“The Ebonyi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which convened in Abuja on September 27th, has made a significant ruling regarding a petition filed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and its governorship candidate, Prof Benard Odoh, challenging the election of Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State.
At the heart of the matter was whether Governor Nwifuru’s defection from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his subsequent bid for the governorship on the APC platform were valid. The tribunal has provided clarity on this issue.
The tribunal initially noted that the petition revolved around a pre-election matter, which, according to its jurisdiction, should not be under its purview. However, despite this jurisdictional limitation, the tribunal proceeded to evaluate the petition on its merits.
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In its ruling, the tribunal emphasized that the Constitution did not envision that the failure of a political officeholder to vacate their position after switching parties should prevent them from contesting in elections for their new party. In this context, the petitioners failed to demonstrate that Governor Nwifuru was unqualified to run for the governorship election as he had indeed resigned from the PDP.
The tribunal pointed out that the petitioners had not followed the proper legal channels to challenge a candidate’s membership in a political party. Additionally, it reiterated that no court should involve itself in the internal affairs of a political party. Furthermore, there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that Governor Nwifuru’s APC nomination form was forged.
To support its findings, the tribunal referenced the votes and proceedings of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, which confirmed the date of Governor Nwifuru’s defection from the PDP to the APC.
In its final analysis, the tribunal concluded that the only ground for disqualification in this case was based on APC membership, a matter that should have been addressed before the election as a pre-election matter. Consequently, the petitioners failed to prove their case, and the petition was dismissed.
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