A former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio yesterday told a Federal High Court in Abuja, why he moved out of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Party (APC), saying he was expelled from his erstwhile party.
Akpabio, at the opening of his defence in a suit seeking his sack and that of 53 other national lawmakers over their alleged defection from one party to another, told the court that unlike the others, he was expelled from the PDP on whose platform he ran and won the Akwa Ibom North-west senatorial seat in 2015.
The former governor said before he was expelled from the PDP at the local government level, the party had already suspended him in his ward.
“When juxtaposed with the calendar for the primary elections as issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the intention of the PDP then was to render him fait accompli and to deny him a platform to contest the election as his nomination must come from the ward up,” his lawyer, Sunday Ameh (SAN), told the court.
The senior counsel said Akpabio, who is the third defendant in the suit filed by LEDAP, was thrown out of the PDP at a very crucial moment in a political arrangement towards the 2019 general election.
Ameh said: “In order not to fall prey of the gang-up, calculated to turning him into political orphan and preventing him from participating in the 2019 general election, he had to take advantage of his constitutional right under Section 40 of the constitution to join the APC that was willing to accept him after his party had thrown him out “.
He added that what the PDP did to Akpabio was an uncommon situation and that he seeks constitutional remedy.
He said if Akpabio’s action was not correct, the PDP would have applied to be joined in the matter to say that the 3rd defendant willingly left the party and urged the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Earlier in his oral submission, counsel to the plaintiff, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) insisted that there was no division to warrant the defendants’ defection, adding also that the further counter affidavit deposed to personally showed that defendants have admitted that there was no division in their parties.
Okutepa, while urging the court to discountenance the arguments of Akpabio’s counsel said, “When you have a petty local quarrel within your political party at the ward level, it does not give you an unbridled licence to join another political party.
“What they put as expulsion from his local branch, does not constitute a division known to law to bring the case of the 3rd defendant under Section 58(1)(g) of the 1999 constitution, as amended,” Okutepa added.
He urged the court to hold that the defence raised in the further counter affidavit cannot avail the 3rd defendant the ground to stop the court from making an order sacking the defendants from their seat at the National Assembly.
Counsel to Senate President, Bukola Saraki and other defendants in the suit, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), in his submission, urged the court to dismiss the suit as filed by the plaintiff for constituting an abuse of court process.
“If a person is suspended, expelled or removed from a political party, he can move to another political party of his choice. The 3rd defendant only exercised his freedom of association and urged the court to dismiss the suit without cost.
The trial judge, in a bench ruling, said judgment in the suit will be delivered on May 17, 2019, subject to availability of judicial time.
LEDAP had last year approached the Court with a suit seeking to declare the seat of the affected national lawmakers vacant over their defection to the two major political parties in 2018.