By Dennis Agbo
Justice Nkonye Evelyn Maha of the Federal High Court Abuja will on Wednesday November 2 2022 deliver judgment on the contentious issue of the authentic governorship candidate of the Labour Party, LP, in Enugu state.
The matter was brought to her court following an alleged LP’s inability to leave up to its motto, ‘Equal opportunity and social justice’, by conducting a repeat gubernatorial primary election in Enugu state with only one of the aspirants instead of three aspirants that the party separately promised to hand over its flag for the 2023 governorship election in the state.
Irked that the party played a fast one on him through unlawful exclusion from the primary election, that he believes was purposely done to achieved a skewed success, Chief Evarest Nnaji, popularly referred to as Odengene, approached the Abuja court to determine if his exclusion was lawful or not.
The third aspirant, who was actually the first aspirant to fulfill the party’s requirements to replace the party’s placeholder was Dr. Dave Nnamani who however took a decision to exit without rancor, but Nnaji said the party was unjust to him who was the second aspirant promised the ticket and went to settle for a late comer, Mr. Chijioke Edeoga, whom the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, published his name on August 4 as the party’s governorship flag bearer in Enugu state.
Nnaji sued the Labour Party and the INEC, asking among other things to recognised him as the authentic governorship candidate of the LP in Enugu state for the 2023 election or a repeat of the primary election that will include the three aspirants that were already issued with INEC nomination forms before the one-man primary election that produced Edeoga.
Nnaji swore before the court that the Labour Party assured him that if he paid N25 million for expression of interest, nomination form and waiver, he would be the consensus candidate of the party which he paid on July 13 2022 and fulfilled all the required conditions, adding that the party also promised to conduct a primary election for him, where he would be declared as a consensus candidate. Nnaji said that he was surprised on August 5th when he heard the news on the radio that Labour Party had purportedly conducted a gubernatorial primary election for Enugu State on August 4th without his prior notice or publicly published notice and asked the court to grant his reliefs as they will enhance internal democracy and rule of law in the Labour Party.
In the proceedings of the court, the Labour Party argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the matter on three grounds: that Nnaji has no locus standi to institute the action; that Nnaji did not join Chijoke Edeoga as a necessary party to the suit and that the complaints of Nnaji in the suit borders on internal/domestic affairs of the Party.
A social critic, Comrade Lawrence Eze however wondered why Nnaji and Nnamani were not allowed to participate in the primary despite paying and being issued nomination forms. He queried why the party collected money from three aspirants and held primary for only one, excluding the other two.
In its defense, the party insisted that it did not wrongfully nominate its gubernatorial candidate for Enugu State for the 2023 election, stating that the conduct of primaries by the party is its absolute internal affairs. It asserted that Nnaji is a member of the party but has no rights in the internal affairs of the party and that the party never promised any aspirant an automatic ticket. The party said that it fixed the date of its primaries which was announced to all aspirants.
When contacted, Dr. Dave Nnamani said that he does not want to pre-empt the court decision, stating that the judiciary should be allowed to exhaust itself. He stated that since he didn’t go to the court, parties in the matter should be allowed to exhaust themselves while he wished them well.
“As I talk to you, I’m in Laffia for the Labour Party Presidential Campaign flag off. I stand with the party, any decision they take on Enugu is binding on me. I was the first person to pay for the form, filled the nomination form and the INEC form and submitted before any other person came and the party promised me that I was going to be a consensus candidate. I remain loyal to the Party and I’m in support of Peter Obi and support the decision of the party because the party is supreme,” Nnamani said.
A journalist and public affairs analyst, Mr. Anayochukwu Agbo said that the LP presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi needs a home base, noting that with no gubernatorial election holding in Anambra State in 2023, Enugu is Obi’s best chance to win a governorship seat in the Southeast geo-political zone.
“This makes his intervention in the tussle for LP gubernatorial ticket an imperative. A continued legal tussle to Appeal and Supreme courts will only enfeeble the party and strengthen the PDP. Obi should call all the three aspirants and settle the case out of court. This will be a win-win case for the party and its candidate,” Agbo suggested.