Hours after a high court sitting in Abuja, sacked the state governor, Dave Umahi, deputy governor, Kelechi Igwe and 17 lawmakers for defecting to the All Progressives Congress, APC from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the latter has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to recognize Hon. Iduma Igariwey and Fred Udogwu as governor and deputy governor of the state respectively.
A federal High Court sitting in Abuja in its ruling also directed INEC to receive names of Umahi and Igwe’s replacements from the PDP or in the alternative, conduct fresh governorship poll.
Addressing a world press conference at the party’s secretariat, PDP national chairman, Sen. Iyorchia Ayu said the nomination of Igariwey and Udogwu followed “the sacking from office of the Ebonyi state governor, His Excellency, Chief Dave Umahi, and his deputy, His Excellency, Chief Kelechi Igwe, by a Federal High Court for defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.”
Ayu noted that “in the same ruling, the court, presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo, also sacked the 17 members of the Ebonyi state House of Assembly who also defected with the governor and his deputy into the APC.”
It would be recalled that Gov. Umahi, his deputy and the 17 lawmakers were elected on the PDP platform in 2015 and again in 2019, but defected to the APC on November 17, 2020, citing “injustice done to the South-East.”
The PDP subsequently went to court and joined both the APC and INEC in the suit, praying the court to declare that by defecting from the PDP, on whose platform they were sponsored and elected, “Umahi, Igwe and the 17 lawmakers had resigned or deemed to have resigned from office on the day of their defections.”
In a landmark judgement, the court ruled that “the votes in any election in Nigeria are to political parties, and not candidates,” and
Justice Ekwo consequently ordered all the affected persons to vacate office. He also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to receive names of candidates from the PDP to replace Messrs Umahi and Igwe.
The party while commending the Nigerian judiciary said the ruling will bring order in the political space and “check the issue of political rascality and stolen mandates. The judiciary is indeed the backbone of this democracy.”
Ayu continued: “We also want to single out Justice Inyang Ekwo for special recognition, particularly for being courageous and forthright in going for the substance of the law rather than the technicalities.
“And in line with the court order, PDP is immediately submitting to INEC the names of our candidates for Governor and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi state respectively.
“We are also calling on INEC to immediately issue the Certificates of Return to the PDP nominees as replacement for Messrs Umahi and Igwe pursuant to the Order of the Honourable Court.
“Furthermore, we call on the Chief Judge of Ebonyi state to immediately swear them in as soon as INEC issues the requisites Certificates of Return.
“And lastly, we call on INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificates of Return from the 17 lawmakers and commence the process of conducting bye-elections to replace them,” he added.
Fielding questions from newsmen at the event, Ayu said though Umahi may decide to head to the court of appeal in an attempt to upturn the ruling, the PDP, he noted, won’t concern itself with whether there will be an appeal or not. The party’s business, he added, is to obey the directive of Justice Ekwo.