By Ayo Kehinde
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has appealed to the Supreme Court against the judgment of a Court of Appeal in Abuja which gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 90 days to conduct a re-run election into the contested senatorial seat for Anambra Central.
The Appeal Court, through Justice Wilson Akomolafe, had, while deciding on an appeal brought by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the order excluding it from participating in the fresh election, dismissed the appeal and ordered INEC to conduct elections within 90 days.
PDP disagreed with the judgment on the argument that there cannot be a fresh election over the Anambra Senatorial seat because its victory in the 2015 election has not been voided by any court. It insists that what the Court of Appeal in Enugu voided was only Hon. Uche Ekwunife’s nomination for the election, and not the final outcome of the election in 2015.
PDP contends that the entire decision of the Court of Appeal was faulty as the issue of who actually won the 2015 senatorial election of Anambra Central has never been in contention.
In the notice of appeal, PDP argues that INEC’s decision to exclude it from contesting in the fresh election was discriminatory as it constituted a breach of its right to freedom from discrimination as guaranteed by Section 42 of Nigeria’s constitution as amended
PDP stated that “as a corporate entity and a political party operating in Nigeria, (it) is a citizen of Nigeria and by the provisions of Section 221 of the constitution of Nigeria has the right to canvass for votes for any candidate and sponsor any candidate at any election and by excluding it and any of its candidates from participating in the fresh election ordered for Anambra central Senatorial District, the lower court’s order excluding the appellant (PDP) and any of its candidates from participating in the fresh election ordered by the Court of Appeal Enugu Division in consonance with the administrative action on the Peoples Democratic Party is discriminatory and breaches the fundamental right of freedom from discrimination guaranteed it and any if its candidates by section 42 of the constitution”.
It also argues that the exclusion, despite being discriminatory, causes its members to suffer disabilities and restrictions to which other citizens of Nigerian and political parties are not subjected to.
The party said it was unhappy with the judgment because by allowing its exclusion from the fresh election, the court embarked on an issue that was not before it as the question of who actually won the 2015 election was never in doubt.
It noted that its exclusion from contesting in the fresh election would have been proper if there had been a court order, or judgment, anywhere in Nigeria, nullifying the 2015 Anambra Central Senatorial election.
According to the PDP, the election that led to the legal dispute is still valid and not in contention and as such, a fresh election, as ordered by the Court of Appeal, will be a misnomer and an abridgment of the rights of the party and those of voters in Anambra Central who chose PDP ahead of other parties.
It therefore asked the Supreme Court for an order setting aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which excluded PDP from participating in the fresh election as ordered.
Meanwhile, the issue of who was actual candidate of the PDP for the Anambra Central seat is still in contention before the Appeal Court in Abuja. Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who was returned at the primary election of the PDP held on December 7, 2014, is in the Court of Appeal seeking an order declaring that by virtue of final results from the December 2014 primary election of the PDP, he ought to be in the Senate on behalf of the district.
Documents filed before the Court of Appeal show that indeed, Dr. Okonkwo won the 2014 primary election having polled 204 delegate votes ahead of other contestants which included Sen. Annie Okonkwo, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, Barr. Sylvester Okonkwo and Kodilichukwu Okonkwo.
The appeal, which is still undefended by the INEC and PDP, also seeks to compel a Federal High Court in Abuja to deliver judgment in Okonkwo suit, which is a pre-election matter.
A lawyer in the matter told journalists in Abuja, that being a pre-election matter, the Appeal ought to be determined first before delving into a post-election matter. According to the lawyer, “even the court-ordered fresh election would be mere academic exercise if the pre-election matter was not determined because it will amount to waste of resources if the fresh election goes ahead with the exclusion of and the Court later determine that indeed, Okonkwo won the PDP primary election of 2014 and if we go by previous Supreme court decisions, victory in a general election belongs to the political party”.
Anambra Central has been without a senator since 2015 when the Court of Appeal in Enugu sacked Ekwunife from the senate on the grounds that she was not the right and proper candidate to have contested in the election and she was not properly returned at the primary election of the PDP.
Hon. Ekwunife’s challenge of the judgment at the Supreme Court also hit a brick wall leading to her forced exit from the Senate.