By KODILINYE Obiagwu
THE dust has finally settled on the four year old legal tussle between Senator Ayogu Eze and Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and the state has heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Friday, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and civil society groups congratulated Ugwuanyi, as the Supreme Court put seal on his victory in the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) 2015 governorship primaries over Eze.
In a statement, the Action for Good Governance, Peace and Development (AGGPD) in Enugu State, described the ruling as a summation of the saying, “justice delayed is not justice denied.”
A spokesman of the group, a legal practitioner, Mr. Udodirim Oruruo noted further that “the ruling will ease pent up anxiety ahead of next year’s election and create a better environment for further the development of the state.
“Good governance can only thrive under a peaceful situation and where there is unanimity of purpose. It is our belief that the ruling, which ended the protracted legal tussle in the state, will invigorate the ongoing structural and human capital development in Enugu.”
Oruruo, who also commended Ayogu Eze for his belief in the justice system, called for all “stakeholders to close ranks and take the state to a higher pedestal.”
The DPS added the Supreme Court had not only affirmed the verdict of Enugu PDP faithful in the 2015 gubernatorial primary, but also the wide acceptance of the governor by people of Enugu.
Ekweremadu, in a statement by his special media adviser, Uche Anichukwu, stated: “This is victory, not just for Ugwuanyi, but also more importantly a victory for peace, equitable development, and unusual transformation in Enugu.
“I believe it is a motivation for the governor to do more and surely a veritable launch pad into the 2019 general elections for the PDP in Enugu.
“It is instructive that the three Senatorial Districts of Enugu have already endorsed him unanimously for a second term in office because he has justified our decision in electing him in 2015.”
Ekweremadu described Ugwuanyi as a “God-sent, an agent of peace and development in Enugu.”
On the victory of the Senate President, Olusola Saraki, Ekweremadu stated: “I salute the courage of the Supreme Court jurists. This decision has no doubt strengthened faith in the judiciary as a sanctuary of justice and defender of rule of law. It has, once again, distinguished the judiciary as the bastion of democracy and last hope of the oppressed.
“This is victory, not only for the President of the Senate, but also victory for the National Assembly, our democracy, and indeed victory for every Nigerian, who has stood up against all forms of political intimidation, highhandedness, and impunity.
“I salute the President of the Senate for his resilience, courage, and undying commitment to the immutable democratic principles of the rule of law and separation of powers as well as the integrity and independence of the legislature.”
Meanwhile, a legal practitioner and president-emeritus of Aka Ikenga Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, while congratulating Saraki, said, “as a lawyer, I knew that there was no case against Saraki ab initio. I am glad that the Supreme Court has spoken.”
Ugwuanyi versus Eze: The Battle
THE legal contest between Ugwuanyi and Eze started shortly after the PDP governorship primaries in Enugu where both emerged as candidates from parallel primaries. Ugwuanyi went to court, which granted an ex-parte order restraining Eze from parading himself as the governorship candidate of the PDP.
The State chapter of the party had also backed Ugwuanyi, and denounced Eze’s claim, as it insisted that only one gubernatorial primary was held in the state.
Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, the Court of Appeal in Abuja in 2017 dismissed an appeal by Eze, seeking to upturn the ruling of a lower court and the nomination of Ugwuanyi as the PDP candidate. The court, in a judgment delivered by Justice Peter Ige, dismissed the appeal for lack of merit as well as lack of locus standi by Eze, whom the court said, admitted in his affidavit, that he did not participate in the primary election conducted by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP.
The Appeal Court held that the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit ab initio since Eze did not qualify as an aspirant and was therefore not entitled to challenge the outcome of the primary election as provided in Section 87 (9) of the Electoral Act.
The Federal High Court had hitherto dismissed the major relief sought by Eze that he, was elected by the majority of the lawful votes cast at the primary election held on December 8, 2014, for the election of a governorship candidate for the PDP; and that he had the authenticated list of delegates for the primary election, held on November 1, 2014.