APC Congress conflict situation: The facts and the position of the law

1. In the last couple of days, I have read and heard some disturbing narratives about the conflict situation in the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress arising from the Party’s Nationwide Congresses. Some of the narratives, apart from the fact that they emanate from person who are trained lawyers, there was nothing lawyerly or legal about them. My anxiety therefore is of what purpose were these interpretations other than to further deepen disaffection and disenchantment.

THE FACTS.
2. The APC slated it’s Ward, Local Government Area and State Congresses for the 5th, 12th and 19th of May 2018 respectively. Some persons who presumed to be supporters of or said to have earned the sympathy of Sen. Magnus Abe claimed to be aspirants for the Executive Committee positions of the APC alleged that they were excluded from the Congress.

3. With confidence in and in line with All Progressives Congress’ Internal Mechanism for Dispute Resolution, the aggrieved persons collectively wrote a petition to the National Executive Committee, praying among other things that the Congresses in Rivers State should be canceled. They alleged that they had paid for the purchased of nomination forms, but excluded.

4. The APC National EXCO received their petition and commenced the consideration and review of the allegations and merit of the petition. Before the APC could reach a decision on the petition; to either agree or disagree with the petitioners, they went to Court to seek for the same reliefs which they had prayed the Party through its internal dispute resolution mechanism.

5. On the 5th of May, 2018, the Ward Congress was held across Rivers State. On the 11th of May, 2018 (Friday) the High Court of Rivers State made an Order of Interlocutory Injunction restraining the APC from conducting the LGA Congress. Unfortunately, the process had already begun and so was completed with the Election of the Executive Members of the Ward.

6. On the 18th May, 2018, in what appears to be the swiftest and most responsive move by a Nigerian Political Party to strengthen internal democracy and uphold the integrity of the Party, the APC National Executive Committee UPHELD THE PETITION OF THE AGGRIEVED MEMBERS OF THE PARTY IN RIVERS STATE and accordingly CANCELED THE CONGRESSES HELD ON THE 5TH AND 12TH OF MAY 2018. The Party then set new dates: 19th, 20th and 21st of May 2018 for the Ward, Local Government Area and State Congresses respectively.

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7. In setting the new dates, the Executive Committee of the Party also took into consideration the grievances of the petitioners. The EXCO noted that the petitioners complained more particularly that they were denied access to nomination forms for the Congress Election. The Party addressed that complaint in the Addendum to the Guideline (LETTER); where it provided that any person aspiring to contest for any Position SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO CONTEST upon presentation of his Bank Teller for the purchase of the nomination form; or upon cash payment to the party at the venue of the Congress. The Party therefore waived the requirement of nomination form for Rivers State chapter of APC. In other words, aspirants were allowed to contest the Congresses without nomination forms.

8. Curiously, the same petitioners who had by their own petition invoked the Powers of the Party to cancel the two congresses that they had complained about, willfully refused to take advantage of their Prayers, which they asked for and were granted

LEGAL POSITION
9. Lack of Reasonable Cause of Action disclosed Against APC: Cause of Action simply put is the entire set of circumstances giving rise to an enforceable claim and consists of two elements namely; (1) the wrongful act of the defendant which gives the plaintiff his cause of complaint and (2) the consequential damage.

10. The Petitioners by their letter to the National EXCO of the Party invoked the Internal Mechanism for Dispute Resolution in the Party, requesting for the CANCELLATION OF THE CONGRESS OF 5th May and every subsequent congress arising therefrom. While the Party was YET CONSIDERING THEIR PETITION, they went to Court WITHOUT ALLOWING THE PARTY THE OPPORTUNITY OF DELIVERING ITS DECISION.

11. Fortunately for the Petitioners, the National EXCO of APC granted their relief of CANCELLATION OF THE CONGRESS OF 5TH MAY 2018

12. Even in the Originating Processes, the Petitioners did not set out the WRONGFUL act of the Party, which ordinarily should have being either of these two: (1) that the NATIONAL EXCO HAD REPLIED TO THE PETITIONERS AND HAD DECIDED TO UPHOLD THE SAID CONGRESS COMPLAINED ABOUT, contrary to the demand of the Petitioners, or (2) that the PARTY FAILED TO CONSIDER THE PETITION AT ALL. The question that the Court MUST RESOLVE is: WHAT WAS THE WRONGFUL ACT OF APC that warranted the Petitioners to sue?

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13. The Claimant failed to Exhaust the Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure: THE APC National EXCO ACTED SWIFTLY and granted the Prayers of the Petitioners by CANCELING THE CONGRESS COMPLAINED ABOUT; and gave them an opportunity to participate.

14. By the HASTINESS of the Petitioners RUNNING to COURT to file their suit, especially HAVING BY THEIR OWN PETITION ACTIVATED THE INTERNAL MECHANISM OF THE PARTY FOR DISPUTE RESOLUTION AND FAILING TO AWAIT THE PARTY’S DECISION ONE WAY OR ANOTHER on the Petition, they OVERREACHED themselves.

15. Automatically, the suit became INCOMPETENT FROM THE MOMENT IT WAS FILED. This is because, as Supreme Court had decided in several cases: FOR FAILURE TO FOLLOW AND EXHAUST THE INTERNAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM OF THE PARTY.

16. This is even more so that what they have gone to Court to ask for: THE CANCELLATION OF THE WARD CONGRESS OF 5TH MAY AND ANY CONGRESS DERIVING THEREFROM; the APC has ALREADY GRANTED to them.

17. The misinterpretation of the APC In Canceling the Congress of 5th May 2018: I have read and also heard the apparent misinterpretation of the action of the APC National EXCO by some lawyers, especially from those I expected should have known better. In fact, in one of the instances, someone tried to do a comparison of what happened in Rotimi Amaechi vs INEC (PDP) in 2007, when the PDP purportedly expelled Mr. Amaechi from the party while his case was pending in court. I will excuse the persons because they were bystanders then and did not have the proper details and facts of that case.

18. I must say that the scenarios were COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. In 2007, while Amaechi was in Court with PDP over the recovery of his mandate; the PDP read a Riot Act in which they called on all their members in Court with the Party to withdraw the case within one week. When Amaechi failed to withdraw his suit, the PDP purportedly expelled him from the party. Our contention then, which the Supreme Court agreed with was that a Party cannot pull the rug off the feet of a man who was already standing and when he fails, then he turns around to say that the other person had lost his standing in the suit. It was held that the action of the PDP was deliberately intended to make Amaechi lose his standing (locus standi) to sue.

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19. On the contrary, in the instant case, the Petitioners ON THEIR OWN INVOKED THE REMEDIAL POWERS OF THE APC TO RESOLVE INTERNAL DISPUTE and prayed for the CANCELLATION OF THE SAID CONGRESS. While the Party was considering their Petition, they ran to Court to seek for THE SAME, EXACT REMEDIES (cancellation of the said congresses) FROM THE COURT. The Petitioners were not in Court to challenge the procedure adopted by APC in resolving their petition: for instance, they are not in court to say that the National EXCO was biased or they the Petitioners were denied fair hearing. They were in court to ask for the same reliefs they had asked the Party. They were also not in Court to ask APC to stop with the consideration of their petition.

20. So, when the APC gave its verdict and canceled the congress of 5th and 12th May, they were not pulling the rug of the Petitioners feet, but were ONLY EXERCISING THEIR DUTY UNDER THE APC CONSTITUTION WHICH THE PETITIONERS THEMSELVES HAD ACKNOWLEDGED AND INVOKED BY THEIR OWN PETITION.

21. In fact, had the APC been a judicial body, the suit filed by the Petitioners in the High Court would have been an abuse of Court Process.

22. It is for the reason that a Person does not undermine the process of redress by an Organisation to which he belongs by seeking same remedy in Court once he has invoked the Remedial Authority that Organisation, that the Supreme Court set the RULE AND NEED FOR SUCH A PERSON TO EXHAUST THE INTERNAL DISPUTE MECHANISM OF THE PARTY before approaching the Court.

23. Having made these legal clarifications, I will advise all “accidental and incidental politicians” to stop using the special privilege of their trade or professional training to confuse or detract unsuspecting members of the party for personal reasons. I have came to realize that those who indulge in this kind of behavior either do so because they anticipation that their actions would make them more popular or help them earn some money, which they pretend they never earn in any case.

24. I advise APC members to always ignore such persons and their dramas. Their excitement is always in the short run and they never share in your long run pains. Be guided.

I am
Achi William-Wobodo
Concerned APC Member

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