Analyst SUNDAY NNAMANI examines the legal and political Tangle that has become of the Labour Party governorship quest in Enugu State.
By Sunday Nnamani
On 9 November 2022, Justice Evelyn Maha of the Abuja federal high court nullified the Labour Party governorship primary that allegedly produced Hon. Chijioke Edeoga as candidate. In the judgement dekivered on 4th August 2022, the judge ordered a fresh primary within 14 days.
The judgement was based on Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1422/2022, an application brought by Aviation entrepreneur, Captain Evarest Nnaji. He used the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the Labour Party, as 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.
Justice Maha ruled inter alia :
“….. In the light of the foregoing, I find and hold that no primary election for the 2nd defendant’s gubernatorial candidate in Enugu state was held on 4th August 2022 or on any other day at all. Moreso, if such an election existed, I find that same would still be illegal, unconstitutional, and null and void, having failed to comply with the provision of the law. In the light of the above, the 2nd defendant is therefore ordered to conduct a fresh gubernatorial primary in Enugu state within a period of 14 days from the date of this order”
Today, ego and face saving against the embarrassment from his ill-advised stunts and manipulations are now causing Edeoga and his misled supporters sleepless nights. Nothing else would explain how he still parades himself as Labour Party governorship candidate, in flagrant violation and contempt of a subsisting court order. The party’s National Secretary was unequivocal when he recently cleared the air. He stated that Mr. Edoga or anyone who did not emerge through legal means was not the party’s Enugu state governorship candidate as they are bound by the High Court ruling.
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Beyond the courts nullified the so-called primary and ordered a fresh primary, there is a curious aspect of the Court judgement. This is in the the exposition that the said Mr. Chijioke Edeoga who has been claiming to be the gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party, was not recognized or joined as a party in the suit and neither was he recognized as an aspirant.
Interestingly, in the certified true copy of the court judgement, the learned judge clearly stated:
“In this case, there is nothing before the court to show that any other person aside the plaintiff (Evarest Nnaji) paid for and obtained the expression of interest and nomination forms or was issued INEC nomination form to be the Enugu state gubernatorial candidate of the 2nd defendant”.
I like to assume the above excerpt from the court judgement is clear enough. However, in the event that further explanations are necessary, what the court is simply saying is that the only person that has shown proof of paying for and obtaining Labour Party’s expression of interest and nomination forms or was issued INEC nomination form to be the Enugu state governorship candidate of the Labour Party is captain Everest Nnaji.
In otherwords, as it stands today and by legal implication, if Labour Party were to conduct a fresh primary election as ordered by the court, Mr. Edeoga may not qualify to be in the contest. Recall he also participated in the PDP governorship primaries where he got a paltry 9 votes. He also appears to be legally barred from running under Labour. This may be partly why he did not apply to be joined in the matter but preferred to hide behind an unknown and obscure political party to delay and frustrate the litigation process.
Now here are a few facts from the court judgement:
As it stands today, not only is Edeoga not the Labour Party Enugu governorship candidate but his failure to apply to be joined as an interested party in the suit at the high court also technically shuts him out from taking any action such as filing an appeal after the judgement was delivered.
Only Labour Party can appeal the case, and they have done so.
Edeoga now realizes that Labour Party cannot really make any additional case for him at the Appeal Court. He also realizes that an Appeal Court can only hear what has been presented and argued at the High Court. This is why he decided to seek the leave of the Court to Appeal or to be joined in the Appeal. Unfortunately for him, he sought this outside the 14-day window period given by the Abuja Federal High Court, hence it has become statute barred .
Edeoga now stands outside of the case bound. He has lost completely the position to be heard separately in the case. He had the opportunity to be joined during the High Court proceedings. But he naively chose to encourage another inconsequential and unknown political party to join the case, in order to delay proceedings at the High Court. That Party was reprimanded at High Court, and they quickly withdrew from the case.
Edeoga didn’t see that having himself join the case would have served him better. He is now wiser, but short of breath.
There is a bigger question. Why is Labour Party wasting scarce resources appealing the court judgement instead of simply obeying it? One would have thought that the party would have seen the judgement as a second chance to do the right thing and toe the path of justice, fairness and equity. Above all, why not honour the conventional principle of zoning which every Enugu indigene hold in great respect? Why does Labour elect to truncate a zoning mechanism that has fostered peace among the people of Enugu state? Why allow an Nsukka man being promoted by a moribund political dynasty and also promoting the Presidential candidacy of Atiku Abubakar? Why allow them to hide under the cover of Eha-Amufu, Isi Uzo LGA, an Nsukka Cultural Community, to even indicate interest to run under the Labour party flagship ?
These are internal contradictions that the Labour Party must avoid to be associated with.