The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, on Wednesday, queried the legal competence of a suit by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State before the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the outcome of the presidential primary election of the party.
In a joint preliminary objection they filed before the court, Atiku, the PDP, and the governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who were cited as respondents, maintained that the suit was bereft of merit and ought to be dismissed in its entirety.
They argued that the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/782/2022, which has one Michael Newgent Ekamon and governor Wike as 1st and 2nd plaintiffs, “is frivolous, baseless, unwarranted and unknown to law”.
The respondents, through their team of lawyers led by Ayo Kunle Ajibade, insist that the legal action, as constituted, is alien to all known laws in the country and equally not cognizable as a pre-election matter.
According to them, the 1st plaintiff, Ekamon, having not participated in the primary election that was conducted by the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the PDP, lacked the requisite locus standi to institute the action.
They equally contended that the suit as brought by the plaintiffs, does not fall within the purview of Section 84 of the Electoral Act, and as such, does not qualify as a pre-election dispute.
Consequently, they urged the court to either strike out the matter or dismiss it for want of jurisdiction.
It will be recalled that Governor Wike, who came second in the presidential primary election that was held on May 28 and 29, shortly after information about the suit came to the limelight, disowned it, saying he did not authorize anyone to go to court on his behalf.
However, despite distancing himself from the legal action, Wike, being the 2nd plaintiff on record, had yet to approach the court to expunge his name from the suit.
While PDP was sued as the 1st respondent in the matter, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was listed as the 2nd respondent while Tambuwal and Atiku are 3rd and 4th respondents, respectively.
Specifically, the plaintiffs, raised eight issues for the court to determine, among which included, whether the purported transfer of Tambuwal’s votes to Atiku by the PDP was not illegal and void.
The plaintiffs further asked the court to determine if Tambuwal lost his claim to votes the moment he stepped down for Atiku.
They are praying the court to determine whether Tambuwal, “having stepped down during the primaries, ought to lose his votes.”
The plaintiffs maintained that should the court determine the issues in their favour, it should proceed to grant nine reliefs that included issuing a declaration that the purported transfer of Tambuwal’s votes to Atiku was illegal, null, and void.
The plaintiffs are also seeking a declaration that the PDP acted negligently and in bad faith by assigning the Sokoto governor’s votes to Atiku at the primary.
They want the court to cancel the transfer of votes and made a corresponding order declaring that Tambuwal’s withdrawal in the primary, was done after voting had commenced.
They also prayed the court to declare that the PDP and Atiku took undue advantage of Tambuwal’s withdrawal when they allowed the Sokoto state governor to persuade delegates to vote for the former Vice-President in the primary.
More so, Wike and Ekamon asked the court to order INEC to reject or remove Atiku from its list of candidates in the 2023 presidential election.
They are also seeking an order commanding the PDP to recount the votes of the primary that was held on May 28 and May 29.
Besides, they want order, “directing the 1st respondent (PDP) to declare the 2nd applicant (Wike), a presidential aspirant in the May 28 and May 29 primary as the winner of the aforesaid primary with a corresponding order directing the 1st respondent (PDP) to forward his name as the candidate to contest the presidential election in 2023.”
In a supporting affidavit he personally deposed, Ekamon, told the court that he was a member of the PDP, insisting that it was Wike that won the presidential election. He maintained that Tambuwal withdrew from the contest after voting had commenced and directed that his votes be assigned to Atiku.
“The third respondent (Tambuwal) speaking twice before stepping down from the contest, persuaded all his delegates who were going to vote for him to vote for the 4th respondent (Atiku).
“The 1st (PDP) and 4th (Atiku) respondents who also wanted the votes desperately agreed with the 3rd (Tambuwal) and assigned 3rd (Tambuwal) respondent’s votes to the 4th (Atiku) respondent and increased his votes to win the 2nd applicant (Wike).
“The 2nd applicant (Wike) won the primaries if the votes of the 3rd respondent (Tambuwal) had not been transferred or assigned to the 4th respondent (Atiku).
Meantime, when the matter was mentioned on Wednesday, Justice A. R. Mohammed, adjourned the case till September 14 for a hearing.