Lady Margarie Okadigbo
By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Supreme Court yesterday declared Lady Margarie Okadigbo, wife of the late former Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, as the validly nominated candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the Anambra North senatorial district. It also pronounced her winner of the election conducted for the district by the Independent National Electoral Commission during the 2011 general elections.
The senatorial district had not had representation at the upper legislative arm of the National Assembly owing to the series of controversies that trailed the conduct of primary election for the selection of the party's candidate by various factions of the highly fractured party in the state.
The court also ordered the immediate withdrawal of Hon. Esime Eyiboh from the House of Representatives as it pronounced Dan Abia the winner of the Eket/Ibeno/Esit/Onna Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes Vivour, the court held that Lady Okadigbo emerged winner of the primaries conducted by the legally recognised faction of the party. The court also held that the appellant, Mr. John Emeka who brought the suit before it did not have the locus standi to have instituted the appeal challenging the Court of Appeal's decision which returned Okadigbo since he did not participate in the primary.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour said: “The 1st Respondent Lady Okadigbo scored the highest number of votes at the primary election held by PDP on 8th January, 2011 and was the candidate that won the said primaries.
“She is the duly elected Senator for the PDP representing Anambra North Senatorial District.”
In a swift reaction, Alphonsus Uba Igbeke, who had earlier been declared as the rightful candidate who won election to the senatorial district by the Federal High Court said the judgment had not yet settled the matter because the appeal filed by him was yet to be determined.
“I am happy that the Supreme Court had declared the results of the primaries of which I was accused of forging the documents illegal. It means that I did not commit any offence. I was just being persecuted.”
During the inauguration of the Seventh Senate June last year Igbeke was barred by operatives of the State Security Service from being sworn-in. This followed a directive from the electoral commission.
INEC had in a letter dated June 4th, 2011, asked the National Assembly to stop Igbeke’s inauguration. The letter was signed by its Secretary, Abdullahi Kaugama and sent to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
The letter read: “This is to request the National Assembly to discountenance the certificate of return issued with respect to the underlisted constituency - Anambra North Senatorial District.
The Certificate of Return issued to Senator Alphonsus Uba Igbeke of the Peoples Democratic Party was issued without regard to the Notice of Appeal filed and Motion for stay of execution of the Federal High Court in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/476/2011-Senator Alphonsus Uba Igbeke v INEC & Ors.”
The Federal Government had earlier filed a suit against Igbeke at a Federal High Court in Abuja for false representation and forgery. The police told the court that Igbeke forged the documents he presented to court to obtain the judgment that declared him as the candidate of the PDP for the April 9 National Assembly elections.
In another judgment, the court upheld the election of Chief Solomon Ewuga, former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory and ex-Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State as the winner of the Nasarawa North senatorial election, a slot until yesterday occupied by his fellow Congress for Progressive Change member.
In Eyiboh’s case, the court in a decision read by Justice John Fabiyi, upheld the argument of Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel to Dan Abia that Eyiboh’s inauguration into in the House of Representatives was illegal and, as such, should not have taken place.
Reacting to the decision of the Supreme Court, the director general of the Dan Abia Campaign Organisation described the judgment of the court as well thought out and well considered.
The Court of Appeal Abuja Division had in its judgment ordered Eyiboh to vacate the seat.
The Court of Appeal Abuja Division had in a unanimous judgment read by Justice Ejembi Eko ordered the House of Representatives to immediately swear-in Dan Abia as the candidate of the constituency.
Justice Eko had said: “The first respondent (Eseme Eyiboh) by his own showing has not proved that his purported nomination as the candidate of the PDP complied with the mandatory provisions of the PDP Electoral guidelines because no electoral panel attended the venue where his supporters assembled to pass a resolution for his affirmation and that he was accepted by the PDP as a consensus candidate for the Eket/Ibeno/Esit/Onna Federal Constituency. The mandatory result sheet form code was not filled and none was shown. The Electoral guideline is very clear no result shall be upheld as valid until it has been entered in the appropriate Form PD004/NA designated for it.”
But Eyiboh said in a statement: “Today, July 6, 2012,the Supreme Court without offering any reason dismissed my appeal before it occasioning the final determination of the pre-election contest of Eket Federal constituency.”
“At this instance, I must state that I was not motivated by the lure of the office nor the desire to perpetuate self in government. Rather, I was persuaded by the guarantee for justice for all citizens by our constitution to approach the court on a concern on the breach by my political party of its constitution and Section 87(4) of the Electoral Act 2011 As Amended in the conduct of its 2011 primaries in Eket Federal Constituency.
“This action activated series of discussions and sentiments mixed with emotions and reason on all sides. To me as much as it was not a pleasant travel, it has brought to fore the challenge of our constitutional democracy and the attendant impact of our ‘rule of law.”