Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State
A Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja Wednesday granted an accelerated hearing of an appeal filed by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Ikechi Emenike, seeking to invalidate the process that saw Governor Theodore Orji emerge as Abia State Governor.
Emenike is challenging the judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja which declared Orji as the bonafide PDP candidate for the Abia State governorship election held on April 26.
Emenike, who emerged as the governorship candidate of the party from a parallel primary, is praying the appellate court to set aside the judgment of Justice Gabriel Kolawole on the ground that it was erroneous and had occasioned miscarriage of justice.
When the appeal was mentioned Wednesday, the court granted the application by the appellant for an accelerated hearing of the appeal.
However, the application by Orji for time to file a supplementary record of appeal suffered a setback as the court ordered his counsel, Livi Uzoukwu (SAN) , to file his brief of argument within 14 days.
The court however, said the governor was at liberty to file a supplementary record of the appeal as he alleged that some vital pages in the record of appeal were missing.
Counsels to Emenike, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN) and Emeka Ngige (SAN) , had urged the court to refuse the application to file a supplementary record of appeal on the ground that the governor had flouted the provisions of order 8 rule 6 of the Court of Appeal Rules which permit such an application to be filed within 15 days and not 30 days as argued by the governor’s lawyer.
Akintola had earlier moved an application seeking for an accelerated hearing and abridging the time of the respondents within which to file
their brief of arguments. Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),Harilu Liman did not oppose the application.
But it was later discovered that the alleged missing pages in the record of appeal were not missing but contained on pages 15 and 16 of
the record. Justice Jimmy Bada, who presided adjourned the appeal to May 23, 2011 for definite hearing. The appellant is contending that the trial Judge closed his eyes to the facts of the case particularly to the fundamental inconsistencies of the party’s guidelines with its constitution, Electoral Act and the 1999 constitution as he made no findings on the inconsistencies.
In addition, it is the case of the appellant that in holding that the PDP guidelines “ought to and should have formed the basis of a substantive cause of action” the court wrongfully assumed the role of formulating a case for the plaintiff different from what was submitted for adjudication in the originating summons. Emenike is further challenging the judgment of the lower court on the ground that the trial Judge misdirected himself in law and came to a wrong decision when he invoked Article 17.1 of the PDP constitution and held that the “plaintiff did not identify the specific provision of the PDP constitution which enabled the Abia State Executive of the party to conduct party primary, at which he emerged gubernatorial candidate of the party.
He argued that the usurpation of the clearly designated power of the State Executive Committee by the National Executive in the conduct of
party gubernatorial primary vide insertion of such power in the election guideline made by the National Executive could not be a legitimate decision of the PDP. The appellant said the trial judge misdirected himself in law by agreeing with Orji’s submissions that he (Emenike) is bound to swim and sink in defeat with the party’s guidelines since he produced it, when the purpose of so doing was to demonstrate that he and the Abia State Executive Committee complied with those guidelines which did not contradict the constitution of the party, the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution in nominating him as gubernatorial candidate.
He told the court that the judgment failed to make any finding on the membership status of Orji as to whether or not he was a bonafide
member of the party or not, as according to the plaintiff, the governor was never re-admitted into the PDP fold in August, 2010 at all as to make him eligible to contest for or emerge as the gubernatorial candidate of the party for the Abia 2011 governorship election.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole in his judgment attributed the factionalisation of the PDP in Abia State to the spate of defection of politicians from one party to another, which according to him, “makes one wonder if political parties have no ideologies but just open their doors for anybody to come in and go in the name of freedom of association". Although he said there was nothing illegal about it, he added that there should be decorum in defections by politicians.