By Alex Enumah in Abuja
As the argument on the rightness or wrongness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in recognising Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the upcoming Ondo State gubernatorial election continues to linger on, two frontline Nigerian lawyers, Femi Falana (SAN) and Festus Keyamo have expressed support for the decision of the commission.
They made their positions known yesterday in two separate interviews with journalists in Abuja.
Only recently, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, directed INEC to recognise Jimoh Ibrahim, belonging to the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of the PDP as the party’s candidate in the upcoming Ondo State gubernatorial election.
Following the court’s decision, INEC had to replace the name of Eyitayo Jegede of the Ahmed Markafi-led faction which he had earlier accepted as the PDP standard bearer with that of Ibrahim.
Speaking on the controversy generated by INEC’s action, Falana, speaking with journalists however stated that what INEC did was mere obedience to a court order. “INEC has obeyed an order of a court pursuant to a valid and subsisting judgment. You want INEC to disregard the judgment?, he asked.”
While noting that it was wrong of the Markafi-led faction to seek a restraining order from another court of equal status, he said, “Once there’s an order, you can only go and set aside the existing one. You can’t go and start another one. That’s what causes conflicting court order.
“You can’t go and initiate a process that will set one court in collision with another. It’s primitive. It’s not done in any civilised society.
“If there’s a judgment against you, you go to that same court to set it aside. You don’t go and file a fresh action in another court, thereby setting the courts on collision course, which may result to conflicting court orders.”
According to him, since the Markafi faction had appealed the judgment, it should have waited for the outcome of the appeal.
“There’s an appeal against the judgment of Abuja court. No other person can go to another court, a lower court, to set aside the judgment of a court of coordinate jurisdiction. It’s not done.
“And I don’t blame the judges, like the judge in Akure, because nothing happened to those who gave conflicting orders in the PDP leadership crisis the other day. That’s why this mess is continuing,” he said.
He urged Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State to discourage his supporters from engaging in protests because he was a beneficiary of a court pronouncement.
“You can’t take any step that will subvert the rule of law. What do they expect INEC to do?
“To disregard the order of a court because of sentiment and rely on expataint order? No responsible organisation does that,” Falana insisted.
Also speaking, Keyamo, who aligned himself with the position of Falana on INEC’s choice, insisted the election umpire followed the law.
“There are conflicting orders. There’s no amount of emotion or protests that can change that. It’s a purely legal matter.
“It doesn’t matter the presence of a political group. There are two conflicting orders. INEC is in complete order to effect any of the orders until the Supreme Court decides,” he maintained.