Amid confusion over the identity of the person who took the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, to court, a former presidential aspirant on the party’s platform, Dr Cosmos Ndukwe, has said he is behind the suit and not the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike.
His clarification came following Wike’s denial that he sued his party’s presidential flagbearer.
The governor, who is currently romancing All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftains, inviting them to commission projects in Rivers instead of his PDP colleagues, said he neither went to court nor asked anyone to file a suit on his behalf.
He also said reports of the suit emanated from Atiku’s people.
Wike made the comments in Port Harcourt, Friday, during the official commissioning of some projects.
“I want to state categorically that if I wanted to go to court, I will go to court. I have kept quiet and busy delivering dividends of democracy. If I wanted to, I would have gone to court within two weeks after the primary. Because that is a pre-election matter. It is the candidate’s group doing all these. And they’re not doing him any favour. But I wish them good luck,” he said.
But it was widely reported that a suit had been instituted against Atiku, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, and the PDP over the conduct of the party’s presidential primary.
Atiku and Wike have been estranged since the former emerged as the PDP presidential candidate and the latter the first runners-up and Atiku, instead of picking Wike as his running mate in the 2023 election, chose Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/782/2022, Wike and a chieftain of the PDP, Newgent Ekamon, were listed as plaintiffs. In the originating summons, the PDP was said to be listed as the first respondent while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was the second respondent. Tambuwal and Atiku were listed as the third and fourth respondents respectively.
Ekamon asked the court to determine eight points including whether the transfer of Tambuwal’s votes to Atiku in the primary was illegal and void.
Meanwhile, Ndukwe, a former Deputy Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly, whose name didn’t appear in the suit, in an exclusive chat with Sunday Vanguard, claimed ownership of the suit.
He said he decided to take Atiku and PDP to court for gross violation of the party’s constitution on zoning.
The erstwhile presidential aspirant argued that PDP had over the years enshrined zoning in its constitution and observed the same for equity and justice but expressed shock that the party for no justifiable reasons decided to jettison zoning in choosing its presidential flag bearer for 2023.
The former Chief of Staff to Abia State governor said he had before the primaries gone to court to challenge the refusal of the party to zone its presidential ticket to the South.
Ndukwe further explained that when the matter was decided in his favour at the High Court, the defendants appealed the judgement at the Court of Appeal which overturned the decision of the High Court.
The former Commissioner for Trade and Industry in Abia State said he decided to take the matter to the apex court for final determination.
He said the necessary parties were on Thursday served with the court processes, adding that it was likely that some people misunderstood it and attributed it to Wike.
His words: “That suit they are saying Wike went to court is my suit. Wike did not go to any court. It’s I that went to court because PDP violated its constitution.
“The matter is now at the Supreme Court. The court processes were served on the necessary parties on Thursday. That’s why they thought it was Wike”.
Ndukwe said he thought PDP had learnt its lessons on the consequences of impunity but regretted that the party still violated its constitution because of vested interest of some people.
The alleged plaintiff, who is also a former General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency, ASEPA, vowed that the party should not be allowed to get away with the gross violation of its constitution.
He argued that nobody compelled PDP to factor in zoning in its constitution, and insisted that the party must be made to obey its constitution not minding who it favoured.
“ We decided to move to the Supreme Court. The apex court will hear the matter and decide within 45 days”, he stated.
“ I am very optimistic that the Supreme Court will give its judgment based on equity and justice. It is a constitutional matter and nobody will violate the constitution and be allowed to go free.
“ How can PDP not obey the constitution it made for itself? Now they are claiming they are operating the Nigerian constitution that allows for freedom of association. But the question is: was the party forced to make its constitution that recognised zoning?
“ You know there is Nigerian Constitution that allows for freedom of association and you decided to make your constitution which of course is binding on you.
“ PDP agreed on zoning even when other parties were not interested in it, and the party has always respected it. You said zoning is for fairness and equity, so, why is it at this point that PDP wants to throw away zoning?
“The party used the same zoning in selecting its hierarchy but when it came to presidential candidates it jettisoned zoning.
“Now, every serious position in PDP is occupied by northerners. The North has the presidential candidate, National Chairman, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Where is South in all these? The South, especially South East, is totally out of the game.
“ Atiku is even thinking of picking his Campaign Director General from the West. So, where is South-East in PDP which the zone invested so much to form and incubated?”
Concerned by the development, one of the founding fathers of PDP, Prof Jerry Gana, has lamented that some forces are frustrating moves to reconcile Atiku and Wike.
Gana, a former Minister of Information, said this in a statement.
His words: “Our attention has been drawn to some fake news, making it necessary to issue this firm statement.
“News in the media that Wike has commenced legal proceedings, challenging the outcome of the 2022 PDP presidential primary is false.
“We unequivocally state that Wike has not and will not challenge the outcome of the just concluded PDP presidential primaries in court.
“He has long moved beyond such an action to focus on matters of how best to ensure victory for the PDP in the forthcoming elections”.
Gana described as false reports alleging Wike had instructed the removal of the ceremonial PDP flags and insignia from the Government House and Governor’s Office.
He said: “This again is false and misleading. The Rivers State governor never gave such instructions.
“It appears that some forces within and outside the party are expressly opposed to the reconciliation moves between Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Wike.
“Such malicious efforts will surely fail by the grace of God.
“Let me assure all party faithful and supporters that we are strongly determined to ensure the success of the current reconciliation process.
“Building a stronger and more united Peoples Democratic Party is our priority as we move towards the 2023 general elections.”
In a related development, Atiku has appointed Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, as the chairman of the reconciliation committee representing his camp.
Briefing newsmen, yesterday, in Yola, shortly after arriving from Abuja, Fintiri said the committee will achieve the desired result for the success of the party ahead of 2023 elections.
He also disclosed that Nigerians will not forgive PDP if it fails to produce the next President considering what he described as the rudderless nature of the Nigerian state under APC.
Fintiri noted that his party is working seriously to reconcile Wike and Atiku.
His words: “I am sure Nigerians will not forgive us if we fail to produce the next President of this country. Everything is shattered. Everything is in confusion. Nigerians don’t seem to understand where they are. We wake up every morning at the mercy of God.
“As leaders, we will ensure that we put everything into this reconciliation to ensure that Atiku and Wike’s camps are back as one and united party members for the success of PDP.’’