By Alex Enumah
There was confusion over the weekend as the Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) distanced itself from the petition that brought about the nullification of the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State that brought the current governor, Senator Duoye Diri, to office.
The governorship election petition tribunal, in a split judgment of two-to-one last week, held that the November 16 governorship poll in Bayelsa State was invalid due to the exclusion of the ANDP.
Delivering the majority judgment in the petition filed by the ANDP and its governorship candidate, Mr Lucky George, Justice Yunusa Musa, who declared that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lacked the powers to exclude any candidate nominated by his party, further held that the electoral umpire unlawfully excluded the ANDP from the November 16 governorship poll.
Justice Musa consequently went ahead to void the election and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election that would include the ANDP within 90 days.
Governor Diri had last Tuesday in a 12-ground appeal filed at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, sought for the setting aside of the majority judgment, while at the same time urged the appellate court to uphold the minority decision delivered by Justice Muhammad Sirajo, which dismissed the ANDP petition and affirmed his election as governor.
However there was a new development over the weekend following the claim by another National Chairman of the party, Mr James Femowei, that the ANDP did not file any petition against INEC, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor Diri at the election tribunal.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Femowei noted that the ANDP could not have done so having earlier, endorsed Diri as governor in the November 16 governorship poll.
While claiming that the party did not field any candidate in the election, Femowei disclosed that the ANDP and its National Working Committee, did not conduct any primary in Bayelsa State, and as such, had no consensus candidate for the governorship poll.
“There is an urgent need to address the press and put the records straight in respect of the participation of the ANDP in the Bayelsa gubernatorial election held on November 16, 20l9 and the position of the party on the outcome of the election petition tribunal delivered on August 17, 2020.
“ANDP Bayelsa State did not present any candidate for the purpose of contesting November 16, 2019 governorship election as it had earlier adopted Senator Douye Diri of the PDP.
“The NWC or state Exco did not attend any purported ANDP primary in Bayelsa before the election. How, where, when, which and how was the primary held without the involvement of the party organs in the state? Barrister Ogboli should thus produce the list of members who attended the primaries or, INEC can equally produce the attendance list of the National Working Committee members and the State Exco who were present at the ANDP primaries,” Femowei said.
Speaking further, he said that the purported National Chairman, Chief Charles Ogboli, had since been expelled from the party over an alleged misconduct, thereby, had no right to sue on the party’s behalf, adding that the said governorship candidate, Lucky George, and his deputy, have since voluntarily withdrawn themselves from the suit.
“The purported Chairman of ANDP, Chief Charles Ogboli, who has been parading himself as the Chairman of the party, had been expelled from the party since December 8, 20l8. Reasons for this expulsion are well documented in a report submitted to the Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) Unit of INEC on December 12, 2018.
“Therefore Chief Charles Ogboli has no platform on which he could challenge a well constituted gubernatorial election held in Bayelsa and even exercise the temerity to address the press as he had done in the last few days on AIT on April 17 and 18, 2020.
“In fact, gentlemen of the press, Chief Ogboli does not have the locus to sue on behalf of ANDP having been constitutionally expelled by a comfortable 2/3 majority of members of the National Executive Council of the party, guided by the party’s constitution and which action was known to INEC.
“Suffice to say that Chief Charles Ogboli did not contest his expulsion at that time and until date has not done so,” Femowei stated.
While stating that it is there avowed intention to be joined in the suit and raise preliminary objections to the locus of Chief Ogboli to have filed the suit in the first instance, the national chairman stressed that their briefing of the press was, “not an act borne out of malice, but to refute the unquantifiable falsehood being fed the public through the media. Fake news is a crime.
“We have therefore taken a conscientious decision to redeem the golden image of this great party with its unique logo, the whistle, no doubt the precursor of this current administration’s whistle blowing policy.
“We therefore urge the security agencies to immediately apprehend this imposter in the interest of peace, law and order,” he said.