For some weeks now, the gathering clouds over the coming Anambra State gubernatorial election have served as an appetising menu on the political dinner table with a rash of court cases and endless posturing for power and relevance. It has to be said that the level of brinkmanship has been quite impressive – we have seen restraining orders and orders of mandamus and an omelette of legal mumbo jumbo thrown freely in the emerging political theatre. We have seen combatants savour short-lived legal victories only to slouch out of courtrooms with drooping shoulders immediately afterwards. We have been outraged sometimes and entertained at other times. But beneath the tremor and grandstanding is an invidious plot by a few out-of-favour politicians to frustrate Governor Willie Obiano’s second term bid.
Nevertheless, what is becoming clear to everyone is the fact that it would be very difficult to thwart Obiano’s second term bid. The truth is that if the facts of a sterling performance can speak for any governor in the country today, that governor would be Willie Obiano. So, there should be no fear whatsoever about Obiano’s second term bid because he has too many achievements to anchor his campaign on. The second reason why there should be no fear about Obiano’s second term quest is because the gang up against him that led to the subterranean legal battles is dead on arrival. While it is not out of place for people who find themselves outside the realm of power to make efforts to break into the circle, their plot has to be tighter than what the breakaway faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Martin Agbaso has woven so far.
In truth, palpable tension had simmered in APGA for quite some time though. A little crisis had erupted within the party leadership late last year leading to the expulsion of some members of the party. But Governor Obiano had imposed himself on the dispute and brokered a truce between the warring parties on October 26, 2016 leading to the reintegration of all the enstranged members of the party’s National Working Committee into the fold except five members who were hell bent on dissent. However, the recalcitrant members remained defiant but unheard of until the election timetable began to draw closer.
Many people believe that the closeness of the election timetable may have given fillip to their desperation to wrest control of the party machinery so as to decide the fate of all aspirants. Led by Martin Agbaso, the group eventually struck in May this year, staging a hostile takeover of the party through the court. In cahoots with Agbaso are Okechukwu Nkoloagu, Jerry Obasi and Chuks Nwoga. Apparently egged on by some political merchants out for vengeance, the group staged a judicial coup when Justice Ozoemena of the Enugu High Court handed Agbaso the party’s national chairmanship position with a binding order restraining INEC from recognizing any other person except Agbaso as the National Chairman of APGA and at the same time compelling the Nigerian Police to comply with the ruling.
As would be expected, Agbaso’s hostile takeover of the party caused a mild confusion among the party membership as most people saw in it the Biblical hand of Esau. But from all indications, Agbaso and his team may have had their day in the sun. The two rulings from both Nnewi and Awka High Courts last week may have taken the wind out of his sail already. The reason is quite simple. Agbaso’s attempt to seize power through the courts was doomed even before he hatched that plan.
This is because the constitution of the party stipulates that APGA operates through three legitimate organs – the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee and the National Convention. The National Convention is the highest decision making mechanism of the party but it did not seat to choose Agbaso as national chairman. The National Working Committee has 28 members at the moment following the death of Nwabueze Okafor but only three of them are with Agbaso. So, they could not even have formed a quorum to decide on Agbaso as the Chairman which would still have been ratified by the National Executive Committee. Consequently, one wonders how Agbaso would have survived the obvious litigations that would have dogged his term as Chairman had the Nnewi and Awka High Court rulings not put him out of his misery.
The fact is; anyone with a fair knowledge of the law would have figured out the place to poke a needle in Agbaso’s triumphant balloon. Well, someone eventually did. They could see that Agbaso had not fortified himself well by failing to rally the remaining 21 members of the National Working Committee around himself after his court victory. What they did next was easy – rustle up an originating summons that has the backing of the 21 National Working Committee members with Chief Oye as one of the plaintiffs.
The deponents in the Originating Summons are Victor Oye, Uchenna Okogbuo, Abubakar Adamu, Labaran Maku, Sarduana Yero Elleman, Ezekiel Ashigye, Sule Ajayi, Samson Olalere, Tony Eboka, Mike Kwentoh, Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, Ifeanyi Mbaeri, Ita Ekpo bassey, Ibrahim Carefor, Carol Dike-Okoroafor, Aminu Hamman Joda Furo, Damian Ozurumba, Peter Jegede, Hadiza Aliyu Gogori, Chuks Achusi and Kabiru Usman.
These 21 APGA members sought relief from the court to grant some basic requests that are enshrined in the constitution of the party, insisting that Dr Oye should not be removed from his position as National Chairman outside the provisions of their constitution.
They also prayed the court to uphold the party’s constitution which insists that no member of the party who is not a Deputy or Vice National Chairman may be allowed to act as the National Chairman. In addition, they prayed the court to grant that as a duly registered political party under section 222 and 223 of the 1999 Constitution, APGA’s constitution must be binding on its members and that consequently any removal or suspension of any National Officer of the party must be in accord with the provisions of APGA’s constitution. All these reliefs were granted by the courts thereby pinning Agbaso and his faction to a tight corner.
From the above scenario, it is obvious that Agbaso’s grandstanding is over. Any self-respecting judge would respect the constitution of a party. Agbaso and his splinter group are snookered already. They may wish to appeal the ruling of the two courts at Nnewi and Awka but nothing can vitiate the obvious illegality of their failed gambit. Nothing can attenuate the grievous attempt by three party members to impose their will on the party against constitutional provisions.
So, if the ulterior motive of this legal warfare is to truncate Obiano’s second term bid, it is dead on arrival.