In a dramatic twist wednesday, the National Chairman of the Peoples
Democratic Movement (PDM), Chief Frank Igwebuike, has asked the
Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to remove the name of the party
from the petition, challenging the election of President Muhammadu
Buhari.

But, in a swift reaction, the party’s presidential
candidate in the February 23 election, Pastor Aminchi Habu, urged the
tribunal to ignore Igwebuike, who according to him, is acting on his
own.

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In a fresh application brought by his counsel, Morrison
Onunu, the national chairman of PDM said the desire to withdraw from the
petition was in the interest of the nation, and not for any other
consideration.

Habu and the PDM are seeking nullification of the
poll that produced President Buhari as winner of the election on grounds
that they were excluded from contesting the poll.

The petition
with number CA/PEPC/004/2019 filed on March 19, 2019 is asking the
tribunal to also conduct a fresh election that would include the
petitioners.

However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, shortly
after counsels to parties in the matter announced appearances, Onunu
stood up to introduced himself as counsel to the 2nd petitioner, the
PDM.

He said that he filed a motion on July 9, which he said have been served on all parties.

In
the 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.

He argued “that the withdrawal of
the 2nd petitioner/applicant as a petitioner in this petition is in the
best overall interest of the party and the nation, Nigeria”.

Igwebuike
added that PDM as the second petitioner resolved and decided to forgo
whatever cause of action that necessitated the filing of the petition,
adding that it is no longer needed to agitate the present petition of
its presidential candidate.

He further asserted in the affidavit
of his motion that PDM did not reach any agreement, political gains or
otherwise compromise with any of the defendants in the petition of its
presidential candidate or any other person or party 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 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’s decision to withdraw the PDM from
the petition does not have the authority of the party, adding that the
petition is a joint one filed with the consent of the party and financed
solely by the presidential candidate, who is complaining of unlawful
exclusion from the presidential election.

He further stated that
the law firm of Aliu Lemu has been retained to prosecute the petition on
behalf of the party and the presidential candidate remains 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, saying 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.

However, following the request by Onunu for time to
respond to the counter affidavit of the 1st petitioner, the Tribunal
Chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, adjourned to July 18 for hearing of
the application for withdrawal.

Justice Garba, who noted that the
tribunal had at its last sitting adjourned to July 10 to present the
report of the pre-hearing session, said that the application of the 2nd
petitioner has scuttled the day’s proceedings.

It would be
recalled that a factional Chairman of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP)
had sometime last month approached the tribunal to strike out the name
of the party from the petition filed alongside the presidential
candidate, Ambrose Oworu, against the election of Buhari.

The
tribunal however dismissed the application for lacking merit, stressing
that the party cannot withdrew from the petition it jointly filed with
its presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, hearing in the petition
filed by the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and its presidential candidate
Chief Ambrose albert owuru has also been slated for same July 18, 2019.

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