He is on his own, presidential candidate tells tribunal
Alex Enumah in Abuja
In a dramatic twist wednesday, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Chief Frank Igwebuike, has asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to remove the name of the party from the petition, challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But, in a swift reaction, the party’s presidential candidate in the February 23 election, Pastor Aminchi Habu, urged the tribunal to ignore Igwebuike, who according to him, is acting on his own.
In a fresh application brought by his counsel, Morrison Onunu, the national chairman of PDM said the desire to withdraw from the petition was in the interest of the nation, and not for any other consideration.
Habu and the PDM are seeking nullification of the poll that produced President Buhari as winner of the election on grounds that they were excluded from contesting the poll.
The petition with number CA/PEPC/004/2019 filed on March 19, 2019 is asking the tribunal to also conduct a fresh election that would include the petitioners.
However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, shortly after counsels to parties in the matter announced appearances, Onunu stood up to introduced himself as counsel to the 2nd petitioner, the PDM.
He said that he filed a motion on July 9, which he said have been served on all parties.
In the 14-paragraph affidavit, Igwebuike averred that PDM in its own wisdom, re-evaluated the probability of the petition succeeding and decided to withdraw from it.
He argued “that the withdrawal of the 2nd petitioner/applicant as a petitioner in this petition is in the best overall interest of the party and the nation, Nigeria”.
Igwebuike added that PDM as the second petitioner resolved and decided to forgo whatever cause of action that necessitated the filing of the petition, adding that it is no longer needed to agitate the present petition of its presidential candidate.
He further asserted in the affidavit of his motion that PDM did not reach any agreement, political gains or otherwise compromise with any of the defendants in the petition of its presidential candidate or any other person or party before seeking to pull out from the petition.
The applicant further stated that PDM’s withdrawal in the petition of its presidential candidate is voluntary and without any duress of influence; and that no undertaking or agreement has been entered into with any of the respondents in the petition.
However, in a counter affidavit to Igwebuike’s motion, the National Secretary of the party, Abubakar Gwada, dismissed the move to withdraw the PDM from the petition of its presidential candidate.
In the 18-paragraph counter affidavit, he deposed to, Gwada asserted that the national chairman is acting alone in his bid to pull out PDM from the petition.
He claimed that since the petition was filed about four months ago, the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee of the party had not met to take any decision relating to the withdrawal of the party from the petition.
The deponent categorically stated that Igwebuike’s decision to withdraw the PDM from the petition does not have the authority of the party, adding that the petition is a joint one filed with the consent of the party and financed solely by the presidential candidate, who is complaining of unlawful exclusion from the presidential election.
He further stated that the law firm of Aliu Lemu has been retained to prosecute the petition on behalf of the party and the presidential candidate remains the counsel on record as no decision has been taken to withdraw it from the petition.
The counter affidavit further stated that PDM is still very much interested in the petition, saying a decision for it to withdraw from the petition can only be taken by the NEC and NWC of the party.
Gwada asserted that there are no extreme circumstances for the tribunal to grant the application to remove PDM from the petition, adding that it will not be in the interest of justice to allow the withdrawal of the party’s name from the petition of the presidential candidate.
However, following the request by Onunu for time to respond to the counter affidavit of the 1st petitioner, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, adjourned to July 18 for hearing of the application for withdrawal.
Justice Garba, who noted that the tribunal had at its last sitting adjourned to July 10 to present the report of the pre-hearing session, said that the application of the 2nd petitioner has scuttled the day’s proceedings.
It would be recalled that a factional Chairman of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) had sometime last month approached the tribunal to strike out the name of the party from the petition filed alongside the presidential candidate, Ambrose Oworu, against the election of Buhari.
The tribunal however dismissed the application for lacking merit, stressing that the party cannot withdrew from the petition it jointly filed with its presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, hearing in the petition filed by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate Chief Ambrose albert owuru has also been slated for same July 18, 2019.