It is no longer news that the recent Senatorial by-elections in Cross River Northern Senatorial District has degenerated into a fight of court orders and counter court orders!
The by-election took place on 5th December, 2020 alongside several other by-elections, but only the one in Cross River State has degenerated into a public spectacle of public bewilderment!
First off, even before the elections itself, there were two counter court orders obtained by contending Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants with each claiming to be the authentic candidate!
Dr. Stephen Odey, has obtained a court order from a Calabar High Court, asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to consider him as the validly nominated candidate of the PDP. In the same breath, Hon. Jarigbe Agom also was the beneficiary of another court order, this time from an Abuja High Court, declaring him the rightful candidate of PDP for the elections.
Expectedly, Independent National Electoral Commission was in a quandary as to which court order to obey since both courts were of equal jurisdiction.
Non-was higher than the other, as such obeying one will render INEC in contempt of the other. So, INEC acting properly, left the PDP slot empty as it conducted the elections on the 5th of December. In other words, PDP has no candidate as at 5th December and it was properly and legally so.
Curiously though, on the 6th when the results were being collated, INEC suddenly had a candidate. They named him as Dr. Stephen Odey. This was on clear breech of its own rules and the Electoral Act.
The Electoral Act states clearly that none can benefit from an election in which he or she did not take part.
Neither Stephen Odey nor Hon. Jarigbe took part in the elections on the 5th of December at Ogoja because they were judicially barred by orders of court. No way PDP could have had two candidates going into the elections.
When this point was raised by some party agents at Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collation centre for that election, Mr. Festus Okoye who was supervising the elections, asked anyone who was not satisfied to head to the court.
It is then obvious that there will be many more court cases arising from that election since Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) clearly acted in breach of extant rules and guidelines.
Pundits argue that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has no candidate validly nominated since both of the warring aspirants had defective aspirations and incurably defective party selection primaries. From reports, while Hon. Jarigbe may have used the valid court mandated PDP Delegates list, Dr. Odey had the valid PDP appointed Primaries Committee but he was elected by persons not known by law to be PDP delegates.
As such both gentlemen did not qualify to be candidate. Secondly their court disputes were not over before the Election Day. Even so, on INEC own Polling Unit result tabulation, it was clear that PDP has no candidate going into the elections. Where INEC found the legal basis to announce Dr. Stephen Odey as a winner of that by-election will remain a subject of litigation for weeks and months to come. Indeed, it will be a subject of both legal studies as well as political studies for a while to come.
Indeed the right thing INEC should have done if indeed it was impartial was to the election to the candidate and party that came second at the polls since PDP that came first had no candidate.
It is quite sad that Festus Okoye, a noted advocate for fair elections was the supervisor of this patently unfair announcement of persons who didn’t participate in the elections as winners.
It is for this reason that the courts have now become the arena of the next level of the war by the contending PDP aspirants who clearly didn’t take part in the elections. If INEC has done the right thing and announced the APC candidate winner, all this rigmarole and court orders by night and by sleuth of the hands would never have been necessary.
Furthermore, if INEC officials had no hidden interest, why does it appear that they are bent on awarding an election to individuals and parties who never took part? INEC under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu had indeed raised the bar and standard of its elections. Why has its officials suddenly chosen to disobey common sense and disobey its own regulations?
This column enjoins INEC to do the needful by finding a way to repudiate that dishonourable result and return to All Progressives Congress (APC) to whom that victory surely belongs as the party and candidate that scored the highest votes amongst the candidates that actually took part in the 5th December Northern Senatorial District of Cross River By-Elections!
As they say, truth is an open wound that never heals unless recognised.
NB: This is a Tuesday Column in Leadership Newspaper. Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Ray Morphy and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.