There was row at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, Wednesday, between contending forces in the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM).
The party, through its presidential candidate, Pastor Aminchi Habu in the February 23 election had filed a petition before the tribunal, seeking nullification of the poll that produced President Muhammadu Buhari as winner.
But in a twist of events, four months after the petition with number CA/PEPC/004/2019 was filed, mainly seeking cancellation of the election on the grounds of alleged wrongful exclusion of PDM, the national chairman of the party, Chief, Frank Igwebuike brought a motion on notice before the same tribunal, seeking withdrawal of the party from the petition of the presidential candidate.
Igwebuike in the motion brought by his counsel, Morrison Onunu and dated July 9 claimed to be withdrawing the party from the petition filed against Buhari in the best overall interest of the party and the nation.
In a 14 paragraph affidavit, Igwebuike averred that PDM in its own wisdom, re-evaluated the probability of the petition succeeding and decided to withdraw from it.
The national chairman claimed that the PDM as the second petitioner resolved and decided to forgo whatever cause of action that necessitated the filing of the petition and there is no need to agitate the present petition of its presidential candidate.
Igwebuike further asserted in the affidavit of his motion that PDM did not reach any agreement, political gains or otherwise compromised before seeking to pull out from the petition.
The applicant further stated that PDM’s withdrawal in the petition of its presidential candidate is voluntary and without any duress of influence and that no undertaking or agreement has been entered into with any of the respondents in the petition.
However, in a counter affidavit to Igwebuike’s motion, the national secretary of the party, Abubakar Abdullahi Gwada, dismissed the move to withdraw the PDM from the petition of its presidential candidate.
In the 18 paragraph counter affidavit, he deposed to, Gwada asserted that the national chairman is acting alone in his bid to pull out PDM from the petition.
He claimed that since the petition was filed about four months ago, the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee of the party had not met to take any decision relating to the withdrawal of the party from the petition.
The deponent categorically stated that Igwebuike making the move to withdraw PDM from the petition does not have the authority of the party to make the move, adding that the petition is a joint one filed with the consent of the party and financed solely by the presidential candidate who he said is complaining of unlawful exclusion from the presidential election.
He further stated that the law firm of Aliu Lemu retained to prosecute the petition on behalf of the party and the presidential candidate remain the counsel on record as no decision has been taken to withdraw it from the petition.
The counter affidavit further stated that PDM is still very much interested in the petition and a decision for it to withdraw from the petition can only be taken by the NEC and NWC of the party.
Gwada asserted that there are no extreme circumstances for the tribunal to grant the application to remove PDM from the petition, adding that it will not be in the interest of justice to allow the withdrawal of the party’s name from the petition of the presidential candidate.
When the matter came up for pre-hearing Wednesday, Onunu, counsel to Igwebuike, informed the tribunal that he had a motion praying for withdrawal of the party and striking out the party’s name from the petition and had served same on necessary parties.
Onunu further told the triubunal that a counter affidavit filed on July was just served on him in the court room and that he needed time to respond to the issues raised in the counter affidavit.
Counsel to the presidential candidate, confirmed to the tribunal that he received the applicant motion on Tuesday and had responded on Wednesday morning but did not object to the request for time by onunu to reply the counter affidavit.
The tribunal chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba noted that although pre-hearing in the PDM petition was slated for yesterday, it has to be cancelled because it has been scuttled by the fresh application and adjourned hearing in the motion till July 18.