Owan-Enoh As APC Governorship Candidate: A Legal Perspective BY UTUM ETENG

In Breaking News, Columnists, Opinion

There has been speculations particularly in the social media as to who between John Owan-Enoh and Pastor Usani Uguru Usani is the All Progressives Congress Cross River State Governorship Candidate for the 2019 election.

The speculations became virile on social media soon after the Abuja High Court gave a judgment wherein Honorable Etim John challenged the dissolution of the State APC Exco by the Adam Oshomole new APC National Working Committee (NWC). Honorable Etim John Exco was sworn-in by the out gone Chief John Oyegun NWC.

Whilst arguments have been proffered that the judgment order declaring Honorable Etim John the State APC Chairman made provision in the order to cover candidate said to have been returned on the side of the Etim John’s faction. It will be recalled that the alleged dissolution came in June long before the primaries took place. Many have taken positions and have argued one way or the other depending on their political inclinations. However, for purposes of this treatise, one would attempt to give a dispassionate legal perspective to the disputed second arm of the order alleged to cover the nomination process/primaries conducted by the National leadership of the APC to pick candidates for Cross River State pursuant to the APC constitution which makes it strict and mandatory for only the APC NWC to set up such nomination panel.

For the avoidance of doubt and emphasis, it is pertinent to reiterate without mincing words that it is only the APC NWC that has the legal capacity to set up a panel to conduct primaries for the election of candidates to contest elective offices under the platform of the APC. It may be diligent in other parties. The question which nobody will do away with is, which panel conducted the primaries many are claiming to thrust them forth as candidates? This is gamut issue, it is central and germane to all claims. Did we have in Cross River State two or more nomination panels?

It has been forcefully argued that it is only Senator Owan-Enoh who contested the direct primaries conducted by the only legitimate nomination panel set up by the National leadership of the APC, could it be true, perhaps wrongly speculated that Pastor Usani Usani got his ticket vide a governorship primaries conducted by one Ntufam Emmanuel Anom, a Cross Riverian from Akamkpa Local Government Council. Assuming this question is answered in the affirmative, the follow-up question is, could it be from this primaries the claim to the governorship ticket? I may not know it all and I stand to be corrected if this is not the case. But assuming it is, then, there would be no point wasting anybody’s time. One Akin Ricketts is rumored to be the Central Senatorial Candidate, with respect one may wish to ask which panel returned him. This questions and the answers required are necessary for one to know the truth of what he or she is urging.

Let me at this juncture not to launch into the politics of who conducted the nomination primaries of either of the two gladiators but attempt to critically give a legal perspective to the claim that the judgment order of the Abuja High Court in the Etim John’s case, the judge expressed the view that touched on the status of the primaries which thrust Pastor Usani and many others as the APC candidates as against Senator Owan-Enoh and Co whose names and particulars were submitted by the APC to INEC as its official flag bearers for Cross River State.

Assuming for purposes of arguments that the said judgment order made directly reference to Pastor Usani thereby replacing Senator Owan-Enoh as the APC standard bearer and by extension refer to Pastor Usani as the APC candidate, it is submitted with respect that an order of a court must be made reference the parties to the suit and the issues canvassed. Without more, an order otherwise made is not only otiose, but also superfluous and made in vain. The reasons are:

a. Senator Owan-Enoh and the candidate whose names the APC sent to INEC have not been made parties either by amending the originating summons which Honorable Etim John was returned as the APC State Chairman to include him. As such he, Enoh and others being non-parties even by joinder cannot be bound by an order in a judgment they are not parties to the suit. This by itself is against the constitution and jurisprudence of our procedural law. An order of a court is meant to be a positive unambiguous statement of the law.

b. Secondly, INEC cannot enforce an order made against it-from behind. That is to say, for an enforceable order to ensure against INEC to act on INEC it must be a party to the suit so as to be heard in the matter. All of this is about section 36(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

It is important to emphasize for the avoidance of doubt that, an order made by a court in any matter before it must relate to issues canvassed/resolved by it. This is so because the bottom line of adjudication is enforceability of the order thereto made. A court cannot make an order to bind a non-party. Suffice it to opine that a superfluous order is one made more than the justice of the case needs or wants. It is an unnecessary order not arising directly from the adumbrated facts and issue before the court. If John Owan-Enoh was not a party to the Etim John case which centers in congresses, then no order made thereto binds him.

Again, if the order also reformed to those who came out of primaries conducted by the Etim John, (if any) and did not take the pains to list out the beneficiaries, such an order must be struck out for uncertainty. For an order of court to be certain, it must positively name those intended to be affected by it, it makes no room for speculations.

It is important to guide those spreading falsehood about Owan-Enoh’s governorship ticket that it takes a separate suit with the governorship primaries as the main claim in the suit challenging his emergence as the APC standard bearer in Cross River State to dislodge him. This is strict law not politics.

This cannot be done through an ancillary order, or a superfluous order not in any way proximate to the subject matter of the suit. Senator John Owan-Enoh remains the APC authentic governorship standard bearer for Cross River State for 2019 elections. Let nobody be deceived or misled to think otherwise.

Today, in the State APC, Senator Ita-Giwa, Chief Sunny Abang, Honorable Ernest Irek, Dr. Francis Bullem and a host of others have left the APC to the PDP, with Barrister Venatius Ikem rumored to be on edge. The State APC cannot claim that they are inconsequential to its success in the coming state elections. Concrete efforts must be made to stop this drift. A formidable governorship candidate like distinguished Senator John Owan-Enoh, requires the elders to move around to make peace with all, galvanise and synergise to enhance his winning chances.

Utum Eteng, a legal practitioner and an APC Chieftain in Cross River State writes in from Ugep.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are solely attributable to the author, Utum Eteng and do not in anyway represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organisation the author works for/with.

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