Battle For The Soul Of APGA: Maxi Okwu Heads For Supreme Court
Two days after the Appeal Court in Enugu ruled against him, Chief Maxi Okwu, who was elected National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) last April 8, has instructed the party's lawyers to head for the apex court in search of justice.
At a press briefing today at the Enugu State Secretariat of APGA, Okwu gave strong reasons why the Appeal Court decision recognising Chief Victor Umeh as the party's National Chairman cannot stand. He also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of double standards and expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would upturn the Appeal Court judgement. Below is Okwu's argument:
“This event taking place right now today was preciously envisioned for Monday 15th July 2013 after the Court of Appeal would have delivered its judgment on the appeal lodged by our erstwhile National Chairman Chief Victor Umeh against the decision of the Enugu High Court in suit no E/270/2012 Okuli Jude Ejike AND Sir Victor Umeh.
“It is now history that the verdict on Monday went against us to our utter amazement and disappointment. We now have had the privilege of a copy of the Court judgment, which we have perused carefully. We have also met at the highest level of the party spanning the NWC, the Forum of State Chairmen ably led by Dr. Azika Jega, the Chairman BOT Dr. Tim Menakaya and other critical stakeholders.
We finally went into conclave with the Deputy Leader of the party, His Excellency Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State Okwute Igbo nine ebe nine. Consequently, a number of far reaching decisions to meet the new challenges this curious judgment has posed for us have been taken. I would expatiate in the course of this statement.
“We note that the judgment of the CA is essentially based on the threshold issue of locus standi. The Court was of the view that Iche Okuli Jude Ejike lacked this necessary capacity without which a suit cannot be brought. Secondly the CA was also of the view that party matters are essentially domestic issues and should not be litigated. We strongly disagree with this position and our team of able solicitors have been instructed by us in concert with the plaintiff/respondent to challenge this position at the Supreme Court.
“It is clear that the Court did not deem it necessary to go into the merits of the case in view of its rationes decidendi. In our own humble opinion the issue as it relates to the facts of the case are still at large, or are yet to be addressed. If this is not done in the law courts then we bring it now to the court of public opinion politically. What are these issues?
“Chief Victor Umeh mounted the saddle of the Chairmanship of APGA at about the 16th day of December 2004 in a 'military coup' type conspiracy in a hotel room in Abuja, with a sprinkling of the then NWC members. This action led to his leap-frogging from the position of National Treasurer to Acting National Chairman. All these were totally unconstitutional going by the constitution of APGA filed with INEC. There may be differing opinions on this depending on the leaning of the discussant. One incontrovertible fact is that Chief Umeh has been parading himself as National Chairman of APGA one way or the other for nearly NINE YEARS. This cannot be the intendment of the APGA constitution that limits tenure to FOUR years with one final term of another four years.
“Secondly, on the date of the controversial convention of January 2011 at Awka convened by Chief Umeh his tenure had expired. Umeh's tenure expired on 2th December 2010 but here he was presiding over an APGA purported NEC meeting on 1st December 2010 that committed several breaches of the APGA Constitution. That meeting for instance sought to amended the APGA unconstitutional by extending the tenure of Umeh and his NWC beyond the constitutionally provided FOUR years CERTAIN.
“Thirdly as the Enugu High Court correctly observed the election of all offices at the purported convention was by voice vote/acclamation in total breach of Article 18 of the APGA constitution that clearly prescribed secret ballot. This fact was never controverted by both sides.
“We all are aware that the 'biggest' party today in Nigeria is about to hold a special national convention. Why? INEC observed that many of its officers were elected by acclamation and not by secret ballot as prescribed by the PDP constitution. The officers affected by this observation by INEC have since resigned and are preparing for re-election. Conversely in the APGA case over two thirds of the affected NWC have all accepted to abide by the COURT judgment except one VICTOR UMEH, Sani Shinkafi and a few others.
"Meanwhile the same INEC is here giving him a piece of paper to continue to parade himself. A case of different strokes for different folks? Please we are asking the media to take this up with INEC.
“We hereby bring to the notice of the public the judgment of the Court of Appeal Enugu in suit No A/126/2013 APPEAL No. CA/297/2013 on 5th July 2013, dismissing the appeal filed by Michael Joe Onwudinjo. The Appellant was challenging the judgment of the Anambra High Court of 27th May 2013, upholding and declaring as valid our congresses and convention at Awka of 8th April 2013 monitored by INEC. Please see Order 11 rule 5 of the extant Court of Appeal Rules, 2011 for the legal implication of a withdrawn appeal.
“As things stand today we have in one breath the Court of Appeal impliedly affirming the validity of our Convention of 8th April 2013, and on the other hand the same Court of Appeal allowing an appeal by our erstwhile national chairman on the grounds that the respondent/plaintiff lacks locus standi and ipso factor the lower court was incompetent to entertain the suit. Lawyers know what to do in the circumstances. On our part we chose the former as against the later and would pursue its political implications while our able team of solicitors sort out the legal.
“We are firmly resolved that APGA must move on and persons with a penchant to perpetuate themselves in office or truncate the visions of the founding fathers of the party would not succeed. To this end therefore the party leadership have further resolved as follows.
"REJECTS the technical judgment of the Court of Appeal judgment of 15th July 2013 and instructs Counsel to seek judicial relief at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“RE-AFFIRMS implicit confidence, unalloyed loyalty and unflinching support for the indefatigable Deputy Leader of the party H.E. Governor Peter Obi (Okwute Igbo), and National Chairman Barr Maxi Okwu (Ikenecheoha II).”