Sunday, November 27, 2022 12:01 pm
On one side is Governor Godwin Obaseki; the State chairman of the party, Tony Azeigbemi and a few of the executive members in the state pledging loyalty. On the other side of the divide, the national vice chairman (south-south) of the party, Dan Orbih, is leading a faction known as the Legacy Group. The state secretary of the party, Hilary, some members of the national assembly and a few prominent members of the party across the three senatorial districts are solidly behind Orbih.
Just last week, this medium did a report on how internal wrangling, unending court cases over who the rightful candidates of Edo PDP in next year’s general elections are, and judgements emanating from the cases, have continued to put the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at a cross road as to which of the factions’ candidates to recognize. The electoral umpire has had to pull down names of candidates of one faction, replace them with the other faction, only to receive a conflicting judgment and have to do the needful again.
On 3 October, 2022, the Dan Orbih’s Legacy Group, obtained a judgement recognizing its candidates and were were uploaded by INEC as rightful candidates of the PDP for the state and national assemblies. This brought palpable disquiet among members of the faction loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Not satisfied, the Obaseki faction approached the appellate court in Abuja. The court order dated 10 November, 2022, gave recognition to the Obaseki candidates. INEC has no option than to amend the list of candidates of the Edo PDP in favor of Obaseki and his co-travellers. That was the last we heard, but everyone knew that it was not yet uhuru for the two factions. The report in last week’s edition of the magazine concluded with the expression: “Between Obaseki and Orbi, who will have the last laugh? We are waiting!” This was because there are pending cases on the issue yet to be decided.
On Wednesday, 23 November, 2022, the Court of Appeal, in Benin, the state capital, delivered another judgment on the issue. It is pertinent to say that at this juncture, one hardly knows who is favored by judgments emanating from the courts. The latest judgment again set aside the judgement of the Federal High Court delivered on 27 September, 2022, which declared the candidates of the Obaseki-led group as the authentic candidates of the PDP in Edo State. Even at that, to some people loyal to Obaseki, the judgment is in their favour. But, when the detailed judgement was released Friday 25 November, it was apparent that the appellant court actually set aside the judgement of the lower court.
The Legacy PDP candidates appealed to the Court of Appeal, Benin.
Delivering the lead judgement in the case marked CA/B/225/2022, Justice Tunde Oyebamiji Awotoye, JCA, resolved four out of the six issues in favour of the Legacy candidates. He declared that the appeal was meritorious and therefore allowed. The court also set aside and struck out suit no FHC/C5/78/2022, that earlier declared the Obaseki’s group as the rightful candidates of the party, because of incomplete transmission of records that made the court not to have jurisdiction over the appeal.
Attempt by our Correspondent to get the correct interpretation of the Appeal Court judgment was futile, as some lawyers spoken to did not “want to be involved”, perhaps owing to their involvement in the politics or affilation with the party.
A legal expert who did not want to be named in print, but volunteered comment, noted that Obaseki’s candidates in their plans to frustrate the Legacy candidates’ appeal, shot their foot with their own gun. According to him, “lawyers of the Obaseki’s group were apparently unaware of the consequences and responsibilities that go with the transmission of incomplete records as spelt out by the Apex Court and reported in Page 7 (2021) LRCN. Access Bank Plc vs Owunliri. It states in summary that the primary responsibility of transmitting records to the Court of Appeal lies with the Registrar. Where the Registrar fails, the responsibility automatically shifts to the Appellant. On service, if the Respondent complains of incomplete records, the responsibility to file the missing records falls on him and the Respondent will demonstrate the importance of the missing records to his defense. Anyone who fails to carry out his responsibility will bear the consequences as the Court cannot hear a case based on incomplete records neither can it visit the sins of a party on another.”
The Appeal Court, haven found the appeal by the Legacy candidates meritorious, set aside the Benin FHC judgement for lack of jurisdiction arising from the failure of the Respondents lawyers to provide the missing records they complained about.
The appelate court however did not give a declaratory judgment as to who the authentic candidates of the Edo PDP in next year’s general elections are.
Meanwhile, the Legacy candidates has again resolved to head to the Supreme Court for a declaratory judgment based on the findings of the Appeal Court. Recall that the Supreme Court had on Tuesday 22 November 2022, released the details of its judgement in respect of the delegates of the Edo PDP. The Apex Court noted that the Legacy delegates fulfilled all the requirements of the law but it declined jurisdiction as delegates cannot sue the party going by Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN ( As Amended).
Could it be said that the coast is finally clear for the Legacy candidates to fly the flag of the PDP, come 26 February, 2022 general elections? For now, no one can answer in the affirmative. We just still have to wait and see.
Another angle to the predicament of the PDP in Edo state is that, somehow, PDP might not have candidates for the state and national assemblies in the 2023 polls, and even if they do, their participation could be declared null and void. How so? This is due to the dire implications of holding parallel primaries to elect candidates for the elections.
The Appeal Court, in its judgement, held that being the organ to conduct primaries, all primaries shall be monitored by INEC, according to section 84.1 of the Electoral Law. It further held that the case ought to commence through Writs of Summons and not Originating Summons which the lower court entertained.
The primaries conducted by Orbih’s Legacy Group was monitored by representatives of INEC, but no members of the National Working Committee, NEC, of the party present, as prescribed. The primaries were also held at unapproved locations. Whereas the primaries conducted by the Obaseki faction were held at locations approved by the party NEC, but, without INEC representatives.
Just in case that happens, PDP’s loss would end up becoming APC’s gain.
Meanwhile, a candidate of the party in the Obaseki’s faction, Matthew Aigbuhuenze Iduoriyekemwen, on Saturday reacted to the judgement of the Court of Appeal, in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists in Benin.
The former two-time member of the State House of Assembly who is vying for the Edo south senatorial seat in the senate, described the judgement as a no-victor-no-vanquished one. Although he did not outrightly give the judgement to the Legacy group, his tone however sounded like that of a man who has conceded defeat in a battle. Rather, he called on ll stakeholders of the party to close ranks, withdraw all cases in court, to enable the party win in the forthcoming elections.
Read the full text of Matthew Aigbuhuenze Iduoriyekemwen’s statement below:
“In line with the Court of Appeal judgement of Wednesday November 23,2022 over the Authentic candidates of the People’s Democratic Party PDP ,while I commend the Judges of the court of Appeal in their wisdom , I also want to say that in this situation there is no Victor, no Vanquished.
This has indeed become another call for total reconciliation and peace ,for all PDP members to join hands to take the party to landslide victory in the 2023 general elections.
I call on all PDP members across the divide to put aside differences, hatred and bitterness ,as well as an end to all litigations for the full unity of our great party PDP.
The task ahead of us is great as we must shun divisive tendencies so as to fight the common enemies in the battle ahead which are candidates of other political parties in the general elections.
While on my own I have personally reached out to some of our brothers and sisters on the other side ,I make this appeal to all others to come together as one United party in this onerous task to rescue Nigeria , which is one that will be won with team work .
As I again commend the Judges for their foresight in the landmark case, I wish to stretch out a hand of total Peace and reconciliation to all PDP members to join hands to win Edo state massively for the PDP ,and ensure the success to Rescue Nigeria from the state in which the ruling party has plunged the Nation.
Let us join hands to give PDP a resounding victory in all positions vied for in the 2023 general elections.