.

•Says I’ve chosen a route free of rancour 

•Igbo elders, Okupe back move 

•Abaribe defects to APGA, resigns as Senate minority whip

•Deluge of defections hit PDP in S-East

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Vincent Ujumadu, Steve Oko & Luminous Jannamike

FORMER Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, who has dumped the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over issues he described as being at variance with his person and principles, yesterday joined the Labour Party, LP.

Obi registered with the party at his Agulu Ward 2, with a large crowd trouping to the party’s office to witness the event.

This happened on a day that Senate Minority Whip, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who was schemed out of the governorship primaries in Abia State left the PDP for the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and resigned as Senate minority leader.

After obtaining the party’s card, Obi, in a statement titled: “The Road to Recovery,” thanked Nigerians for identifying with him to rescue the country.

The statement said: “I thank all Nigerians, especially our youths, who have joined me in the mission of rescuing and taking back Nigeria. This project is yours and for the future of your children. I am just a facilitator.

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“Since I resigned from the PDP because of issues that are at variance with my person and principles, I have consulted widely with various parties and personalities to ensure we do not complicate the route to our desired destination.

“For me, the process of getting into this high office is as fundamental as what one will do thereafter. Therefore, I have chosen a route free of rancour and one in line with my mantra of taking the country from consumption to production and that is the Labour Party, which is synonymous with the people, workers, development, production, securing and uniting the Nigerians as one family.

“I invite my fellow Nigerians to join me to take back our country. Be assured that I’ll never let you down.”

Speaking during an interview with Channels Television last night, Peter Obi said, “I’m not desperate to be president. I’m desperate to see Nigeria work, especially for the youths of this country”.

Igbo elders, Okupe back move

Obi’s move drew cheers from Igbo elders and his ally, Dr Doyin Okupe, who have 25 million Nigerians in a growing coalition against the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and PDP in the 2023 general polls.

Okupe said: “I can confirm to you that he (Obi) has joined the Labour Party. We are going to use the Labour Party as a platform to form a coalition. We already have over 25 million Nigerians who are part of this coalition.

We are also bringing together other parties who will be part of this coalition. We are also building a coalition that is bigger than both PDP and APC.

7-party coalition against APC, PDP

After 15 months of discussion and engagements six parties on the banner of Allied political parties, and the National Consultative Front, NCFront, the umbrella body of the Third Force Movement, last week agreed to join forces with the Labour Party, LP, to present a joint presidential and other candidates for the 2023 polls.

This adoption of the Labour Party was made possible by the new rapprochement between the leadership of the Labour Movement and the hierarchy of the Labour Party- emergent solidarity jointly spearheaded by President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba; and the Trade Union Congress, TUC President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye,  who have revalidated their membership of the Labour Party by formally registering with the party, last week. 

Leaders of the ‘Third Force’ Movement across party lines including Prof Attahiru Jega of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP, Professor Pat Utomi of the Labour Party and Senator Saidu Dansadau of the National Rescue Movement, NRM. The other parties in the coalition are African Democratic Congress,  ADC: New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP; Social Democratic Party, SDP; and Allied Peoples Movement, APM.

S-East elders speak

Elder statesmen from the South-East, under the auspices of the Igbo Elders Consultative Forum, IECF, have expressed their support for Peter Obi’s decision.

IECF Chairman, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, said the Forum had been worried about Obi’s fate in the PDP.

He alleged that there was a plot to deny the South-East the 2023 presidential ticket in the PDP; stressing that the ex-governor’s defection to Labour Party was God’s answer to their prayers.

“I was praying: Oh God, instead of this man (Obi) to be messed up, let him come out and join another party. So with his exit from the PDP, my prayer has been answered,” he said.

Ezeife, however, reiterated the warning that denying the South-East the presidency in 2023 would have dire consequences for Nigeria’s corporate existence, considering the current crisis, insecurity and separatist agitations in the region.

He noted that delegates to the respective presidential primaries of the political parties have a historic responsibility to determine who leads the country in 2023 and their choice would have profound consequences on the peace, unity, security, stability and corporate existence of Nigeria.

“We, therefore, enjoin the delegates to be courageous and patriotic enough in discharging this historic responsibility of electing the presidential candidates from the South-East to heal the wound of the civil war and properly reintegrate the Igbos into Nigeria for democratic, accountable and transparent governance of the country.”

Indications emerged shortly after Obi’s registration with the Labour Party that many ward officers of the PDP in the state may soon defect as many officials and members of PDP across the state appear ready to join him in his new party.

Meanwhile, more chieftains of PDP have left the party, among those who were the PDP former governorship candidate in Anambra, Mr Oseloka Obaze, who was the former Secretary to the State Government, SSG.

Court clears Jonathan for 2023 polls

A Federal High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa on Friday held that the former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, is eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election.

The court also held that Jonathan has only been elected into the office once in 2011.

Mr Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham (plaintiffs) appròached the court, seeking an order to prevent Jonathan from running for the office of president by invoking the provisions of Section 137, (1b) and (3) which states that a person cannot take an oath for the office of the President more than twice whether elected or constitutionally appointed to complete the tenure of a president.

Delivering judgment in a suit marked FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022,  Justice Isa Dashen, held that the argument of the plaintiff which is hinged on the introduction of Section 137 subsection 1b and 3 into the constitution in 2018 cannot be applied retrospectively to challenge the eligibility of Jonathan to run for president in 2023.

Justice Dashen held that before Section 137 (1b) and (3) was birthed in 2018 and there was no clear restriction on the number of times a person should run for the office of president.

He held that even in the said Section 137 (1b) and (3), the legislature did not clearly state if the law should be applied in retrospect or not.

Citing the case between Cyriacus Njoku and Goodluck Jonathan, Justice Dashen said that the appeal court in 2014 ruled that Jonathan was eligible to run for the office of president and that since there has been no appeal to contest the judgement of the appellate court, from that moment Jonathan acquired the right to run for president for a second term.

“The office of president is different from that of the vice president. And that is how the elections for the two offices are different.

“Jonathan was constitutionally appointed to complete the office of the late president, Umaru Musa Yar’adua. And when Jonathan took the oath of office in 2010 there was no general election in Nigeria.

“The only time he took the oath of office through the election was in 2011. And in 2014 Cyriacus Njoku took Jonathan to court and the appeal court found that he was eligible to contest the election.

“And after that judgment, there has been no further appeal on the matter. This simply means that if he had not lost the 2015 election, he would have taken the oath of office twice without any legal impediments.

“The section stating how many times a person can take the oath of office twice took effect in 2018. And that section cannot be applied retrospectively in this case because, for a law to be applied retrospectively, the legislature must state clearly the intention for the section to be applied retrospectively.

“ I have taken the pain to go through the law, and there is nowhere the legislature stated clearly that this section should be applied retrospectively. “Based on these facts, the court holds that the suit seeking to declare the first defendant, Jonathan ineligible to run for the office of president for a second term, is dismissed,” he held.

INEC extends primary election deadline

•APC to hold Presidential Primary June 6-7

THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has bowed to pressure from political parties, especially the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC to extend the June 3 primary election deadline.

After twice failing to arm-twist INEC into extending the deadline for the conduct of political parties’ primary elections, the nation’s 18 registered political parties, yesterday asked the electoral umpire to consider a one-week extension.

The parties under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC had earlier asked for a 37-day extension and when it was not granted, they asked for a two-month extension.

However, at a meeting with INEC, on Friday, the parties through the IPAC Chairman, Yabagi Sani, requested the electoral umpire to allow them to utilise the one week of inactivity between the earlier June 3 deadline and June 10 when they are expected to begin uploading the names of their candidates unto the Commission’s Candidate Nomination Portal.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu however requested a closed-door session with the parties after which INEC also met as a commission and granted the extension.

“Earlier, the political parties had requested for a 37 – 60 days extension of the timeline for primaries and the nomination of candidates. The Commission was emphatic that this request could not be granted because it would disrupt other scheduled activities on the timetable. This position of the Commission has not changed”, said Mr Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner in charge of the Information and Voter Education Committee.

He said that based on the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election, the parties have now pleaded with the Commission to use the 6 days between June 4 and 9, 2022 to conclude outstanding primaries and prepare to upload the list of candidates and their affidavits on the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal.

“The Commission did not schedule any specific activity during this period. The idea is to simply give parties time to compile the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates before uploading the same to the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal from 10th – 17th June 2022. 

“The Commission has decided to allow the request of the political parties since the six-day period does not conflict with the next scheduled activity which is the submission of the list of nominated candidates or any of the subsequent timelines which remain sacrosanct. However, this request is granted in respect of outstanding primaries only without prejudice to those already concluded by political parties.

Meanwhile, following the INEC extension of the deadline for the primary election, the ruling All Progressives Party, has postponed its presidential primary for the fourth time and has fixed it for June 6 and 7.

The Commission will not monitor already concluded primaries”, he stated.

After the conduct of primaries, INEC said the next critical activity for political parties is the online submission of the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor which shall be accompanied by an affidavit sworn to by the candidates indicating that they fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into the various offices via the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal.

“In addition, the Commission, based on experience, has decided to train the political party officials to make efficient and effective use of the portal. The Commission will train four officials from each of the 18 political parties, making a total of 72 in all.

“Unfortunately, some of the political parties are still yet to submit their nominees for the training. The Commission hereby reminds such parties to do so immediately. The Commission wishes to reiterate that only electronically submitted nominations will be processed.”

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