Anambra Guber: INEC May Disqualify APGA for Fielding Two Candidates
Following the expiration of deadline for submission of nomination forms of candidates who are to fly the flag of various political parties in the November 16, 2013 governorship race on September 17, this year, there are fears that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may disqualify some parties notably the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for fielding double candidates
The INEC has said it would invoke the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 which forbids parties from presenting double candidates for the election.
INEC disposition to disqualify APGA. It was learnt, stems from the Federal High Court order in Awka, Anambra State capital ordering INEC to accept the two factional candidates of APGA) Willy Obiano and Chike Obidigbo for the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State pending the determination of the suit challenging the legality of the leadership of Chief Victor Umeh as the national chairman of the party, is causing some ripples in APGA.
In his ruling in the suit, Justice M.T Salihu noted that considering the urgency of the matter, the INEC must accept the names of the nominee of the first applicant (Okwu), as well as that of the Victor Umeh-led faction as governorship candidates of the APGA pending the determination of the case.
The Maxi Okwu-led faction of APGA had nominated Dr. Chike Obidigbo as its governorship aspirant to the election, as against the nomination of Chief Willy Obiano by the Umeh-led group.
Though Maxi Okwu expressed delight with the judgment, Umeh dismissed the order saying it was not possible.
Apart from APGA, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is fronting two candidates, Tony Nwoye and Senator Andy Uba, both of who emerged from parallel primaries of the party conducted by factional state chairman. Prince Ken Emeakayi and Ejike Oguebego respectively.
Reacting to the ruling, the Okwu faction, which rose from its NWC meeting yesterday in Abuja, told journalists that it was satisfied with the ruling from Awka.
The faction stressed that like the case of Rivers State in 2007, the authentic candidate of the APGA would emerge the next governor of Anambra State if the party won the November 16 election.
Meanwhile the INEC, which noted that today would be the last day for the receipt of party nominees for the election, disclosed yesterday that it was yet to receive the court directives.
Mr. Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, told The Guardian on phone that the nominee of the Maxi Okwu faction was yet to submit any name to the commission.
He maintained that the commission still recognizes the Chief Victor Umeh as the APGA chairman, based on court directives.
He, however, noted that the INEC, an impartial body, would not disobey any court order.
He said at the end of the date for submission of candidates, the INEC would deliberate upon the cases of party representatives at the Anambra election.
The Okwu faction, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Bernard Akoma, noted that the reconciliation between Chief Victor Umeh and the governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, was a settlement of two estranged brothers from the same town, which, he stated, did not have anything to do with the crisis in the party.
Akoma, who insisted that peace was elusive in the APGA leadership, accused Umeh and Obi of running the party like a private business of Agulu brothers.
He gave the assurance that the Okwu faction would not seize fire until it returned the party to the genuine vision of its founding fathers.
“Yes, we have just been informed by our lawyer that the Federal High Court in Awka has ruled that based on the urgency of the matter, the name of the first applicant should be submitted as well as that of Umeh’s candidate pending the determination of the case,” he said.
“Out of the 27-man NWC of the APGA, 18 members left Umeh because of his high-handedness but he has continued to discharge the duties of the party with only eight members of the erstwhile NWC, which is against the party’s constitution.
“He (Umeh) is running the party as a mercantile affair, rather than a political party. We call on INEC to accept the two candidates of the APGA factions until the determination of the case against Umeh’s continuous claim as APGA chairman.
“We are challenging this in court, and if Umeh wins, which I know he will not, then he can go on with his candidate. But if we win, the same will go to us.”
Akoma said like in 2007, when Mr. Celestine Omehia and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi contested in Rivers State, the November 16 election in Anambra State would be won by the APGA.
“Also, it will be the party, through its symbol, the cock, that will be represented, and not the candidate,” he said. “So, whoever emerges victorious at the court will represent the APGA come November 16.”
Akoma alleged that there was a dramatised ceremony in Awka between Governor Obi “and his then estranged brother, Victor Umeh,” using the name of the APGA.
“But it is clear that the parallel lines dividing the party are still very visible,” je said. “We strongly believe that that agreement between Obi and his brother, Umeh, was a resolution to settle their misunderstanding as two brothers from the same community (Agulu).
“We wish to state here that no other member of APGA was involved in that drama. Also, we wish to state that till date, no other member of APGA has been briefed on the terms of agreement between Obi and his brother, Umeh.
“Instead, the two have continued to run the affairs of the party as if it is a personal estate of Anambra bothers.
“We wish to state here that APGA is bigger than Anambra State and therefore cannot be appropriated by Anambra brothers as their personal empire.”
Akoma also call on the INEC not to take the resolution of Obi and Umeh, who had reportedly settled their differences as brothers to mean the resolution of the APGA.
“We still have challenges in the party and we wish to disassociate ourselves with any dealings of the two individuals in the name of the party,” he said.
“Their actions are towards the pursuit of their personal interest, which is at variance with genuine interest of the party.”
He noted that the constitution of the party allows a maximum of eight years for every individual for tenure of two terms of four years each.
But he said: “Today, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, who parades himself as the national secretary of APGA, was elected in 2003.
“By today (yesterday), he is spending 10 years and seven months as the national secretary of Victor Umeh and Peter Obi’s APGA, contrary to the constitution of the party.”
Akoma added: “We ask INEC to treat APGA the way it has treated PDP by ensuring that it does not recognise candidates who were not properly elected.
“INEC must be wary of its dealings with Umeh and Obi in the name of APGA, as they cannot speak for the entire leadership of the party.
This was after the APGA screening committee set up by Umeh disqualified Obidigbo for reportedly submitting a party membership card signed by Okwu
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