Penultimate week, the court of appeal sitting in Calabar ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in the two wards of Ekureku, Abi Local Government, for the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency seat, after setting aside the judgement of the tribunal which sacked the current occupant of the seat, Dr Alex Egbona, candidate of the APC for that election.
Although INEC is yet to fix a date for the election, there are already speculations about plans by the PDP to capture the place to enable John Gaul Lebo, Egbona’s opponent win.
In this online interview with TNN, the APC acting vice chairman, central, Vodina Ndem spoke on developing issues on the up-coming election.
How did you receive news of the outcome of the recent court of appeal judgement in the case involving Alex Egbona and John Gaul?
First of all, I have to thank God who knows it would have been worst. But to be candid, it was not a fair judgement, having acknowledged the fact that Dr Alex Egbona was a legitimate candidate. Going ahead to uphold the mistake made by the lower tribunal cancelling the election in Ekureku 1and 2, was wrong. What was the reason adduced for that cancellation? That card readers were not used. When card reader fails, what do you do? You disenfranchise voters? No. The register is there for manual accreditations. The electoral law is very categorical and very clear on that. Even the recent Supreme Court ruling on Buhari/Atiku gave a very clear ruling on that. That would have been used as a reference point, a case study in passing their judgement; but that was not done. The use of card reader as far as I am concerned, is still at experimental stage in Nigeria. In my polling unit, card reader has failed severally. There was one of this instances that they (INEC) promised to come the next day but never showed up. So all of us in that piling unit were disenfranchised. So you tell me that if we have such matter next time, we allow them go, no, we will definitely insist in manual accreditation. So what I think is important now is the voters register. You can’t disenfranchise me because card reader failed. It is unthinkable. The appeal court equally erred like the lower court. I suspect there was a compromise somewhere. I think Buhari should beam his searchlight on corruption in the Nigeria judiciary. You know when they had breaks upon breaks, I mean during the tribunal sitting, I became apprehensive, I suspected it was a ploy to alter their original judgement. I was not disappointed because even as a lay man, I know that card reader cannot be used to cancel election, if not for whimsical reasons because the law is very clear on that.
So, as it is now, is the APC ready for the next battle?
APC as a party is very, very ready. In fact in the last general election, a lot of water were allowed to pass under the bridge as a result of infighting within our party which in most cases where fuelled by the ruling party in the state, the PDP. As for this matter, Dr Alex Egbona matter, he is the last man standing, so we can’t take anything for granted. We are ready even now I mean today, we are ready.
There are speculations in the social media, about plots by some elements to conquer Ekureku for the PDP.
Yes, I am aware. Just recently, I sent an open advice to the former speaker Hon. John Gaul. It might interest you to know that I am from Abi. The crisis we have at hand for now in Abi is more than enough for anybody, out of personal ambition, to want to aggravate the situation. You might have been aware that only recently, some fake uniform personnel went to Dr Alex Egbona’s residence to harass and search his house. We know it was rehearsal. That has put us in a very alert position. We are ready for any fake security personnel that will be brought in from anywhere to cause confusion in Ekureku. On the issue of bringing thugs or mercenaries, it will have a very serious boomerang effect on whoever attempts that. I have advice him John Gaul as the major actor, to refrain from such if at all he has such thoughts or intentions. He is a lawyer and he knows the implication of such action.
What will your party do, if there would be a repeat of what happened in February, when the former governor, Senator Liyel Imoke personally went to Ekureku to persuade the villagers not to vote for the APC?
That has been his Excellency, Senator Liyel Imoke’s trade mark in recent times. He does the same thing in my community, Imabana. On the eve of every election, he comes to Imabana. My happiness is that he only comes to empower my PDP brothers because on the election proper, we beat them steadily. How on earth will his Excellency Senator Liyel think that such gospel willwork in Ekureku against Alex Egbona? Can anybody do that against him in Itigidi, his home town and it works? No, it can’t. Let him go to Ekureku and enrich the boys there again, it will just be an exercise in futility. For one, His Excellency Liyel is not running election to the House of Reps. When he ran as senator and governor, we queued behind him. I think by now, Senator Liyel should know that the political gap between Dr Alex Egbona and John Gaul is too wide, it is miles apart. Alex is a politician, he is a political brand name. John Gaul is not, he has been close to both of them. I mean His Excellency. I think he should know them. And please let me say this, this issue of imposition mentality in this 21st, century, I think should stop. I can’t imagine His Excellency, Senator Liyel Imoke with his level of exposure even as a father( political), to believe that up till now, the people are not wise enough to know their onions. He should allow Alex and John run their thing, nobody is saying Alex beat him Liyel. All we know is Alex beat John Gaul and every other politician, even outside the shores of Abi, knows John can’t stand Alex. Let me even inform him that even people in PDP don’t like John. They complain he is too stingy and so self centred. You are only forcing him on them, and that is wrong. With all humility. I know when John came down from Abuja, he had no PDP membership card, no PVC, Sir, with your influence, we all cued behind him, you have carried him enough, you have made him a Speaker number three man in the state, I think by now Sir, he should be allowed to run thing’s on his own, this constant, pampering makes a lot of people even in PDP disenchanted. Let me send this direct message to Liyel. I want to say if Alex offended you, forgive as God forgives our daily inadequacies. In politics, there has never been permanent enemies. I know in spite of whatever may have transpired, Dr Alex still holds you in very high esteem. I know what I am saying. I am not trying to patronize you, Your Excellency. Some of us are close to him and we know what he talks about you. He believes he is your political son and that is the gospel truth.
As things are right now, what are your fears?
We are aware that they want to use state might to conquer Ekureku and I think that is going to be their greatest undoing. In the last election, a lot happened that we were aware of. Take for instance the case of fake security personnel with fake uniform. They should bring them. I bet you with my ten fingers, none will escape. We will pick them all one by one and make sure the law descends heavily on them. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. It is a standing adage. Alex Egbona is the last man standing in the whole APC Cross River and you think APC as a party will allow anyone, no matter how highly placed, to come behave funny and then we clap hands for that person? Never. The law will catch up with such a person. Eighteen LGAs, you have the governor, senators, all assembly and seven house of Reps and for this one House of Reps, PDP will lose sleep, showing how greedy they really are as a party. For your information, the finger of God is on Alex Egbona’s victory. It takes men with spiritual understanding to see it so. Let no man undermine this last word because you may end up fighting God and you know it is not possible to fight God. My last word: be consoled with the ones you have, but for Alex Egbona matter, it is a done deal.