There is a renewed call by members of the public and faithfuls of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Akwa Ibom State for stakeholders both at the state and national level of the party to intervene in the ongoing crisis in the party to avoid impending doom.
Some have presumed that if the situation is not handled discretely it can end up not only embarrassing the party but result in the party not fielding a governorship candidate in the 2023 general election.
It’s no longer news that PDP in the state is enmeshed in a legal battle involving alleged certificates forgery by it’s governorship candidate, Pastor Umo Bassey Eno.
One of the Aspirants, Akan Okon had dragged Pastor Eno to the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo over forged WAEC certificate and false age declaration presented to the party’s screening committee where he was cleared in error.
The problem in PDP could be traced to governor Udom Emmanuel’s January 30th announcement of pastor Eno, the then commissioner for lands and water resources as his preferred successor; a move which was greeted immediately with criticisms and attacks, though the situation was handled to some extent as the governor told the people that he acted based on God’s directive and that other aspirants were free to contest in the election.
The person of Umo Eno whom was described as a political neophyte and the manner with which he was selected had being the bone of contention among party members.
Some aggrieved persons had since left the party for another while few others, that is Friday Iwok and 31 others had dragged the party to court for alleged irregularities and disenfranchisement during the Ward Congress, though the Judge, Justice Obiora Egwuatu had on July 15 dismissed the suit for lacking in merit.
Some aspirants had expressed frustrations in the party which compelled them to either join another party or never participated in the primary. For instance, Akanimo Udofia, a prominent bussinessman and PDP stakeholder alongside his supporters left PDP for All Progressives Congress, APC due to lack of confidence in the political process.
Also Senator Bassey Albert Akpan and Barr Onofiok Akpan Luke, frontline Governorship aspirants and loyal party faithfuls also never participated in the primary.
Senator Akpan just few days ago resigned his membership in the party and formally joined the Young Progressives Party, YPP on Monday along with his mammoth followers in PDP, a development which is a minus to the party.
Another Aspirant, Mike Enyong went a parallel way and conducted a parallel congress where he emerged as a candidate even without officials of INEC witnessing the exercise.
But few others stayed back and participated in the Governorship primary of May 25 which took place at the Godswill Akpabio’s International Stadium, Uyo.
The aspirants were Pastor Umo Eno, James Iniama, an Estate Surveyor/Valuer and former governorship candidate in 2007 election; Akan Okon, a former Commissioner who resigned from Governor Emmanuel’s cabinet, Idorenyin Umo and Ide Owodiong Idemeko, a retiree in Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.
Pastor Umoh emerged as the candidate of the party having scored a total of 993 votes. A Reconciliation committee headed by Senator Effiong Bob was later set up to appease some aggrieved persons and reconcile them back to the party in preparation for a harder task ahead which is to maintain the hilltop mansion in 2023.
But, it was as if the committee is yet to hit the ground running as tempers are still high; some of the aggrieved persons interviewed said the committee has not invited them for any form of reconciliation.
The last straw that broke the carmel’s back was the certificate forgery and age falsification allegation against the PDP candidate, Imo Eno by Akan Okon.
Okon had sought the disqualification of Eno as the flagbearer. Though an accelerated hearing on the case will commence on July 21.
Meanwhile, Eno had contracted the services of six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, to defend the certificate allegation before Justice Anulika Agatha Okeke’s led Federal High Court.
The six SAN include Paul Usoro, SAN,(Lead counsel) Chief Assam E. Assam, SAN, Chief Offiong E B Offiong, SAN, Nnamonso Ekanem, SAN, Essien E Udom, SAN, Oyetola Muyiwa Atoyebi, SAN FCIArb (UK) and Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN.
Investigation revealed that to have a SAN of such repute to appear in court, the client must part with nothing less than Five Million Naira; if the information is something to go by, the defendant spends about Thirty Million Naira in each appearance.
The question is, who is bankrolling the case? Does the defendant has the financial muscle to pull through? Or is the state government using it’s lean resources for the case which has been described as a bad one? The answer to the nagging questions are left for the people to supply.
In the midst of the imbroglio, popular opinions sampled have it that Senator Bob led reconciliation committee should put their acts together and address the matter in-house or risk not fielding a candidate in 2023.
They noted that with the documents in the public and if Okon’s counsel was able to proof his case and indict the party’s candidate, it will bring ridicule and reproach to the ruling party in the state (PDP) even at the national and empower the opposition to take advantage of the situation to oust the party in 2023.
A Social media user, Saint Keppy wrote on Nairaland that, “as it stands, most people will prefer to vote for governorship candidates from other parties over this current PDP candidate. I am saying this based on what I have heard from residents in the state which I have met as well as ask for their opinion.”
The people noted that to forestall the impending calamity for the party, the National Working Committee, the party chairman, Iyorchia Ayu and Senator Bob’s reconciliation committee have a tall task of tending, soothing and healing the pains from the bleeding wounds by prevailing on Umo Eno to withdraw honorably and face his case privately.
They added that, the party thereafter can reconduct it’s primary among the three remaining aspirants (James Iniama, Idorenyin Umoh, Ide Owodiong) who have a clean slate and have remained loyal amid all the brouhaha noting that any one who emerges among the three should be used as a substitution to Umo Eno.
According to Idoteyen Umah, President of PDP Minders Forum (PMF), in an interview said, “as a group, we are embarrassed by the ongoing certificate forgery scandal involving Umo Eno. We wonder why the PDP and Governor Udom allowed this issue to escalate and insisted on a candidate with questionable character than doing the needful.”
But, if the party listens to voice of reason and agitations from the people and prevail on Umo Eno to withdraw; Akan Okon who championed Eno’s removal does not stand a chance of replacing him having violated the oath he took as contained in the party nomination Form PD0003/G by dragging the party to court.
The clause in paragraph 16 of the form which all the PDP Aspirants took on oath reads, “That I undertake to abide by the decision of the party as final and will not subject it to any litigation whatsoever adjudication by any body including the court of law”.
The party according to political analysts should as a matter of urgency conduct another primary or have a consensus among the other three Aspirants who have stuck to party guidelines and select most credible among them and send the person’s name to INEC for substitution within the window provided by law.
They also observed that by the provision of the new Electoral Act, Section 33, the PDP in AKwa Ibom can arrange a fresh primary within the time frame stipulated by law to produce another flag bearer for 2023 governorship election.
However, a phone interview with one of the Aspirants, James Iniama who had since gone back to his business after the primary revealed that it was even against the party’s guideline for anyone to drag the party to court.
Asked why he did not join in the suit against the party, he said, ”Which suit do you want me to join? My dear, I’m a very meticulous person. As a loyal party man, I read clearly what is on the expression of interest and nomination forms. I have read through the 2022 INEC Electoral Act up to four times back to back and I know what is expected of me. So having agreed to the undertaking, should I still join in the suit? He queried.
He added that he still remained a loyal party man even though he was not given the opportunity to become the candidate, adding that, “I was not seeking the position selfishly, I was simply seeking an opportunity to impart what I have conceived for the state over the years”.