For Dr. Uche Ogah, the road to becoming the Abia State Governor is obviously harder than he’d imagined, writes Shola Oyeyipo
The political quagmire created by the judgment delivered by Justice Okon Abang of Federal High Court, Abuja, sacking Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and the subsequent issuance of a certificate return to Dr. Uche Ogah by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner, Lawrence Nwuruku is yet to peter out. Indeed, any assumption that Ogah would have an easy ride to the Abia State Government House is still a tall dream.
Not only did the governor secure an ex-parte motion preventing Ogah from being sworn in as governor and maintaining that he remained the substantive governor, there are other hurdles to Ogah’s emergency governorship aspiration.
These include the judgment by Justice Ambrose Allagoa of Federal High Court, Owerri, Imo State, in a matter filed by Mr. Friday Nwosu against Governor Ikpeazu, Ogah, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), over alleged forgery of tax documents by the governor, declaring that Ikpeazu’s tax documents were not forged.
Although Justice Abang had held that the 2011 tax clearance certificate and income tax receipt Ikpeazu submitted to INEC before the primaries contained false information, which made him to declare Ikpeazu as ineligible to stand for the 2015 governorship election, citing a Supreme Court decided case in INEC vs Obi, Allagoa’s Friday, July 8, declaration that Nwosu was unable to prove that the tax documents against the governor were forged had become the talking point on whether it is a nullification of the earlier ruling by Abang.
Former chairman, Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) who is the legal counsel to Ogah, Mr. Monday Ubani has however maintained that Justice Allagoa’s judgment could not stand the test of time because apart from the fact that another court had ruled on the issue, what the Owerri court looked at was a different ground of argument.
According to him, “The refusal of Justice Abang of the Federal High Court to hear the application for stay of execution of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu means that the judgment he delivered on the 27th of June still stands until it is reversed by a higher court, this time the Court of Appeal and/or later the Supreme Court.
“It is important to point out that the judgment of the High Court, Owerri, in which the reliefs of Mr. Nwosu were dismissed is very favorable to Dr. Uche Ogah. It would have been otherwise if the Court in Owerri had ordered Dr. Ikpeazu to vacate his seat for Mr. Nwosu to take over. Mr. Nwosu came under weak foundation. He alleged forgery of the tax papers; that allegation must be proved beyond reasonable doubts.”
Whilst the argument over Abang-Allagoa rulings continues, for whatever it is worth, the Abia State chapter of the PDP has come up with a new dimension to the anti-Ogah campaign. The party is of the view that the certificate of return Ogah received from Nwuruku was not original but fake and they have many reasons to back up this claim.
In establishing the now trending issue, the publicity secretary of the Abia State PDP, Chief Don Ubani, while displaying the two certificates of return given to both Ogah and Ikpeazu, highlighted some features on which basis he claimed the certificate in Ogah’s possession was “fake, a sign of desperation and an illegality.”
“The certificate of return given to Ikpeazu has two dates on which the governorship elections were held, which were 11th and 25th of April 2015, for both the main election and the supplementary, while Ogah’s has only the 11th April, 2015 date, being the one for the main election.
“The difference in the dates resulted from the fact that on the day of the main election, no one emerged as the governor, which led to a supplementary election held on the 25th, which produced Ikpeazu as the governor.”
Ubani, who was a Commissioner of Information in the state, alleged that Ogah’s desperation to become governor through illegal means whereas he never campaigned or participated in any phase of the election proper was what made INEC make the mistakes.
“We hold strongly against the intention of INEC and Dr. Ogah to misinform the people about Ikpeazu. He was a civil servant as the General Manager of Abia State Passenger Integrated Manifest/Safety Scheme and the immediate past Deputy General Manager of Abia State Environmental Sanitation Authority in charge of Aba zone and by virtue of being a civil servant, his tax was deducted at source. Therefore, those saying that he did not pay his tax were either being funny or they are being out of tune with the realities on the ground concerning tax issues,” he maintained.
He alluded to the judgment of the Federal High Court, Owerri, which he said had vindicated the governor on the authenticity of his tax certificate as a public servant and a basis for the governor to maintain that he was the duly elected governor of Abia State.
But Ogah’s lawyer, Ubani, in disagreeing with the position, said his client’s certificate of return was not fake. “It is laughable because INEC has disassociated itself from that fake news circulating in the social media as no hard core news media have carried the baseless rumour. INEC has threatened legal action against any media platform or individuals championing such malicious story without facts.
“The falsehood peddlers will have to produce that INEC source to prove their case, stating that such baseless falsehood peddled on a social media by the camp of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu makes a mockery of the group and their candidate. Dr. Uche Ogah remains the authentic bearer of the original INEC certificate of return as the one issued to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is deemed cancelled in law.
“It is advised that it is high time Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu vacated the governorship seat honourably and stopped the childish hiring of all manner of charlatans, who are financially induced to pay fake solidarity visits. Faceless groups with their solidarity visits based on financial inducement cannot change the eight lies of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, which are already before the court of law.”
As if that was the end of it, the Ikpeazu camp has also gone a step further to establish yet another feature alleged to be missing in Oga’s certificate and which it proved by comparing the certificates of others, including the one of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is the coat of arms on the back ground. Whilst other certificates have the coat of arms on their background, Ogah’s does not, showing clearly that if not fake as being alleged, then something is curiously amiss.
The most plausible implication of this, perhaps, is that if Ogah cannot be held responsible for whatever errors detected in his certificate of return, believed to have been issued by INEC, then, Governor Ikpeazu can equally not be held responsible for the alleged mistakes in the tax certificate, issued not by him but an authority established by law and for taxes deducted at source as an employee of the state.
Obviously, the last may not have been heard of the crisis in Abia State and many are of the view that the judiciary has the most important role to play in finally resolving what is evidently a legal stalemate over, who is the authentic governor of the state.