It has become pertinent to draw the attention of Nigerians, the entire world and all lovers of democracy to a festering sore of how the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State published the judgment of the Akwa Ibom State Election Petition Tribunal several hours before the Judges echoed them and delivered a judgment which had already been known to the Governorship candidate of the APC, Mr Umana Okon Umana, and the APC hierarchy.
In a full page advertorial in THE NATION newspaper of Wednesday, October 21, 2015, (the same day the judgment of the Akwa Ibom State Election Petition Tribunal was delivered) and writing under an amorphous group called: AKWA IBOM DEMOCRATIC PROJECT FOR JUSTICE AND EQUITY and with an ominous but very revealing headline titled: “Justice for sale: Has the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Tribunal Been Compromised?” It turned out to be very revealing that the APC may have had a preview of the judgment before the Judges delivered it.
The amorphous group had complained in the publication that “several high profile members of the PDP were on a Dana flight which departed the Ibom International Airport at exactly 11.07 am on Tuesdayto Abuja. Among those on board were: Emem Akpabio a brother to the former Governor, Sen. Effiong Bob, Sen. Ibok Essien, a PDP House of Assembly member, Onofiok Luke, Akon Eyakeyi (sic) former Minister, several House of Assembly members, some Council Chairman (sic), women group dressed in uniform, selected youth leaders among others,” to witness the delivery of the judgment.
And then the bombshell and the Mother of all revelations: the APC falling short of publishing every detail of the judgment had written: “…..the Tribunal will nullify election in only about 10 to 20 Local Government Areas leaving the remaining Local Government Areas intact…” And true to their “leak” same day the Akwa Ibom State election Petition Tribunal nullified the election in 18 Local Government Areas as the APC had revealed. Mischievously the APC falsely attributed this leak to the Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senate Minority Leader, who of course never uttered such words and was not privy to the judgment. In fact the former Governor never attended any sitting of the Tribunal for one day to avoid false accusations from mischief makers and could never have wished for a single polling unit or Local Government result in the Governorship election to be voided. How then could a man who participated in wining one of the fairest and freest elections conducted in 2015 boast to the whole world days before judgment that 10 to 20 Local Government result in his party’s favour will be nullified by a yet to be delivered judgment.
The Akwa Ibom State Forum for Justice and Transparency, like other democracy-loving Nigerians who are concerned about the survival of our nascent democracy, are worried how the APC with such degree of exactitude “revealed” the judgment of the Tribunal. Many people are concerned that the Judges may have been coerced into delivering the incomprehensible judgment which has left the people more confused as to what the intention of the Judges were in a judgment which has defied all legal logic.
The plank of the APC case before the Tribunal was that elections did not take place in Akwa Ibom State. The Tribunal ruled that the evidence tendered by the APC including used ballot papers debunked their claim and conclusively showed that Governorship elections held in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015.
The Tribunal further rejected all forensic expert evidence tendered by the APC and held that there was Governorship election in Akwa Ibom State. But in a curious summersault, the Tribunal did exactly what the APC had revealed in their advertorial of the same day in THE NATION newspaper and nullified election in 18 out of 31 Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State. Is this a criminal coincidence? Or is this revelation that came true part of the change Nigerians should expect?
The question that is agitating the minds of many Nigerians is how the Judges arrived at the decision to annul elections in 18 Local Government Areas as predicted by the APC write up of October 21, 2015, in THE NATION newspapers. The same Tribunal in one breadth had held that it was satisfied that election held in all the polling units in the state contrary to the claim of the APC and its gubernatorial candidate, Mr Umana Okon Umana that there was no election in Akwa Ibom State. The Tribunal further held that the election substantially complied with the provisions of the law but in a somersault of sort, turned round to annul the election in 18 Local Government Areas. This decision is shocking considering that APC called only 48 witnesses from 48 units and yet the 18 Local Government Areas cancelled has thousands of units that complied, in the words of the Tribunal, substantially with the electoral law.
It is not in doubt that Akwa Ibom State is a core PDP State and no matter how many times elections are conducted freely in the state, PDP will always trounce any other party even if it is monitored by the United Nations. We would have urged the PDP to go straight for the rerun as ordered by the Judges but it will be setting a wrong judicial precedence to allow a seemingly coerced judgment which had been in the public domain for over 12 hours before the Judges read it out, to stand.
The group also alleged that the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio was heard telling his supporters the night before the judgment that a whopping five billion naira had been sunk into the project that will ultimately give judgment in favour of the PDP. This is a lie from the pit of hell. In any case what sense does it make to any right thinking person that a man who worked tirelessly with his party men to secure electoral victory in one of the freest and fairest Governorship election in 2015 would turn round to spend five billion naira (N5 billion) in order to secure cancellation of the election result in 18 Local Government Areas won by his party, the PDP. Such propaganda could only emanate from very demented minds.
It follows a similar pattern that immediately the National Assembly Tribunal upheld the election of Senator Akpabio, the State Chairman of the APC, Mr Amadu Attai had gone to the media to make spurious, baseless and unfounded allegations without any proof that the judiciary was compromised.
We call on security agencies and the Government of President Muhamadu Buhari to investigate and get to the root of the scandalous leakage of the judgment of the election Tribunal over 12 hours before the judgment was delivered.
This time it is Akwa Ibom State, next time it may be Rivers, Delta, Taraba or any other targeted PDP State. Nigerians and the international community demand answer.
Iniabasi Ukpong is the National Co-ordinator of Akwa Ibom Forum For Justice and Transparency