There’s palpable anxiety within the different caucuses of the People’s Democratic Party in Delta State as the Appeal Court in Abuja begins the formal hearing of the gubernatorial struggle between Sheriff Oborevwori and David Edevbie today.
The Court had at the last sitting adjourned till August 19, 2022, for proper hearing of the appeal seeking to overturn the judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja, which declared Edevbie as the lawful and authentic candidate of the party in the state for the 2023 governorship election.
A chieftain of the party from the state who spoke to The Point on condition of anonymity said the case has further polarised the party in the state.
He said, “The Oborevwori, Edevbie case is causing so much tension within the party in the state. The division is becoming so pronounced and what looks like peace that you’re talking about now is nothing but the peace of the graveyard. In the last two weeks, there have been two demonstrations in Abuja over the case. The two that I can say I heard about are for and against. DPV (Delta Political Vanguard) is not yielding ground, and those supporting Edevbie are not yielding ground. Nobody knows whether Governor Okowa and Chief Ibori are interested in settling the matter amicably. The Court has been called upon to intervene. The party, therefore, may not be the same again after the ruling by the Court of Appeal.
“What is even more annoying is the fact that the party in the state doesn’t hide that it is supporting one of the candidates and makes it look increasingly like a case of ‘they versus us’. That’s very sad. So against tomorrow (today), people are so tensed up. Nobody knows where the pendulum will swing when the final judgment is delivered. The case is just going to begin tomorrow. We pray for the best for the party in Delta State,” he stated.
The panel of three justices had granted a request for the abridgment of time to enable expeditious trial.
Accordingly, all the respondents have been asked to file their replies within eight days while the appellant is to respond within two days.
On July 7, 2022, the Sheriff Oborevwori faulted the certificates and other documents filed by Oborevwori for nomination as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP and commanded both the party and Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately recognise Edevbie as the rightful and lawful candidate of the party for the forthcoming election.
Oborevwori, however, immediately appealed the lower court’s judgment, contending among others that the trial judge misdirected itself in reaching its decision.
During the Sheriff Oborevwori governorship primary in May, Oborevwori, Speaker of the Delta House of Assembly, polled 590 votes to beat his closest rival, Edevbie, former Commissioner for Finance during the James Ibori administration, who polled 113 votes.
While Oborevwori is the preferred candidate of Okowa, Delta governor, Ibori, former governor, is said to be backing Edevbie.
Not satisfied by the outcome of the primary, Edevbie filed a suit against Oborevwori and the party citing discrepancies in Oborevwori’s certificates.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, then judge of a Federal High Court in Abuja, now retired, disqualified Oborevwori for submitting false information to INEC to back his nomination as PDP’s candidate.
However, not satisfied with the verdict, Oborevwori filed an appeal through his lawyer, Joe Agi.
As part of the nine grounds of appeal, the appellant said the judge “misdirected himself in law when he assumed jurisdiction to entertain the claim of the plaintiff predicated on Section 29(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022 before the submission of the name of the appellant (Oborevwori) to INEC by the PDP.”
He also contended that the lower court erred in law when it agreed that his certificates were forged.
“The learned trial judge erred in law when he held that the appellant did not challenge the averment that his certificate is forged and that he is deemed to admit the same,” he said.
He further averred that the plaintiff failed to adduce credible evidence to establish the allegation of forgery.
The appellant is, therefore, praying the court for “an order allowing this appeal and setting aside the trial Court’s decision in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/795/2022 delivered on 7th July 2022”, and “any other order(s) as this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”