The two dominant political parties in Rivers State, All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were yesterday flexing muscles over the court judgment that annulled the last governorship election in the state, even as they set their sights on a possible rerun.
Erstwhile governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi fresh from his ministerial screening in Abuja, last Thursday, stormed the state, yesterday, to breathe life into the party’s structures. His successor and incumbent governor, Nyesom Wike also, yesterday, roused his associates to prepare for another election showdown.
Under the new Electoral Act that makes the Supreme Court the final arbiter of governorship election petitions, the last deadline available to the court to rule on the case is February 21, 2016.
Meanwhile, in another response to the tribunal judgment annulling the election of Governor Wike, the PDP, yesterday, alerted Nigerians and the international community to what it claimed as the determination of the APC-led Federal Government to undermine the nation’s institutions towards achieving its political goals.
The assertion was dismissed by the APC which claimed that despite some spots, that the judiciary remained relatively above board.
Meanwhile, the status quo continued in Port-Harcourt, as Governor Wike and his associates continued to vow their determination to prosecute the case to its logical conclusion at the Supreme Court.
Wike rallies supporters
Nonetheless, the governor first through a broadcast early yesterday, described the judgment as a minor irritation, and later, at a church thanksgiving pledged to continue to hold fort. But there were indications that the Wike political machinery was also being revived to push for votes in the event the Supreme Court endorses the judgment of the tribunal.
In an appeal to his supporters to keep faith, Wike in his broadcast said: “I appeal to all our supporters across the state and beyond to remain calm and go about their legitimate duties in a peaceful manner. There is no cause for alarm.
“By virtue of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, I am still your Governor and will remain your Governor until the exhaustive conclusion of the appeal process at the Supreme Court.
“Therefore, be assured that your mandate, which you freely gave to the Peoples Democratic Party and my humble self, is intact, safe and secure. God will not allow your mandate to come to naught.”
Also speaking at a thanksgiving service at the Obi Wali International Convention Centre in Port Harcourt, Wike assured that he would complete his four year tenure, assuring that God will protect his mandate as he urged his supporters to remain calm, saying the tribunal judgment was not an issue to celebrate.
“The nullification of my election by the tribunal sitting in Abuja shows that justice is ours. I am surprised that some people are celebrating over the judgment when they described the judgment against their candidates at the National Assembly as judicial 419.
“It is now that they have confidence with judiciary. In spite of the judgment, we will still have hope in judiciary. I want to beg you, don’t be provoked, I know what happened at the weekend is provoking but I know what their plans are, that is why I am begging you to be calm.”
In an apparent dig at his predecessor, Amaechi, Wike said: “I was minister in this country and I was given the highest responsibility and today some people are struggling to be a minster, and they are celebrating to be a minister as if nobody has been a minister in this state.”
Following his remarks, prayers were held for him, the state and the PDP asking God to thwart the alleged plans to throw the state into confusion.
Amaechi on his part at another forum at ATCTEK hall on Stadium Road, Port Harcourt, couched as a thanksgiving service for the Supreme Court judgment that enthroned him as governor in October, 2007 expressed confidence that God will deliver the state to the APC at the rerun election.
He thus charged party members to be prayerful as he evoked the spirit that helped him to come to power to lift his political godson and APC governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside.
“What has been happening is not new for those who know me. You can pay all the money you want to pay but if God says it is not your turn it is not your turn. It is God that gave the victory at the tribunal.
“Even if we win at the Supreme Court it is still not yet time for celebration. This is not a new path for those of you who know me. We did not know they had fixed Saturday for judgement, here we are to thank God”, he said.
The former governor told the gathering to turn to Luke chapter 17 reading from verse 11, the story about one of the lepers who came back to express gratitude to God after 10 were healed of leprosy.
While appreciating the grace of God on him, he charged his followers to continue to pray for victory politically.
Peterside also at the service assured supporters that God will deliver the state from those he styled wicked politicians.
What the Constitution says
By Section 285 (5), an Election petition must be filed within twenty-one (21) days after the date of the declaration of the final result of the Election. By Section 285 (6), an Election Tribunal must deliver its judgement in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition. By Section 285 (7), an appeal from the decision of an Election Tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter must be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgement of the Tribunal or Court of Appeal. By Section 285 (8), the court in all final appeals from election matters may adopt the practice of first giving its decision and reserving the reasons to a later date.
Of all the polls petitions’ cases, the governorship elections cases have the longest duration of ten (10) months; – six (6) months at the tribunal, two (2) months at the Appeal Court and two (2) months at the Supreme Court
Peterside on May 3, 2015 filed a petition against the declaration of Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as the winner of the election, which was held on April 11.
With the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal nullifying Wike’s election on October 24, it means the Court of Appeal must deliver its judgement on Wike’s appeal on or before December 23, 2015 and if it gets to the Supreme Court must be decided on or before February 21, 2016.
We must resist anti-democratic forces —PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday called on its members, supporters and lovers of democracy across the country to rise up and use all lawful means to resist anti-democratic forces, now using the judiciary and security agencies in their desperate scheme to subvert the will of the people and destroy the nation’s democracy.
The party said though it seeks peace, it is not ready to accept the peace of a graveyard, neither is it willing to surrender the mandate freely given to it by the people in any part of the country, particularly in Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Abia, Taraba and other states where it won in the last general elections.
The party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh accused the APC-led government of desperation to take over the oil rich states of Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Delta and vowed to resist the efforts.
“Nigerians have noted APC’s definition of credible elections wherein governorship elections in Imo, Ogun, Plateau, Lagos and Yobe are all credible, while those of Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Taraba and Abia are rigged and must by all means be annulled.
“We want all to know that this party is able, willing and now ready to call up our members and supporters to use all means within the limits provided by the laws of the land to resist this evil plan to decimate the PDP and opposition. The peace we seek is not that of a graveyard, it is such as guaranteed by a well-recognized democratic system that treats all as equals before the law, irrespective of partisan and political affiliations.”
“We hereby raise a rallying cry to all our members and supporters of PDP nationwide, all patriotic citizens and all lovers of democracy to join the PDP in this fight to save our nation from the hands of the lying, deceitful and false prophets, who are bent on parading themselves as cruel conquerors of our democracy.
“Furthermore, we request the international community to note that never in the history of our democracy has the nation witnessed such a divisive and anti-people government, whose actions have so polarized the polity, and undermined national unity and cohesion, a development that spells doom for our democracy, if not checked.
“We are therefore duty bound to counsel President Muhammadu Buhari to be cautious of tendencies that provide avenues for the destruction of the nation’s democracy, which he is a huge beneficiary of.
“In the same vein, we call on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed to note the looming danger and save the nation’s democracy and the institution of the judiciary by immediately checking negative actions emanating from elements operating within the office of the President of the Court of Appeal.
The PDP was immediately countered by the Rivers State chapter of the APC which flayed the PDP’s attack on the judiciary as unwarranted.
The chapter in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Chris Finebone, said despite the seemingly obvious sacrifice of the distinguished panel of judges to deliver an incontrovertible judgment that the PDP could be casting aspersions on the character of the judges.
“The APC believes that despite the malfeasance of a few, the Nigerian judiciary is still made up of men and women of impeccable character who cherish their good names, character and hallowed profession”.
“To us in the APC, the innuendo, allusion and expressions on the judiciary by Nyesom Wike and the PDP are mere red herring meant to blackmail members at the very apex of the judiciary having woefully failed to monetarily compromise them. This evil motive by the PDP to blackmail and impugn the hard-earned integrity of the justices of the Supreme Court will surely fail”.
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