2019: How Amaechi And APC Rivers Lost The Battle

By Stephen Ubanna

Hopes of the All Progressive Progress, APC, fielding Tonye Cole , a Lagos based businessman , allegedly elected by a faction  loyal to Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and minister of transportation on the March 2, 2019, governorship election  in Rivers state appear to have been dashed. This s may have left the coast clear for Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, on the March 2, 2019, election, to be returned to Creek House unchalleged.

 This is because the Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the PortHarcourt based High Court barring the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from fielding any APC  governorship Candidate in the March 2, 2019 , election. The  apex Court had based on its decision  on the facts before it in a suit  filed by 22 aggrieved party members loyal to Magnus Abe, a former Secretary to the state government and a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, who  incidentally was one of the  party governorship Candidates during the aborted primaries .

 The aggrieved party members were not happy with Amaechi, regarded as the godfather of the APC, in the state,  for manipulating the election process which produced  Cole, as the alleged party Candidate.A party source told Value News that there was tension in  Cole and Abe’s Camp as the apex Court on Monday, February 4, 2019,  reserved ruling whether  on whether  the appeal filed by the Amaechi faction of the APC was valid. Recall that  the Court  had last December  adjourned  sitting on the case till March 8, for judgment on the former governor’s suit.

 Mahmood Yakubu, a professor and Chairman, INEC, may have provided ammunition for Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed , the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN,  to bring the case forward for hearing by setting up a 5-man panel  to look into the matter. The panel headed by Mohammed Dattijo, a Justice of the Supreme Court had sat on Friday ,February 8, 2019 to give ruling on the vexed issue.

The assurance given  by the minister  initially to the party supporters may have encouraged  the Opobo-Nkro, APC, Candidate , that there is still hope, of the apex Court looking into their appeal to validate the party list  for the general election.  

The Appeal Court ruling on the matter in Kano,  may have brought false hope to Cole’s Camp as they went about jubilating: ”We are back”.  The Cole Camp may have told Wike, the PDP, governor of the state, to  be ready to fight out with the party on the ballot box.

 The party optimism was based on the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari would use his Executive powers to influence the decision of the Court but were disappointed that he could not do it because of the case hanging on Walter Kanu Onnoghen, the suspended CJN, on allegations of Corruption.

Amechi Rotimi: Loses Appeal In Supreme Court Over APC Rivers

An angry Lanre Issa- Onilu, National Publicity Secretary of the party, who could not hide his feelings over the apex Court judgment may have spoken the mind of Adams Oshiomhole, the party Chairman, when he said, ” it is not the kind of judgment  we had looked forward to get based on the facts that we are aware of”, noting that the party’s legal department were looking into it to see” what other means that may be legal to pursue the case”.  The party claimed that  it did the right thing within the confines of its Constitution to conduct the primaries in the state and therefore should be allowed by INEC, to field Candidate in the March 2, 2019 , governorship election.

 In a voice laden with emotions, he said, ”I don’t know why it appears the APC  should be the only party that should be subjected  to this kind of  scrutiny  from INEC’.  He believes that the electoral umpire was acting out a script to frustrate the party .  He has his reason.

According to him, ”it is the same APC that PDP  has continued to raise flags  as being the party that wants to rig  election that are now working in cahoots  with the Commission”, noting that ”if there is any party that should not have  been allowed to field governorship Candidate in the state by INEC,  it should be PDP ”.

Many believe that Amaechi, the minister of Transportation should be blamed for the APC woes in the state for  spearheading an indirect party primaries in order to impose Cole, the oil magnate , on the party  . The presentation of Prince Lateef  Fagbemi,  a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and the party lawyer , at the apex Court speaks volume.  Fagbemi had pleaded with the Court   to clear the legal impediments  against the faction  loyal to the minister  and allow his list of Candidates  which had contained  Cole’s name to contest the 2019 general elections.

 He was said to have presented a very powerful argument to support his claim but was rejected  by the panel which confirmed the May 18, 2018, High Court ruling.  The Court ruling may have demystified  Amaechi high flying in the society that he is a feather weight before the law. The landmark judgment by the Dattijo panel on the APC  Rivers was a warning to politicians  who may want to run to the Court to file petition after the Presidential , National Assembly, governorship or the state Assembly  elections, that the Judiciary may no longer be taken for granted.

While swearing in the 250  members  who would handle petitions arising from the various elections, Mohammed, the acting CJN, was said to have charged them  to” abide  by the Oath  of which they took” , noting that the Oath  was a solemn appeal  to the Almighty God”. The acting CJN  may have sent a clear -cut message to the tribunal members to shun monetary inducements from the politicians to avoid dragging the name of the judiciary back to the mud.

Appealing to the judicial officers  to” protect and uphold  the integrity of   the judicial arm  of government”, he urged them to see their” appointment to serve  on the election petition tribunals  as a call to  greater service to the nation”.  The politicians have been the one accused of corrupting the Judges over the years.

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