency, Okigwe-South. Therefore, INEC agreed to position of lawyers that there is no way I was barred, as I wasn’t party to the suit and that there wasn’t any Okigwe-South constituency known to law.
I beat other candidates that contested, with Nwajiuba coming second at the election. INEC presented me my certificate-of-return and I thought the matter was closed. I joined the race for Speaker, pushing the case for recognition of the South-East in the leadership arrangement at the national level. But by May 12, my attention was drawn to posts on social media that Nwajiuba was issued a certificate-of-return by INEC. When I made inquiries, we found out that Nwajiuba approached the same court to say that the ruling of February 12 was not complied to by INEC and he prayed the court to order INEC to issue him a certificate-of-return as the person who came second, alleging that APC didn’t have a candidate for the election.
Amazingly, I wasn’t joined in the suit, neither was the APC joined in the suit. If my party and I were joined in the suit, we would have challenged the ruling on time. By the time he was presented the certificate-of-return, I and my party were statute barred to approach the Court of Appeal. I was advised by the legal team of my party and my lawyers to return to the FCT High Court Kubwa to argue my case and to activate a chance for appeal.
I have taken my case to the Court of Appeal, where I strongly believe that the people of Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo Federal Constituency, who freely elected me will get justice. My party will also get justice as they have stood by me, to ensure that the wish of the electorate is upheld and the culture of democracy sustained across the country.