By Ndayagi Sulaiman
There was a drama at the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, yesterday, as the factional National Chairman of the Labour Party, Lamidi Apapa, clashed with members of the party loyal to the presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
Apapa, currently entangled in a legal dispute with the Comrade Julius Abure-led LP national executives that conducted the primary election that produced Obi as flag-bearer of the party, stormed the court with some of his supporters.
Immediately the main door to the courtroom was opened, and Apapa made his way to the line of chairs reserved for dignitaries and petitioners.
When Apapa noted that despite his spirited effort he would not be allowed to sit close to Obi, he relocated to the line of chairs reserved for members of the public.
Immediately the court commenced sitting and the case was called up, Apapa stood up and announced himself as the national chairman of LP.
However, Justice Haruna Tsammani-led five-member panel said it would not record his presence in view of the leadership crisis rocking the party.
The court adjourned further pre-hearing session on Obi’s petition till Friday (tomorrow).
Meanwhile, outside the court, a horde of LP supporters was already waiting for Apapa, poised for war.
As soon as they sighted him coming out of the court, they pounced on him, calling him unprintable names.
As he was being rough-handled in his overflowing agbada, (native flowing dress), some of the party supporters grabbed and threw away his cap, as security men quickly smuggled him out of the scene to make way for his escape.
If not for God, I’d have died in court — Apapa
The embattled Apapa, addressing newsmen later after being released from protective custody by security operatives, thanked God for saving his life.
Apapa said he was in court to assert himself as the acting National Chairman of the party and to confirm the state of things on the petition Obi filed to challenge the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
The factional LP chairman said he had, before the court began its proceedings, sensed trouble, after the Director-General of Obi Campaign Organizations, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, refused to vacate a chair reserved for the chairman of the party.
“I went to him and inquired to know in what capacity he was sitting on the seat. I told him that since I am in court today, I am the right person to sit on that chair,’’ he said.
On how he was mobbed, Apapa, said: “They pounced on me, removed my cap and I am very sure that if not that you people (journalists) were there, I would have been dead by now.”
Obi aware I would be attacked
He accused Obi of being aware that he would be attacked, disclosing that members of the presidential campaign group of the party had at a meeting on Tuesday to broker peace among the warring factions, vowed to deal with him should he attend the court session.
I didn’t collect N500m bribe
“They threatened that if I appear in court that something would happen,” he added, saying there was no truth in the allegation that he collected N500 million to scuttle Obi’s petition against the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
While branding Obi “a liar” for saying he didn’t know him, Apapa said he actively participated in all the campaigns the party held before the presidential election and also flew back to Abuja with him in the same aircraft on one of the occasions.
“I want to tell the whole world that he is a liar. I have been in the party for over 21 years while he is not even up to one year in the party.
“I have never taken any kobo from anybody and I have challenged anyone that has any evidence to bring it forward.”
Insisting that he had contributed more to the party than Obi, Apapa, said it was not true that he was in court to withdraw the petition against Tinubu.
“Apart from money, what else does he (Obi) have that I don’t have?,” Apapa queried.
He accused Obi of refusing to respect the court order that suspended the Julius Abure-led executives of the party.
On the issue that led to the removal of his cap by angry youths that attacked him at the court premises, he said: “As you can see, I have recovered my cap. But as for the person that removed my cap, he will suffer till the end of his life. I saw him, he is a young chap but he will never grow old.’’