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November 19, 2022

Emenike’s long walk to ticket

Emeka Obasi

By Emeka Obasi

There is always something new out of the Nigerian judiciary. You may call it dynamism depending on interpretation which is also subject to more analysis on the alter of equity. Often one ends up in confusion, unable to hold on to logic.

Chief Ikechi Emenike is in the best position to unravel the confusion that has left many in slumber. He was coasting home with the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) in Abia State until a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Binta Nyako ruled otherwise.

Emenike is not new to the court. Since the journey to fly the APC flag began, it has been moving from one hurdle to the other. Right from his Nkwoegwu Ward, hurdles kept mounting. He was able to scale them using available legal processes.

The National Working Committee of the APC adopted the Indirect Primary for Abia and sent a Governorship Primary Elections Committee headed by Chief Tony Obiefuna. A total of 907 delegates were accredited. On the day of the primary at Chidiebere Park Umuahia, 892 votes were counted.

The outcome favoured Emenike who polled 672 votes. Emeka Atuma followed from a distance with 150 votes. Paul Ikonne got 22 votes, Daniel Eke finished with 16 while Obinna Oriaku bagged 12 votes. Remarkably, Alex Otti and Uchenna Ogah were voted for by some of the delegates.

Oti had withdrawn from the race after dumping the party. Therefore, he was not part of the primary. Ogah, the immediate past minister of state for  Mines and Steel Development, distanced himself from the exercise.

However, two members of the House of Representatives, Nkiri Onyejeocha and Ben Kalu graced the occasion. So did Senator  Nkechi Nwaogu and former Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu. Also present was Chief Henry Ikoh.

Emenike had hardly settled down when an Abia High Court ruled that he was not qualified to run based on alleged suspension from the APC by his ward. Justice A.O. Chijioke later reversed himself. The legal fireworks began in 2021 when Justice Benson Anya sitting at Umunneochi voided the suspension.

Ogah has been on the road and also in the air. High Courts in Umuahia and Abuja have been busy entertaining arguments for and against. Emenike enjoyed the upper hand when thrice, the Court of Appeal ruled in his favour, in Owerri and Abuja respectively.

Eke later went to court claiming that he was not part of the primaries and prayed the court to disqualify both Emenike and Ogah on the grounds that they contravened the APC constitution. His wish was  was not granted by Justice Evelyn Anyadike.

Ogah is backed by a former Speaker of the Abia House of Assembly, Stanley Ohajuruka and a retired High Court judge, Justice Sunday Imo. Attempts were made by party chieftains to make peace. That led to what was tagged the  Ntalakwu Accord.

The recent pronouncement by the Abuja High Court has set tongues wagging. It is strange for a lower court to upturn the ruling of an appellate court. Emenike is therefore convinced that justice cannot be denied in this case.

The National Working Committee of the APC duly recognised Emenike as the authentic winner of the primary and submitted his name to the Independent National Electoral Committee ( INEC). The name has been uploaded on the INEC website.

The APC says the court ruling is of no effect and has affirmed that Emenike’s mandate cannot be tampered with by any legal hurdle until the Supreme Court decided otherwise. Chidi Avaja, Secretary of Abia State APC called it miscarriage of Justice.

Legal Adviser of the party in Abia State, Barrister V.C. Nwankwo said, “ in the eye of the law, Ikechi Emenike still remains the APC candidate in Abia State. The law is trite that judgments of the appellate courts are binding on the lower courts and parties.”.

The judiciary should serve as guardian of democracy. If the party has done the needful by conducting a primary that elected Emenike, the law should not delve into ambiguity. Justice should prevail in this case.

I wonder what the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Uzoma Emenike will be thinking. She is a trained diplomat, very well versed in International Law. In other climes, this development will sound absurd. In Nigeria, strange things do really happen.

All hope is not lost, though. Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi changed the face of Nigerian politics in 2006 when he used the court to reclaim his mandate which was stolen by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2003 Anambra State gubernatorial elections.

Obi was not done. When others expected him to run in the 2007 elections just after one year in office, he went back to court. While other parties battled for the position, he sat quietly in his office. The PDP candidate Andy Uba, who won the voided poll was asked to vacate office.

It has been a long way to the Abia APC ticket. Emenike knows the globe, from Dublin to Washington. Lagos to New York is a long haul. Umunneochi to Umuahia to  Owerri and Abuja is quite some distance. I am sure Emenike will not stop moving.