Former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the Anambra Central rerun election without delay.
Chief Umeh, who is the APGA candidate for the election believes that any delay would further deny the people of the zone their rights of representation at the National Assembly.
LlWhat is your reaction to the latest judgment by the Supreme Court as regards the controversy trailing the conduct of Anambra Central senatorial rerun election?
You are all aware that Anambra Central Senatorial District remains the only senatorial district, out of the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria that has no senator at the National Assembly. It is very unfortunate because the people of this senatorial district have been denied a representation in the National Assembly. Our case ought not to have lingered up till this point if not for the clear attempts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to manipulate the process and frustrate the rerun election ordered by the Court of Appeal on December 7, 2015 from taking place, for the simple reason that their party is out of the race. The Court of Appeal, which is the final court vested with the authority and jurisdiction to decide on all matters relating to National Assembly matters, had nullified the election into that senatorial district and ordered a fresh election.
The PDP, instead of accepting their fate that they will no longer participate in the election, their candidate having been disqualified by the decision of the Court of Appeal, decided to use frivolous actions to frustrate that rerun election from taking place. But on February 10, the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment affirmed that the decision of the Court of Appeal was final in all aspects concerning the dispute relating to the Anambra Central senatorial rerun election. That being the case, the order made by the Court of Appeal on December 7 and the decisions arrived at by the Court of Appeal in the matter remains final. No court below the Court of Appeal can do anything to frustrate that order made by the Court of Appeal. What they are now posturing in the press is that they have several litigations pending in the High court which must be respected by INEC before conducting the rerun election. That is against the process of law because a High Court cannot come to any decision that will be contrary to the decision handed down by a superior court. There are two superior courts in this instance; the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. So, INEC, which was a party in all the proceedings both at the Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are very much aware that the matter has come to a final rest. INEC now has every authority under law to conduct that rerun election without the candidate of the PDP.
Some PDP chieftains said the 90 days originally granted by the court for a rerun election had lapsed and what they are asking for now is a fresh election. What is your take on that?
PDP clearly is standing the law on its head. They know the truth but they are just trying all they can to continually delay the election. There is nothing like that. The general election took place on March 28, 2015. This outstanding election is an offshoot of that election which was nullified by the Court of Appeal; it is not a general election. The word ‘fresh’ has been clearly defined by the Supreme Court in this judgment of February 13, 2009, that whatever you call it, whether you call it fresh, rerun, restart election that they are all the same. It is a question of semantics. They are elections that will be conducted pursuant to the nullification of a general election. So, it is not a bye-election. It is not a general election. It is an election ordered by the court pursuant to the nullification of a general election that has taken place. So, PDP knows this very well. INEC is not going to conduct a general election; it is a rerun election pursuant to the order of the judgment of the Court of Appeal which has nullified the general election which was conducted on March 28.
You said the PDP is doing all it can to prevent the senatorial election from holding. Why do you think so?
It amazes me too but I believe they are engaged in these antics so that Anambra Central will not have a senator until 2019. That is their plan. But with God on our side, that will never be. Their plans will never work. Our people are very anxious about this development and we are happy with the judgment of the Supreme Court which has given INEC the nod to proceed with the election without delay. This has cleared the way for eligible candidates to go into the rerun election. I must commend INEC for standing their ground that PDP cannot participate in the rerun election and they have been vindicated by the judgment of the Supreme Court. I want to appeal to them not to succumb to the latest antics being employed by the PDP even after the judgment.
Our people are very worried about these efforts by PDP to prevent rerun election from taking place because they (PDP) are no longer going to be part of it. If you recall, INEC had prepared for this rerun election for March 5. They had recruited ad-hoc staff, trained them, and prepared all the materials, including ballot papers for that election to take place on March 5, only for the Federal High Court to make an order four days to the rescheduled rerun election that PDP should be included. Under such circumstance, INEC could not have printed new ballot papers. Even INEC officials were embarrassed that a judge could prevent APC from fielding candidates in Kogi East and Kogi Central senatorial zones, and turn around to order INEC to include PDP with a fresh candidate in rerun election in Anambra Central senatorial zone. Today in the National Assembly, PDP occupies Kogi Central and Kogi East seats in the Senate as a result of the judgment that disqualified APC, in the same manner as that of Anambra Central.
In the same vein, the seats of Okene/Ogori/Magongo Federal Constituency in the House of Reps, Ankpa 1 and Ofu State Constituencies in Kogi Assembly all now belong to the PDP due to the same judgment of the Court of Appeal that stopped APC from taking part in the reruns. This does not only apply to Kogi State because a PDP member now represents Akko Federal Constituency of Gombe State in the House of Reps because the APC candidate that initially won the seat had his election annulled and was equally barred from participating in the rerun poll. These are indications that PDP is indeed the greatest beneficiary of such judgments of the Appeal Court where elections were cancelled and the original winners barred from participating in the reruns ordered. So, it beats me why the same PDP will insist it must be part of the rerun in Anambra Central against the Appeal Court verdict, using all sorts of tricks to frustrate the conduct of the exercise? Why do they want the case of Anambra Central to be treated differently?
While the case was ongoing, were you sure it was going to go your way?
Many people have always referred to me as a man of the courts because this is the third time I went to the Supreme Court and won. I have never resorted to violence throughout my political life. I was in this Supreme Court on March 25, 2011 when I defeated Chekwas Okorie. On 15th of January 15, last year, I was here, I won. I defeated Maxi Okwu again; I won. Now, I have triumphed again. I don’t know how many people who have travelled to the Supreme Court three times and won all. I always make sure I adhere to the law, the provisions of the constitution and judicial precedents in pursuing my defence. From day one, it was clear that this appeal was brought in total disobedience to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And the constitution you know is the grand norm. I once said the only way the appeal will succeed is if the constitution is amended. And if it is amended today, it will not take a retroactive effect. So, it was obvious to us that what they were trying to do is not less than what the Supreme Court described to be flagrant disobedience to the Constitution of Nigeria.
So, what is your message to the people of Anambra Central?
I understand the pains and frustration of the people of Anambra Central. They are the only senatorial district in the whole country without an elected representative but as painful as it is, let our people be patient. Now that the clog in the wheel of our progress has been removed, I believe that very soon, the election will be conducted. I am also calling on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on INEC to do the right thing by conducting the election. We have just two more years to the end of the current dispensation and the term cannot be extended beyond 2019.