Okwu: Why CJ should not swear in governor-elect Charles Onyekamuo in Awka
There were fears in Anambra State yesterday that the lingering crisis in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) could mar the inauguration of the Governor-elect, Chief Willie Obiano, who is billed to take over today from the outgoing Governor, Mr. Peter Obi.
Although preparations were in top gear in Awka, the state capital, for the inauguration, residents expressed a sense of foreboding that the exercise might not hold because of the legal tussle between the two parties to the APGA crisis.
However, to ensure the success of the inauguration, the state government had set up a transition committee, headed by Mr. Chinedu Idigo.
Efforts by THISDAY to get a list of dignitaries expected at the inauguration met a brick wall yesterday as Obiâ€™s Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Valentine Obienyem, responding to an inquiry about people expected at the function during a telephone interview, simply said â€œthe President (Goodluck Jonathan)â€ and hung up the phone .
But the issue of whether or not the inauguration would hold was a subject of discussions among residents at many public places in major cities of Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi.
A former Commissioner for Information in the state, Chief Emma Nkwocha, at a press conference in Enugwu-Ukwu, Njikoka Local Government Area, warned against the swearing in of Obiano, adding that doing so would amount to contempt of court.
He cited a judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja which said APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, was no longer the recognised chair of the ruling party in the state, as the basis of the legal suit challenging Obianoâ€™s claim to succeed Obi.
Dr. Chike Obidigbo, the candidate of the Maxi Okwu-led faction of the party in the November 13, 2013 governorship election in the state, had gone to court, seeking an order to restrain the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi, from swearing in Obiano he was not the validly recognised candidate of APGA in the election.
Obidigbo, in a motion on notice, prayed the court for a declaration that by the virtue of section 177 (c) of the 1999 Constitution, Obiano was not qualified to participate in the governorship election because he was not sponsored by the party as its candidate.
He argued that he, rather than Obiano, should be declared the partyâ€™s candidate and the winner of the election.
Obidigbo was the candidate of APGA who emerged in a primary election conducted by Okwu prior to the Court of Appeal judgment that reinstated Umeh as the national chairman of APGA in August last year.
But a judgment by Justice Abdul Kafarati of the Federal High Court Abuja, said the Court of Appeal judgment did not confer any special advantage on Umeh to parade himself as APGAâ€™s national chairman.
Nkwocha said yesterday that Justice Kafaratiâ€™s judgment contained an order that Obiano should not be sworn in, describing any move to inaugurate him as a sheer display of impunity.
He added that the state chief judge, who is the fifth defendant in the case, had been served a copy of the order and that his office acknowledged receipt last Thursday.
â€œThe chief judge of Anambra State was the fifth defendant in the matter and I wonder why he should swear in Obiano. The speaker should be sworn in until the matter is resolved since Umeh had gone on appeal and Obidigbo went to court with this motion on notice. The matter will get to the Supreme Court. If they manipulated it at the Court of Appeal, we will go to the Supreme Court.
â€œThe Kafarati order specifically said that the chief judge or any other judge should not swear in Obiano,â€ he said.
Shedding more light on the crisis of succession in the state, Okwu said yesterday in Awka that â€œwhen a matter is before a court and with or without a formal order being made, none of the parties in the matter should take a step that will frustrate the court.
â€œThe Chief Judge of Anambra State should take into account the practice and procedure as well as the long lines of Supreme Court decisions and do the appropriate thing. His hands are tied and he canâ€™t take any action against the pending matter at the Federal High Court.â€
But he disagreed with Nkwocha that the speaker should be sworn in in place of Obiano in an interim capacity pending the resolution of the crisis.
He said section 180 of the 1999 Constitution should be explored whereby the last person in office should continue until a substantive person is sworn in.
THISDAY learnt that the state chief judge might not swear in Obiano today because he had been served with all the court process.
But a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Chief Joseph Offia Diulu Okonkwo, told THIS DAY yesterday that Obiano won the election and should take over from Obi.