By Simeon Nwakaudu
The All Progressives Congress (APC) thrives in illegality and fraudulent manipulation of processes. This party is allergic to due process and promotion of the Electoral Process.
The above has been declared by different courts and at different times. The latest was that of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt that stated unequivocally that the Direct and indirect primaries of the APC in Rivers State were illegal and that the APC was barred from participating and fielding candidates for the 2019 General elections.
At the base of the court decision is the penchant of the APC to disobey court orders. The ever present tendency to disregard the rule of law.
When the Amaechi faction of Rivers APC started their reign of flagrant disobedience of the law, they acted in concert with the law enforcement agencies.
The Rivers APC Ward Congresses were hijacked by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. This pitted his group against the Faction of Senator Magnus Abe.
As a result of the Rivers APC Crisis and failure to conduct legal ward congresses, Ibrahim Umar and 22 others approached the Rivers State High Court to seek redress.
On the day that the court slated for ruling on their suit, leaders of Rivers State APC backed by vicious armed thugs invaded the Rivers State High Court to stop proceedings. The security agencies did nothing to stop them. It took the intervention of Rivers people to chase away the violent APC thugs from the Rivers State High Court complex.
The court went ahead to deliver its ruling. It restrained all factions of Rivers State APC from proceeding with the congresses.
However, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi announced on several Port Harcourt Based Radio Stations that he will disregard the ruling. Results were written at Novotel Hotel and Intels. Security Forces were deployed to protect this faction of the APC to commit the illegality against due process.
This was the beginning of the destruction of Rivers APC as masterminded by Amaechi. He was blinded by his access to security agencies and concluded that he could ignore the rule of law. As such, despite being aware of the pendency of the suit by Ibrahim Umar and 22 others, Amaechi raped his party's congresses.
With that action, the party split into two and operated two different secretariats/executive committees. Both groups went ahead to conduct separate primaries outside the extant electoral laws.
It was after the illegal primaries that Justice Chinwendu Nwogu delivered his judgment. He nullified all primaries and congresses held during the pendency of the suit.
The Amaechi faction of the APC approached the Court of Appeal and lost. Same for the sacked Factional Rivers State APC Governorship Candidate, Tonye Cole and the sacked Factional Rivers State APC Chairman. They lost their appeals. Their interlocutory appeal at the Supreme Court ran into troubled waters.
Senator Magnus Abe and members of his faction, thinking they would profit from the judgment of the Rivers State High Court, approached the Federal High Court to declare them the authentic candidates of the APC. They claimed that the Direct primaries they conducted were not affected by Justice Nwogu's judgment. Justice Kolawole Omotosho declared all primaries and congresses held during the pendency of the
The court restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognizing any candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 General elections in Rivers State .
The court also nullified all nominations of the APC in Rivers State for the forthcoming elections in 2019. The court ruled specifically that the APC cannot participate in the Governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections during the general elections.
The PDP in Rivers State also approached the court and requested an interpretation of the Judgment by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu. The court ruled in favour of the PDP.
The court also granted an injunction stopping all sacked candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State from parading themselves as candidates for the 2019 General Elections.
All three judgments from Justice Chinwendu Nwogu and Justice Kolawole Omotosho are very explicit. There is no room for lawlessness in the electoral process, irrespective of the connections available to the politicians involved.
The courts have been unequivocal in their declaration that there are rules governing any process. Such rules must be respected for the stability of the Electoral Process.
Sadly, the sacked Factional Rivers State APC Governorship Candidate, Mr. Tonye Cole has imbibed the culture of lawlessness from his political godfather. Despite knowing that all primaries and congresses of Rivers APC were nullified, Cole went ahead to collect a tainted flag from Adams Oshiomhole, purporting to be the Rivers State Governorship Candidate of the damaged APC.
The rhetoric is high to mislead the few supporters into believing that there is a candidate for the embattled political party. Even after the judgment, Tonye Cole continued to play his campaign jingles on Port Harcourt radio stations, parading himself as a candidate of the APC.
Indeed, it took a formal communication from the lawyers to the PDP to the radio stations for them to stop airing campaign jingles of the sacked Rivers State Factional Governorship Candidate of the APC.
Despite the judgment, Tonye Cole still parades himself as APC Governorship Candidate. He appears on strategic bill boards across the State and appears on flagship radio programmes where he clearly campaigns for votes by playing the Ostrich.
On December 12, 2018, the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division confirmed the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nwogu that Rivers State APC has no ward executives, local government executives and State Executives. This was in respect of an appeal filed by the Sacked Rivers State APC State Chairman, Mr. Ojukaye Flag Amachree.
The Court of Appeal Port Harcourt Division Special Panel Chaired by Justice Abubakar Yahaya dismissed the two appeals for lack of merit. The third appeal which centered on the judgement by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu was dismissed because it was filed out of time and therefore statute barred.
Delivering his judgment Justice Yahaya, said the appeal against the Justice Chinwendu Nwogu High Court judgment on the party Congress crisis lacks merit, adding that the application for joinder failed to observed the 14 days rules of Appeal.
While delivering judgment on the substantive appeal number CA/PH/198 that bothered on Justice Nwogu's judgment, the panel ruled that the Ojukaye faction failed to seek leave of court before appealing against the judgment.
Justice Yahaya ruled that the judgment delivered at the lower court was a consent judgment, adding that Ojukaye faction should have done the needful legally before approaching the court
On Wednesday 23rd January, the Supreme Court of Nigeria made very profound declaration on pre-election matters.
According to The Nation (Thursday 24 January, 2019) , the Supreme Court declined to hear about 14 pre-election appeals on the grounds that they were caught by the amendment to Section 285 of the Constitution which came into effect on June 7, 2018. The amendment to Section 285 of the Constitution required the trial court to determine pre-election cases within 180 days and gives the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court 60 days each to determine such cases. It also provides that such appeals are filed with 14 days of the delivery of the judgment to be appealed.
The Nation report stated: "In the about
14 different rulings on Wednesday, two panels of the Supreme Court, headed by Justices Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed and Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, asked all the appellant lawyers, including Alex Iziyon (SAN) to withdraw their appeals.
"The court proceeded to strike out each of the appeals and refrained from making any consequential order. It said, since the appeals were caught by the alteration, the court no longer has jurisdiction to act on them or look into them, except striking them out of its list of case. The court said the effect of the 4th Alteration Act Number 21 was that all pre-election appeals that were not determined within the stipulated 60 days have become spent (no longer valid)."
As I stated earlier, the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division struck out the Appeal Filed by the sacked Factional Rivers State APC Governorship Candidate, Mr. Tonye Cole on the premise of the amendment to Section 285 of the Constitution which came into effect on June 7, 2018.
It is imperative at this juncture to state that whilst the political struggle between Amaechi and Abe raged over the ward, local government and state congresses, Mr. Tonye Cole was still a business partner, running the minister's company. He was yet to be drafted into the political street trading. Therefore, he could not join the legal tussle at the time.
There is this argument by Lateef Fagbemi, counsel to Tonye Cole, that his appeal is centered on representation and not on the substance of pre-election. With all due respect, Fagbemi is only being academic.
The entire conflict that has engulfed Rivers APC is centered on pre-election struggle for tickets to fly the party's flag. Two contending forces working desperately to outdo each other. In this bitter struggle, they threw the law aside. It is therefore too late for them to seek the assistance for the law to justify their lawlessness.
In any case, all the appeals of the APC before the Supreme Court are merely procedural. There is none that touches on the substance of the judgment by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu. Recall that Justice Chinwendu Nwogu delivered his judgment on October 10, 2018 and the appeals are on his pronouncements.
It is disheartening that Tonye Cole and his sponsors have exposed themselves by threatening violence should the law be implemented. Tonye Cole has always been a man of violence. Cole and Amaechi violently acquired Rivers valued state assets. Tonye Cole is a beneficiary of the violently illegal Rivers APC Congresses. Cole has been violently campaigning, killing innocent women with his convoy. But this situation is his Waterloo.
Cole's threat of extreme violence as a means of intimidating the legal order is a clear manifestation of the plot to plunder Rivers State. Cole has always been a trader who only understands under-the-table deals. He was drafted into the governorship race by his Oga to rape Rivers State. His ungodly gnashing of teeth in form of worthless threats is just the beginning of his period of lamentation. He should ask Dakuku Peterside, the first house-boy drafted to test the will of Rivers people.
Tonye Cole and his Oga, the Minister of Transportation bribed the National Working Committee and they received the flag of disobedience. They should face the consequences of their disrespect for the rule of law.
Mr. Nwakaudu is Governor Wike Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Rivers State