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PRESIDENCY: COURT TO DELIVER JUDGMENT ON ZONING NOV 24

By NBF News
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An Abuja High Court has reserved its judgment till November 24 this year in the  suit filed by a presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Sani Aminu Dutsinma, seeking to void the decision of the party to discard its zoning agreement.

The Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Lawal H. Gummi, fixed the date after listening to arguments by the parties in the suit yesterday.

But the Legal Adviser of the PDP, Chief Olusola Oke, had, while asking the court to strike out the matter for lack of jurisdiction, maintained that the plaintiff was not a bona-fide member of the party having failed to pay his dues for the past three years.

In an eight-paragraph affidavit PDP filed against the suit, it refuted allegations that it had previously zoned the presidency to the North in 2011 even as it maintained that it would be discriminatory to exclude anyone from contesting election in a democratic setting on the basis of region or place of birth.

'It is our submission that nomination of candidate of a political party has always been regarded as domestic affair. If internal democracy must be deepened, no individual aspirant should be given advantage over the other by reason of his place of origin.

'Unless the plaintiff can show that the incumbent president is a person disqualified under section 137 (1) (b) of the constitution by reason of having being elected to such office at any two previous elections, the invitation to exclude him would constitute a violation of his right as a Nigerian citizen,' the party argued.

It would be recalled that Dutsinma sued both the party and its National Chairman, Dr. Okweselieze Nwodo, contending that the reason why the party flawed its zoning arrangement was to make room for President Goodluck Jonathan to contest in 2011.

The PDP had  on Monday last week disowned  Alhaji Sani Aminu Dutsinma as one of its aspirants for the 2011 Presidential election.

, saying that declaration of intent to run election on the platform of the party is not through letter writing but  by paying for and obtaining relevant forms.

Dutsinma had dragged the ruling party and its National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, to court, before an Abuja High court presided by the Chief Judge, Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, challenging the party's position on the controversial zoning of the presidency.

But when hearing in the case resumed yesterday, the party told the court that it allows its presidential candidate to emerge democratically from pool of aspirants; thereafter, 'other positions, like the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, National Chairman of the Party, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, etc are zoned'.

In an eight-paragraph counter affidavit to the Plaintiff's originating summons, PDP said it has not single out any aspirant for encouragement, let alone adopt any aspirant from any part of the country to vie for the office of the President under its platform.

The party which stressed that its constitution never specified that any zone will serve for two consecutive terms as president of the country asked the court to discountenance the Plaintiff's statement claiming that a zone is entitled to two terms.

'It is not correct to state that the Presidential flag bearer of the 1st Defendant for the 2011 election is zoned to the Northern Nigeria as the 1st Defendant has decided that its members from all parts of Nigeria are free to apply to fly the 1st Defendant's flag', it stated.

However, counsel to the Plaintiff, Joseph Obiolor told the court that, upon receipt of PDP's counter affidavit, he filed a further and better affidavit to reflect the expression of interest and the purchase of nomination form for the presidential primary election of the PDP by his client, adding that the Plaintiff has disclosed sufficient interest to contest the said primary.

Dutsinma had told the court that PDP contradicts itself for the leadership of the party to say that there is zoning but the incumbent president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan could contest and urged the court to compel the PDP, its organ and members to respect and adhere to the provision of Article 7.2 © of its constitution as amended in 2009 by sponsoring a Northern Nigeria Presidential Aspirant in 2011 Presidential election.

He also wants the court to declare that PDP will be in breach of its constitution if it sponsors a Southern presidential aspirant where the North has not exhausted its two terms of bearing the PDP ticket.