Uncertainty over twist in Ayade’s case at Supreme Court
Cross River State is gripped with tension as the Supreme Court reserved judgment on the governorship legal tussle between Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) and Governor Ben Ayade, both members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Since the last dramatic submission of the PDP lawyer, Mr. P. Ibegbulam, at the Supreme Court where the candidature of Ayade was rejected by the party, there has been disquiet in the governor’s camp and the city of Calabar.
Agi had sued the PDP, Ayade and the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) over issues of perjury and others in a pre-election matter after the PDP primaries in 2015 that declared Ayade the winner. Agi who came second in the December 8, 2014 governorship primary alleged that Governor Ayade falsified his age that he was born on March 2, 1969, 1968 in different documents and March 2, 1966 in a bio-data issued by a university, which is contrary to the PDP guidelines. Ayade won at the High Court and Appeal Court.
When the matter came up for hearing on September 27 at the Supreme Court, counsel to the appellant, Mr. Ken Ejemanze (SAN), urged the court to hold that Ayade made false age declaration, adding that by that action Ayade violated Articles 14 (a) and 15 (2) of the PDP guideline which prescribe disqualification for aspirants that falsified their data while filling in nomination forms.
He prayed the court to remove the governor from office and return his client (Agi) as the duly qualified candidate of the party in the Cross River State 2015 governorship election.
Similarly, the PDP lawyer shocked the court as he aligned himself with the arguments advanced by the counsel to the appellant, insisting the party is compelled to protect the provisions of its guideline because “the party later found out that the governor lied about his age as he supplied contradictory dates of birth in his nomination form and other document sent to INEC.”
Since this dramatic withdrawal of all briefs by the PDP lawyer and the subsequent fix of December 9 date for judgment, there has been uneasy calm in the state with growing anxiety. It was gathered that the governor has since the first week of September, relocated to Abuja apparently in connection with the suit.
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. John Gaul and his deputy, Mr. Joseph Bassey have equally moved to Abuja to battle the matter.
The case is now the talk of town. Some persons have argued that Ayade do not stand a chance at the apex court because any letter or issue raised thereafter is mere academic or administrative exercise, as the court cannot reopen a matter in which all parties have submitted their briefs and a date fixed for judgment.
Some other persons contended that the Supreme Court has the powers to look into a letter from the PDP if any, when a date for judgment has been fixed as the position of the PDP lawyer could have been taken without any instruction from the party.
It has been alleged that spirited efforts were made to get letters from the two factions of the PDP to counter the position of the lawyer.
Some youths are daring the Supreme Court to give judgment against Ayade that they will resist it by all means.
Congregating under the umbrella of National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) the youths said that any attempt to steal the peoples’ mandate from Ayade through the backdoor would be resisted at all cost. Speaking during a solidarity visit to the state’s Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Asu Okang, the state Secretary, Ndifon Victor, explained that it became imperative for youths of the state to speak out after the recent twist in the Supreme Court.
He said, “we want to warn that we will resist any attempt by anybody to steal the mandate of the youths and people of Cross River State through the backdoor. We are proud and happy with the developmental strides of Ayade’s administration and will not tolerate any form of distraction from any angle.”
But the Director General, Joe Agi Campaign Organization, Mr. Mike Ijim was optimistic that God willing, truth and public good will prevail. He thanked all Cross Riverians and party members for your prayers and support.
His words: “I wish to assure everyone that we are on the course of victory and with God on our side; Cross River shall be great again, soon.”
Keen observers of political events in the state are baffled as to how and why the PDP turned its back on Ayade but inside sources said the party’s change of position may not be unconnected with accusation of betrayal and alleged plans by Ayade to dump the PDP.
They also accused him of distancing himself from the
travails of the party claiming that instead of joining forces with those seeking an end to the party’s crisis and its many challenges, he was romancing with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Besides, an indigene of Ekori in Yakuur local government area of the state, said: “They are accusing him of not listening to anybody anymore since he became governor. He has suddenly become the lord and master whose words are law. He is also blamed for many socio-economic and security problems plaguing Cross River State.
Nonetheless, a PDP stalwart and Community Leader in Biase Local Government Council, Mr. Charles Eko said: “If that is the position of the PDP as a party, it means the government and the governor should have been in the know but I don’t know the implications. It did not go well that our lawyer would come and take that kind of stand. For me I am still investigating to know what informed that. Is it a party decision that should be binding on us or is it the decision of the lawyer. I don’t know why the party will take that kind of stand.
“The governor may have fallen out with some top party stalwarts but two wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t think that was a good deal to go to court and compromise the party. It is not a good step. It should have been discussed in-house first. This same governor was packaged for us by certain powers and they are packaging him out again … they are just making the case too simple for Agi”.
Giving a legal interpretation to the entire scenario at the Supreme Court, a Senior Lawyer in the state, Chief Utum Eteng, stated: “I think when a party in a case even at the last minute tells the court this is the truth of the position, it means he has made a confession that all what I have been saying is not correct and this is the correct position. One has to be grateful to the party (PDP) and equally the lawyer for telling the truth. The judgment may be taking a different shape from what may have been intended or what it ought to have been when this truth was not revealed. That is the implication”.
The Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Christian Ita, defended the governor insisting that there was no time Ayade planned to leave PDP.
“Governor Ayade has said it several times that he is not leaving the PDP for any reason. Perhaps, the people in APC just like my Governor. In a recent briefing with newsmen, the governor stated in very clear terms that he is a member of the PDP. The fact that the governor has a very good relationship with President Buhari does not in any way suggest he wants to join the APC,” Ita stated.
Furthermore, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Communication and Branding, Don Claimes Enamhe debunked such allegations, saying, “Ayade is a good party man, a good listener and a good brand for the state and Nigeria”.
He said, “the governor has not been out of the country for the last one month. He has had course to attend to a few official events at the invitation of Mr. President and Mr. Vice President and such occasions his very competent deputy Prof. Ivara Esu has been on top of things and the state is peaceful and safe under his watch.”
Member representing Calabar Municipality, Calabar South and Odukpani Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr. Eta Mbora asserted that the fact that Ayade is close to the Villa does not mean he is switching to APC, adding: “Buhari is Nigeria’s President and not President of APC, so governor Ayade is only fostering a relationship that will benefit the state in the long run. You cannot expect our governor to turn his back on the President; he must work with him for the good of the state in particular and Nigeria in general.”