By Vincent Ujumadu
LAST week’s Supreme Court ruling on the suit filed before it by Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, challenging her removal as the Senator representing Anambra Central by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, appears to have created more confusion in the zone. The apex court had ruled that all matters relating to the national assembly elections ought to end at the Court of Appeal and that bringing the matter to the Supreme Court was an abuse of court process.
Recall that the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and the former national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, had obtained a favourable judgment from the Court of Appeal on December 7, 2015, which ruled that Ekwunife was not properly nominated by her party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to carry the flag of the party in the senatorial election. The Court of Appeal had directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct a rerun election in the zone within 90 days from the day of the judgment, excluding Ekwunife and the PDP.
In line with the Appeal Court directive, INEC set machinery in motion to conduct the rerun election and, at stakeholders’ meeting in Awka, announced that it had cleared 13 candidates to contest the election, excluding PDP.
Challenging the judgment
Still eager to return to the Senate, Ekwunife attempted to contest the rerun on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC, but surprisingly, the party did not give her the ticket. Rather, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, a former woman leader of the party, was nominated to be the candidate of APC. It was after this that she decided to fight to be returned to her seat and subsequently approached the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal that removed her.
Having thrown away the matter by the apex court, the question remains what would be the next line of action in the zone. The feeling of the people of the zone is that time had come for INEC to fix a date to for the rerun.
As the case was pending at the Supreme Court, the name of the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, began to appear at political circles that PDP would field him as its candidate. In fact, the Federal High Court sitting in Enugu later ruled that PDP was qualified to field a candidate in the election. But to Umeh, since the Court of Appeal had disqualified PDP’s candidate in the main election, the party remained unqualified to present a candidate in the rerun election. That issue is still pending in court.
For now, the waiting game continues and the people of Anambra Central remain the only zone in the country without a senator.
However, signals emanating from various political camps indicate that many politicians in the zone would prefer that the seat of Anambra Central should continue to remain vacant, rather than allow the rerun election to hold.
Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, the APC, through its state publicity secretary, Mr. Okelo Madukaife said the party was aware that there are many more issues to attend to in the contest for Anambra Central senatorial election. According to him, there are still six outstanding law suits on the matter, adding that it was therefore not the time yet for anyone to claim victory.
The party said that one of the unresolved issues is APC’s place in the election, arguing that APC is supported by laws and previous judgments to participate in the rerun.
“We look forward to the real beginning of the real issues when hearing opens in other cases,” the APC spokesman said. To APC, the question of the timing, nature and participants in the election will be answered ahead and that Ekwunife and the APC will be there to provide part of the answers.
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