These are indeed happy days for Rt. Hon Martin Okonta and Chief (Barr.) Peter Nwaoboshi of the PDP Delta State. Both men won impressive victories at the Courts recently to further consolidate their political pedigrees and enhance their influence in the political space not only in the PDP, but in Delta State in general.
For Martin Okonta, the erstwhile Speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly, the music could not have been sweeter as the Supreme Court gave an order for his immediate reinstatement after he had been removed from office by an Abuja Court of Appeal a couple of months ago. Okonta had gone to the Supreme Court asking it to evaluate the decision of the Court of Appeal, which nullified his election.
It will be recalled that the Court of Appeal had upheld the decision of a High Court and ruled that Okonta was not properly nominated as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 elections, ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to his rival, Mr. Kingsley Philip as the representative of Ika South Constituency.
This decision did not go down well with the former Speaker who then went to the Supreme Court, after reliquishing both his seat and his position as Speaker in obedience to the Court ruling, thus paving the way for Prince Sam Obi to be sworn-in as Speaker of the House.
His decision has now fetched him a glorious victory as the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision of a five-man panel of Justices led by Justice Dahiru Mustapha agreed with the counsel to the plaintiff’s submission that the suit filed at the trial court, which led to Okonta’s removal was faulty. The judgement was read by Justice Olufunlola Olufunke Adekeye. Consequently, the court set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court and that of the Appeal Court, which had earlier ruled that Okonta was not the rightfully elected candidate of the PDP for Ika South constituency.
In the ruling, Justice Adekeye said that the refusal of the plaintiff and the court to join Okonta in the suit was as good as breach of his right to fair hearing. “The decision of the Federal High Court which was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the affirming decision of the appellate court thereof are hereby set aside”, she said.
In a related development, the Federal High Court in Abuja has also ordered INEC to give full recognition to the, Barrister Peter Nwaoboshi led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta. and said that INEC had committed an error by not giving full recognition to the Nwaoboshi led Executive Committee of Delta State chapter of PDP on the basis that it was not properly constituted.
In his judgment, Justice Abdul Kafarati said INEC has no powers under the law to meddle with the internal affairs of the party. Justice Kafarati ruled that the PDP National Secretariat’s decision on the Delta Congress of February 2008 is “valid, lawful and constitutional.”
Consequently the court ordered INEC to immediately give full recognition to the leadership of PDP as constituted.
It will also be recalled that INEC had rejected the Executive Committees of the PDP in Delta State and seven other states on the contention that their emergence violated mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act, governing how States Executives Committee [SEC] emerged. Barrister Nwaboshi had gone to Court to seek a clear interpretation of the powers of INEC over political parties in the land and has been vindicated by the Court.
This ruling will surely bring to an end all speculations about who is really in charge of the PDP in Delta state, as Barrister Nwaoboshi had been in a running battle with Chief E.K Clark and a faction of the PDP over the leadership of the party in the state.
Nwaoboshi, who is fondly called the “Oracle turned Miracle”, by his political associates and asdmirers, as a result of his astute political foresight and triumphs has always held firmly that he was in charge of the PDP in Delta state. This ruling will not only help cement his political myth in the state but will most importantly, consolidate his authority in the affairs of the party as Deltans head for the re-run and general election in 2011.
As for Hon. Okonta, he will surely be heaving a huge sigh of relief as he overcomes the political embarassment which attended his removal not just as a member but when was the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly. He has already started warming up up to re-turn to the House in 2011 and this victory will surely give his campaign a very major boost. It is not clear right now if will still be Speaker, especially since a new Speaker is yet to be elected for the House, but everything is possible in Delta state these days.
But spare a thought for Kingsley Nonye Philips. His short lived adventure in the House may have left him deflated and he must be blaming his Lawyers for the ill advised technical oversight which has now undone him and dented his political pedigree. But he has already flagged off his campaign to return it is also possible that having tasted the sweetness of what being an Honourable can bring, he will even be more determined to ensure he returns once again and for all without all the fuss of the legal battle he has gone through this time around.