The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will exclude its candidate in the 2019 Yobe State governorship election, Ambassador Umar Damagum, from its suit seeking to unseat Governor Mai Mala Buni.
Its counsel, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) revealed on Monday that the main opposition party may also drop Damagum’s running mate, Baba Abba Aji, from the suit.
Buni of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election by scoring 444,013 votes – 81.26 per cent – to defeat Damagum, who polled 95,703 or 17.52 per cent.
The PDP, last week approached the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, asking it to sack the governor for taking up another political position as the APC caretaker chairman.
It asked the court to replace Buni and his deputy, Idi Gubana with Damagum, and Aji, arguing that combining the governor’s office with another executive position violated Section 183 of the constitution.
The Yobe State governor’s office and that of the deputy governor had therefore, become vacant after Buni took up the APC appointment, the PDP claimed in a four-page originating summons.
Joined as plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/885/2021 are Damagum, and Aji; while Buni, Gubana, the APC, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are defendants.
But, Damagum, last Friday, distanced himself from any court case praying for Buni’s removal and for him to be sworn in as governor.
He said he got wind of the suit in the media, adding that he neither contacted nor briefed any lawyer to institute it on his behalf.
The one-time Nigeria Ambassador to Romania and Bulgaria said his name was fraudulently used as a co-plaintiff.
Damagum, apart from suspecting disgruntled members of his party, following the last state congress in the state, also wondered whether the suit emanated from the ruling APC to unsettle Buni.
He stressed: “I think some members of my party, the PDP, were not happy with the success of the last state congress that we did in the state. For your information, there is a court case at the Damaturu High Court and I suspect it’s a ploy to frustrate that case.
“I also think that this may be coming from the APC members themselves, looking at the gang up against Governor Buni in the party,” Damagum said.
The PDP stalwart explained that he had asked his lawyer to investigate whoever was behind the suit, so that he could take appropriate legal steps.
Damagum said: “It is laughable that those who instituted that case are not aware that my running mate has since decamped to APC.”
But, explaining his involvement in the suit, Etiaba said the PDP, not APC, initiated the suit, adding that the opposition party briefed him to sue on its behalf.
He explained that it was the PDP who added Damagum and Aji as co-plaintiffs in the suit.
Etiaba said: “PDP briefed (me) to sue, adding the party’s candidates as co-plaintiffs. Since the governorship candidate is not interested, we will drop him and probably his deputy from the suit. They have a right to dissociate from the suit.”
The PDP’s suit followed the Supreme Court judgment in the case between the Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, and Mr Eyitayo Jegede, the PDP candidate in last year’s governorship election.
Before approaching the apex court, Jegede and his party had asked the Court of Appeal in Akure to sack Akeredolu on the ground that his nomination form was signed by Buni, a sitting governor who doubled as the APC Caretaker Committee Chairman.
They argued that constitutional provisions forbade sitting governors from occupying executive offices outside their statutory position.
The appellate court, however, struck out the appeal for lack of merit. This made the appellants to seek redress at the Supreme Court.
In a majority judgment of four against three delivered on July 28, a seven-man panel of justices of the apex court upheld Akeredolu’s re-election.
But, the other three justices disagreed with the majority judgment, saying the appeal filed by the appellants had merit and ought not to be struck out by the appellate court.
Since the judgement, the verdict of the Supreme Court has become a subject of debate on whether a sitting governor can take up a role such as the caretaker committee chairman of the APC.