By Jonathan Ugbal
The end may not be in sight for the battle on who is the actual gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State as Niger Delta Affairs minister, Usani Usani and a faction of the party loyal to him have rejected insinuations that the judgment of a High Court sitting in Bwari, Abuja on December 13, 2018 delivered by Justice O. A. Musa, has been set aside by another High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja on January 8, 2019 presided over by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi.
The party’s factional spokesman, Mr. Mens Ikpeme and the Director General of the Usani’s campaign organization, Pastor Ene Cobham in separate statements said Mr. Usani remains the guber candidate.
But, the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla had earlier called on party stalwarts to respect Justice Adeniyi’s judgment and sheathe their swords while the State’s chairman of the party, Mr. Etim John remained indifferent to the matter.
In his statement tagged “No Court Has Invalidated Our Judgment’ Our Ticket Is Still Intact” and issued on Thursday, Mr. Ikpeme described the judgment of Justice Adeniyi as “spurious” and described the candidature of Senator John Owan-Enoh as a “nullity” as the judgment of December 13 recognised Etim John as chairman and having not being produced by a congress supervised by Mr. John, Mr. Owan-Enoh cannot be the APC guber candidate.
“Justice Adeyinyi claims to find flaws in every aspect of a particular matter, if Justice Adeyinyi was satisfied with his claim of flaws, He should not have reason not to entertain the case. The status of the aforementioned matter does not affect negatively on the status of the honorable minister nor improve the status of Owan-Enoh.
“The matter of the Apo Federal High Court does not change the case of the Honorable minister as filed before the Apo High Court. Therefore, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani’s candidacy is still intact and remains valid.
“This is so because the non-entertainment of the honorable minister’s claim does not constitute an award of positive order in favor of Owan-Enoh as Owan-Enoh did not have a counter claim before the court. More so, the danger posed in the candidature of Owan-Enoh is the fact that he is a product of an illegal leprosy state structure,” the statement read, adding that: “Owan-Enoh is no competent candidate as he is not produced by Etim John led Executive. There is no way the incompetency of Owan-Enoh can be cured.”
Questioning the rationale of Mr. Owan-Enoh’s supporters, the statement added that: “When an order of the high court was given on the 13th of December, 2018 Owan-Enoh and (his) supporters kept silent and some referred to it as a jankara judgment. But when an application was rejected, Owan-Enoh and his supporters celebrated it and went into drinking and womanizing. These are the same people who said court judgment does not matter as far as they have given them flag. What an irony of the kind of leaders who want to impose themselves on Cross Riverians after being rejected by their former parties.”
For Cobham, only an Appeal Court can set aside the judgment of December 13, 2018, for which he said a Notice of Appeal was issued to his opponent.
Vanguard Newspapers reports that Cobham in a statement issued in Calabar said: “As we speak, Pastor Uguru Usani remains the authentic governorship candidate of APC in Cross River State despite the flag given in error to Senator John Owan-Enoh.”
Cobham posited that the December 13, 2018 ruling had dissolved the State Working Committee of APC in the State headed by the late Matthew Achigbe and ordered the National Working Committee of the party and the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to receive all candidates that emerged from the Etim John-led executive.
Cobham who averred that: “The Tuesday ruling by Justice Olukayode of Abuja High Court 23, in suit FHC/HC/CV/3009 is a mere distraction as no order was given to anybody,” also appealed to Usani supporters to remain calm and peaceful and observe the Nko declaration tagged Operation Deliver for APC while announcing that the campaign will take off across the State.
Now, Obono-Obla had on January 7, 2019 took to Facebook to announce the judgment of Justice Adeniyi when he wrote: “A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Apo, Abuja has rejected the claim by Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani to being the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State.”
The short report which CrossRiverWatch could not verify its source said the judge, “dismissed a suit filed by Usani, in which he had, among others, sought to be declared the actual winner of the party’s governorship primary held late last year.”
It further read: “Justice Adeniyi, who resolved all the issues raised by Usani for determination against him, noted that documentary evidence tendered by the claimant and facts in his supporting affidavits showed vital legal flaws, which the court could not overlook.
“The judge noted, for instance, that while Usani claimed to have won the primary conducted on September 30, 2018, a report of the primary, issued by the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INRC) in Cross River, tendered by the claimant, showed that the primary was held between September 30 and October 1, 2018.
“Justice Adeniyi also noted that by the documentary evidence tendered by Usani, it was clear that the primary he claimed to have won was an illegal one, because it was conducted solely by the Cross River State’s APC Executive which has no power, under the law to conduct state governorship primary.
“Usani had, in the suit, prayed the court to compel the APC to send his name to INEC, in the place of Senator John Owan Enoh, as its governorship candidate for Cross River State.”
And, 24 hours later, Obono-Obla while calling on party faithful to sheathe their swords, described the judgment delivered by Justice Adeniyi as a, “welcome development and a great sign of relief for everybody.”
He appealed to Usani and his supporters to, “Sheathe the sword and work for the victory of the Party in the governorship, National Assembly/State Assembly and indeed the presidential election! The interest of the party should prevail over narrow personal interest! Power belongs to the Almighty God and it is only the Almighty God who gives it. All hands must on deck to win Cross River State for it to return to the mainstream of the progressive national political movement sweeping across the federation!”
However, Mr. John who was declared the authentic chairman in the December 13, 2018 ruling told this reporter in a telephone interview that: “I have heard of it (the judgment). I am chairman of APC Cross River State. I defend the state of APC, so as far as I am concerned we are law abiding, and we will abide by the ruling of the court.”
When asked if this meant he will support the candidature of Mr. Owan-Enoh, he replied: “What I am aware is that the court said that the case Usani filed is dismissed so that is what the court said. I don’t know if it declared somebody.
“What I know is that the court dismissed the Usani Usani case. That is what I heard. I have not seen the full judgment, so I don’t comment on details I am not familiar with. So, by the time, by the grace of God tomorrow I read the details of the judgment, I should be able to comment.”
Meanwhile, CrossRiverWatch gathered that during the presentation of the flag to Mr. Owan-Enoh in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Usani’s supporters had gone ahead and removed Owan-Enoh’s posters and billboards replacing them with those of Usani and occupied the space made available for the State’s contingents.
However, the arrival of Owan-Enoh’s supporters led to a brawl as the two factions engaged in a free for all which eventually led to the chasing of Usani’s supporters away from the stadium. Also, a party faithful familiar with the incident told this reporter that Mr. Usani was advised against fermenting trouble and joining the APC’s bigwigs while heading to the stage as information reaching them had suggested that there were plans to beat him up; a situation which may have led to a breach in security.,
However, these claims could not be independently verified as at press time.
The duo recently met at the airport and exchanged pleasantries which prompted many to speculate an acceptance of fate by Mr. Usani, which he also took to Facebook to deny.
“Political discussions do not hold at transport nodal points. I met with Senator John Owan Enoh at the airport and, by ethic of civil disposition, exchanged pleasantries with him. Nothing more,” he wrote on January 4, 2019.
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