Senator Uche Ekwunife, representing Anambra Central senatorial district, yesterday said the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu neither disqualified her nor her party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from participating in the fresh election it ordered for Anambra Central Senatorial District.
Ekwunife, who reacted to publications in some national newspapers to the effect that she and her party, the PDP, was disqualified by the court from participating in the fresh election, said the publication was the handiwork of her opponent of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh. She urged people of the zone to ignore the stories, as they are false.
The senator, who gave Daily Sun a copy of the enrolment order of the court yesterday in Awka noted that the Court of Appeal, which on Monday, December 7, nullified her election and ordered fresh election did not at any time or point in the judgment disqualify her or her party, adding that no court can disqualify a candidate on the basis of a flawed primary.
In the enrolment order, signed by Justice A. D. Yahaya, the court ordered as follows: “That this appeal succeeds and it is hereby allowed. That the perverse decision of the tribunal delivered on the 9th of October 2015 is hereby set aside. That the 1st respondent herein Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is hereby ordered to conduct a fresh election into the Anambra Central Senatorial District within 90 days from today (December 7) and that there shall be N50, 000 cost to the appellants.”
However, Ekwunife expressed unhappiness that the national dailies that published the story of her alleged disqualification did not seek her reaction before going to press and described the story as the imagination of Chief Umeh.
She said: “I want to say that it’s unfortunate that Victor Umeh is still going up and down doing what he does best, blackmailing and propaganda. Propaganda and blackmail cannot give him a senatorial seat; it will not make him win. I was in court, he was in court, he has his lawyers and I have my own lawyers. We have the judgment of the court; we have the enrolment order of the court, so, for someone that is very, very vast in legal maters as Victor Umeh to come up with that kind of allegation is laughable.
“First of all, no court disqualified me, no court disqualified my party. I have given you the enrolment order to go through. It is very surprising to hear that from him. If they disqualified me, the simple thing would have been for them to declare him the winner and no court can disqualify a candidate based on flawed primaries. It is not possible. It is unfortunate they did him legal wayo. Maybe he was waiting or he must have bargained for me to be disqualified, unfortunately, I wasn’t disqualified.
“I am in for this election and I will win again, I will win hands down. People are waiting for him. Since that judgment came up, they murdered the happiness of the zone. You are in Anambra Central, you see what is going on here, people are not happy, stakeholders, women are crying for the freest election in Anambra State to have gone this way.
“We have 720,000 registered voters in Anambra Central, I scored 95,000, Victor Umeh scored 83,000. Will that not show you that this election was free and fair and credible? Less than 25 per cent of registered voters came out to vote, only for the court to merely nullify the election based on (a) flimsy excuse. The same panel cleared other candidates, upheld their election in the court; (yet), we were all products of the same primaries? Why did they single me out?
“I’ve taken it in good faith, but I want to tell you that Victor Umeh is very unlucky. This is the first time I see somebody celebrating nullification. He is unlucky because I am in the race again and I will beat him silly again, he has nowhere to hide.
“In the last election, remember, the governor barred me from entering any market, the Government House wrote letters to presidents general (that) they shouldn’t receive me in their communities. They enacted one act, Unlawful Assembly Act, within two hours they signed it into law, first reading, second reading, public hearing, the governor signed it into law just to stop Ekwunife. With all that they did, still, I won in that election.
“They’ve started again with their propaganda, the same type of story they told in the last election. Remember in the last election, he came up with the rumour that I wasn’t the candidate, later they saw I was the candidate and I won.
He has started again while I am busy doing my campaign, he will be busy looking for issues to blackmail me, blacklist me or malign my integrity.
So, I want to say, finally, that I am in the race and I am in the race to win. The coast is clear, the environment is conducive for me to go in and win my election.”
On the report that PDP was planning fresh primary, she said: “Yes the party is ready for primaries, mind you, the Court of Appeal ordered for fresh election and fresh election means all parties that participated before will participate. The PDP wants to do a fresh primary. I am ready for the primary. Any other party that participated is also free to substitute their candidate if they so wish, depending on what parties want to do but the fact remains that this is fresh. It is not rerun. Re-run is between the first and the second but fresh election means all parties are involved, they are going for election. This is fresh election; I believe we are fresh candidates.
“But what is more important is that Victor Umeh is a character Anambra people know. Uche Ekwunife, Anambra people also know, so two of us are in the market, people will now put premium on us and know who has a better premium, who is better for them and they will vote for that person. We have gone beyond party politics now, it is about the content and characters of the candidate, these are things that will determine in this election, it is not about APC, it is not about APGA, PDP, is not about Labour Party, it is about the characters in the election because they know us very well. They know our capacity, our capabilities, vision and mission, therefore this election will be based on personality not on party.
“Who is Umeh fooling, everybody knows him, he has come to the end of the road, he can”t escape it. This seat he can’t near it, he will not be a senator, it is as simple as that. let him stop blackmailing me, nobody disqualified me, I am competent. the only way you can disqualify a candidate in an election is based on Section 65 and Section 66, it can never be based on flawed primaries. But it is unfortunate that he is turning upside-down the judgment of the court but I am taking him to court.”