Wednesday, June 17, 2020

APC crisis: Appeal Court upholds Oshiomhole’s suspension, Obaseki heads for PDP

• Edo gov visits Villa, says predecessor not qualified to question certificates

• Again, APC governors’ forum DG renews call for national chairman’s removal

• Party names hospitalised ex-governor Ajimobi as acting national chair

The crisis in the All Progressives Congress worsened on Tuesday when the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja upheld the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the APC national chairman.
But earlier on the same day, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, announced his resignation from the APC, citing the party’s decision to disqualify him from participating in the June 22 governorship primary as his reason.
In a unanimous judgment of a three-man panel led by Justice Eunice Onyemanam, the Court of Appeal affirmed the earlier March 4, 2020 order of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, suspending Oshiomhole and barring him from continuing to parade himself as the national chairman of the party.
Recall   that Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court had on March 4, 2020 suspended Oshiomhole as APC’s national chairman on the grounds that the party wrongfully continued to retain him in office while he was under suspension as a member of the party.
The suit was instituted before the FCT High Court by six applicants.
Together with the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, and the Department of State Services, the six applicants were the respondents to appeal jointly filed by Oshiomhole and the APC.
The main suit leading to the order earlier suspending Oshiomhole was instituted before the FCT High Court by six applicants, including the Vice-Chairman of the party, North-East, Mustapha Salihu, and the Chairman of the party in Edo State, Anslem Ojezua.
The rest of the applicants are members Oshiomhole’s Ward 10 of Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State, Alhaji Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steven, Fani Wabulari, and Princewill Ejogharado.
The plaintiffs are loyalists of the Governor Godwin Obaseki in the state.
The ward executives had in November 2019 suspended  the national chairman as a  member of the party for anti-party activities, a decision which the FCT High Court anchored the order suspending  Oshiomhole on November 2, 2019.
In compliance with the court order the security agencies had promptly taken over the national secretariat of the party in Abuja blocking Oshiomhole from accessing his office.
But Oshiomhole had through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), appealed against the court’s interlocutory order.
Following his application for stay of execution of the judgment, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by by Justice Abubakar Yahaya had on March 16, 2020 halted the execution of the judgment by reversing Oshiomhole’s suspension, pending the hearing of his substantive appeal.
But the Justice Onyemanam-led panel, which was appointed to hear the substantive appeal, re-imposed the suspension in its judgment delivered on Tuesday.
The judgment was delivered hours after the hearing was conducted on Tuesday.
Oshiomhole, who was present in court, was represented by Damien Dodo (SAN). He did not grant any interview after the judgment.
Justice Mohammed Lamido, who delivered the lead judgment, said the lower court had rightly issued the order of suspension on March 4, 2020.
He resolved all the issues raised in the appeal against Oshiomhole.
He also ruled that the plaintiffs at the lower court who were the respondents in the appeal, placed sufficient materials before the lower court to warrant the granting of the interlocutory order.
“In these circumstances, the position taken by the lower court that the plaintiffs have made a case for the issuance of the interlocutory order  is proper and that part of the decision is hereby upheld,” Justice Lamido ruled.
On Oshiomhole’s contention about an alleged breach of his right to fair hearing, Justice Lamido held that contrary to his argument, the order issued by the lower court was for his suspension and not removal from office.
He said the November 2, 2019 decision of the party in Ward 10 in Etsako LGA suspending him from office was ratified by the local government and state executives.
He noted that Oshiomhole timeously filed a suit to challenge his suspension on December 9, 2019 but later withdrew it on an erroneous impression.
He added it took him 72 days from the date of his suspension to file another suit to challenge his suspension by the party.
The judge ruled, “In the circumstances, I hold that the appellant’s right to fair hearing was not breached.
“The appeal is unmeritorious and it is hereby dismissed.”
Earlier in a separate judgment, Justice Onyemanam who led the panel had in a separate judgment affirmed another March 2, 2020 ruling of the lower court dismissing Oshiomhole’s preliminary objection challenging the lower court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit before it.
Justice Onyemanam resolved all of the four issues raised for the determination against Oshiomhole.
She held that the suit filed by the plaintiffs at the FCT High Court was not an abuse of court process.
She held that it was untrue that the plaintiffs had two pending suits on the same subject matter before the same court.
She noted that the plaintiffs had no intention to make use of the two suits, and in fact, withdrew the one marked FCT/HC/CV/2019.
“Unless we intend to stand the law and the established procedures on their head, there is no element of abuse in the instant case,” she ruled.
Resolving another issue against Oshiomhole, she ruled that the principle that a court was barred from interfering in the internal affairs of a political party, was not applicable in the case.
She also held that the plaintiffs had locus standi to institute the suit, contrary to Oshiomhole’s contention.
She held that it was untrue that none of the plaintiffs had any benefit to derive from the outcome of the suit.
She also ruled that the FCT High Court had the territorial jurisdiction to hear the case.
She held that, by virtue of the FCT High Court Civil Procedure Rules, the plaintiffs were right to file the suit before the court in Abuja, since Oshiomhole’s office was in Abuja and the national secretariat was located in Abuja.
Neither Oshiomhole nor his lawyer, Dodo, spoke with journalists after the judgment.
But the respondents’ lawyer, Mr Oluwole Afolabi, who spoke with journalists on the court premises hailed the judgment.
Obaseki, deputy leave APC
Obaseki and his deputy, Mr Philip Shaibu, resigned from the APC on Tuesday.
The governor, who announced his resignation from the APC in an interview with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja,  came down hard on the party’s national chairman, whom he accused of being behind his ordeal.
He said, “You remember that in my last tweet after my disqualification was announced by the APC, I said that I would make a decision after I have consulted with the leadership and my supporters in Edo State and also having informed the President.
“I am here today (Tuesday) to inform you that I have now decided, formally, to resign my membership of the All Progressives Congress. Having done, that I will now announce in the next few days my specific line of action and what platform I will be contesting the governorship election on.”
When asked to state specifically why he resigned his membership of the party, Obaseki said, “I am sure that the whole country knows and is aware of what has gone on with me and the party chairman and the party leadership, which culminated in my disqualification as a governorship aspirant.
“Upon that unfortunate decision by the chairman of the All Progressives Congress, I have decided to go and seek my governorship aspiration on another platform.”
Someone without certificates can’t talk about inconsistencies in certificate – Obaseki
When the governor was asked if there were indeed inconsistencies in his credentials which was the basis for his disqualification, he replied, “Someone who hasn’t gone to school, who doesn’t have certificates himself, will not know and understand what inconsistencies in certificates are. That is the starting point.
“What is the inconsistency? There is no inconsistency in my certificates. The issue was in 2016, when I contested  governorship election. I could not find the originals of my certificates because I hadn’t required them for more than two decades.
“So, I deposed to an affidavit that I couldn’t find the originals. Subsequently, I found all the original copies of all my certificates and they are with me. So I don’t understand what is inconsistent about that.
“Maybe the inconsistency in the National Youth Service Corps certificate where he said an ‘i’ was missing at the end of my surname. But if you look at that, it was like a cursive, it was written in a cursive manner. So if that’s inconsistency for him, then it’s really sad that people of that quality are leading the Nigeria’s ruling party.
“For him, it was just to look for an excuse to take whatever decision he wants to take and it’s really sad that the party structure today gives him that sort of authority without checks. That is dangerous for any system or any institution.
“When you give authority and responsibility to people who don’t have character, people who do not have finesse and a sense of justice, then that institution is imperiled.”
He said the party chairman failed to provide a level playing field in the selection process, wondering the basis for disqualifying another aspirant, Chris Ogiemwonyi.
He stated, “You are afraid of people who are educated because you didn’t go to school. You are afraid of people who have something to offer because all you know to offer is brigandage, crisis.
“So for us, Nigeria has to move forward beyond some of the characters who are currently overseeing our political polity and they are scared. They are scared that when people of substance, when people who are proven, when people who have succeeded in other aspects of life come into politics, they will be history.”
Obaseki who refused to disclose the platform on which he would contest the election, claimed that his recent meetings with some state governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party were meant for him to learn from colleagues who have gone through similar experience.
Obaseki heads for PDP
Although Obaseki did not tell journalists the party he would join, there were indications on Tuesday that he was heading for the Peoples Democratic Party.
Recall that Obaseki on Sunday met two PDP governors – Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom – as part of consultations on his next political move.
Also, the PDP in Edo State on Monday said it was expecting Obaseki and his loyalists to join it.
Also on Tuesday, the state deputy governor  in Benin announced his resignation from the APC.
Shaibu made the announcement during a press briefing, saying that his resignation from the ruling party took immediate effect.
Edo gov a betrayer – APC deputy spokesman
When contacted, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said the governor  had a funny way of showing “that he went to school.”
Nabena said, “Is betrayal the way Obaseki chose to show that he is educated? What is the difference between those who went to school and those who didn’t go to school? Is it that those who went to school always betray those who didn’t? Is that the way to show you are educated? If that is his own way of showing he is educated, it means he has a very long way to go.”
The dispute between  Obaseki and Oshiomhole came to a head on Friday when the APC screening committee for the party’s primary in Edo State disqualified the governor, citing contradictions in his credentials.
Again, PGF DG renews call for Oshiomhole’s removal
Meanwhile,  the Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum, Salihu Lukeman, had renewed his call for Oshiomhole’s resignation.
The PGF is the umbrella body of all governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
Lukeman, who had made a similar call in February, said this in a statement titled, “Struggle for the Soul of APC”, in Abuja, on Tuesday.
He explained that the APC and Nigeria’s democracy had been worse off since the national chairman took office.
APC names Ajimobi as acting national chairman
Following the appeal court judgment, the National Working Committee of the APC on Tuesday announced its Deputy National Chairman (South), Senator Abiola Ajimobi, as its acting National Chairman.
The APC, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu in Abuja, said the NWC “has received the news indicating the Appeal Court has upheld the suspension of the Party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole by an FCT High Court pending the determination of the substantive suit.
“Guided by advice from the Party’s legal department in line with the provisions of Section 14.2. (iii) of the Party’s constitution, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Sen. Abiola Ajimobi,will serve as the Party’s Acting National Chairman.
“According to Section 14.2. (iii),of the APC constitution, the Deputy National Chairman, North/South “Shall act as the National Chairman in the absence of the National Chairman from his zone”.
The PUNCH had on Tuesday reported that the immediate past governor of Oyo State had remained COVID-19 positive two weeks after being admitted at the First Cardiologist and Cardiovascular Consultants Hospital, Lagos.

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