Senator Magnus Abe has described the statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, where he said the Supreme Court judgement of October 22 has nothing to do with the indirect primary conducted by the Ojukaye Flag-Amachre’s faction of the Rivers APC, as ‘ill-advised and unfortunate’
This is as the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the submission of Forms CF001 and CF002 of the list of the governorship and state assemblies candidates by political parties expires today.
Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, had on Thursday stated that “ in view of the conflicting interpretations that greeted the recent verdict of the Supreme Court on the contentions among our members in the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it has become necessary to clarify that the Supreme Court verdict has nothing to do with the primaries conducted for the governorship and legislative positions in the state”
Recall that the Supreme Court, specifically on October 22, set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which vacated a stay of an interlocutory order made by a Rivers High Court against the conduct of APC congresses in the state.
Justice Chinwendu Worgu of the Rivers State High Court had on May 11, issued an interlocutory order which barred the party from conducting congresses in the state.
But while delivering the ruling on the interlocutory appeal, Justice Centus Nweze held that the decision of the Court of Appeal was in error.
Nweze said the lower court was compelled to be guided by the judgments of the apex court, adding that the panel had to follow the law before arriving on its decision.
However, Issa-Onilu in his statement said “…the candidature of Arch. Tonye Cole along with his running mate, Hon. Victor Giadom remains inviolate. The list of our candidates for the governorship, National Assembly, and House of Assembly have been processed by the National Working Committee (NWC) according to the INEC guidelines”
But Magnus Abe in a statement posted on his facebook page said it is unfortunate that the national publicity secretary of the party has allowed himself to be sucked into the current supremacy battle between a faction of the APC in Rivers State.
According to him: “The statement credited to to the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC ), Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, wherein he stated inter Alia that “ in view of the conflicting interpretations that greeted the recent verdict of the Supreme Court on the contentions among our members in the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it has become necessary to clarify that the Supreme Court verdict has nothing to do with the primaries conducted for the governorship and legislative positions in the state” is clearly ill-advised and unfortunate.
It is most unfortunate that the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has allowed himself to be sucked into the current battle of supremacy between a faction of the APC in Rivers state and the Nigerian Judiciary.
First, there is no conflicting interpretation of the Supreme Court judgement, as the judgement of the Supreme Court was clear and unambiguous. In simple English, the court stated clearly that the party was bound to obey the Orders of the Port Harcourt High Court per Worgu J. The court further stated that the APC having acted in gross disobedience of the Orders of the High court, they should expect no relief from any court including the court of appeal.
The Supreme Court chided the court of Appeal in very strong terms for availing its powers to the APC, when the party was clearly in contempt of the orders of Worgu J.
The Supreme Court then proceeded to restore all the Orders of the High Court, in effect invalidating the congresses that produced the delegates that produced the candidates. The Order restored by the Supreme Court was the Order of the High Court prohibiting the APC from proceeding with the congresses.
There is no interpretation needed to understand the fact that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has stated clearly that congresses did not hold in Rivers state. How does that not affect the indirect primaries in which delegates from the voided congresses voted to produce the candidates?
More shocking to all lovers of justice in Nigeria is the fact that while the statement made copious references to the Supreme Court Judgement, (because it claims that it did not nullify the primaries) the statement made no reference whatsoever to the High Court judgement of Worgu J which clearly nullified the APC primaries,. The judgement of Worgu J was served on the party by a court bailiff for which there is an affidavit of service. Yet no reference was made to this judgement in the statement of the National publicity secretary. This is clearly a case of the party choosing which judgement to interpret and which judgement to disobey.
The Judgement of Nworgu J made an order expressly cancelling the indirect primaries of the Rivers State APC, and until that Judgement is set aside that remains the position of the law in Nigeria. No statement can restore the candidates except another judgement from a superior court.
The Origin of the present crisis between the Judiciary and a faction of the APC in Rivers state arose out of the penchant of the erstwhile State Publicity Secretary of the party to set aside court orders by public statements on national television. That did not work. The current attempt by the National Publicity Secretary to set aside a judgement of the court by this public statement will equally fail.
Members of the APC in Rivers State will recollect that prior to the botched State congresses, an expanded state executive committee of the party was summoned by the then State Chairman, Chief Ibiamu Ikanya on the 2nd of May 2018.
At that meeting we all agreed on a formula to conduct the congresses of our party in an all-inclusive manner. Chief Ikanya based on consensus reached at that meeting set up a technical committee made up of members from every divide to work out details of harmonization.
The arrival of the Minister of Transportation brought an end to the effort at reconciliation and harmony. The Congress was moved to INTELS camp in Port Harcourt, and those not perceived as loyal to the Minister were unceremoniously excluded.
It was this move that forced Ibrahim Umar and others to approach the courts. The case was initially filed in the Bori Division and transferred to Chief Judge of the state were it fortuitously landed in the court of Worgu J.
Every Order made by the Judge to give the aggrieved members an opportunity to participate in the congresses was interpreted and overruled by the State Publicity Secretary of the party on national television. Indeed a physical attack was sponsored on the court premises to forcefully shut it down and prevent the State High Court from sitting on this matter.
This was a golden opportunity, lost by the APC as the party of change to distance itself from the culture of disrespect for the courts and continuously setting aside and ignoring court Orders and judgements on national television, the very acts that the Supreme Court condemned in such strong terms.
This morning I have sent a copy of the affidavit of service of the Judgement of Worgu J to the National Publicity Secretary.
Let me again assure members of the APC in Rivers state that the party conducted direct primaries in Rivers state, where over one hundred and forty-eight thousand members of our party voted, those elected therefrom are the only legal candidates for the APC in the 2019 elections in Rivers state.
There is a valid judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction that annulled the indirect primaries clearly and unambiguously and requires no interpretation. We stand on that judgement.
Members of the APC in Rivers state should remain calm, our determination to seek justice and ensure that the wishes of our party members are respected is not in anyway affected by this statement. Our struggle will continue until justice is done.
Kairos time is the appointed time. At the appointed time the God of justice will surely speak and every voice of injustice and oppression shall be silent”