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‘I’m next in line’ — Ogbuoji, former APC guber candidate, rejects PDP’s pick to replace Umahi

  Sunday Ogbuoji, All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and runner-up in the Ebonyi state 2019 governorship election, says he is legally...


Sunday Ogbuoji, All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and runner-up in the Ebonyi state 2019 governorship election, says he is legally entitled to take over as governor of the state following the sack of David Umahi.


Ogbuoji had instituted a suit at an Ebonyi state high court seeking Umahi’s sack for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.


However, Henry Njoku, the judge, had on February 28 dismissed the suit holding that Umahi and his deputy did not flout any law by their defection.


However, in a similar suit filed by the PDP at a federal high court in Abuja, Inyang Ekwo, the judge, sacked the duo for defecting.


Ekwo held that the 393,042 votes polled by Umahi in the March 2019 governorship election belonged to the PDP and cannot be legally transferred to the APC.


Consequently, he ordered the PDP to present another candidate or in the alternative, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should conduct a fresh poll within 90 days.


As things stand, the PDP has submitted the names of Iduma Igariwey and Fred Udogwu as replacements for Umahi and Igwe.


In a statement on Monday, Ogbuoj faulted the consequential order of the federal high court describing it as “surprising”.


He said Igariwey cannot be nominated because he did not participate in the 2019 election process.


“I had expected that, in line with our laws, only persons who participated in the said 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi state are capable of being declared substitutes in a case as the one at hand,” he said.


“The order that PDP should whimsically nominate “anyone” to replace governor Umahi who left the PDP was one that I am not in agreement with.


“My reason is simple – Hon. Iduma Igariwey never participated in the gubernatorial election in 2019. He vied for and won election for the house of representatives to represent Afikpo north and Afikpo south federal constituency. Therefore, he is incapable of being nominated to replace a governor.


“Section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2022 is the nearest law that draws our attention to what should be done in a situation where the general election is yet to be held. The section requires that a political party can substitute its candidate in cases of death or withdrawal by holden a fresh primary election within 14 days from the date of such death or withdrawal.


“But, in this case, the general election had been concluded with a winner and the first runner up. I emerge the runner up in that election. Therefore, if for any reason the PDP or its candidate gov. Umahi are incapable of continuing in the office of governor and a need to replace them arises, it is only proper that the first runner up in the election is the most legally qualified person to be named as a replacement.


“I hold this strong view because it is the people’s votes for both the party and its candidate that confers the authority to govern and if the votes of a particular party and candidate is no longer reliable, then the next legitimate votes are those of the first runner up.”


Ogbuoji said he has instructed his lawyers “to file an application before the court of appeal in Abuja and the FHC (where a motion for stay of execution is pending) to be joined in the suits so as to ensure that all the issues are resolved adequately in line with our laws”.


“My most earnest desire is the good of Ebonyi state and our people. I will continue to stand for justice and fairness to all,” he said.

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