The All Progressives Congress (APC) won the Imo North Senatorial bye-election held last Saturday. But the party has no candidate to occupy the seat.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 31,903 votes behind APC’s 36,811.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared APC winner but returned no candidate owing to the litigation crises currently plaguing the party.
Recall that the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri sacked Ifeanyi Araraume as the APC candidate and declared Frank Ibezim as the authentic candidate of the APC just before the election.
But the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday also disqualified Ibezim as the APC candidate for the bye-election leaving the party and INEC in uncertainty.
PDP candidate Emmanuel Okewulonu has called on the electoral body to disqualify the APC over the discrepancy and declare him the winner of the election because his party came second.
But INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, addressed the matter on Friday, saying the commission would leave the matter to the courts.
“Three things may likely happen in the Imo North Senatorial bye-election,” Okoye said.
“One of the candidates is already in the Supreme Court and the issue in the Supreme Court is whether the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first place and whether the matter was decided first within the domestic realm of the party.
“If the Supreme Court determines that the court of first instance has jurisdiction over the matter, the implication is that Senator Ifeanyi Araraume becomes the candidate of the party and will now be returned as duly elected.
“If on the other hand, the Supreme Court determines that the Court of Appeal was right in striking out the matter and that the court of first instance does not have jurisdiction over the matter, that means that Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is out of the contest.
“In relation to the Federal High Court Abuja, if the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court make a determination that Frank Ibezim was not qualified to contest the election, the implication is that the APC does not have a candidate in the election.
“That will now leave the Commission with no option than to declare the party with the next highest number of lawful votes as the winner of the election.
“But if on the other hand, the matter filed in the Federal High Court Abuja goes up to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court makes a determination that Frank Ibezim was qualified to contest the election, the implication is that the Commission will now declare Frank Ibezim as the winner of that election.
“Ultimately, it is the court that will determine this particular matter because if you look at the list of candidates, for the APC, we only left the name and logo of the party there with a caveat; ‘By Court Order’.
“So, it is very clear to us that the court will have the final say in relation to who is the candidate of the party.
“Because of the timelines we have in the determination of electoral matters, the Court of Appeal has 60 days to make a determination and the Supreme Court has 60 days to make a determination.
“I believe very soon, the people of Imo North Senatorial District will know who their true representative is.”