The Supreme Court Monday in Abuja upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt division which declared Mr. Tony Nwoye as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 16 gubernatorial election in Anambra State.
But an excited Nwoye has extended an olive branch to his opponents within the party to put the past behind and move on as one family with the sole aim of claiming Anambra State from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had earlier declared Nicholas Ukachukwu as candidate of the party but on appeal, the decision was reversed.
Not satisfied Ukachukwu through his counsel, Joseph Daudu, SAN approached the apex court to challenge the decision of the Appeal Court.
However, delivering judgment in the appeal yesterday, the apex court held that one of the grounds of the appeal formulated by the appellant which is “absence of fair hearing” was irrelevant as it was clear from the papers filed before the court that the appellant was given a fair hearing at the lower court.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the court held that the high court had jurisdiction to entertain the matter contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal that held that the lower court did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the matter brought by Ukachukwu in the first place.
A panel of five justices of the apex court headed by Justice Mohammed Mahmud also held that the decision of the Court of Appeal which declared Nwoye as the candidate of the PDP had not been challenged hence he (Nwoye) remained the candidate of the party.
The court, however, fixed January 31, 2014 to give reasons for the judgment.
Earlier in his submission, counsel to Ukachukwu, Daudu argued that the Court of Appeal did not give his client fair hearing and also shut him out in the determination of the appeal filed by Nwoye. He further submitted that the Court of Appeal erred when it held that the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt did not have jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Daudu submitted that the issue he filed before the high court was that of tax default by Nwoye and that the constitution of the party provided that all aspirants should pay their taxes appropriately.
He also argued that the appellant was not out of place to have approached the high court and therefore prayed the court to allow the appeal.
Opposing the application, counsel to PDP, Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN submitted that the appellant was not shut out at the Court of Appeal but rather counsel to the appellant walked out on the court, submitting that it was not the duty of the court to impose a candidate on a non-willing party.
Gadzama further submitted that the high court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the appellant’s application in the first instance since it bothered on the eligibility of candidates, adding that it was the primary duty of the party to decide who was eligible and who was not.
He held that no complaint had been lodged against the conduct of the primary election which could have conferred jurisdiction on the court and prayed the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
Opposing the application, counsel to Nwoye aligned with the submission of Gadzama but noted that the appellant filed his suit at the high court after the primary election had been conducted. He added that the name of Nwoye had been submitted before the suit was instituted.
Pwul further argued that Section 87(4) of the Electoral Act made it clearer that the person with the highest number of vote should be declared the winner and in the case, Nwoye had been declared the winner and his name had been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He urged the court to dismiss the appeal in its entirety especially when the order being sought by the appellant was not enforceable.
Counsel to INEC, Ibrahim Bawa submitted that the electoral body did not take any position and that it would abide by the court’s decision.
However, in his reaction, Nwoye, in a speech of ‘no victor, no vanquish, extended an olive branch to all the aggrieved faction of the party in the state, especially the Nicholas Ukachukwu Campaign Organisation.
“As I appreciate the learned justices of the Supreme Court for this deserved judgment, I want to clearly state here that for me, there is no vanquish, no victor. The judgment is for the entire PDP which my brother, friend and colleague Mr. Ukachukwu still remains a
He described Ukachukwu as a strong and committed democrat and a dogged fighter who believes in rule of law. He said he was open to work with him and his team, whom he promised to accord with dignity and respect.
“I want to use this medium to extend my olive branch to my brothers in the other faction. The PDP belongs to us all and now more than before.
I need your cooperation to win this election and make our party proud.
Let us together deliver the people of Anambra from the under development that is being experienced under the APGA government. This election is PDP’s to lose,” he said.
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