Still on Anambra’s tale of two gladiators



Ngige and Nwoje

Ngige and Nwoje

The news about Dr. Chike Obidigbo’s petition at the election petition tribunal, praying to be joined in the suits filed by Senator Chris Ngige of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Comrade Tony Nwoye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), created apprehension in the Anambra political landscape.

Obidigbo, in his application to the tribunal, contended that since he is already in court contesting the candidacy of Willie Obiano of the same party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance  (APGA), in the November 16, 2013 gubernatorial election, his not being joined in the other petitions would affect his fortunes should the judges rule either in favour of the petitioners or against them.

The tribunal, in its ruling on the application filed by Obidigbo, turned down his prayers on the grounds that Obidigbo did not participate in the said election, adding that his petition on the issue of candidacy was already before it as a pre-election matter.

Expectedly, supporters of Obiano had gone to town celebrating that Obidigbo has lost out at the tribunal when, in the actual sense, what was struck out was an application on joiner and not his main petition over the candidacy of the party in the said election.

However, the apprehension and momentary celebration that had so far trailed the legal battle between Obidigbo and Obiano, indeed, further challenges the fate of Sir Victor Umeh and Barrister Maxi Okwu, both factional chairmen of the party.

The duo of Okwu and Umeh had on several occasions crossed each other’s path and this has always been to the advantage of Governor Peter Obi who is allegedly believed to hold the ace in the APGA power play.

Indeed, Okwu’s emergence in Anambra politics stems from the fact that Governor Obi had always perceived Okwu as one that could checkmate Umeh at a time the duo had issues to settle concerning the crisis in APGA.

Umeh, on his part, has always seen Okwu as an interloper who has no locus what so ever to lay claim to the leadership of the party as he has contended that there was no legally and validly conducted convention that made him national chairman.

However, the recent judgment of the Abuja Federal High Court, which affirmed Okwu as the national chairman, actually shook the polity hence taking the duo back to the trenches.

The order granted by the judge ruled that Umeh and Shinkafi, having first been elected in January 2003, which is over 10 years ago, cannot validly continue in office after they were first elected when, going by Article 18 (2) of the constitution of the party, any official of the party can only be in office for a maximum of two terms of four years each.

It also declared that the 1st and 2nd defendants, having been voted into office by voice votes rather than secret ballot as stipulated by Article 18(3) of the constitution of APGA, were not validly elected.

Part of the ruling is “that an order is granted directing the 2nd defendant to vacate office as national secretary of the party, having been first elected into office on 10 January 2003 and was re-elected for a second tenure which expired on 9 January 2010.”

Umeh went for an appeal against the judgment, contending that it was a miscarriage of Justice and further filed an application for a stay of executive of the judgment.

At the moment, the Federal High Court has adjourned the matter to March 8, 2014 for ruling on the stay of execution on the judgment.

The battle for the leadership of APGA has, indeed, taken several dimensions

The feud opened a new battlefront when the Federal Government directed that every political party in the country should send two delegates to the forthcoming National Conference.

A letter had earlier been sent to Barrister Maxi Okwu to nominate two APGA members to the conference.

While Okwu submitted names of Deputy National Chairman, South, Mr. Chris Ejike Uche and National Secretary, Dr. Sagiri Awal Medoya, Sir Victor Umeh was alleged to have submitted his name and that of his factional National Secretary, Alhaji Shinkafi, as delegates.

Saturday Independent gathered that the four names have been submitted and are already in the custody of the National Conference officials, waiting for clearance before the conference commences.

The position of Umeh’s faction of APGA is that there is a subsisting judgment of the Appeal Court, which is higher than the Abuja federal High Court that affirmed Max Okwu, as the party’s national chairman, insisting that his own faction has the legal and statutory right to nominate the mandatory two delegates to represent the party at the National Conference.

But Okwu told Saturday Independent that “it doesn’t matter how many names were submitted but who makes the list of the conference delegates at the end of the day. I was mandated through a letter from the Federal Government to submit names of two delegates from our party and I did just that. I was not greedy so I did not want my name there. So I sent the names of the deputy national chairman, South, of our party and our national secretary.

“But somebody committed contempt of court by submitting his name and that of his National Secretary, Shinkafi. That shows greed and desperation of the first order, even at the point of being illegal. His claims that the Appeal Court affirmed him national chairman by the Abuja federal High Court in its judgment delivered by Justice Abdu Kafarati in suit No.FHC/ABJKS/563/2013 made it clear,”

Okwu told Saturday Independent that he “took the pains to read the judgment of the court of Appeal, Enugu Division in Appeal NO:CA/E/84/2013 delivered on 15 July 2013 in a case between Chief Victor Umeh Vs Ichie Okuli Jude Ejike annexed to the 3rd defendants counter affidavit as Exhibit1.

“That the judgment of the Court of Appeal did not confer any right or benefit on Victor Umeh. What the Court of Appeal decided was that respondent did not have the locus standi to institute this action and that the respondent was a mere member of APGA and not a member of any organ of the party and was not also a contestant for the post of chairman.”

To this end, Maxi Okwu told reporters in Awka that for Victor Umeh to continue to parade himself as the national chairman of APGA and perform the functions of the national chairman is an offence actionable in the court.

Okwu disclosed that he would commence contempt of court action against Umeh and Sinkafi, insisting that the Abuja federal High Court judgment subsists, arguing that the stay of execution filed by Umeh has not been granted.

If the battle over delegates for the National Conference appears to be raging in APGA, the fresh suit filed at the Awka High Court over the leadership of the party makes the latter look like a dressed rehearsal.

A matter in suit No. A/126/2013 had been filed by one Chukwuemeka Ugezu against Maxi Okwu, Egwuoyibo Okoye, former state Chairman of APGA in Anambra State and the party, urging the court to set aside its initial judgment that affirmed Okwu as the party’s national chairman.

In the suit, the plaintiff urged the presiding Judge, Justice H.O. Ozor, to set aside the judgment he delivered in May 27, 2013, insisting that the judgment was obtained through fraud and deceit.

While the matter lingered, one Michael Onwudinjo, who had earlier challenged the emergence of Okwu as national chairman of APGA, was not aware of the case and consequent upon this development, Onwudinjo appeared at the High Court on Tuesday, only for the matter to be adjourned to Wednesday by the presiding judge.

At the court, Onwudinjo had told the judge that he was not aware of any suit against Maxi Okwu and the party, adding that the lawyer, Mr. Benson Ikedigwe, who had been standing in as his counsel never briefed him of any suit. “I am not aware of this case against Maxi. The lawyer, Barrister Benson Ikedigwe, who claimed to be my counsel, never briefed me of any matter and I did not seek his legal services.

“I know Ikedigwe last year when he was my lawyer in a suit I filed at this court challenging the convention that elected Maxi Okwu as national chairman and I lost the suit and after the matter had gone to the Appeal Court, Enugu, my services with him ended at that stage. I never consulted him for any case what so ever and nobody served me any court process or any notice what so ever,” he told the court.

Onwudinjo, however, prayed the court to give him time to engage the services of a lawyer and also to be served the court process, which Justice H.O. Ozor granted him and also give him seven days from the date of service to file his reply.

The fresh suit against the initial judgment that affirmed Maxi Okwu as national chairman came by a motion on notice filed by counsel to the defendant/applicant, Chukwuemeka Ugezu Esq and also had an affidavit deposed to by Chief Onwuka Ukwa, a chieftain of the party loyal to Sir Victor Umeh’s faction.

Consequently, Justice Ozor ordered that Onwudinjo be served and allowed to seek the services of a lawyer and, ironically, the lawyer who claimed to be Onwudinjo Counsel, Mr. Ikedigwe, was absent at the court.

Onwudinjo told Saturday Independent outside the court premises that “this matter had earlier been decided by the same judge in favour of APGA and against me and it was convenient for them  then. Now, they see that it is not favourable to them, they now went through the back door to file a suit, claiming that I knew of it while I did not. Actually, it was today that I knew of the matter and it was through rumour that I learnt that there was a case with my name on it and a lawyer was receiving processes on my behalf and without my consent.”

At the moment, there seem to be so many intrigues on the APGA crises, as many of the party chieftains in Anambra APGA appear to be at a loss over the state of affairs.

The opinion among them is that Governor Peter Obi would be doing the party that gave him fame great disservice if he fails to resolve all contending issues before handing over on March 17, 2014.

Critics believe that personal ego, greed and lack of commitment to party principles have remained the bane of APGA.

source: Daily Independent


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