Thursday, 3 September 2015

Senate: Akpabio and the vulnerability of a defender

Senate: Akpabio and the vulnerability of a defender

Running away from his alleged  victory? Defending the indefensible votes allegedly cast? This perhaps clearly are pertinent questions which explains the actions and inaction of  former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio as he keeps running from defending his 450000 votes that gave him the controversial victory in the ongoing legal battle to defend his election, described by not a few as Nigeria’s most fraudulent senatorial election result ever witnessed in the country.

As the former chairman of PDP Governor’s Forum drags his witnesses which has astronomically risen from 63 he had earlier told the tribunal at the pre trial stage to 1169,  the three man panel of Hon Justice Goddy Anunihu (Chairman),
Hon Justice A. O. Adebusoye and Hon Justice A. M. Lamido sitting at the Customary Court, Dutsen Alhaji, Abuja will from Wednesday come face to face with the 1st respondents witnesses trying to prove how an election that had 205,519 accredited voters on March 28, 2015 ended up producing a result of over 450,000. Talk of porosity of a defence ,this will be one unique case to watch out for.

After months of futile and vain attempt to undermine the petition, Akpabio having ambushed himself with the massive rigging that characterized his election will face the herculean task of preventing his being ousted from the Red Chambers. His being sent parking seems inevitable anyway!

On March 28, 2015, the disputed Akwa Ibom North West senatorial election had voters who headed to their polling units to exercise their franchise. The exercise witnessed voters being armed with their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to be used with the deployment of the Card Reader Machine for PVC verification and fingerprint identification. At the end of accreditation, successful accreditation stood at 90,618 while failed accreditation was 114,901 bringing the total number of voters to 205,519. It was this 205,519 accredited voters that by law, were supposed to vote at the election. What this implies is that even if one were to use the Incidence  Forms, it must not exceed the total number of failed accreditation of 114,901. But what did Akpabio do? I will tell you. In his uncommon way of doing simple things in an uncommon way ensured that he rigged and inflated the figures of a senatorial election to produce a result that exceeded the total votes cast for some Governorship election. How then that in an election whose result of total votes cast should not have exceeded 205,519 as were accredited ended up producing an uncommon result of over 450,000? This is one simple question Akpabio, INEC and the PDP are battling to answer, or to put it correctly, running away from answering.

On the strength of the numerous irregularities, coupled with the fact that the PDP on whose platform the embattled Senate Minority Leader was alleged to have contested the election never nominated a candidate for the said election in the senatorial district, Chief Inibehe Okori, the All Progressives Congress (APC) senatorial candidate for the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial seat headed for the tribunal. He did not only dragged the PDP candidate for Akwa Ibom North East to court but joined as Respondents, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but also the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in an electoral dispute with petition number EPT/AK/NA/S/3/15 before the Hon Justice Goddy Anunihu led Akwa Ibom State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Customary Court, Dutsen Alhaji , Abuja.

For the first time in the life of Akpabio, Nigeria’s most boastful politician is humbled by a two count petition that he was not qualified to contest the election on the ground that he was not nominated or sponsored by any political party and that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and / or non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. Before now, his article of faith even as Governor was that what money cannot do, more money can do. But just months after leaving office, the reality of life is fast dawning on him that for once, what money can do, even more money cannot do it this time. His uncommon desperation is therefore understandable for a man who was used to buying the soul and conscience of mankind with money being confronted with a situation whereby even with more money his situation is only transforming from bad to worse.

For a man who claimed to have won the election because the people so dearly loved him, defending the mandate he claims his people gave him only opened the system to more impunity. First he tried in vain to stop the tribunal from allowing the petitioners inspect election materials. It failed as the tribunal saw through his mischief and denied his prayers. Then he saw in Austin Okojie, an Electoral Commissioner whose name has become synonymous with impunity of the worst order, a perfect ally in a grand conspiracy to subvert the democratic process and the will of the people. INEC under Okojie as REC ensured all that is abominable to law, decency and civility was shamelessly displayed to undermine the inspection, copying and scanning of election materials. Not even two valid court order could deter a corruptly infested REC who ironically is a lawyer to respect the law.

Enter Uwemedimo Nwoko, also a lawyer, but better remembered for breaking the law with impunity than protecting the law. Most tragic, he was Akpabio’s Attorney General and for playing the role of a thug, he won the admiration of Udom Emmanuel, the man with deceptive humility and was reappointed Attorney General for the second time. With Nwoko’s conduct, utterances and insanity all in a bid to protect the crumbling empire of his paymasters, one needs no soothsayer to predict the kind of law and order that will prevail temporary in a state that has the likes of Nwoko as Chief Law Officer.  If the PDP were still in control of the government at the center, it would not be out of place to say that Nwoko would have been nominated for National Award for his contribution towards the development of the legal profession, though in an uncommonly disgusting manner.

So far Chief Okori has made his case with incontrovertible evidence and facts that Akpabio was never a candidate for the election for Akwa Ibom North West and his supposed election was done in violation to the provisions of the Electoral Act. He has called 18 witnesses so far to testify,  the last being the forensic expert Akpabio is fighting in vain to prevent from tendering the report and testifying.

But will the Almighty Akpabio stop running from pillar to post and appear before the tribunal to open his defence after months of playing hide and seek with the law? Time will tell.

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