A full panel of Nigeria’s Supreme Court of Nigeria today in Abuja sacked the entire contingent of senators and members of the House of Representatives from Anambra State. The decision swept away a host of lawmakers from Anambra State who were illegally foisted on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience Jonathan.
The court’s ruling ended the senatorial tenure of former Aviation Minister and first term senator, Stella Oduah, and aborted the legislative career of former presidential aide, Andy Uba.
Also affected are members of the House of Representatives elected on the ticket of the PDP.
Chris Uba, younger brother to Mr. Andy Uba, and Prince Emeka are expected to take over seats vacated by Mr. Andy Uba and Stella Oduah respectively. Former Senator Annie Okonkwo is in line to represent the PDP in a forthcoming election to fill a senatorial seat held by Uche Ekwunife who was sacked last December by the Court of Appeal.
Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision by Justice Chukwu of the Federal High Court laying out the proper procedures for selection of the PDP’s legislative candidates. In December 2014, the Federal High Court had ruled that it was only the constitutionally recognized state party leadership led by Ejike Oguebego that could organize the party primaries. Despite that ruling, former President Jonathan and his wife authorized a rival faction of the state chapter of the PDP to hold parallel primaries in the state. The Jonathan-backed faction then submitted a list of candidates that were not legally elected as the party’s candidates in the Senate and House of Reps.
A legal source familiar with the sharp moves is quoted as telling Sahara Reporters this morning that, following the questionable primaries, the illegally chosen candidates then offered financial inducement to a panel of the Court of Appeal which set aside the decision of the Federal High Court, claiming that the judge had no jurisdiction and that the lawsuit was an abuse of court process.
But today’s Supreme Court ruling reaffirmed the High Court’s verdict, declaring that the Ejike Oguebego-led PDP executive had the sole right to hold the primaries in Anambra State. Today’s ruling sacked all PDP Federal legislators because the Oguebego-led executive had not overseen their selection to represent the party in the March 2015 election.
On December 6 and 7, 2014, both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the PDP’s National Working Committee had taken part in primaries conducted by Mr. Oguebego’s executive. At the end of the exercise, both INEC and PDP’s National Working Committee declared the following winners: Chris Uba for Anambra South, Prince John Emeka for Anambra North, and Annie Okonkwo for Anambra Central. They were going to represent the party at the 2015 elections before the Court of Appeal upended them, ordering that Andy Uba, Stella Oduah and Uche Ekwunife be accepted as the PDP’s candidates.
Today’s judgment of the Supreme Court, which upheld Justice Chukwu’s ruling, means that the primaries earlier sanctioned by the High Court remain the only legitimate ones held by the PDP in Anambra ahead of the 2015 general elections. During adoption of briefs at the Supreme Court, INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Liman, had conceded the electoral commission’s error by apologizing on behalf of INEC.
C.T. Chinwuba, a lawyer to Prince John Emeka, told SaharaReporters after today’s Supreme Court verdict that the judgment had sorted out the issue of the PDP’s state primaries. He expressed satisfaction that the court’s ruling had clarified the question of who constitutes the legitimate body to hold primaries in the state and also laid to rest the issue of “parallel primaries.”
In December 2015, a panel of the Court of Appeal had removed Senator Uche Ekwunife, citing irregularities with the process that produced her as a candidate of the PDP. The appellate court declared her a product of illegal primaries. SaharaReporters had revealed before the elections that then First Lady Patience Jonathan had ordered that Mrs. Ekwunife be imposed as a candidate. Mrs. Jonathan had then ordered billionaire businessman, Arthur Eze, to ensure that Mrs. Ekwunife was both accepted as the party candidate and declared winner of the senatorial election.
Mr. Chinwuba described Mr. Andy Uba and Ms. Stella Oduah as renegades who chose not to operate within the laws in the state party structures.