LEGAL AND MORAL PERSPECTIVES SURROUNDING APC, SIR FRANK IBEZIM, SENATOR IFANYI ARARAUME AND HON SIR MATTHEW OMEGARA IN THE IMO NORTH SENATORIAL BYE ELECTION
The long awaited electoral contest for the replacement of Late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu in Imo North Senatorial District has come but not gone. In a very fierce electoral battle which raged from the APC screening level to the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, the Federal High Court in Abuja and the Appeal Court in Owerri, the process produced two candidates by the rulings of the Federal High Court in Abuja and the Appeal Court in Owerri.
After the APC primaries which produced Sir Frank Ibezim as the candidate of the Party and counter-claim by Senator Ifeanyi Araraume with a parallel entry by a faction of the APC Screening Committee to the effect that both Sir Frank Ibezim and Hon Mathew Omegara among others were disqualified by the Screening Appeal Committee, Mrs Uche Uba proceeded to the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt to claim the winner of the said primaries.
The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt ruled that Distinguished Senator Araraume was rather the winner of the primaries, given the evidence available to the court. Even outside the prayer of the plaintiff, the court also held that Hon Mathew Omegara who joined in the case as well as Sir Frank Ibezim among others were disqualified by the APC Screening Appeal Committee.
Beyond the ruling of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, one Chief Anthony Asomugha also proceeded to the Federal High Court, Abuja to challenge Sir Frank Ibezim on related perjury. According to Chief Anthony Asomugha, there is a serious discrepancy in the names on the certificates which Sir Frank Ibezim presented to the APC and INEC on oath for his candidacy. In that instance, the Abuja High Court ruled at the eve of the election, precisely 4th December 2020 that Chief Anthony Asomugha’s prayer has merit and consequently prevailed on APC to substitute Sir Frank Ibezim with the next qualified person while barring INEC from having Sir Frank Ibezim on the ballot.
However, in response to the ruling of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, Sir Frank Ibezim had proceeded to the Appeal Court in Owerri for the review and reversal of the ruling of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court; and as it were, the appellate court in Owerri upheld the submissions of Sir Frank Ibezim in her judgement also on 4th December 2020 to the effect that the Port Harcourt Federal High Court erred by not relying on the most appropriate and valid evidence of the Party, APC in her judgement. Consequently, the Appeal Court declared Sir Frank Ibezim as good enough to fly on APC ballot.
THREE CRITICAL SCENARIOS EMERGING FROM THE ABOVE NARRATIVE
- Emerging from the Appeal Court in Owerri, Sir Frank Ibezim, the All Progressives Congress and Hon Mathew Omegara who joined in the Appeal have proved beyond questions, the fact that the APC Screening Committees did not disqualify any of the eleven aspirants of the Party. This ruling of the Appeal Court in Owerri is a major setback for Distinguished Senator Araraume’s stake in the overall contest for the seat as he came a distant third in the valid APC primaries.
- Going forward, Chief Anthony Asomugha has provided a window of opportunity for the anti Frank Ibezim camp in APC. It is therefore left for Chief Anthony Asomugha and his group to pursue their claim that Sir Frank Ibezim is in certificate and integrity default having been proved guilty of perjury by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
- If Chief Anthony Asomugha is able to muster the clout and integrity to pursue his case to the Supreme Court, perhaps with success as it is expected to foster discipline as well as give a measure of integrity to our electoral process, would APC not be obliged to usher in the person who came second in the primaries (Hon Sir Mathew Omegara) if his qualification is good and he is found to be in good standing in the eyes of the law and with APC as a Party ??
- It can be said without contradiction, that it is left with the All Progressives Congress to stand firm and defend the outcome of her primaries in the said election; Distinguished Senator Araraume should also for once be steadfast with his present party, the APC and insist on the right thing rather than his present media engagement for attacks on APC and fellow contestants seen as a ploy and shortcut to chicken out for another futile permutation and gamble; and finally, for the courts in the land to be worry of their image and act in clean up by doing the right thing.
APC should act fast to protect her integrity and image.
Barr Lawrence C C Ndudi writes from Edinburgh, UK.