Tension Fresh as hurdles for Atiku as suit seeks disqualification, queries citizenship thicken

A constitutional lawyer, Mr. Johnmary Jideobi, yesterday, approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the eligibility of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to contest the 2023 presidential election.

The plaintiff, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/751/2022, maintained that Atiku, who is the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is not constitutionally qualified to participate in the presidential contest.

Consequently, he posed two legal questions for the court to determine, after which he sought seven principal reliefs against Atiku, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who were cited as 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants in the matter.

The Attorney General of the Federation was also joined as 4th defendant. Specifically, the plaintiff, asked the court to determine: “Whether by the combined provisions of sections 1(1) & (2), 25 and 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), only a Nigeria citizen by birth can contest the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Whether by the combined interpretation of sections 1(1) & (2), 25(1) & (2) and 131(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and giving the circumstances surrounding the birth of the 1st defendant, he can be cleared by the 2nd and 3rd defendants to contest office of President.”

THIS came as a PDP stalwart, Chief Jonathan Sunday Akuns, gave reasons why the party’s presidential ticket could eventually be given to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

In a chat with our correspondent on the recent PDP presidential primary, Akuns, who contested the Plateau State governorship ticket, said the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) made a fundamental mistake by not amending the PDP constitution when it decided to neglect zoning and throw the contest open.

He said: “NWC’s decision cannot nullify the party’s constitution on rotation between the north and south. The court will disqualify whoever emerges from the north zone under this arrangement.

“Recall that at the last election (2019), the party zoned the presidency to the north, and no southerner participated. Of course, you know that after the Amaechi/Omehia replacement saga that went up to the Supreme Court, the electoral process has been amended, requiring whoever will be replaced by the court to follow the primary electoral process to the end.”

He noted further: “Wike got the highest votes among the southern candidates. So, with the current position of Wike in the contest, he is in a position to successfully challenge the outcome of the primary in court.

“Wike cannot leave PDP now. He must remain in PDP and seek the court’s interpretation of the zoning clause in the party’s constitution vis-à-vis the NWC’s decision to throw it open. I believe the party constitution is supreme and superior to the NWC’s decision.”

ALSO, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Chairman, South South Governors’ Forum, yesterday, debunked Wike’s allegation that betrayal by southern governors robbed him of victory at the primary.

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