Joseph K. Umezinwa
Even non-legal practitioners know that a state high court cannot give a consequential order to a federal agency like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Any serious action, which involves a federal agency, must go to the Federal High Court, not state high court. This is trite law. Still, on June 30, 2021, Justice Musa Ubale of the Jigawa State High Court, sitting in the little town of Birnin Kudu, gave a consequential order mandating INEC to accept any person brought by Jude Okeke as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate in the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election. On the strength of that mandatory order, Chukwuma Umeoji’s name was submitted to INEC, despite the fact that INEC had, on July 2, 2021, accepted Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the former Central Bank governor, as the APGA candidate in the November 6 election. Soludo’s candidature was, in addition, supported by an order of the Federal High Court, Awka, Anambra State.
Umeoji is laying claim to the APGA ticket on the basis that his brother-in-law, Okeke, is now purportedly the APGA national chairman, following his alleged stepping into the shoes of Edozie Njoku, who supposedly became “chairman” in 2019 after a so-called congress in Owerri, Imo State, which INEC never monitored because it was a comical show. INEC has been relating with only the APGA executive committee led by Chief Victor Oye because it was properly and legally constituted.
Umeoji purchased his expression of interest form and the gubernatorial nomination form from Dr. Victor Oye in his capacity as the APGA national chairman. This was on Thursday, May 27, 2021. The forms were signed by Oye. He paid N22 million to the Oye-led APGA executive committee in June 2021. He appeared before the Oye-led screening committee, which, on June 13, 2021, disqualified him because of indications that he might be working in cahoots with his townsman, Andy Uba, a controversial member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking to run for the governorship. On June 14, 2021, Umeoji appealed against his disqualification in a letter addressed to the APGA National Working Committee, led by Oye. The NEC upheld his disqualification.
At that point, Umeoji hit a brainwave: Chief Oye, with whom he was dealing in May and June over his failed gubernatorial ambitions, ceased to be the APGA national chairman since 2019! He even claimed that Edozie Njoku, who held the comical show in Owerri that INEC ignored for being a waste of time and resources, had become the party’s national chairman. He went ahead to claim that Njoku had been removed and replaced by Jude Okeke!
Not satisfied with the funny drama, his obvious agent travelled, not to Awka, where the legitimate APGA convention was held in 2019, or even to Owerri, where Njoku hosted a political comedy the same year, but to Birnin Kudu, in Jigawa State, hundreds of kilometres away from the theatre of action. Umeoji’s agent and lawyers probably have never heard of territorial jurisdiction. One Aliyu Garba claimed that he, is an APGA member, went to the Birnin Kudu High Court to ask Justice Musa Ubale to determine if Okeke was the APGA acting national chairman. Without APGA being joined in the suit and without the national chairman, Oye, aware of the suit, Justice Ubale ruled that Okeke had taken over from Njoku as the APGA chairman. How did Okeke take over from Njoku? When? Why? Nobody can answer any of these questions, just as no one knows when Njoku was ever APGA chairman.
In every election year in Anambra State, politicians embark on all manner of frivolities before the courts, with lawyers in tow. The politicians sometimes lure judges in their determination to capture the state at all costs. Most often, such members of the bench pay a heavy price. Instances abound. They include Justices Okechukwu Opene and David Adeleye Adeniji, who were removed from the Court of Appeal in 2004 over a matter involving Senator Ugochukwu Uba, the eldest of the Uba brothers. The justices were recommended for removal by the National Judicial Council (NJC). Justice Stanley Nnaji of the Enugu State High Court was removed from the judiciary on the NJC’s recommendation following the attempt to remove the then Anambra governor, Chris Ngige, with Chief Chris Uba, the youngest of the Uba brothers, at the centre. Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo of the Federal High Court was compulsorily retired in 2004 for his ruling over the Anambra governorship.
It is certain that Anambra people will write a petition to the NJC against Justice Musa Ubale of the Birnin Kudu High Court over the judgment of June 30 on the Anambra gubernatorial struggle. Apart from NJC asking Justice Ubale questions, the lawyer who handled the Birnin Kudu court’s suit has a case to answer. What Nigerians need from our courts is justice, not judgment. Musa Ubale served Anambra people judgment on June 30, 2021, and not justice.
• Umezinwa, a lawyer, lives in Onitsha, Anambra State