As the Supreme Court braces up to make its pronouncement in the case bordering on Anambra North Senatorial seat of Anambra State, GEORGE AGBA examines the mood in the camp of the appellant, against the judgement of the Court of Appeal.
There is only one way and one way only to resolve this question, and that is to critically weigh the evidence. Nigerians of all stripes are interested in the facts of the matter, not esoteric legal technicalities.
To decide the outcome of the competing claims otherwise is to give up the democratic gains we have made and slide into a lawless system where corruption pays; where people’s aspiration does not matter; and where politicians can forge and buy their way into office”.
The above words by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher comfortably describes the political situation in Anambra North Senatorial District presented in a case still pending before the apex court. The senatorial zone remains the most marginalized of the three Senatorial Districts in Anambra State.
It is also the only district out of the 108 Senatorial Districts in Nigeria without any form of representation in the 7th Senate of the National Assembly, a dubious honour sustained, no thanks to confusions alleged to be orchestrated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC as an institution established by law is duty bound to act in accordance with constitutional provisions, but political observers say in the case of Anambra North, it has allowed itself to be intimidated and tele-guided by godfathers.
According to them, the on-going chicanery vindicates the earlier position of Senator Alphonsius Ubanesse Igbeke who had cried out severally that some godfathers are standing between him and his mandate freely given to him by the people of the senatorial district.
Interestingly, Igbeke himself always seen his political battle as a battle against some dark forces who regard him as an outsider to power. In 1999, he was said to have defeated the late Senator Chuba Okadigbo in the Anambra North Senatorial primaries before he was prevailed upon by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Chief Solomon Lar, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and other party elders to step down for Senator Okadigbo, an appeal he harkened to.
Between 2003 and 2007, he was a member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Anambra East/Anambra West Federal Constituency. That was after he was said to have successfully retrieved his stolen mandate from Chief Ralph Okeke of PDP.
Also, it is widely believed that he won the Anambra North Senatorial seat in 2007 on the platform of the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), but again his mandate was forcefully taken by Joy Emodi of the PDP who wrongfully occupied the seat for three solid years.
Even after the Court of Appeal had declared him as winner, the senate in flagrant disobedience of court judgment made Mrs. Joy Emodi to sit in the Senate under the guise that there were conflicting court judgments.
Miffed by the grandstanding of the Senate leadership, the appellate court decried in strong terms the inability of the Senate to comply by its ruling. The court ruled that there was no conflict in its judgment of March 25.
Pointing out that its ruling declared Igbeke as a lawful winner having scored the majority number of votes casted in the election, the court held that Igbeke was not a part of the judgment of February 9, which was a case between Jessie Belonwu and Joy Emodi. By that verdict, Igbeke was again said to have been vindicated.
Following the crisis and confusion in Anambra State PDP in 2011, the party held two primary elections. Igbeke contested both primaries and won decisively in all. In the case of the primary election conducted by the Benji Udeozo led Executive, Igbeke contested and won the PDP primaries defeating five other opponents, including one John Emeka considered within the state’s political circle as a favourite of the godfathers.
The PDP then duly forwarded the result of the primary elections to the Independent National Electoral Commission. However, when Senator Igbeke got the wind that his name was about to be substituted with that of John Emeka who only polled 56 votes in the contest, he exercised his constitutional right by filling a pre-election suit in the Federal High Court where he joined INEC and others, including INEC, PDP, John Emeka and Margery Okadigbo as defendants.
In the instant suit, he challenged the move to substitute him. He tendered in court through affidavit as evidence the result of the two primary elections.
The Federal High Court Abuja presided over by Justice Kafarati , in a judgment delivered on March 17, 2011 declared Igbeke as the authentic PDP candidate for Anambra North Senatorial District. Dissatisfied, John Emeka appealed against the judgment.
The appeal court, in a ruling which legal pundits say bespeaks a deep seated judicial activism that undermines the public confidence in the judiciary and its moral authority, declared Lady Margery Okadigbo as the PDP candidate instead. The logic of the Court of Appeal ruling was said to be confounding and is presently pending before the Supreme Court.
Facts have emerged that Mrs. Okadigbo who had accused Igbeke of having forged the PDP election result had actually forged court affidavits with which she obtained the appellate court judgment. In denouncing the 183 documents Lady Okadigbo presented to the appellate court, Mr. Obadiegwu whose name and signature had appeared on the falsified documents as the Commissioner for Oath vehemently denied the documents in strong words.
“The signature and stamp that appear on the 183 page bundle of document are not mine and are therefore forged. The dates appearing on the said documents tend to suggest they were sworn to in January 11th 2011 at which time I held office as the Assistant Chief Registrar Commissioner for Oaths in the Otuocha Judicial Division of the Anambra State High Court. I have gone through my records in that Registry and could not find any document of that nature as emanating from the Registry”.
Mr. Obadiegwu went ahead to support his position with a sworn affidavit deposed to on the May 11, 2012, thus, vindicating Igbeke’s position all along that INEC is acting out a script given to it by godfathers.
He had repeatedly argued that the godfathers and their agents were the ones holding Anambra North down and are employing all kinds of dirty tricks to intimidate INEC and the judiciary to obscure the real issue in dispute, which is that there was an election for Anambra North Senatorial Seat in 2011 in which Igbeke was duly Returned by INEC via Certificate of Return issued to him and that INEC, having retuned Igbeke, has no power whatsoever to withdraw his Certificate of Return or prevent him from being sworn in, as only the court can and no court has ruled otherwise.
This remains the aching question that supersedes all other considerations
According to one of his associate, Igbeke appears not to be a stranger in this kind of battle. He has remained focused. His access to people remained part of his staying political power. He is said to be firmly on ground.
In no distant time the Supreme Court will lay this matter to rest. The outcome of the Supreme Court decision will be of profound interest to the public. Igbeke’s resolve and faith in the judicial process and the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man remain unwavering.
To allow the aspirations of millions of peace loving Nigerians to be decided on forged court documents is in itself an injustice a grievous as any electoral fraud.
The reliefs sought for at the highest court in the land by the appellant, Igbeke is that, having won the majority votes in the PDP primaries as conducted, his name was substituted or swapped.
He is contending that having been duly returned by INEC as the elected candidate of Anambra North Senatorial Seat and issued with certificate of return, he should be sworn in as Senator representing Anambra North. He also argues that Lady Margery Okadigbo cannot be allowed by the Supreme Court to benefit from bare face forgery of court documents.
Those sympathetic to the course being pursued by Igbeke say he has amply demonstrated his patriotism, peace loving nature and belief in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man by consistently calling on his restless supporters to remain calm and law abiding. He is steadfast in his quest for justice at the Supreme Court which is the final arbiter on constitutional issues.
The prayer from that camp had always been that the Supreme Court cannot and will not allow this blatant miscarriage of justice as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal. However, it is clear to all Nigerians thus far that democracy does not subsume more accountability and less corruption.
Furthermore, it is clear that the positive change and war against godfathers they all hanker after may remain illusory, especially if those entrusted with important obligation shamelessly neglect it.
But there is a strong optimism that the Supreme Court has enough integrity to do what is right and to do so in a manner that is transparent to winners, losers and all stake holders. On such basic premise lies the future of democracy, justice and destiny of Nigeria, a nation always in political distress.