T he All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) recently announced timetable for the conduct of its congresses at the local government and state levels as well as the national convention. But a few days after this announcement, a Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that the National Chairman, Ozo Victor Oyeh should not parade himself as the national chairman of the party and forbade him from conducting the congresses and convention.
It further ruled that the National Chairman of the party is Mr. Edozie Njoku, who for years has been locked in battle with Oyeh over who is the authentic and legal chairman of the party. The pronouncements of the federal high court would had put to rest this long battle, however, it appeared to have opened another chapter of battle as both leaders are up in arms still thereby throwing the party into another leadership crisis.
This development appears to be threatening the already slated congresses and convention of the party as the main issue facing the party now is who of the two chairmen has the legal right to oversee the organization of the these events. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has weighed in on the matter as a recently statement by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, noted as follows: “The attention of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been drawn to posters and statements being circulated by an amorphous group accusing the Commission of refusal to obey the judgement of the Supreme Court purportedly recognising one Chief Edozie Njoku “as the authentic National Chairman of APGA.
“The Commission views the circulation of the posters and statements as cheap blackmail aimed at hoodwinking those not abreast of the details of the case. We wish to state that the issues in question are about facts, the law and due process not amenable to hysteria and appeal to sentiments” “It is noteworthy that the suit in question started from the Jigawa State High Court, initiated by one Alhaji Rabiu Garba Aliyu against Chief Jude Okeke and three others. Chief Edozie Njoku was not a party to the suit.
One of the reliefs sought is a “Declaration that the national officers of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, including the Plaintiff, who were elected at its national convention held in Owerri, Imo State on 31st May 2019 shall remain in office and discharge their respective duties for a term of four years commencing from 31st May 2021. “On 30th June 2021, the Jigawa State High Court in suit No: JDU/022/2021 entered judgement in favour of the said Alhaji Rabiu Garba Aliyu. On appeal, the Court of Appeal described the suit as an abuse of court process.
Consequently, the entire proceedings of the Jigawa State High Court in suit No. JDU/022/2021, delivered by Musa Ubale J on 30th June 2021 and the judgement delivered thereon are accordingly set aside”. The Supreme Court in its judgement of 14th October 2021 affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal. “However, on 27th January 2023, Chief Edozie Njoku, who was never a party to any of the suits and the processes filed in the various courts approached the Supreme Court of Nigeria as an interested person/applicant and filed a Motion on Notice seeking for an order of the Court to correct “typographical errors and accidental slip” in the lead judgement of the Supreme Court.
This was granted and the correction did not in any way affect the substance of the suit and the orders made by the Supreme Court. “The Commission is a law-abiding institution and will continue to give effect to the decisions, judgements and orders of the various courts in Nigeria.” However, the founding National Chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie holds a contrary view from that of INEC, insisting that the electoral body should recognise Njoku as the national chairman as against the court’s judegement enunciated by INEC.
As he noted that, “If a court order has been served on the commission and the commission willingly refuses to obey the judgment, what the judgement creditor ought to do is to file contempt proceedings against the commission.
“So, if they believe that they have a judgement that has been served on the commission and it has refused to obey it, they should file contempt proceeding against the commission.”
“In fact, INEC complied within the 48 hours of its delivering, the same INEC has turned its face away from the duly corrected judgement nearing 60 days after the correction. “It is pertinent to state that for the first time in 18 years, since 2004, there is no APGA leadership dispute pending in any courts in Nigeria.
Judgments in suit numbers FHC/BAU/CS/10/2021 and SC/CV/686/2021 unambiguously affirmed chief Edozie Njoku as the lawful and authentic National Chairman of APGA, thus the only national chairman of the party legally qualified to nominate valid candidate to contest the 2023 general on election on the platform of APGA.
“INEC must have an ulterior intention to instigate another round of litigations in a political party that has finally found peace after 18 long years of various forms of leadership crises, some of which were fuelled by INEC. INEC should give APGA the liberty and latitude to develop and grow like other political parties.
Okorie said that Oyeh has no claim to any lawful national convention of APGA, adding that the candidature of those whose names and particulars have been submitted to INEC by Oyeh are not sustainable and cannot stand the test of judicial scrutiny.
His position on the matter is based on the recent correction to the earlier judgement by the Supreme Court, as he stated that, “Njoku is the obvious beneficiary of the corrected version of the judgement of the Supreme Court duly signed by Justice Mary Peter-Odili and certified by the Registrar of the Supreme Court. “Oyeh had enjoyed the recognition of INEC based on the earlier version of the judgement that contained the mistake.
It is appropriate Njoku must not be denied similar recognition by the commission soon after the correction was made by the apex court. The issue in contention now is who becomes the next national chairman of the party. Political watchers are weary as to why issue of leadership always surfaces in APGA whenever there is either a primary election or congresses.
Recall that the Njoku-led faction of the party had challenged the leadership of the party before the conduct of the gubernatorial primary election in Anambra state over a year ago. This legal battle lingered until Governor Charles Soludo emerged as the candidate of the party this is even as one Chuma Umeorji through the courts claimed to be the guber candidate of the party following a new national chairman, Jude Okeke who conducted the congress.
As at this point Njoku was not in the picture. It was after this development that another faction of the party conducted another primary election in Awka where Njoku emerged as its gubernatorial candidate and also the national chairman of the party without recourse to the litigations between Victor Oyeh and Jude Okeke.
While the matter was pending at the Jigawa High Court and the Appeal Court, Njoku was not in the picture and the courts affirmed that since he was not part of the suits he had no business with the matter. Special Adviser to Soludo on Political Matters, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu told reporters recently that the position of INEC is unambiguous, adding that the Commission is by law to witness the convention of the party hence Njoku’s position is not to the knowledge of the Commission.
According to him, “We are law abiding Nigerians and we recognise the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the chief electoral officer and we stand by them.” Oyeh in his reactions to the developments within the party informed this reporter that he cannot join issues with the submissions of Njoku, noting that the convention will hold and the Commission had been informed officially and which it has acknowledged.
From all indications especially with the stand of INEC on the matter, it is obvious that the coast is clear for Oyeh and his faction of the party to conduct the congresses and convention as announced. What is however, not clear is how Njoku and his faction will react. Party members and people of the state are waiting in bathed breathe to see how this unfolding scenery ends.