PDP appeal panel clears acting Adamawa governor

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Sep 1st, 2014
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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Screening Appeal Committee has voided the disqualification of the Adamawa State Acting Governor, Umar Fintiri.

Consequently, the panel has given him the clearance to participate in the party’s primary election coming up on September 6.

Briefing journalists shortly after the appeal seating at the PDP national secretariat yesterday, the chairman of the panel, Senator James Manager, affirmed Fintiri’s qualification to participate in the election.

Manager said the Ibrahim Mantu-led screening panel that disqualified the Acting Governor on Saturday committed an error of judgment in arriving at its  decision.

The Mantu committee had relied on Section 191 (2) of the Constitution to ease Fintiri out of the race, saying; “Fintiri is not qualified to contest in the primaries because he is not a deputy governor that emerged as acting governor.

“He is a child of circumstance. He is the midwife and should not be the one carrying the pregnancy. He is like a referee who cannot participate in the match.”

But faulting Mantu’s position, Manager said: “We have taken a critical look at the entire gamut of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act and the PDP Constitution before arriving at our decision.

“The prerequisite for qualification to contest the election, as quoted by the Screening Panel, does not in any way affect the rights of the Acting Governor to contest.

“On the strength of that, we have decided to issue the Acting Governor a provisional clearance certificate to participate in the primary election.

“This decision is based on the facts on ground and not informed by any primordial sentiments. The outcome of our exercise is a unanimous decision by all members of the committee.”

Fintiri appealed his disqualification, arguing that the  committee erred in its judgment and that the constitutional provision relied upon for his disqualification was misinterpreted.

The Acting Governor’s petition had stated inter alia: “With due respect to the eminent members of the Screening Committee, they cannot read into the provision of the 1999 constitution what is not contained therein.

“Even though I am the Acting Governor, my role is just to fill the governance vacuum created by the impeachment of the Governor and the resignation of the Deputy Governor and not that of a “referee or “midwife” carrying a pregnancy.

“The referee or midwife is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If this were so, every governor who completes a first term and seeks election for a second term must resign from office before he or she can contest.

“In the event of the need to interpret that provision of the Constitution, it is only a court of law that can do so. Not being a court of law, the Screening Committee was not competent to come to the conclusion it came to with regard to the provision of Section 191 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.

“I, therefore, appeal to you to set the decision of the Screening Committee disqualifying me aside and allow me to contest the gubernatorial primaries coming up on 6th September, 2014.

“Apart from being my inalienable right to contest, I make this passionate appeal as a loyal party member who has over the years contributed immensely to the good fortunes of the party in Adamawa State.

“Furthermore, disqualifying me will make nonsense of the provisions of the party constitution which guarantees a level playing field for all members and candidates for political offices of the party and the ideals which I know the President of our great country stands for”.

Fintiri, who was accompanied by aides and associates, expressed satisfaction with the decision of the panel, saying it was a victory for democracy and victory for the people of Adamawa State.

Before the upturning of his disqualification, supporters of the acting governor took to the streets in Yola, the state capital at the weekend.

Some students and artisans carried placards denouncing PDP National Chairman Adamu Mu’azu and screening panel Chairman Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu.

The inscriptions on the placards are: “Down with Adamu Mu’azu”; “Adamu Mu’azu is Ebola”; “Mantu is wicked”; “Stop this injustice”; etc. The protesters barricaded the Bekaji Roundabout from the State Polytechnic, saying anti Mu’azu songs.

The demonstrators also lambasted “Abuja politicians” who played roles in barring their man from contesting the PDP primaries.

Fintiri requested his supporters to dismiss the report of his disqualification as baseless and of no effect whatsoever.

The chairman of the Fintiri campaign Organisation, Dr. Jonathan Silas Zwingina, told reporters that the group rejected the screening panel’s decision.

Zwingina described Ibrahim Mantu panel’s decision as irrational and lacking moral or constitutional basis.

Zwingina said the organisation would contest the disqualification decision to the highest level.

“The committee that did the screening did not find any misgiving – legally, constitutionally or otherwise – on our aspirant and we hereby reject that report totally as an aberration,” he said.

According to him,” Fintiri has challenged the report of that committee to the highest level as the issues raised by the Mantu committee have been resolved by the organisation as a figment of the imagination of Ibrahim Mantu. The appeal committee will resolve the matter in the favour of Fintiri.”

Zwingina urged members of the PDP to remain calm, adding that the Fintiri Campaign Organisation would go into the race not to only participate but to win the PDP primaries and eventually win the general election. “We strongly believe that we shall win the primaries and the Organisation is strong and thriving to defeat the other aspirants by winning the primaries in a landslide victory,” he said.

Before the Appeal panel’s decision, Fintiri was believed to be lobbying First Lady Patience Jonathan and top leaders of the party to prevail on President Goodluck Jonathan to mandate the Appeal Committee to clear him for the primary.

Fintiri was also rallying nine aspirants to stop hot contenders, such as former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chair Nuhu Ribadu,  former Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Executive Secretary Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Modibbo, who is enjoying the backing of the “grassroots” in the state; ex-Lagos Military Administrator Buba Marwa; and a former governorship candidate, Marcus Gundiri.

Fintiri might support one of the nine aspirants to prove to the PDP National Secretariat that he is in charge.

On Saturday, Fintiri protested against his disqualification by the Mantu Panel before leaving the party’s National Secretariat.

He accused the panel of working for Ribadu.

A PDP source said: “But the extent to which our leaders has been polarised since Saturday night is baffling. Some respected BOT members have kicked against Fintiri’s disqualification, alleging that the party may sink into a deeper crisis in Adamawa State.

“The Acting Governor has also been sending emissaries to President Jonathan and the First Lady. Bigwigs have been mounting pressure on the President to clear Fintiri for the primary.”

In a statement through his Director of Press Affairs, Solomon Kumanga, the Acting Governor insisted that the Mantu Committee acted illegally.

He said he is still in the race because his eligibility to contest is unquestionable.

The statement said: “The Acting Governor, Rt. Hon. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, has called on Adamawa people, particularly fellow supporters and members of the PDP that believe in his cause not to rest on their oars but continue to mobilise for the delegates election as he is still in the race.

“The Governor said the issues surrounding His non-clearance by the Mantu PDP screening Committee have been resolved.

“Fintiri drew attention to the fact that the Committee did not disqualify him from the race as widely touted by the chairman because it lacked any legal or constitutional grounds to do so just as there was no ground under the statutes of the party to take such an arbitrary decision.

“The Acting Governor is confident his eligibility to contest is unquestionable because the decision not to clear him had no political or legal precedence. Fintiri also drew attention to the fact that the decision of the committee to withhold his clearance on moral grounds could not stand because a day earlier, fellow aspirants who just returned to the party were granted waiver on the premise of fairness and justice.

“However, where is the fairness or justice to the man who reclaimed the party’s mandate and wiped shame from the faces of all the Adamawa party bigwigs, who failed to do so in the first place?

“If Fintiri as Speaker was able to remove Nyako and secure the PDP’s chance to reclaim Adamawa State, a state that is on the verge of being captured by the APC, then this is the time to reward him. Fintiri expresses unflinching loyalty to PDP which he served very well and the people whose overwhelming support he enjoys.”

It was gathered that the acting governor met with nine of the 14 aspirants.

They are: Auwal Tukur; ex-Minister Aliyu Idi Hong; Sen. Abubakar H. Girei; Jerry Kumdisi; Andrawus Sawa; James Barka; and retired  Gen. Aliyu Kama; Ahmed Gulak and Dr. Umar Ardo.

At a meeting on Saturday night, it was agreed that the nine aspirants should meet in Yola to pick a consensus candidate against Ribadu and Modibbo.

A chartered jet was provided yesterday to convey the aspirants to Yola to go and protest to the State PDP Secretariat against the disqualification of Fintiri.

The aspirants will also seek a level-playing field, transparency and fair primary on Saturday.

Another source added: “The Acting Governor might work against the top aspirants in the race. With the backing of the House of Assembly members and 21 local government chairmen, he might swing the primary in favour of any of the nine aspirants.

“If PDP is adamant in disqualifying the Acting Governor, the man and his supporters have concluded plans to also play a spoiler’s game against Ribadu, Modibbo, Marwa and  Gundiri.”


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