From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
The long drawn battle over who should fly the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abia State in 2023 between Chief Ikechi Emenike and former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uche Ogah appears to be gathering more steam as the days roll by. This is not withstanding that the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), has reportedly listed the name of Emenike as the candidate.
Abia APC has been enmeshed in internal wrangling for some years now, but the present crisis which may affect the chances of the party winning the 2023 governorship election in the state, began with the party primaries held late May.
On the eve of the primaries held on May 26, news filtered in from Abuja that the APC national leadership had approved direct voting for Abia APC governorship primaries.
So, on the day of the primaries, the former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Ogah and his group conducted their own primaries, adopting the direct primaries, hinging their action on the said directive of the party. At the end, Ogah emerged the winner.
On the other hand, the Emenike group held theirs elsewhere in Umuahia and he came out tops, with Emeka Atumah trailing behind him.
However, while Ogah group’s primaries which went into the night was still on and hours after that of Emenike had been concluded and he was declared winner, the euphoria that followed that declaration was short-lived, as a High Court of Abia State, sitting in Umuahia had in a judgement affirmed the suspension and revocation of membership of Emenike from APC, as allegedly handed down by his Ward.
The Court presided over by Justice A.O. Chijioke in the Judgment held that by the suspension of Emenike, it has denied him all membership privileges as provided by the APC Constitution.
The purport of the judgment was that Chief Emenike was not fit to participate and/or contest in the primaries of the APC in Abia State, until the judgment is set aside and/or upturned on appeal.
The judgment delivered in Suit No.: HU/6/2022: Chinedum Nnoke & 2 Others V. High Chief Ikechi Emenike & 3 Others, filed by three members of the Abia State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), challenged the membership status being accorded to Chief Emeinike, despite his subsisting suspension by the Nkwoegwu Ward of the APC, for alleged anti party activities.
Justice Chijioke in ruling on the matter held that since Chief Emenike’s suspension is in conformity with the provisions and requirements of Article 21 of the 2024 APC constitution (as amended), his rights and privileges are equally suspended.
However, later, Emenike, got a judgement order from another Abia State High Court, mandating APC to forward his name and those of House of Assembly to INEC.
In suit No HUM/31/2022, Chief Ikechi Emenike Vs APC and 2 ors, the High Court had in its judgment delivered on June 24, 2022, affirmed Chief Emenike as the governorship candidate of Abia APC for the 2023 general election.
Emenike approached the Abia State high court to determine whether himself having emerged as the candidate of APC in the primary election conducted by the party on June 26, 2022, the party can refuse to submit his name to INEC as its candidate.
He also asked the Court to determine whether INEC upon the party submitting or uploading his name in its portal can decline to publish his name as the candidate of APC for the 2023 gubernatorial election in Abia State, among other issues for determination.
The Abia state high court in the said judgment in favour of Chief Emenike mandated APC to upload his name in INEC’s portal as the governorship candidate.
It also compelled INEC to accept Emenike’s name as uploaded, publish same as the candidate of APC for gubernatorial election in Abia State in the 2023 general elections.
Above all, the Court restrained INEC from accepting or publishing the name of any other person as the candidate of APC in the said election other than Emenike.
APC religiously complied with the court order.
Ogah could not stomach this. The ex-Minister proceeded to the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division to seek nullification of the ruling of the trial court.
Ogah had approached the Court of Appeal in suit No. CA-OW-243M-2022, in a motion on notice, sought for leave to appeal against the said judgment as an interested party, having not been joined at the lower court.
Emenike’s counsel opposed the motion on grounds that the Court of Appeal lacks the jurisdiction to hear and determine same as the motion was filed outside 14 days period stipulated in section 285 (11) of the 1999 constitution as amended as it relates to filing of an appeal in pre-election matters.
In a unanimous decision, the appellate court in striking out the motion said, “The motion for leave filed by Uche Ogah as the Applicant was filed out of time (14) days as provided for by section 285(11) of the constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and accordingly incompetent.
In a twist however, the Federal High Court, Umuahia was reported to have in an order, barred INEC from accepting and publishing the name of Emenike as Abia APC Guber Candidate.
In the suit marked FHC/UM/CS/98/2022 the plaintiffs, Ugochukwu Okoroafor Okoro and Egwu Clifford Chukwudi were said to have told the court that Emenike emerged through an irregular process.
The plaintiffs, said to be chieftains of APC told the court presided over by Justice E.N Anyadike that they were supposed to be delegates in the primary election that produced Emenike as governorship candidate but were excluded, wondering how Emenike emerged as candidate.
The court in her ruling, ordered the parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the substantive suit. What this translates to is that INEC is restrained from accepting and or publishing the name of Emenike as the APC Gubernatorial candidate for Abia State pending the determination of the suit.
Despite the court order, INEC went ahead to publish the name of Emenike as the gubernatorial candidate of APC in Abia, as uploaded in its portal. This is one action Ogah believe will not stand the test of time.
Not withstanding this development, Emenike is crying to high heavens, accusing Ogah of plotting to ensure APC did not field any candidate in Abia in the coming election.
A statement issued by The Emenike Media Team (TEMT), and entitled: “Uche Ogah’s Desperation: What the General Public Must Know,” alleged that Ogah has a “predetermined goal of destabilising the party,” having filed 12 suits in different courts seeking to remove their principal as the gubernatorial candidate of APC in Abia.
Emenike in a plain language told Ogah he was playing the bull in a China’s shop, adding that Ogah’s “desperation” to become the governorship candidate of the party in Abia “has reached an inglorious crescendo.”
He accused Ogah of parading the result of a fake governorship primary which neither had the blessing of the National Secretariat of APC nor was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“It should be noted that as far as the 2023 General Election is concerned, Uche Ogah is not the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), or any other party for that matter in Abia State. He was never elected a governorship candidate for 2023”, the statement added.
Ogah’s media team, Abia rejoice media responded swiftly to that of Emenike’s. In a statement, the team listed out why the ex-Minister is the Abia APC governorship candidate for 2023.
“As you are aware, Chief Ikechi Emenike got a judgement order from Abia State High Court, mandating APC to forward his name and those of House of Assembly to INEC.
“Though not a true position of the law as regards pre-election matters where only Federal High Court has jurisdiction and not a State High Court, the party APC is bound to obey it until set aside on appeal and the appeal has been lodged.
“In the interim, the APC uploaded his name and those of House of Assembly into the INEC portal, and were given acknowledgement slips which are what some Abia APC aspirants are brandishing in the media, claiming their candidacy had been accepted by INEC”.
The Ogah media team revealed that whatever action taken by INEC with respect to publishing of names of candidates was temporary, “subject to the final processes and Court judgements leading to final publication of names in October”.
Ogah’s camp made it clear that the basis for uploading Emenike’s name in the interim was the Court judgement obtained from Abia State High Court, which it said erred in law by assuming jurisdiction in a matter the court does not have power to adjudicate.
Despite the fact that the chairman of the faction of the party loyal to Emenike, Chief Kingsley Ononogbo is insisting his man is the authentic governorship candidate of APC in the state, the Ogah camp is of the opinion that victory will be theirs very soon.
Attempt by some leaders of the party in the state to broker peace and bring the party under one roof, and recognizing Emenike as the governorship candidate, was stoutly rejected by the faction loyal to Ogah.
Secretary of the faction, Perfect Okorie said, “APC, Abia under the acting chairmanship of Goldie Nwagbara and myself as secretary is still intact, has not moved, cannot move; has not negotiated with anybody and is not willing to negotiate with anybody to the extent of saying that we are collapsing our structure.
“We know we are the true APC in the state irrespective of the antics that might be playing around. We are the authentic APC and our governorship candidate is Uche Ogah”.
As dicey as things seem to look in Abia APC with regard to the governorship ticket, it does appear it is the court that will finally decide who eventually carries the party’s banner in 2023.