Monday, January 30, 2012

Supreme Court’s verdict throws PDP into crisis

Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali
•Party: it’s a setback •Sambo, others in battle to resolve Kogi row

THERE is anxiety in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over last Friday’s Supreme Court verdict which ended the tenure of five governors.
Out of office are Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto). The court said they ought to have left office on May 29, last year.
The party is worried over how the verdict will affect its plans in the states, especially in Kogi and Bayelsa states. Party chiefs are:
•seeking advice on whether the judgment amounted to nullification of all governorship primaries conducted after May 29, 2011 or not; 
•wondering what will become of the primaries conducted in January, last year and the mandate won by Jibril Echocho(Kogi) and Sylva (Bayelsa); 
•thinking of primaries in all the five states; 
•opting for fresh polls in the affected states, especially Kogi; and
•planning for legal tussles that may arise from the nullification of past primaries, including the election of Capt. Idris Wada as governor of Kogi State.
A party source said: “We are spending the next few days to consult and weigh options because we do not want to lose the five states. Either way, there will be some constitutional and legal challenges that the PDP will face from aggrieved members and candidates.
“The judgment has thrown up some challenges. That is why the Board of Trustees and other organs of the party will meet on the way out.
“To say that we are not in a dilemma is an understatement. But our leaders will meet to resolve the matter.”
The PDP yesterday lamented the judgment. National Publicity Secretary, Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali, issued a statement, which said: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wishes to express its dismay and bewilderment over the judgment of the Supreme Court in which five governors elected on the platform of the Party were removed from office in one fell swoop.
“The judgment, no doubt, throws a major challenge to our determination to deepen democracy in our country. For us in the PDP, it is a huge setback considering the time and resources spent in the last one year to ensure smooth transition in the affected States.
“While we await a clear position from the Independent National Electoral Commission on the status of elections in these States, we call on our members to remain calm and be rest assured that we shall continue to stand by them and do everything legally possible to maintain our dominant position in those states.
“The Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, on behalf of the National Working Committee wishes to express solidarity with the five governors and wishes to assure them that the leadership of the party shall spare no effort in ensuring that the current situation does not derail our preparations for elections.”
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assembled a team of legal giants to advise it on the verdict, it was learnt yesterday.
Specifically, INEC is seeking legal advice on the implications of the judgement on Kogi and Bayelsa states.
The commission is also seeking the interpretation of the judgment on the governorship primaries already conducted in Adamawa, Sokoto and Cross River states.
INEC wants legal advice on whether it should conduct fresh elections in the five states, including Kogi.
The legal advice will be presented to a management meeting today in Abuja.
INEC referred the judgment to its consortium of lawyers on Friday.
It was learnt that the lawyers sat all through Friday night, Saturday and yesterday to examine the verdict.
A source in the commission, who pleaded not to be named, said: “What we did after the judgment was to refer it to a consortium of lawyers to help us look into its ramifications, in the light of our governorship election timetable.
“The judgment has many dimensions. We have been under pressure to make our views known on the judgment but, as an electoral umpire, we have no choice than to be well guided.
“The legal advice will be made available to the management at our meeting on Monday. After that we will make our position known to Nigerians.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “I may not release their names but we have some Senior Advocates of Nigeria who are retained as members of our consortium of lawyers.”
Contacted, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Publicity, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, said: “We are meeting on Monday; we will come up with a position paper within 24 and 48 hours. I cannot say more than that.”