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Delta APC crisis will land INEC chairman in jail -Emerhor.

Olorogun O'tegar Emerhor is generally regarded as the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State. He was the governorship candidate of the party in the 2015 election. He emerged a senatorial candidate of the party in the parallel primaries conducted by factions of the party ahead of the 2019 election. In this interview, he declares that the APC and INEC were unfair to the stakeholders of the party in Delta, adding that the party is left with no other option than to commit the national chairman of INEC to prison for flagrant disobedience of court orders. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa presents the Excerpts:

CAN you give us an update about the seeming crisis within the APC in Delta State, taking into consideration that recently, there was an order from the Federal High Court in Asaba stopping INEC and the APC from submitting list by both factions. What is the update on this issue?

It's really shocking to me that we are in a situation where INEC appears selective about which order to obey. In some states, they obey court order, but in Delta State, we are really perplexed because on October 17th, the Asaba Federal High Court gave a very clear specific order that the status quo in Delta State should be maintained. Before it gave the order, there was argument in court whether the names of the candidate that emerged from the parallel primaries in Delta State have been submitted to INEC. INEC was represented in court and lawyer from INEC confirmed to the court that no list has been submitted; and if you look at the order, the judge specifically said as of October 17, 2018 and he said the status should be maintained. The defendant should not destroy the res of the case.

When this order was given, we went further to obtain the records of proceeding of that day where all the arguments as to submission of candidate should not be done was made. We attached that and the order and we got the bailiff to serve this on INEC, serve it on the National Chairman of APC, our party and we would expect that both our party and INEC will obey this order. We went to court because there was parallel primary in Delta State. We believe that our executive and the executive led by Chief Cyril Ogodo in Delta State, the delegates from there are the authentic delegates that can elect candidates. The other faction has delegates from Congresses that were never approved, that were never accepted by the outgoing John Oyegun executive. The new Chairman (Oshiomhole) came in and swore in Jones executive and these matters are in court.

So, we feel that we have a strong case and the court agreed with us that okay, let's give accelerated hearing to this case. He set date for hearing , but he gave the order that no candidate should be submitted from either of the two contestants until this matter is resolved. INEC was represented. APC was represented. These orders were served on the APC and INEC. But as we speak today, those orders are being flouted.

Did INEC give reasons for accepting the list from the other faction that is not recognized by the court?

INEC has made zero pronouncement on this matter as if Delta issue does not exist; maybe because I am not a governor or we don't have high profile people who INEC feel can make an issue out of this. But democracy equalises everybody. It's one man, one vote. I contested as a governorship candidate in 2015. If I had won, I would be governor. I am the leader of the party. We have issues in Delta. I led the mainstream of the party that started the party. We admitted the other group to come and enhance the capacity of the party. But now, they've decided to work on their own. Even the national chairman, who should have brought everybody together, decided to support them. At least he should obey the court and let the court decide. He has the choice of bringing us all together so that we can take cases from court and then this can be settled as a family matter in the party. He did not take those options. He continued to support one side of the faction in Delta State.

The perplexing issue is that INEC is not supposed to be a party to this disagreement. INEC is an independent institution. It ought to obey court orders. As we speak, we had to go and obtain form 38, which is contempt proceeding against not only our party Chairman but against INEC. What is INEC's interest in taking sides? These are the questions we are asking.

Since INEC is yet to say anything, have you made any effort to reach INEC or reach the national chairman to know why they are not obeying the court order?

Yes, we did. We engaged Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, when we noticed their silence, to again write to INEC and to the national chairman, forwarding these orders. I'm bringing it again to their attention, which we know they know and the consequences of disobeying court order and bringing out this point that we have not heard anything from them. We suspect they want to disobey this order. We got Ozekhome again to write the second letter to INEC and even at that, INEC has not responded. We thought that, having defied the order in the submission of the National Assembly candidates, having the form 48, having written two letters through a SAN to them, having sent our people to go and engage their legal department on a formal basis and they kept mute, not even trying to explain what is going on, we thought that in the governorship and the state assembly list, they would obey the order. But, as we speak, they still published the candidates' list.

It's very clear that we have no choice than to go for committal to prison of the INEC Chairman. That will be our next step because we cannot accept that a court will give an order an INEC will not obey. I can understand if the APC does not want to even obey, not that I understand it, but because the prior action of the Chairman has shown that he does not take our group seriously. So, I can understand that and if you want to damn the consequences of the court as a partisan in this matter, I can understand it, but not the INEC Chairman.

Before you engaged a lawyer, what internal processes did you engage in within the APC to try to resolve the crisis?

The truth is that we have no access to engage in any further internal processes with the APC because the very top leader of the APC has made it very clear that they don't want anything to do with us. The history of this crisis is that an executive was put in place by the outdoing Oyegun National Working Committee. The Chairman, Chief Cyril Ogoido was sworn in. The new Chairman came in and unilaterally swore in another Chairman. It's at that point that we engaged him. He invited the whole stakeholders in Delta State to a meeting that he is going to settle the matter, and we went to a large meeting where all the leaders were invited and what the new Chairman did was to read the riot act to us that we should go and work with the person he swore in. We did not even have the opportunity of being asked to set up a team that will reconcile all differences and harmonise. Between me and you, the mainstream that I lead in Delta State commands the majority of the party. We command more than 80 percent of the followership of the APC in Delta State. We built the party from 2013 when it was registered. We went to the last Governorship election. We opened the door for other people to join and the people who joined were in two groups; those who joined from the PDP, the former Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Victor Oche, a former Governorship aspirant came with all his followers. The former Deputy Chairman of PDP, Ikaru Ojugbo came with the breakaway Sheriff PDP in Delta State. We have all those people and all of them are Governorship candidates from the mainstream. Chief Great Ogboru and Omo Agege came from Labour Party. They are the only people who are on their own in this matter forming a faction. All these other people - about four Governorship candidates who bought form are with us. Only one Governorship candidate, Great Ogboru and Ovie Omo- Agege are on the other side and it is shocking. They don't command up to 20 percent of the followership of APC in Delta State. It is shocking that the National Chairman will choose to pitch tent with the minority.

Why do you think the chairman is hostile to your faction?

I'm not the chairman but I can speculate. I can see that the events leading to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole becoming the chairman may have contributed. The first attempt by the outgone Chairman, Chief Oyegun, when the idea was to extend their tenure for one year, you will remember that that period created a situation where people have to take sides who to support. Honestly, I was working with the out gone Chairman, Chief Oyegun and the new chairman could have read that to mean that I did not support him. These other people, Ogboru and co were not working with Chief John Oyegun. They went ahead of us to start working with Oshiomhole. But I would expect the new chairman, having become chairman, to understand that that is how politics work. I personally went to visit him. I explained to him that he has been a friend and a supporter. When I ran for Senatorial election in Delta State, he supported me, not only financially; he came to Delta State to campaign for me. When I ran for governorship , he did the same thing. So, I have nothing against him. We explained and I thought we have resolved all those issues. So, I cannot really understand. Only him can really explain why he decided that he could throw 80 per cent of the party, both water and baby away and just stick to small faction of the party and still hope to win Delta.

You know rightly that this crisis if it is not resolved, will affect the performance of your party in Delta State.

That is why I'm asking for bringing everybody together because we are stronger when we are together and that is why we opened the door for Ogboru and Omo-Agege to join us. We did not expect that when they come in, then we will be out and they will take the party and then be able to deliver. That will not work. So, this is our shock and we only resorted to legal action when we saw that there is no accommodation for all us to work together. I tell you, if we did not resort to legal, we will not even be having this interview today because the plan is to shut the door on the mainstream of the party in Delta State and I wonder how that can help to win Delta State.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Nov 18, 2018
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