Friday Olokor & Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis
The crisis rocking the Labour Party over its perennial leadership tussle took a twist on Thursday when the Court of Appeal in Owerri, Imo State capital, invalidated all the off-season governorship primary elections conducted by the National Chairman of the party, Julius Abure.
The court sitting, which was moved from Owerri to Abuja owing to security reasons, also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately recognise and publish the names of all the governorship candidates in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states produced by the Lamidi Apapa-led National Working Committee.
The appellate court further dismissed the candidature of Senator Athan Achonu in the forthcoming governorship election in Imo State.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Apapa insisted that the court ruling had reaffirmed that Abure was not the authentic party chairman of the party when the primaries were conducted.
Apapa also noted that the Federal High Court order restraining Abure from parading himself as the LP chairman was yet to be vacated.
Apapa said, “The Edo State matter more or less has to do with civil matters. The Excos in Edo suspended him and they went to court because of that, and they don’t have the right to suspend him. I’m talking about the ward level.
“But the FCT (court) restraining order has to do with criminal matters and is between the state and Abure and nobody is above the law. That’s the difference between a civil matter and a criminal matter.
“The order of FCT has not been vacated and that is why on the basis of that the Appeal Court reaffirmed that by the time he conducted his primary, the restraining order was in place and up till today the order is still in force. That’s the difference between the two.”
The factional leader said he was always ready for reconciliation, adding that the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, acted against the judgment of the court during the party’s mega rally in Benin City held earlier in the week
He said, “From the look of things, you will also agree with me that the day before yesterday, our principal and Abure went to Owerri despite the court order against them that Honourable Ikenga was the right person for Imo State. He went ahead and raised up somebody’s hands, somebody who had been asked not to go ahead by the judgment of Imo State. Today, it has also been reaffirmed by the Appeal Court. I don’t know what he will do again, whether he will reaffirm that again.”
But Abure, reacting in an exclusive phone chat with The PUNCH, said, “It is nothing but fake news. Let me send you our official reaction to the report. Senator Athan Achonu is our candidate. The lower court said it has no jurisdiction to look at the case ab initio and that the status quo should remain.
“But why we even went on appeal was that after the court had denied jurisdiction, the judge went ahead to make few comments. It was on the basis that we didn’t want anybody to capitalise on it by challenging it. The court today now said the appeal was unnecessary because it has denied jurisdiction. That was what they said. So neither the Federal High Court nor the Appeal Court was in their favour. But we know they are used to carrying propaganda and so on.”
Also, the LP National Secretary, Umar Farouk, disclosed that there was no mention of Abure in the ruling passed by the appellate court.
Farouk said, “That report was wrong. There was where in the ruling where Abure was mentioned. Nothing was in the judgment. Somebody somewhere just twisted the judgment. It is wrong,” Farouk stated.