By Chuks Okocha
Members of the National Working Committee of Peoples Democratic Party won a temporary reprieve weekend as a Federal High Court in Abuja issued an interim order against the implementation of the controversial report of the Independent National Electoral Commission that rejected 12 of the 16 members of the NWC as improperly elected. The order followed a suit by the PDP. But it was amid a resolution of governors elected on the party’s platform that the INEC report should be implemented. The governors feared ugly repercussions from a non-implementation of the report.
Three members of PDP had filed a suit at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory seeking an order for the enforcement of the INEC report. Hon. Abba Yale from Borno State, Hon. Yahaya Aruwa Sule from Taraba State, and Barrister Bashir Maidugu from Borno State in suit no C11/24/8/13, filed on their behalf by Joni Icheka, sought the sack of the NWC members whose elections INEC had rejected. They felt the affected NWC members lacked the qualification to occupy their offices.
But PDP approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the report and ask for an interim order preventing its implementation. The motion brought on behalf of the party by Ajibola Oluyede sought, among others, to restrain INEC from recognising or allowing any attempt to remove any member of the PDP NWC on the agenda of any of the national organs of the party, pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Adamu Bello granted the interim order and directed the parties – PDP and INEC – to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the suit brought by PDP. But while granting the application for interim injunction, the judge noted that ordinarily, parties were bound by the doctrine of lis pendens to refrain from tampering with the res in a case before a court. However, he said in Nigeria that was not always the case. He fixed hearing of the originating summons for May 23.
The INEC report published on April 8 was signed by principal officers of the commission, including the team leader to the PDP national convention of March 24 last year, Col. M.K. Hammanga (rtd) and Dame Gladys Nne Nwafor, both national commissioners in INEC. Other signatories to the report included the INEC Director of Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, Regina Omo-Agege; Director of Public Affairs, Emmanuel Umenger; Chief Legal Officer, Nnamdi Nwaeze; Deputy Director of Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, Babalola O.O.; Assistant Director, Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, Aminu K.Idris; and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in the Political Parties Monitoring and Liaison, Pricilla Ezeigwe.
The report said the mode of election of the affected NWC members at the PDP national convention was not acceptable to the commission.
INEC said, “The mode of election adopted for single candidates was not in accordance with the mode of election stipulated in paragraph 6.5 (i) of the guidelines for the conduct of the year 2012 congresses and national convention and therefore not acceptable to the commission.”
The INEC report listed the single candidates, whose elections by affirmation were not acceptable to it, to include the deputy national chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; National Organising Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha; National Youth Leader, Alhaji Garba Chiza; Deputy National Youth Leader, Dennis Alonge Niyi; Deputy National Auditor, Senator Umar Ibrahim; Deputy National Woman Leader, Hanatu Ulam; National Woman Leader, Kema Chikwe; Deputy National Organising Secretary, Okechukwu Nnadozie; Deputy National Treasurer, Claudius Inengas; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwom; and Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Binta Goje.
The report cleared only four members of the NWC, namely, PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur, National Financial Secretary Bolaji Anani, and the party’s recently sacked officers, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was removed as National Secretary, and Bode Mustapha, who was sacked National Auditor.
But indications later emerged that the report may actually be a Presidency’s plan B to whip the NWC into line ahead of 2015.
THISDAY learnt that as a strategy to ensure that the NWC members do not nurse contrary ideas on the choice of the PDP presidential candidate in 2015, some loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan had persuaded INEC to do the report for use by the president’s men in checkmating the NWC.
“If the NWC decides to play any tricks, then the report from INEC would be used to ease the executive organ out. In politics, you don’t leave anything to chance,” a reliable source said.
Curiosity was heightened when, as THISDAY gathered, attempts by some members of the NWC to persuade the president, who is the PDP national leader, to intervene to try to pressure the three PDP members into withdrawing their suit failed. The president was alleged to have said he could not intervene in a matter that was in court.
According to a source in the Presidency, “When the president was further told that two ministers were behind the INEC report and the court action seeking implementation of the report, he merely said that no minister or member of the Federal Executive Council would attempt such action to discredit the NWC of the PDP.”
The reaction of Jonathan’s special adviser on public affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, was in line with the alleged position of the president. Okupe said the president had no business with the INEC report because, “It is a PDP affair. It does not concern the Presidency. This is a party affair.”
But the issue had a strange twist when last week governors elected on the PDP platform joined the call for the implementation of the INEC report. They felt non-implementation of the report would have future implications for the party. The governors have communicated their position to the president.
At a meeting of the PDP Governors Forum on Wednesday at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge, in Abuja, the governors called for a mini convention to regularise the anomalies identified by the INEC report. A source at the meeting told THISDAY, “For every law, there are effects and consequences and it is in the interest of the party that the members of the NWC concerned should resign and be allowed to re-contest where they would be voted for or against.
“We are canvassing for a mini convention where the NWC members concerned would be re-elected or otherwise.”
The source maintained that the right thing must be done; else some people would go to court later to seek the nullification of any primary election that had the participation of the affected NWC members.
He said, “When the foundation is faulty, it will produce a weak superstructure. A faulty NWC cannot produce acceptable candidates in the primary election of the PDP in the 2015 general election. INEC has done its report and there is nothing else for the commission to do than wait and see what the PDP will do with the report. This is a time bomb.”
THISDAY gathered that the PDP governors presented their position to Jonathan on Wednesday night during their meeting in Abuja.
But PDP in its suit against INEC is asking the court to determine whether, one year after the party’s last national convention was concluded, anyone could use INEC’s report on the convention, which complained about the procedure for the election of some members of the party’s NWC, for any purpose.
PDP prays the court to declare that the procedure of affirmation and voice vote used for unopposed candidates at the national convention was consonant with Section 223 of the Constitution and in substantial compliance with the PDP guidelines for the convention.
It also seeks a declaration that any complaint about the national convention must be made within 48 hours and, therefore, can no longer be made a year after the convention was concluded.