By Kalada Jumbo
The Tonye Cole faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State has described the January 7 rulings of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt as the Magnus Abe faction of the APC being dealt a huge blow, as the Court declared Abe’s suit brought before it as lacking merit.
In a statement signed by Chris Finebone of their Media and Publicity department and delivered to the Atlantic Post in Port Harcourt, the Cole faction said, “this now paves the way for the hearing of the Appeals put forward by the recognized faction of APC led by Tonye Cole who are now seeking to dismiss the earlier Justice Nwogu ruling”.
The APC and their governorship candidate who applauded the decision, called on Senator Magnus Abe and his supporters to retrace their steps and join their comrades in the fight to reclaim the state from the clutches of PDP. They did however note that not all the judgements went their way, but felt emboldened that the law and justice would be on their side.
The statement reads as follows:
“We have just received excerpts of the judgments delivered by Hon. Justice Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt in two separate suits. One was filed by Senator Magnus Abe and 49 others seeking the court to declare them candidates of the APC in 2019 General Election in Rivers State, and another filed by the PDP seeking the court to declare that the APC has no candidates for the election. We strongly feel that the Trial Court missed the mark in some of its decisions.
IN THE CASE OF SEN. MAGNUS ABE & 48 OTHERS
1. Firstly, we totally agree with the Court that Senator Magnus Abe and the 48 other members of the Party who claimed to have emerged through an alleged direct primary election, were not and therefore could not be declared candidates of the APC in the 2019 General Election in Rivers State. This was because the National Body of the APC never authorized or conducted the alleged direct primary as required by its constitution and guidelines neither did INEC monitoring same.
2. However, we do not agree with the Court that the Davies Ibiamu Ikanya and Peter Odike led Executive Committee of the Party in Rivers State was still subsisting. The APC has the powers to dissolve its Executive Committee and that power was exercised on 21st of May, 2018. The APC having dissolved that Exco, it ceased to exist and could not be resurrected, even if the Court finds, albeit wrongly, that there was no valid Congress to replace the dissolved Exco.
3. We know, as it is the law in Nigeria today, that APC as a Political Party has the absolute powers to schedule, reschedule or even cancel any of its congresses. The Party effectively terminated the ward, LGA and State Congresses of 5th, 12th and 19th May 2018 respectively. The APC Primary Election based on the unchallenged results and outcome of subsequent APC Congresses were lawful and valid.
ON THE PDP VS APC CASE
1. The PDP brought a suit seeking the court to declare that the candidates of the APC were not validly nominated. The Trial Court agreed with that position and made Order in that regard. With all due respect to the Court, we totally disagree with its reasoning
2. As the laws remain today, the issue of nomination of candidates of a Political Party remains the exclusive right and preserve of that political party, and any dispute arising thereto also remains within that political party and its aggrieved members. Under the Electoral Act 2010, a third party (PDP) can only challenge the nomination of the APC candidates as prescribed in Section 31(5) & (6), or challenge the return of APC candidates in accordance with Section 138(1) of the Electoral Act. Nothing more imaginary can fit into the contemplation of the Nigerian Electoral laws.
3. The PDP’s case did not satisfy any of these conditions or circumstances.
It is on this note that we strongly believe that APC will get Victory in the superior court. We have accordingly instructed our lawyers to review the case and file the appeals immediately, in order not to temper or jeopardize with the already existing legal rights of our candidates before INEC.
We therefore call on all members of the APC in Rivers State to remain calm, focussed, undaunted and go about their electioneering business with equanimity. We believe that at the end victory will be served.”
In a similar vein, the Tonye Cole Campaign Organization issued their statement saying that now that Abe was out of the picture, the higher courts can decide if Rivers voters should be denied a choice.
Ogbonna Nwuke statement reads:
We are not giving up – TCCO
“Today, Monday 7th January, 2019 the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt delivered a ruling in respect of the matter brought before it by Senator Magnus Abe and 43 others.
The Federal High Court also ruled on Monday on the matter filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which sought a declaration that the APC has no candidates.
On the matter brought before the Court by Abe and 43 others, our lawyers have briefed us that the direct and indirect primaries conducted by factions of the APC in Rivers State during the pendancy of the matter before Justice Chinwendu Nwogu have been set aside.
The Court held that until a superior court of competent jurisdiction overturns the decision of Justice Chinwendu of the Rivers State High Court, it would be deemed under the law that the APC has no candidate(s).
We are already in court challenging the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nworgu of the Rivers State High Court
On the matter brought by the PDP, we have learnt that the Federal Hight Court ordered INEC to remove the names of the APC candidates from anything to do with the forthcoming general elections in the State.
Our position, after consultations with our lawyers, is that we shall challenge the order in an appellate court. Although we were not favoured by the decision, our faith in the country’s judicial system remains unshaken.
We believe that we have sufficient grounds on which to appeal the decisions of the Federal High Court as well as the ruling of the Rivers State High Court.
It is clear from the ruling that Abe and his supporters have no locus. It is our hope that they would return and join us. It is by now obvious to all that the fight is between the APC and the PDP. No use can be achieved by their continued appearance in court.
While we urge our supporters to remain calm, we wish to emphasise that we will not give up in our sincere fight to secure justice on behalf of ourselves and the good people of Rivers State who are solidly in search of a transparent and accountable system that is responsive.
Driven by our faith in God; strengthened by our believe in the sanctity of the judiciary, we believe that we are still on the right track in looking for remedies through the courts.
We are acutely aware that those who are busy placing legal hurdles on the way know that the APC in Rivers State is poised to win the 2019 elections. What our opponents are doing in partnership with some members of the political wing in the judiciary is to dampen the believe of our teeming supporters in our ability to take them to the promised land.
We assure Rivers people that we will not be deterred by the desperate efforts that are being made by our opponents to place impediments on our path. Our eyes are set on victory through the ballot box.”
Prince Tonye T.J.T Princewill, the Director of Strategic Communication on his part said:
“This is the time to welcome Magnus and his supporters to come now and join us. They went to this court to be declared candidate. The court declined. Unless they want to pitch tents with Wike, it’s clear the fight is between PDP and APC and APC has said, we have a candidate.
Our faith in the legal process remains unshaken. We are confident that justice will not deny Rivers state the choice between two very clear options. The appeals process is on and we feel sure that Rivers people will be given that choice. If PDP were not afraid of us, they would have been relishing the chance to defeat us on the field.
Party faithful should not be distracted and inclined to listen to microwaved legal interpretations as to how APC will have no candidates. We will. Let the lawyers do their work, politicians do their own and the voters do theirs when the time comes.
This court ruling is part of a process, not the main event. The match is not over. We have not even reached half time.
Tonye Cole’s next stop is the last 5 wards in Gokhana from where he will move on to the largest LGA in Africa – Khana. Once he finishes the Rivers South East Senatorial district, he will wrap up his tour of the state with the final LGA by LGA tour of the Rivers East Zone. Tonye is not deterred and above his confidence in the judiciary, his legal team and his party is his total confidence in the God he serves.”
Meanwhile INEC spokesperson has just confirmed that Tonye Cole remains; “two judgements from two courts of equal jurisdiction means we’ll accept only that which emanates from an appellate court.”
One thing that is very clear from the unfolding political quagmire in Rivers State is that the legal fireworks is not over yet.