Senator Alphonsus Uba Igbeke: Demystification of a Political 419er
He was a sacred cow, an untouchable. His name resounded loudly in the corridors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was said to be the eyes and ears of Aso Rock in the South East; a garrison commander in Anambra State politics. One of the most hated and talked about personalities in PDP; as a politician, he has never won an election but has consistently been granted victory by the courts, to the consternation of his critics and numerous detractors. He was no other than Alphonsus Uba Igbeke aka 'Ubanaeze.' The manifestations of the sacredness of Uba Igbeke started in 2003, when, in spite of his greenness, he got his ticket to the House of Representatives from the court, even though he did not contest the elections. Having lost the PDP nomination, he defected to the Alliance for Democracy (AD). But, curiously, after the election, he got the court to rule that he was the candidate of the PDP. Then in 2010, he was again pronounced senator-elect for Anambra North Senatorial Zone, three years after Joy Emordi (PDP) had been sworn in, even though Igbeke was not even a candidate in that election.
The court again ruled that Igbeke, who had defected to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was the winner of the election. He promptly returned to the PDP. In 2011, Justice Abdu Kafarati, sitting in an Abuja court recently awarded Igbeke the senate seat for Anambra North, even though Igbeke did not win the PDP primaries, let alone participate in the April 9, 2011 poll.
Senator Uba Igbeke aka 'Ubanaeze' waltzed around; calling the shots in Anambra State PDP and was the man you needed to reckon with in the politics of Anambra State PDP. There are no known records of his professional career until he ventured in politics; no one even knows whether or not he went to school. His detractors dismiss him as a crook and common criminal; a 'ritualistic, litigational 419er' who will allow nothing to stand between him and his personal ambitions. He made no bones about his disdain for the likes of Andy Uba, whom he spites with reckless abandon. Senator Igbeke was indeed powerful. He was seen as one of 'the President's men'. All most people know about Igbeke is from the song the famous Igbo musician, 'Morocco' sang about him!
After reports emerged that a police dragnet has been thrown out and an arrest warrant issued for Senator Igbeke, accused of forgery, his lawyer, Festus Keyamo issued a defiant statement accusing the police of harassment, violating the rule of law, an existing court order as well as the fundamental rights of Senator Igbeke, whom he said had done nothing wrong.
Before the warrant was issued, the police had told a Federal High Court in Abuja that Igbeke forged the documents he presented to court to obtain the judgment that declared him the PDP candidate for the April 9, 2011 National Assembly elections. Igbeke had filed an application for the enforcement of his rights at a Federal High Court in Abuja when police wrote to the Clerk of the National Assembly asking for Igbeke to be released for questioning.
But in a counter-affidavit filed by the police in reaction to Igbeke's application for enforcement of his rights, the police said they were prepared to charge the senator with forgery. In order to stop the police from arresting him, Igbeke had filed the application under the Fundamental Enforcement Procedure Rules where he claimed that the police were hunting him because they wanted to stop him from campaigning for the April 9 elections. But in a swift reaction, the police filed a counter-affidavit describing how Igbeke altered the result of the PDP Anambra North Senatorial Zone primaries, won by Mr. John Emeka Jnr who polled 1,156 votes as against Igbeke's 74 votes.
Igbeke then filed another suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, claiming he was the one who scored the highest votes of 1,173 from the primary conducted by Benji Udeozor-led PDP Executive Committee in Anambra State. The police however found as a fact that it was John Emeka who won the said primaries. But relying on these false depositions by Ugbeke, Justice Abdul Kafarati gave judgment in his favor.
Informed of the situation, Mr. John Emeka filed a police complaint and after preliminary investigations, the police established that Sen. Ugbeke had committed forgery. The police then wrote to the Clerk of the National Assembly to release Igbeke to them for questioning. Rather than appear before the police, Igbeke went to court to file an application for enforcement of his rights, joining the Inspector General of Police as a respondent. In reply, the police filed a 22-papragraph counter affidavit alleging Sen. Igbeke was a fugitive running from the law.
The once-ascendant politician, who became a House rep and senator without contesting an election, indicated that he would fight any criminal charges that he induced the courts into erroneously granting him the Anambra North Senatorial Zone seat with forged documents. But the beginning of the end had come for Senator Igbeke, who must have over-played his hands this time around.
The decision by Mohammed Bello Adoke, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to charge Sen. Igbeke with two counts of criminal forgery and perjury was a political bombshell within the PDP that sent shock waves across Nigeria. The suit; No: FHC/ABJCF/44/11, which was filed at an Abuja High Court by Mrs O.O. Fatunde, reveals that Sen. Igbeke allegedly forged the senatorial primary result sheet for the PDP Anambra North Senatorial Zone.
The embattled Sen. Igbeke who has been hiding to avoid arrest by the police was reportedly absent from court, hence he was charged in absentia. If Sen. Igbeke pleads guilty, he could avoid an indictment and a costly, embarrassing trial. But he would most likely have to plead to a felony, which could result in his losing what remains of his status and going to jail. He built his political career from virtually nothing.
A former aide to Sen. Igbeke told Huhuonline.com that: 'I'm not sure he (Igbeke) has a path to redemption, but he doesn't have one without going to jail.' Moreover, this person, who asked not to be named because of the case's sensitivity, said, Sen. Igbeke was someone who was known to take risks and appeared to be calculating that if he went to trial, he could beat the charges against him. 'This is a guy who loves to get in front of judges and come out with the results he wants,' the former aide said.
The office of the Attorney General might accept a plea under the belief that pursuing charges against Sen. Igbeke would serve little purpose, besides stripping him of his Senate seat. On the other hand, the public wants the case to send a clear message to other politicians and those in high public office that no one is above the law in Nigeria, and that political thuggery and abuse of power are serious crimes that should not be dismissed.
The unfolding drama involving Senator Alphonsus Uba Igbeke has far-reaching political implications not only for the Senator, but for his party, the PDP as well as the entire Nigerian polity. For Sen. Igbeke, it will signal the ignominious end of an inglorious political career, as he is written into the dustbins of history. On another level, the scandal underlines the tension and distemper in the PDP in all its contradictions.
On one hand, the drama modulates the view that the PDP is a league of bad losers and bellyachers; but on the other hand, it confirms the widespread view that the party is run by political godfathers, who care less about the aspirations of the electorate and pander more to their self-indulgent eccentricities. For a party whose candidate won a landslide in the last presidential elections, the PDP cannot afford the likes of Alphonsus Uba Igbeke to willy-nilly erode its credibility among Nigerians.