PDP shops for legal team to retrieve mandate from Matawalle

Posted by News Express | 1 July 2021 | 378 times

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By DEJI ELUMOYE, CHUKS OKOCHA and ALEX ENUMAH, Abuja

· Protests nomination of Onochie as INEC commissioner

Following Tuesday’s defection of Zamfara State Governor, Hon. Bello Matawalle, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the National Working Committee (NWC) of the main opposition party has commenced a search for a competent legal team to retrieve its mandate from the Zamfara State governor, THISDAY has learnt.

The leadership of the PDP, led by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also yesterday stormed the National Assembly to protest the nomination of a presidential aide, Ms. Lauretta Onochie, as one of the national commissioners of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

This is coming as the defection of the Zamfara State governor to the APC has split some senior lawyers.

While some senior lawyers insisted that no law prevents an elected governor from decamping from one party to another, some of their colleagues argued that the governor should relinquish his mandate.

One of the PDP governors told THISDAY that one of the preconditions for the choice of the legal team that will handle the Zamfara governor’s case is that members of the team must be lawyers who are not politically encumbered or attached.

He disclosed that the legal department of the PDP has been asked to table a consortium of constitutional legal team for consideration by the party.

According to him, the team would be given the Supreme Court judgment on Zamfara State to study and come up with a legal opinion before the party will proceed with the legal action.

He also disclosed that the party has asked its legal department to demand a certified true copy of the Supreme Court on the Zamfara State gubernatorial judgment.

“It is after this that the NWC will summon an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting for their approval. But for sure, PDP will test the defection in court,” he said.

Meanwhile, PDP has told President Muhammadu Buhari that the lifespan of his party, APC, will not extend beyond the end of his tenure on May 29, 2023.

The party has also counselled the president not to allow himself to be deluded into thinking that by using the instrumentality of coercion to drag those it called feeble-minded politicians as well as rejected corrupt persons into its folds, the APC, which it said has become a derelict pirate ship, could survive beyond May 29, 2023.

According to a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said that the PDP’s position was predicated on the recent ‘laughable statement’ credited to President Buhari and APC leaders that APC has “bounced back to life” and that people are defecting to APC because of the achievements of its administration.

The PDP advised the president’s handlers as well as APC leaders to stop pushing him into making such delusional statements as Nigerians are aware that while millions of well-meaning citizens across the country, are rallying on the platform of the PDP to rescue the nation from misrule, only a few individuals with skeletons in their cupboards are defecting to the APC to gain official cover.

“After all, when such individuals join the APC, all their misdemeanours, which border on corruption, are immediately pardoned.

“Today, the APC has become a sanctuary of ‘who is who’ in the world of corruption as well as an army of terrorist apologists, election riggers and patrons of bandits, kidnappers and vandals.

Zamfara Gov’s Defection Splits Senior Lawyers

In a related development, the defection of the Zamfara State governor to the APC has split some senior lawyers.

While some senior lawyers insisted that no law prevents an elected governor from decamping from one party to another, some of their colleagues argued that the governor should relinquish his mandate.

Speaking to THISDAY on the issue, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), Mr. John Baiyeshea (SAN) and Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, (SAN), all maintained that a governor cannot be removed from office simply because he changed the political party that brought him into office.

But a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), and Chief Roland Otaru (SAN) argued that when a person elected into a political office defects to another he or she must resign or lose the office.

According to Raji, the constitution of the country gives freedom to governors as well as the president to change his or her party at will.

He explained: “For governors and presidents, they have the liberty to change their parties under our laws,” Raji stated, adding that the fact that the APC participation in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State was voided “will not affect the right donated to the governor as pronounced by the courts.

“The fact is that he is a governor, who is allowed to change his party. The choice is not in any way curtailed by the judgment that brought him. He can even return to PDP in few months.”

Baiyeshea, who described Matawalle’s defection to the APC as a political chess game, gambling and political manoeuvring common with Nigerian politicians and politics said the defection was not something that can sack him as governor of Zamfara State.

According to him, “It’s the same as has happened in Edo State, Ebonyi and Cross River States.

“Perhaps more will still happen. That’s the path of political horse-trading and immortality that has characterised the Nigerian political landscape from time immemorial. Therefore, Governor Matawalle cannot lose his governorship seat because of his defection from PDP to APC.”

The senior lawyer cum clergyman noted that it does not matter whether the Supreme Court declared Matawalle governor by default.

“He was so declared because he was PDP’s candidate. Independent candidacy is not known in Nigeria. So, as it was initially, it is now and may continue in the future, unless the constitution is amended to frontally deal with it.

“Presently, I am not aware of any law that prevents what all the defecting governors have done, as condemnable as it may appear to be,” he said.

Akinlaja submitted that since Matawalle is already the governor of Zamfara State, the question of the Supreme Court’s judgment is of no moment anymore.

“There is no provision in the constitution forbidding a governor from going from one party to another as the case is with legislators. Again, the constitution gives to everyone the liberty to join any political party the one’s choice. So, from the perspective of law, there is nothing I see wrong with the defection,” he argued.

But Agbakoba and Otaru counter-argued that when a person elected into a political office defects to another he or she must resign or lose the office.

“The clear legal rule is that the party is the foundation through which you gain electoral victory and if you leave that party legally, consequentially you lose your seat,” Agbakoba said.

The senior lawyer while noting that some conditions may warrant defection stated that in the instant case of Zamfara State there was no division to justify his leaving the PDP.

“So clearly, the consequential reason is to leave office. It is a matter of common sense, if you are in office and you leave the party, you leave office,” he said.

Similarly, Otaru submitted that it is wrong for someone to just defect from a party that brought him into office.

According to him, the constitution must be amended to prevent people from defecting from one party to another without consequences.

“There should be an amendment to the constitution, you cannot just go in and come out like that. You cannot just defect from a party like that there must be modalities,” he said.

According to Otaru, elected public office holders are in the habit of dumping the party that brought them into office because the country’s laws are not well-grounded.

PDP Leaders Protest Nomination of Onochie as INEC Commissioner

Meanwhile, the leadership of PDP, led by its National Chairman, Secondus yesterday stormed the National Assembly to protest the nomination of Onochie as one of the commissioners of INEC.

The aggrieved party leaders were received by PDP senators and House of Representatives members led by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.

In a letter addressed to the Senate Committee Chairman on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, titled, “Rejection of the Nomination of Lauretta Onochie,” the PDP said her nomination has created a lot of misgivings in the court of public opinion and judgment, adding that no provisions of the Constitution favour her nomination.

The letter signed by the PDP National Secretary, Sen. Umaru Tsauri, noted that: “The nomination, which was read on the floor of the Senate and forwarded to your committee for screening has created a lot of misgivings in the court of public opinion and judgment.

“Our party considers it as important to bring to the attention of your committee the fact that our duty is to let you know that the National Assembly must endeavour to do things right and following the dictates of the laws of the country.

“The Nigeria Constitution 1999 as amended clearly prohibits people like Mrs. Onochie, who is very partisan, in fact, a card-carrying member of a political party to be appointed into INEC as an electoral umpire. Section 156 (i) (a) and third schedule, Part 1, Item F, Paragraph 14(1) of the constitution have out rightly disqualified her.

“We are, therefore, writing to ask the chairman to save the Senate president, the Senate itself and Mr. President from being ridiculed,” he explained.

The PDP leaders called on the committee to reject the nomination of Onochie.

Responding, Abaribe promised that the protest letter would be presented to the President of the Senate and Chairman of the Committee on INEC. (Adapted from THISDAY)


Source: News Express

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