Ahmed Shinkafi reckons that last week’s Supreme Court verdict on the crisis that trailed the choice of candidate in the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra State, is a vindication of the Governor Ibrahim Shema panel, which produced Mr. Tony Nwoye, at the governorship primaries
All is now set for the gubernatorial election holding in Anambra State on Saturday. Senator Chris Ngige is contesting the election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Chief Willy Obiano is the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate while Mr. Ifeanyi Uba is flying the Labout Party’s flag. Until last week, the candidate of the PDP in the poll was not clear. The candidature of the party had been enmeshed in a legal tussle after Nicholas Ukachukwu, a former gubernatorial aspirant, went to court to pray to be declared the PDP candidate as against Tony Nwoye, who emerged at the party’s primaries.
The Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division, actually declared Ukachukwu as the candidate of the party, but the Court of Appeal set aside that decision. The Supreme Court, on Monday, removed the maze on the PDP candidature in the Anambra poll when it upheld the verdict of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which declared Nwoye as the valid standard bearer of the party.
The apex court held that one of the appeals formulated by the appellant, which is “absence of fair hearing” on issues arising from the primaries, was irrelevant as it was clear from the papers filed before the court that the appellant was given a fair hearing at the lower court.” On the issue of jurisdiction, the court also held that the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal that held that the lower court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the matter brought by Ukachukwu in the first place.
A panel of five justices of the apex court presided over by Justice Mohammed Mahmud, also held that the decision of the Court of Appeal, which declared Nwoye as the candidate of the PDP, has not been challenged, hence he (Nwoye) remains the candidate of the party.
Counsel to Nwoye, Garbu Pwul, had told the Supreme Court that the appellant filed his suit at the High Court after the primary election had been conducted. He added that the name of Nwoye had been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the suit was instituted.
Pwul further argued that Section 87(4) of the Electoral Act makes it clearer that the person with the highest number of votes at the primaries shall be declared winner and in the instant case, Nwoye had been declared the winner and his name has been submitted to the INEC. Counsel to INEC, Ibrahim Bawa, submitted that the electoral body did not take any position and that it would abide by the court’s decision.
The verdict has however laid to rest, any doubt as to who is the PDP candidate in the November 16 poll and it is a vindication of the transparency of the panel that oversaw the primaries from which Nwoye emerged as the candidate. That panel was headed by Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina State. Nwoye automatically joins Ngige, Obiano and Ubah, to slug it out at the polls on Saturday.
Ahead of the PDP primaries, the question of who picks the PDP ticket for the election had split the party into two camps. There was the PDP national leadership backed Prince Ken Emeakayi executive as against the faction led by Chief Ejike Oguebego. The Oguebego faction was said to have had strong backing from a party leader, Chief Chris Uba. This was apparently to ease the candidature of Ubah’s brother, Andy, a serving senator and a former governor whose tenure was truncated after only 17 days in office, and who was alleged to be averse to the PDP conducting primaries to determine who picked the party's ticket.
Some people said left to the Uba brothers, Andy should have simply been anointed as the PDP candidate for the Anambra election to compensate him for his loss of the office of governor in 2007. Analysts went further to say that doing so, apart from it being undemocratic, had the capacity to cause implosion in the party as other aspirants would have kicked against it. It was against this backdrop, according to analysts, that the PDP national leadership needed a tactician; somebody well-grounded in party matters, an objective and impartial arbiter to lead the team to conduct the Anambra primaries. And the lot fell on Shema.
The party trusted him to deliver rancour-free primaries and come up with an acceptable candidate. He did not disappoint. A source close to Wadaza Plaza national secretariat of the PDP said the party knew how delicate the Anambra situation was given the factional crisis on the ground and needed a party leader with the capacity to carry all the aspirants along.
“Governor Shema fitted into the kind of party leader the PDP required to conduct the Anambra primaries because he had so many things going for him. Yes, he is one of the governors who have conducted the affairs of their states very well in the last six years. This is a thing of pride to the PDP leadership that we have a governor that is doing well on the home-front. But don't also forget that before Alhaji Shema took the mantle of
leadership in Katsina, he operated at the highest level of the party as a Deputy National Chairman in charge of North-west,” the source said.
Continuing, the source said: “When Governor Shema was the PDP Deputy National Chairman, it is on record that he discharged the responsibility of that office with diligence and loyalty. It makes sense therefore that if there was any assignment like the Anambra primaries which the party found delicate and needed tact to deliver, the party leadership would not hesitate to use him. Even before the Supreme Court verdict which upheld Nwoye as the Anambra election candidate, the party leadership in Abuja was happy with the conduct of the PDP primaries in one of the most volatile states.”
Indeed, the PDP national leadership had cause to be satisfied with the Anambra primaries. Save for the little distraction caused by Oguebego, the factional leader, who organised parallel primaries; the Anambra PDP primaries under Shema's watch went absolutely well. Most of the party's 22 gubernatorial aspirants were fully involved in the Shema organised primaries to underscore their faith in the exercise and the person in charge to do a thorough job.
A source at the Abuja secretariat of the party said the quality of job done by the governor on the Anambra primaries recommends him for more responsibilities as we progress to the 2015 general election. He noted that Shema is due to finish his second term by 2015 but pointed out that his conduct as a governor committed to the welfare of his people and his absolute loyalty to the PDP are factors to pave the way for him for bigger roles in the polity even after 2015.
-Shinkafi wrote from Katsina