A Respite For Chime
This is a period of joy for Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State. Although the Chimes on May 18 buried their mother, Mrs. Theresa Ekperechi Chime, who died on March 19 at the age of 87, the judgement of an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Adamu Bello barely three days after the burial ceremony put the family in a joyous mood.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Alex Obiechina had approached the court seeking to nullify Governor Chime’s election on the grounds that he was not validly nominated by the party at the primary held in 2011. But Justice Bello ruled that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to challenge the primary because he was not a candidate in the disputed primary.
The judgment was one too many. The people of the state had waited for so long on what actually would be the outcome. The court had earlier fixed April 23 to deliver judgement on the matter but later postponed it sine die.
Thunderous joy erupted in Enugu immediately the news of the judgement filtered into the state capital. A day after the judgement, some civil servants in the state assembled at the usual Freedom Square at the state secretariat along Okpara avenue to solidarise with the governor. The head of state civil service, Nze Dennis Eze, who was part of the solidarity rally expressed happiness with the judgement. He equally expressed the belief that the state government would be less distracted in its determination to fulfil its social responsibility to the people of the state. He urged the workers to continue to be patient with Governor Chime’s administration because, according to him, the interest and welfare of workers is one of his four point agenda for development of the state. Many permanent secretaries in the state ministries were present at the rally.
This magazine gathered that Governor Chime was still in Udi, his country home, attending to visitors and friends who came to condole the family, when the news of the judgment came to him.
The chief press secretary to the governor, Chukwudi Achife told this magazine in a telephone interview that the judgement is a triumph for truth, justice and democracy as can be observed from the joyful mood of the people of the state since the judgment was delivered. “The verdict is for the people and not Governor Chime’s alone. It should serve as a wakeup call to whatever is left of the opposition in Enugu to join hands with Governor Chime to complete the transformation of the state,” he added.
Investigations however show that trouble is not yet over for Governor Chime. The opposition said it will challenge the judgement at superior court. The plaintiff’s counsel, Oba Maduabuchi had shortly after the ruling indicated the intention to appeal against the judgement. He said the court misunderstood the decision of the Supreme Court in Senator Lado Vs CPC and PDP Vs Timpriye Sylva. Justice Bello had, in line with the Supreme Court judgement in former governor of Bayelsa State against PDP ruled that the primary was an internal affairs of the party, which disqualifies the court from adjudicating. But relying on section 87 of the Electoral Act, Maduabuchi observed that “if you are an aspirant and for one reason or the other you are prevented from participating in the election, you are entitled to challenge the unlawful exclusion in a court of law.”
A faction of the party led by former national chairman of PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, was said to have met in Abuja shortly after the judgment to discuss on the next line of action.
The opposition had earlier instituted a case in court seeking to validate its parallel primary, which produced Anayo Onwuegbu as governorship candidate of the PDP. It argued that the primary, which produced Chime and the state and National Assembly candidates, did not comply with the 2010 Electoral Act and the PDP constitution. This case was however, abandoned.
Obiechina’s case was particularly a difficult one for Chime. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which was joined as a defendant in the suit took a position against Chime and the PDP. In its written address, the commission told the court that the primary that produced Chime as candidate of PDP in the 2011 election was not in compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, but added that “the issue of due nomination remains to a large extent, particularly where judgement or orders of court are not involved, a domestic matter which the political party and its candidate must address.” INEC counsel led by Adeleye Adegboye, stated that the commission accepted the governor’s nomination because it had no authority to reject a list of candidates duly forwarded by the political party.
The governor’s legal team also, at a point, petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, against the conduct of Justice Gladys K Olotu who first handled the case. The team called for the investigation of the judge, which it alleged “demonstrated considerable vested interest by the way and manner she conducted proceedings in her court on April 21, 2011 as she brazenly sought to railroad the defendants to judgment in the case at all costs, even without affording me a fair opportunity of presenting my defence in the suit.” Chime said he lost confidence that he would obtain justice from Justice Olotu, whom he said expressed bias against him and has shown a sympathetic disposition towards members of the Nwodo family with which he is engaged in a bitter political feud.