Cole, APC remain hopeful of participation, Wike mocks party

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) factional governorship candidate in Rivers State, Mr. Tonye Cole, through the spokesman of his Cole/Giadom Campaign Organisation, Ogbonna Nwuke, has urged his supporters not to panic, following what he termed “the deliberate misrepresentation of facts on the social media and elsewhere regarding the outcome” of yesterday’s judgment of the Supreme Court, upholding the ruling of a lower court, barring the party from fielding candidates in the general elections.

Cole expressed optimism that the party would surely be triumphant in the end, adding: “It is critical to state that there are other pending matters, including the substantive appeal, which is yet to be determined by the Supreme Court.“So, our faith in the judiciary remains unshaken. We wish to urge our numerous said Nwuke.

The Supreme Court, yesterday, dashed the hopes of All Progressives Congress (APC) as it declined to recognise the factional gubernatorial candidate, Tonye Cole, and others. The apex court in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of Justices, refused to dislodge the judgment delivered by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division .

The court had barred APC from conducting its Ward, Local Government and State congresses in Rivers State, pending the determination of a suit that was filed by 22 aggrieved chieftains of the party. The litigants had on May 11, 2018, secured an interim injunction from a High Court in Port Harcourt, restraining APC from going ahead with the indirect primaries that held on May 19, 20 and 21, respectively, which produced Tonye Cole as governorship candidate and other candidates to represent the party in the 2019 governorship election.

Consequently, APC had, through its lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), prayed the Supreme Court to clear legal impediments against its list of candidates that contained Cole’s name, a request rejected by the apex court panel, led by Justice Mohammad Dattijo. The court rather re-affirmed its previous ruling that validated the High Court verdict, which barred APC from conducting its Rivers primaries. The Supreme Court evoked Section 22 of its act, which allows it to take-over a matter and give final judgment to decide on the appeal.

In a lead judgment delivered by Justice Sidi Barge, the apex court held that by virtue of Section 11, Rule 5 of the Appeal Court rules, “the appeal against the High Court ruling, having been withdrawn by APC, is tantamount to outright dismissal,” the court held.

Justice Barge stated that since the Court of Appeal failed or evaded to make dismissal pronouncement for the said appeal, the apex court has no choice than to evoke section 22 of the Supreme Court Act to assume jurisdiction over the case and decide on it. “It is my considered opinion that this appeal must be given a decent burial. The appeal having been withdrawn at the lower court by the respondent is deemed distilled.

“This is what the lower court failed or evaded to do. Therefore, by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act 2004, the lower court having failed to exercise its powers provided under Order 11, Rule 5, this court is bound to do so,” adding, “thus I will allow the appeal and set aside the ruling of the lower court dated October 31, 2018. I hereby dismiss Appeal No Ca/Ph/198/2018, same having been validly withdrawn.”

The Ojukaye Flag-Amachree-led APC had appealed the ruling of Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, which nullified the APC state congresses and the nomination of Tonye Cole as the party’s governorship flag-bearer in the forthcoming general elections. Justice Nwogu of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, granted an interlocutory order on May 11, 2018, restraining APC from conducting any local government area congresses in the state.

The APC, has, however, expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court ruling. The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said APC would still explore all other legal means to reverse the decision.“Our legal department is looking into the judgment of the Supreme Court. It is not the kind of judgment we looked forward to based on the facts that we are aware of.

“The only option before us now is to review this judgment and see what other means that are legal. We think we deserve to field candidates in Rivers State. We know we did the right thing. We had our primaries even though there are issues around it. “I don’t know why it appears the APC is the only party that is being subjected to this kind of scrutiny from the electoral body. It is the same APC that PDP has continued to raise flags as being the party that wants to rig elections and is supposed to be working in cahoots with INEC. If this is the way to work in cahoots with INEC, we need to ask further questions .

“We know what we did in Rivers, compared to what PDP did in many of the 36 states. PDP shouldn’t field candidates in many states if the same parameters applied by the electoral body are applied to the PDP.“Our legal department will review the outcome of this, as unpalatable as it is, and we will be able to say categorically the next step we might be taking and come out with it in due course,” the statement read.

On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) applauded the judgment, describing it as victory for democracy and the rule of law.The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, commended the apex court for its courage in delivering the landmark judgment, which it noted has saved the country from a serious constitutional crisis that could have marred the elections.

“The judgment teaches politicians and political parties to eschew impunity and always conduct their affairs in a manner that is in tandem with the provision of the law.“The courage displayed by the Supreme Court in delivering the judgment at this critical time in our national life has also restored the confidence of Nigerians in the institution of the Judiciary and our democratic order.” Governor Nyesom Wike, while alluding to the crisis rocking the APC in the state, declared that there is no other political party in the state than PDP.

Speaking during a PDP campaign rally at Emohua Council, yesterday, Wike said Rivers cannot not be abducted by business politicians who lack the capacity to administer an association, adding: “There is no other political party in Rivers State. This state is completely a PDP State. However, we must not take things for granted. After voting, ensure that you defend your votes.He cautioned that aligning with other political parties would not lead to the displacement of PDP in the state.

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