The former lawmaker representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Victor Umeh, has said that he would challenge the tribunal verdict dismissing his petition against the incumbent Senator Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Umeh, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the Anambra Central senatorial district in the last election, had asked the National Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Awka to nullify Ekwunife’s election, on the ground that she never participated in the primaries of the PDP as required by law.
The tribunal, however, declined Umeh’s request, saying that Ekwunife’s nomination was in order, since the original candidate of the PDP, Charles Odunukwe, that withdrew from the race and was replaced by her, had taken part in the primaries.
Ekwunife was first announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 Anambra Central senatorial poll, thereafter,
she was reported to have withdrawn her candidature and defected to the PDP, where she was suddenly adopted as the party’s candidate for Anambra Central to substitute Odunukwe, even though she was not part of the primaries conducted by the party.
Reacting to the tribunal judgement, Umeh said: “This is the first time a tribunal is saying that somebody who did not take part in a primary can be declared a winner in an election contrary to section 285 (13) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“The constitution says that anybody who did not participate in all the stages of the election shall not be returned winner in any election by the election tribunal or court. So, we’ll take it from there and we will likely use that to test the judgement. I am reviewing the judgement with my lawyers and we’ll most likely challenge it on appeal.”
According to the ex-parliamentarian, “The Supreme Court has already determined that anybody who did not participate in all the stages of an election shall not be declared winner. My opponent did not take part in any party primary. And primary is a stage in the election. Participation in a primary election is a very important stage in election and the constitution is very emphatic on it.
“Anybody who did not participate in all the stages of the election cannot be announced winner. The tribunal overlooked this important provision which has been upheld by the Supreme Court on July 30, 2019 on the basis of which other tribunals have nullified elections of persons who did not take part in primary in other constituencies.
“They did it in Kano. They did it in Calabar. Therefore, we don’t understand why the tribunal sitting in Awka should gloss over this very important constitutional requirement. When the constitution makes a provision, that provision will override even provisions in the electoral act. So, I will go to the appeal court to help strengthen the law.
“The tribunal judgement means that anybody who did not take part in a primary election can contest an election. And that is not what the law says. Participation in a primary is a precondition; it is a condition precedent for anyone to contest election.”
Expressing confidence that he will secure victory at the Court of Appeal, the erstwhile national chairman of APGA, urged his teaming supporters not to be worried and despondent, but to remain calm, while also thanking them for their faith and steadfastness.