By Clem Aguiyi
Electoral fraud , corruption and criminal forgery has become a recurrent phenomenon among rogue politicians seeking public office in Nigeria since the advent of this nascent democracy and very often the culprits go largely unpunished to the general discomfort of law abiding citizens .
Irked by the impudence of politicians who give bad name to politics, former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a recent outburst attacked the National Assembly as being populated by armed robbers who perhaps forge their way through to the top. Politicians aside from lying effortlessly under oath and committing criminal perjury, has also perfected the act of forgery and fabrication of anything forgeable such as birth certificates which alter their age to suit their fancy, academic qualifications , election result sheets and documents kept under lawful custody.
Unnerving is the now random forgery of court documents.
Most of these dirty and indecent acts are perpetuated under the guide of lawyers who were supposed to be servants in the temple of justice. These lawyers want to win at all cost either by crook or by hook. Need we remind ourselves that we are a nation governed by law and that incurable falsification , fabrications , forgery of official documents and lying under oath undermines the very foundation of our justice system and that taking judicial notice to curb the impunity of crooks in high places is an essential step to be taken if we must safeguard our liberty and democracy.
Rather than attack former President Obasanjo for characterizing some legislators robbers , the question is how do we purge our politics with dubious politicians? What manner of service will a rogue politician provide to hapless citizens other than serve his and her own selfish interest?
The latest entrant in this infamous saga of forgery and falsification is Lady Margery Okadigbo , a claimant to the Anambra North Senatorial Seat. The Anambra North Senatorial seat has been in contention since after the April 2011 general election living that senatorial district as the only zone without a Senator and representation in the 7th Senate, a painful anomaly which has taken a toll on the socio-economic fortunes of the people of the zone.
The judiciary has not helped matters in the Anambra North debacle as different courts has churned out different orders and often contradictory judgments that threw up winner at a different winner at every turn of the twist. The court of Appeal towards the end of December 2011 in a judgment that was wrapped in controversy ordered the leadership of the Senate and the Senate President to swear in Lady Margery Okadigbo as winner of the Senatorial Zone. The jaundiced judgment did not only throw politicians in the zone into confusion , it also proved political pundits wrong. Everyone had expected that either of Senator Alphonsus Igbeke , the immediate past Senator of the Zone who had a High Court judgment in his favor as the PDP candidate or Prince John Okechukwu Emeka whom the Election Petition Tribunal affirmed as Winner will emerge winner and representative of the zone. Before the surprise ruling of the Appeal Court Lady Okadigbo was never a contender nor a serious part of the equation. The question on the lips of observers was, what formed the basis of the Appeal Court judgment, was the Appeal court jazzed , compromised or merely hood winked?. How did an interloper become the victor?
Emerging and disturbing facts are that Lady Margery Okadigbo had approached the Appeal Court with a 183 page bundle of cooked documents containing ‘Affidavits of Facts’ purported to have been sworn to at the Registry of the Otuocha Judicial Division of the Anambra State High Court by the respective 183 persons whose names appeared on each page of said document. Lady Okadigbo it is now alleged, proceeded to convince the judges of the Appeal Court that the fictitious names on the cooked documents are delegates to an ‘imaginary’ primary in which she was purported to have won. The Court of Appeal made no attempt to verify the authenticity of her claims and genuineness of the documents placed before it but went straight in awarding the now controversial judgment that declared Lady Okadigbo as winner thereby further compounding the Anambra North Senatorial crisis and deepening the credibility and integrity crisis bedeviling the judiciary. Majority of the citizens of the zone who had spoken on the issue believed judgment was doled out to the highest bidder.
Mrs. EN Ezeanyika , the Assistant Registrar of the High Court Registry, Otuocha , Anambra Judicial Division the supposed originator of the toxic documents has since distanced the Registry from it because according to her, the documents bear no receipt numbers that will enable one trace the authenticity. To quote her own words in a letter published by the media ‘ there is no receipt number on any page of the attached bundle of documents (each titled ‘Affidavit of Facts’) each showing that they were paid for, or where they were paid for . To qualify as affidavits duly sworn to by such individuals , they ought to be paid for and the receipt number written on them , but there is no indication on the face of the documents showing that this was done. Accordingly there is nothing on the face of the document to enable me confirm them as affidavits of facts sworn to at the Registry of the Otuocha Judicial Division of the Anambra State High Court.
Also in a separate letter denouncing the 183 documents which Lady Okadigbo presented to the Appeal Court as falsified, Mr Obadiegwu whose name and signature had appeared on the falsified documents as the Commissioner for Oath vehemently denied the documents in strong terms and words, ‘the signature and stamp that appear on the 183 page bundle of document are not mine and are therefore forged. The dates appearing on the said documents tend to suggest they were sworn to in January 11th 2011 at which time I held office as the Assistant Chief Registrar and Commissioner for Oaths in the Otuocha Judicial Division of the Anambra State High Court. I have gone through my records in that Registry and could not find any document of that nature as emanating from the Registry’.
Mr Obadiegwu went ahead to back his position with a sworn affidavit deposed to on the 11th of May 2012 , including volunteering statement to the police under caution.
But for the allure of power , what will make a mother and widow of a revered statesman to engage in the indecent act of forgery , perjury and lying under oath . If this is not robbery as Obasanjo had suggested in his public statements , what then is robbery? Is forgery no longer a crime punishable by imprisonment under the law of this country? Are we operating two separate set of laws in Nigeria- one for the poor and another for the high and mighty? Why will the Police and also the Attorney General charge Senator Igbeke for the forgery of PDP state election primary results , believed in some quarters to be an illegal primary and then look the other way in the case of Lady Margery Okadigbo who obviously forged court documents, falsified signatures of judicial officers and including illegal fabrication of court stamp and seal?
Ironic is even the fact that Lady Okadigbo was among the most vociferous that urged the Federal Government to harass and prosecute Igbeke for alleged forgery only to turn around to now perfect one of the most grievous of fraud- forgery of court documents
Me thinks , the right place for Lady Okadigbo at this time ought to be in the dock and behind bars and not jostling between the Supreme Court to assist her gain a dubious entry into the red hallowed chamber of the Nigerian Senate.
As the people wait breathlessly for the final judgment of the Supreme Court which will finally decide between Senator Alphonsus Igbeke, Prince John Emeka and Lady Okadigbo who represents the zone at the 7th Assembly of the Nigerian Senate, one wont but say that the outcome of the drama will go a long way to reinforce, stabilize or truncate and destabilize the people’s trust in the credibility of our politics and justice system . Needless to say that the credibility of the present government has greatly been dented and hampered by the spate of criminal fraud , forgery and corruption in high public places , thus bringing to the fore the issue of selective justice which seems to be the mode of dispensing justice between the affluent, influential and well connected and the common people. The high and mighty who claim affinity to the presidency and corridors of power always go free despite the gravity of their offences while the commoners bear the brunt of judicial vehemence.
However on this matter, the Police and the Office of the Attorney General has task in its hand to wade into this scandalous allegation , conduct its findings and to take appropriate actions regarding any crime that may have been committed against the state.
At this point in time in the nation’s history , crime fighting agencies are what Nigerians look up to , to live up to their statutory billings and save the nation the continued embarrassment that aiding and abetting crime and corruption has foisted on her.