Abia governorship crisis and the proliferation of certificates of return

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Since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC issued

the controversial Certificate of Return to Uche Ogah, the document has

become an object of ridicule. Every now and then, people , especially on

the social media, are flaunting one manner of certificate or the other

and lay claims to the governorship position of the state. The situation

is indeed ridiculous and depicts the deplorable level at which our

coveted political offices have been ridiculed by the actions of

institutions vested with the mandate of strengthening and protecting our

democracy.
Last week Uche Ogah’s certificate of return came under serious

scrutiny in the public court .The validity of the document was

questioned on various grounds. One is the date of election and

the second is that the document does not bear the Nigerian Coat

of Arm, a national identity and symbol which arguably

authenticates every government document.
It will be recalled that the April 11, 2015 governorship

election in Abia could not produce a winner because elections in

some units in some local government areas of the state was

nullified and a supplementary election was rescheduled in the

affected areas. The total votes of the affected areas where

supplementary election was held surpassed the margin with which

Okezie Ikpeazu, the winner of the election was leading the

runners up, Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand

Alliance, APGA and there was no clear winner of the election.

The law stipulates that in such situation that a supplementary

election would be conducted for a clear winner to emerge.

When the supplementary election was conducted later, Ikpeazu

maintained his lead and was declared the winner. Ikpeazu’s

certificate, unlike Ogah’s controversial certificate of return,

reflected the two dates of the elections, the main election and the

supplementary election.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia State was the first to

fire the salvo .The party roundly condemned the judgment of

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which

purported to have sacked Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and formed the

basis of this fresh tension in Abia, as perverse and grossly

unjust, adding that their position was incontrovertibly informed

by their knowledge of the fact that Governor Ikpeazu was a public

servant who paid his taxes appropriately under the Pay As You Earn

(PAYE) system.
The party also berated the haste with which the Independent National

Electoral Commission (INEC) issued a Certificate of return to Mr.

Ogah, without giving Governor Ikpeazu the benefit of the judicial

windows available to him, irrespective of the pendency of his appeal

in the Court of Appeal. It described INEC’s action as condemnable,

obnoxious and holistically unacceptable; stressing that the Party,

hereby, recollects that the Governorship election of 2015 in Abia

State came in two phases, that of April 11 which was declared

inconclusive by the Electoral body and that of April 25 which

conclusively declared and confirmed Okezie Ikpeazu as the

Governor-elect of Abia State.
According to PDP, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu's Certificate of Return was

a product of the elections of April 11 and April 25 of 2015, as

properly reflected on the Certificate of return. The party therefore

vehemently rejected the Certificate of Return erroneously issued to

Mr. Ogah for, among many other reasons, the enormous fact that the

Certificate of return failed to reflect the fact that the

governorship election took place on two different dates.

To the best of my knowledge, since the argument questioning the

validity of Ogah’s certificate of return erupted, the issuing

authority has not offered any explanations to clarify the issues

raised. The only known position was the one by one of Ogah’s

hireling on the social media who alleged the the commission has

threatened to institute legal action against any individual or

media outfit questioning the validity of the document.

I want to strongly believe that the position of the non-

commissioned and self- styled INEC spokesperson does not represent

the position of the commission rather that of his pay master, Uche

Ogah. My belief is enforced by the fact that INEC as a responsible

institution could not issue such threat considering the fact that

our legal instruments guarantee citizens the “right to freedom of

expression” and also the right to demand information from

government institutions. INEC’s clarification on this issue is

critical and highly demanded to halt further speculations and erase

negative impressions already established.
Ogah’s certificate of return validity argument was a comic relief to

Abians who were soaked by tension occasioned by the desperate

dispositions of some anti- democratic forces to truncate the mandate

of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. Creative artists deploy comic relief in

the works of art to relief their audience of tension. Indeed, Ogah’s

certificate of return validity argument was indeed comic and could be

considered preliminary.
The main relief came with the pronouncement of Court of Appeal

sitting in Abuja which said that the Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie

Ikpeazu should retain his seat as governor of the state pending the

time the court will hear his appeal challenging the judgment of a

Federal High Court which removed him from office.
Political observers are earnestly waiting the commencement of the

fireworks at the Court of Appeal where the five grounds of appeal

by the Abia State Governor would be looked at .The governor said

that the Federal High Court lacked the power to order him to

vacate the seat of Abia State Governor. The notice of appeal

reads: “The trial judge erred in law when he ordered as a

consequential order that the appellant vacates his office as the

Governor of Abia state immediately when there was no jurisdiction

in the Federal High Court to remove, vacate the occupier of the

office of the governor of a state or order the removal of such

officer after the unsuccessful challenge of the result of the

election at the Tribunal and swearing in of the appellant as the

governor.”
The governor said that the only power, authority and order

exercisable by the Federal High Court was to disqualify the candidate

from contesting the election based on section 31(6) of the Electoral

Act 2010.
I He also faulted the judge when he held that he did not pay his tax

for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013, at when due, when he was a public

officer whose tax deduction was under Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme where

tax deductions were from the source of his monthly salary by the tax

authorities who issued all the tax receipts and certificates.

Ikpeazu said that the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue Services

that issued him with the tax certificates had not declared the

certificates forged and that the trial court did not invite the

issuing authorities to give evidence in the course of the trial.

According to the appeal, the plaintiff, Dr Samson Udechukwu Ogah was

not a staff of the Abia Board of Internal Revenue and did not any

staff of the board to testify that the tax certificates were forged.

The governor accused the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang of

violating his right to fair hearing by embarking on judicial

investigation without giving him (Ikepazu) the opportunity to

address the court on the issue, adding : “The learned trial judge

erred in law when he held that the appellant presented false

information to the Independent National Electoral Commission by his

ingenous meticulous study and investigation of documents filed in

courts in the recess of his chambers and thereby violated the right

of the appellant to fair hearing.”
He said that the judge had no duty to investigate the contents of

documents dumped on the court in the recess of his chambers with a

view to finding for the plaintiff, stressing that” the decision of

the judge which arose from the judicial investigation without

opportunity to the appellant violated the appellant’s right to fair

hearing”.
The conduct of Abians in the face of these undue provocations is

commendable. It attests to the fact that Abians are peace- loving .

The people who deserve greater commendation are the people of Ukwa-

Ngwa ethnic- nationality. They have not had a shot at the

governorship position of the state since its creation in1991. This

is despite their numerical strength. The divide has nine out of the

17 local government areas in the state. Also, the “Abia Charter of

Equity”, a document guiding the distribution of the governorship

position among the divides in the state came on stream at the

commencement of this democratic dispensation in 1999 should be

respected.
While Ukwa- Ngwa people are highly commended, we should not fail to

remind our over- ambitious politicians that there is an extent to

which human patience can be stretched. it is also pertinent to

admonish them to pursue their political ambition within the limits

of decency as Wolsey admonishes Cromwell in William Shakespeare”

Henry VIII thus”Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition:By that

sin fell the angels; how can man, then, The image of his Maker, hope

to win by it?”
Ambitions that ahve the capacity of stoking fire of disunity, violence,

among others, are not worthy to be pursued.
Ukegbu, a public policy analyst and communication startegist, writes

from Umuahia, Abia State.
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