Atiku’s Associates Ask Court to Stop Jonathan

Afresh legal challenge to the aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan began yesterday in Abuja as some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains filed a suit seeking to stop the Independent National Electoral Commis-sion (INEC) from accepting the president as a candidate for the 2011 presidential poll.
The plaintiffs – Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, Hon. Dubem Onyia and Alhaji Lawal Kaita – who filed the suit at an Abuja High Court are known associates of former vice-president and consensus candidate of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Also, the plaintiffs asked the court to restrain PDP and its National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, from presenting Jonathan as candidate for the said election.
The case will come up for hearing on January 4, 2011.
But it has emerged that the court case is part of a plot orchestrated by the members of the NPLF to scuttle Jonathan’s aspiration.
If the court option fails, the group plans to pull out from PDP en masse.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop INEC from accepting Jonathan as PDP’s presidential candidate for the 2011 presidential election.

President Jonathan and INEC are joined in the suit along with PDP and Nwodo.
According to the plaintiffs, by virtue of sections 13 and 15(a), (c) and (f) of the 3rd schedule of the 1999 Constitution and sections 86(1) and (2) and 67(9) and (10) of the Electoral Act, 2010, INEC is bound to compel PDP to comply with the provisions of article 7.2(c) of its 2009 constitution as amended.
They asked the court to declare that by virtue of the provisions of sections 14(3) and 223(2)(b) of the 1999 constitution, section 87(9) and (10) of the Electoral Act 2010 and articles 2 and 7.2 (c) of PDP’s constitution and the resolution of the National Caucus of the party reached on December 2, 2002, Jonathan, not being a Northerner, could not contest the 2011 presidential election on PDP platform.

Also, the plaintiffs equally want the court to declare that PDP is bound to allow a candidate from the Northern geo-political zone to seek election into the office of president in 2011 presidential election so as to complete the zone’s eight years slot.
They further argued that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party cannot by its decision override the resolution of the National Caucus, which is a superior organ to it in the party’s hierarchy.

The plaintiffs therefore asked the court to declare that, “the resolution of the National Caucus of the first defendant of December 2, 2002, the fourth defendant (INEC) is bound to reject any candidate presented by the first defendant (PDP) including the third defendant (Jonathan) in contravention of and total disregard to the provision of Article 7.2(c) of the first defendant’s constitution”.
In a 35-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Onyia, the plaintiffs stated that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, from the North-west geo-political zone became president in May 2007 on the platform of the PDP pursuant to a binding zoning arrangement of the PDP, which was consistent with the federal character policy entrenched in sections 14(3) and 223 (2) (b) of the constitution.
According to the affidavit, the late Yar’Adua whose death led to Jonathan’s emergence as president was entitled to two terms of four years each, which was the Northern slot before his demise on May 6, 2010.

According to them, the second four-year term for a Northern candidate is by virtue of the 2002 resolution of the party and the federal character principle entrenched in the constitution.
They claimed that any attempt by Jonathan to contest the position of the president under the platform of the PDP would make nonsense of the federal character principle.
They accused Jonathan of using the power of incumbency to subdue and influence party leaders to upturn the resolution reached by the party on December 2, 2002.

Jonathan’s interest to contest, they said, would disrupt the zoning agreement of the party since he has all the state’s resources at his disposal to impede the chances of Northern candidates.
They claimed that their interest is to see that the party upholds the provisions of the constitution.
Sources said the court option was hatched at a meeting of NPLF chieftains held at Nguwan Sarki home of Alhaji Adamu Ciroma in Kaduna.
At the meeting, the group expressed support for the position taken by former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, on the issue of zoning.

Babangida had threatened to leave PDP if Jonathan did not respect the party’s zoning arrangement.
It was also agreed at the meeting which was attended by core members of the NPLF that the North would mobilise people from the region to defect to another party to challenge Jonathan if he (Jonathan) manipulated the primary.
Preparatory to the PDP primaries, the group is also planning a joint meeting of members of NPLF with the Northern Elders Assembly (NEA), the South-south Peoples Assembly, the Yoruba and South-east groups.
At a different meeting held in Abuja, the NEA had also resolved to go back to court for interpretation of the PDP’s zoning arrangement as enshrined in the party’s constitution.
At the meeting which was held at the office of Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu in Maitama, Abuja, the assembly had resorted to using the judiciary to stop Jonathan.

The meeting, which held between 4 and 8 pm was attended by about 12 Northern politicians including Bello Kirfi, Tanko Yankassai, Dalhatu Bashir Dalhatu, Fatima Balla, Sani Zango-Daura, Isah Salami, Aminu Aliyu Dutsima and Tijani Daura.
At the said meeting, it was decided that Atiku should go back to the court to seek an interpretation of the PDP constitution especially as it is related to the issue of zoning.
According to them, the case would be different from the one decided by Justice Lawal Gummi of the Abuja High Court.
The group nevertheless agreed that Aliyu Dutsima should continue with his own appeal.

THISDAY

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