Umeh, Ekwunife Sustain Verbal Warfare
THE two frontline candidates in the rerun election ordered by the Court of Appeal for Anambra Central district, Senator Uche L. Ekwunife and Chief Victor Umeh; have continued their war of words over the nullified election. Exulting in the success of his appeal, Umeh says he deserved outright declaration as winner arguing that given the defective nomination process in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ekwunife, he ought to have been returned being the candidate with the second highest number of votes. On her part, Ekwunife dismisses Umeh claims as empty boasts, stressing that though the judgment of man over his petition provided the rerun, the will of God that she represents the zone in the Senate cannot be abridged:
Umeh: Coast Is Now Clear
Reaction to nullification
I AM happy that at long last Court of Appeal was able to hand down a decision which put us back on the starting block, by nullifying the election. I had hoped for something better in view of all the issues I raised before the tribunal and the Court of Appeal, particularly the issue of invalid nomination of my opponent. I was able to show that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not have a valid primary starting from ward congresses to elect local government delegates to the Senatorial Primary proper where the candidate was chosen. I was able to show that indeed my opponent, Hon. (Mrs.) Uche Ekwunife, did not become candidate of PDP through any known primary. In Anambra State everybody is fully aware of the fractionalization of PDP over the years. In fact in the last election PDP campaigned with more them five candidates, all of them claiming one Court Order or other. I thought that that was sufficient, that she was not validly nominated and if that was the case, with the conflicting result after the election I became the winner clearly.
Contrasting Re-run From
THE new development has given everybody a new opportunity. The INEC, for example, will use this re-run to prepare more adequately for the exercise. The malfunction of card readers introduced in that election also affected the smooth running of that election because accreditation was chaotic; materials I will say did not arrive in time because there was massive failure of card readers across the state. It took up to 2.30pm for INEC to order that they should resort to manual accreditation and within that period voting went into evening time. So, with that result annulled now, INEC has to prepare and service its equipment.
Card readers will be deployed in that election so that there will be no room for excuse by INEC that card readers failed to function in any polling unit. Whatever lead to malfunctioning of card reader in the previous exercise should be completely removed. Secondly, one other thing that affected the election negatively was the role played by soldiers that day and by extension the police who were under the command of the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan then. This time around undue advantage, which PDP candidates generally took of their relationship with the President then, is no longer there. So, my opponent clearly, will come to reality and face the people.
It is not a question of allowing her to become Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces because at Neni, headquarters of Anaocha Local Government Area she was clearly the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces; giving instructions to soldiers and policemen to arrest people and they were carrying people and throwing them into their vans and whisking them away. In that election PDP had the opportunity of submitting list of adhoc staff to INEC here in Awka and they accepted them and posted them to all the poling units in the state. All the adhoc staff that worked in Anambra Central Senatorial District were produced by Hon. Uche Ekwunife. In my own ward, on the day of the election the Supervisory Presiding Officer was Uche Ekwunife’s sister, same parents. So, you can imagine me going into election with an opponent whose sister is supervising election in my own ward.
I have listened and read some stories in the newspapers where my opponent, Hon. Uche Ekwunife said the judge at Enugu acted as ‘father Christmas’ and granted me relief I did not seek at the tribunal.
The Court of Appeal did justice without considering other irregularities like mutilation of figures and result sheets. They did not do anything to please me. Infact they gave the worst scenario from it which was cancellation. Otherwise, looking at the issue the way they stood, I ought to be declared winner.
On Number Of Candidates
WHEN we see the judgment we will know who is qualified to contest. But one person that is sure to contest is Chief Victor Umeh. My opponent, I don’t know what she is doing right now. I got conflicting signals about her utterances on not being sure of the party through which she will go for re-run. Such things baffle me. One is that we are not going into the election to start nomination processes again. The law is very simple. Once an election is nullified and a re-run is ordered, the candidates that participated in the previous election will go into the re-run. I also hear that there are plans for Dr. Chris Ngige to perhaps withdraw from the election now that he has become Minister of Labour and Employment so that APC will replace him. No.
The Electoral Act is very emphatic on how a candidate can be replaced; it is only death that entitles a political party to find a replacement. Nomination processes ended in December 2014. People under ignorance keep doing all sorts of things. Even the PDP people who are in court with Hon. Ekwunife over the issue of nomination have been calling me every day for copy of the judgment so they can see where they can come in. So, I don’t know who will contest with me but I do know I am the candidate. It is only those people who participated in March 28, 2015 election are the candidates that are qualified to contest. I am ready and very hopeful that having fought very hard to nullify this election and for the truth to come out and for our people to be allowed to elect their representative through atmosphere of civility and candour, I don’t think we should be afraid of anything.
Ekwunife: I Beat Umeh And Anambra Govt Machinations
On Allegation Of Choosing Adhoc Staff
THE claim that all the ad hoc staff, in the senatorial election were produced by me is unfounded and a cheap blackmail. It is on record that Victor Umeh had all the machineries to rig and win the election, but because of his unpopularity, he still lost. The electorate rejected him massively. The State government, State House of Assembly, all the 21 local government chairmen and councillors, INEC officers and their ad hoc staff in addition to the Police were all behind him. In Anaocha local government for instance, the Collation Officer is Victor Umeh’s sister in-law. I consider the nullification of the election as the will of man: God’s will, which is that I will represent my people in the Senate, cannot be changed. I defeated Victor Umeh in March; I will defeat him again in the forthcoming election.
And to further buttress the fact that all the agencies mentioned above were in Victor Umeh’s support, let me remind you that the state government barred me from entering and campaigning in all the markets in Anambra State. For instance, I bought waste disposal trucks for Mgbuka market but the Market Executives were instructed by the Governor not to receive it. You can find out. The State House of Assembly enacted a law, which processes were concluded in one day, branding meetings as unlawful assembly and campaigning all in the bid to stop me. It was war but in the midst of all those, the people of Anambra Central chose me. I am ever grateful to my good people.
On the issue of planned remedial primary
The planned PDP primary election is within the law, which allows for primary election 45 days before the election. Nobody can rule me out of an election that I have won. These comments go to confirm how worried my opponent is and I feel like having the election tomorrow. I’m better prepared now than I was in March. I am submitting myself for a fresh PDP primary election because I am not just a democrat but a practising one. I am not God, but I know that my winning the primary election is certain and I have moved on with my campaigns towards returning to Senate.
On Plans By APC To Substitute Ngige
THE Appeal Court judgment is unambiguous: fresh election in 90 days. This goes to confirm that political parties are at liberty to field fresh candidates, if they so desire provided they produce such candidates through lawful primaries. APC is free to substitute Dr Ngige with whomsoever they wish if Dr. Ngige decides to step down due to his Ministerial appointment.