As political activities get to higher heights in Cross River State, governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Senator Sandy Onor seems to be generating so much heat in the state. More supporters of the governor, Prof Ben Ayade are leaving the APC for the PDP, especially in the southern and northern parts of the state.
The latest to have left the APC is a former gubernatorial aspirant under the APC, Mr Edem Ekong, who is leading hundreds of his followers to return to the PDP. Ekong used to be in the PDP before defecting to the APC where he tried to contest for the governorship of the state but lost.
In the northern part of the state, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe is also causing a stir. He flagged off his re-election campaign for the Cross River North Senatorial seat last week and has since taken that part of the state by storm.
His followers believe that he has done so much for the senatorial district, hence the followership he was enjoying. Jarigbe is contesting against the sitting governor who is seeking the votes of the people to return to the senate after serving as governor.
Ayade was on that seat in 2011 from where he left in 2015 to run for the office of governor which he is still occupying till date. But Jarigbe’s performance appears to have dwarfed whatever Ayade did in the area.
The governor’s perceived non-performance as governor may also be a serious minus for him as he gets into the field to seek votes to enable him get to the senate.
Virtually all his signature projects have suffered still birth. The worst is the one he called Spaghetti Flyover in an area that connects the state capital with the other parts of the state, in the Odukpani axis.
While Onor and Jarigbe are causing commotion with the momentum of their campaign train, the APC gubernatorial candidate, Senator Prince Otu is still not very sure of where he stands. He still has various court cases to grapple with.
On Monday, a federal high court in the state had dismissed the case filed against him by his party member, Senator John Owan Enoh, whose argument is that Otu was not cleared by the party to contest the election.
Owan Enoh came second at the party primaries. He wants the court to declare that since Otu was not legally cleared by the APC to contest, INEC should recognise him as the party’s candidate.
He has already gone an appeal to seek redress. While that is pending, the PDP is also in court against Otu and his running mate, Peter Odey.
Already, Justice Rosemary Dugbo Oghoghorie of the Calabar Division of the Federal High Court has reserved November 24, 2022, to deliver judgment on the suit.
Onor’s lead counsel, Mba E. Ukweni, SAN, while adumbrating after adopting their processes, said two key points formed the gamut of their originating summons: that one needed to be a member of a political party to be fielded as a candidate and the second was that the third defendant has taken the oath of allegiance to the United Kingdom which questions his loyalty to Nigeria.
Ukweni urged the court not to allow the shifting position of the first defendant(APC) who denied the third defendant(Odey) in their affidavit filed in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/976/2021 whose judgment is now a live appeal matter and is now claiming that he is a member of their party.
Furthermore, he urged the court to grant their prayers, especially on the fact that the first defendant will be deemed to have fallen short of the requirements to participate in the 2023 general elections as what affects the third defendant, impacts his ticket with the second defendant.
Counsel to the first defendant, Essien H. Andrew ,SAN, prayed the court to grant their preliminary objection which was raised on points of law on the fact that party membership was an internal affair and that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi since the Electoral Act 2022 did not contemplate the action they filed and as they have not said the fourth defendant failed in carrying out its responsibility.
On the merit of the originating summons, he argued that the plaintiff was alleging forgery and pointed out that when a crime is alleged in civil procedures, the burden to prove is on the plaintiff which he said the plaintiff has tried to shift to the defendants. He prayed the Court to dismiss the suit.
Benson Igbanor who led the argument of the second and third defendants, said they filed a motion of notice to strike out the suit and on the merits of the case, argued that the plaintiff did not controvert the issue of citizenship by birth which is the Constitutional requirement. He said the Oath of allegiance did not detract from the issue of citizenship by birth which confers the third defendant, the right to contest.
He argued that the process commenced wrongly as the Supreme Court had last Friday held that when hostile pre-election matters with elements of the crime were brought forwards, the best way to commence such a suit was by Writ of Summons. The Court also granted his prayer to file an additional list of authorities to guide the Court.
The counsel to the fourth defendant, Matthew Ogwuocha in his submissions averred that Section 28 subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered had addressed the issue of citizenship by birth which he said the plaintiff did not controvert.
On membership, he submitted that the fourth defendant does not go beyond the administrative scrutiny of the political parties and that the first defendant complied with relevant positions of the Electoral Act which means the fourth defendant has no option other than to accept the second and third defendants as the nominated candidates. He urged the Court to dismiss the suit.
In their response on points of law, counsel to the plaintiff submitted that the practice direction of the Court guides the commencement of a suit and prayed the Court to discountenance the Supreme Court judge whose authority was not cited.
On the issue of locus, Ukweni submitted that there were provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended, that make the fourth defendant a clearing house and when weighed with the third schedule of the constitution, grants the plaintiff’s locus.