CRS APC Gov ticket : Obono-Obla, First Baba Isa disagree on Usani, Enoh emergence

Sen. John Owan Enoh (L) and Dr. Usani Uguru Usani

Two cerebral lawyers, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla and First Baba Isa have expressed different views on the legality and otherwise of the governorship candidate(s) of the All progressive Congress in Cross River State.

Parallel governorship primaries held in the state last month with the Senator representing the Cross River Central Senatorial District, Sen. John Owan Enoh and Niger Delta Minister, Pastor Usani Uguru emerging as factional candidates.

Although the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has declared Owan Enoh as the authenticate candidate of the party, supporters of Usani have insisted that he remains the candidate.

Despite reports that the NWC has forwarded Enoh's name as the party's  governorship nominee to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the issue has continued to spark argument on social media.

The conversation was taken to another level yesterday when a burgeoning lawyer, First Baba Isa regarded by many as one of the brightest in his generation took to his Facebook wall to express his opinion on the legal implication of APC going into the general elections with pending legal issue concerning the authenticity of the governorship candidate.

He contended that if APC fail to resolve the crisis, the winner of the election even if inaugurated may not last long as Governor.

In an article titled "The APC Road to Cross River State Government House" , he said that "About a week or so ago, after the APC parallel gubernatorial primaries in Cross River State, I casually started researching the legal issues surrounding the conduct of the primaries and emergence of Senator John Owan Enoh and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pst Usani Usani as parallel candidates.

As I researched, it got very interesting. What began as my usual routine research into legal issues took a more interesting turn as I started devouring all the court decisions, looked at the related supreme court authorities. I marveled.

The gist of my research is that Owan Enoh's name has been submitted as APC flagbearer for Cross River State but Usani might just be lurking in the shadows to cause a massive upset through the courts.

This is not a political permutation at all. It is a purely legal one. But save this post.

The APC has ignored too many legal traps. If they don't immediately take steps to resolve this legal time bomb, the man, if APC wins, who will be sworn in will not be governor, at least for long.

We might just get a governor via an order of court.

It will all boil down to their lawyers and the strategies they deploy sha. The person who will win must have started this legal positioning since yesterday. They can only underrate each other to their own peril".

However, Chief Obono-Obla, a Chieftain of the APC who said his argument was devoid of political sentiments vehemently disagreed with him.

In a rejoinder titled "Re : The APC Road to Cross River State Government House", he argued that the court order which the Minister's faction relied upon to conduct a parallel governorship primaries has nothing to do with the primaries.

He argued that there's no preelection suit pending in court challenging the conduct of the primaries that produced Owan Enoh therefore there was no cause for alarm.

The lawyer maintained that since Usani boycotted the election conducted by the Committee from the NWC which is the only legitimate body responsible for conduct of governorship primaries, he'll run into legal brick wall if he challenges the validity of the election in court.

According to him "Re: The APC Road to Cross River State Government House

I read the opinion expressed by the erudite Barrister First Baba Isah (FBI) on the face book wall of Inyali Peter titled’’ THE APC ROAD TO CROSS RIVER STATE GOVERNMENT HOUSE’’; in which he stated that if APC ignored the many legal traps laid on its path, even if it wins the 2019 governorship election, the person who will be Governor will not be the one, who was sworn but through a court order.

Four days ago, Akpama Emmanuel in boxed me seeking me to give an opinion on the legal implication of the seeming crisis concerning the governorship ticket of APC in Cross River State.

I declined the request of Akpama Emmanuel to do because I didn’t want some people to start insulting or abusing me because of the opinion, I may expressed, which may not go down well with them.

But I just couldn’t resist the urge to join issues with FBI to put the facts of this matter straight.

I vehemently disagree with the opinion of FBI in his essay! The pertinent question is: Is there any pre-election suit pending presently in Court challenging the conduct of the APC Primary Election by any of the aspirants that were cleared to contest the election? The answer is in the negative.

You can only bring a pre-election matter before a Court when you are aggrieved that your Party did not follow the Constitution or Electoral Act or the Party Guidelines on Primary Election! Such a Claimant must have taken part or participated in the primary election.

In the last APC Primary Election, one of the aspirants boycotted the one ordered by the National Executive Committee of APC (which is the only legitimate body that can conduct Party Primary Election)! The aspirant rather conducted his own Primary election and declared himself the winner!

The National Executive Committee of the Party has since submitted the name of Senator John Eno Owah, as its candidate to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Even if the aspirant who conducted his own Primary Election wants to challenge the validity of the Primary Election conducted by the National Executive Committee; he will certainly run into a legal brick wall on the ground of lacking locus standing to challenge an election which he boycotted!

So what is the premise for the argument of FBI that the APC candidate will run into legal trouble or that the aspirant who boycotted the Primaries conducted by the National Executive Committee would eventually be declared by the Court? 

To the best of my knowledge there is no suit pending before the Court challenging the validity of the conduct of the Gubernatorial Primary Election held in Cross River State on the 30 September, 2018.

If FBI is alluding to the suit filed in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja challenging the validity of the decision of the National Working Committee in August 2018 to invalidate the State Congress of the APC (purported held in July 2018) by one of the factions; then, I can’t see how that suit has any bearing or relevance to the Primary Election held in September 30 2018 to nominate the Party Governor Candidate for the State!

That suit to the best of knowledge is only challenging the validity of the cancellation of the State Congress! So if the Plaintiffs in that case win how will such victory be used as legal premises to invalidate the nomination of the Governorship candidate of APC?

I have taken the time to pains studying the Order that the High Court, Abuja made in the case instituted by Mr Sylvester Okpo & Two Others versus APC dated the 20th September, 2018.

I have juxtaposed the facts of that case and the circumstances surrendering the holding of the Gubernatorial Primary Election of APC in Cross River State and have come to the conclusion that they doesn’t relate at all.

The Order has no bearing or relevance to the conduct of the Gubernatorial Primary Election held on 30 September, 2018.
It is pertinent to reproduce the terms of the Order dated 20 September, 2018 thus:

i. That all acts done by the Defendant, by himself , servants, agents, privies, officers or by any organ of the party in flagrant disregard of the injunction issued by the court dated 3 August 2018 in Suit No. FCT/BW/CV/106/2018 and served on the Defendant including the Ward, Local Government and State Congresses held in Cross River State and conducted on 21st and  22nd Days of August 2018 notices to INEC thereof, are null and void and of no effect.

ii. An order is hereby made restraining INEC either by its chairman , secretary or any commissioner or staff from recognising any purported congresses done by the Defendant in Cross River State from 8 August 2018 pending the determination of this suit.

iii. An Order is hereby made directing the Defendant and INEC to continue to recognise and deal with the claimants as the lawful state executives of the party in Cross River State pending the hearing and determination of the originating summons.

From the above, it is as clear as the crystal that the Order obtained by the Claimants on the 20 September 2018 cannot by any stretch of imagination used to invalidate the Gubernatorial Primary Election held on 30 September 2018.

The Gubernatorial Primary Election held on 30 September 2018 can only be invalidated by a suit filed pursuant to Section 87 (10) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

Section 87 (10) of the Electoral Act (supra) provide thus:

’’Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State, for redress’’.

It is pertinent to note that the jurisdiction has been ousted from stopping the holding of primaries or general election.
Section 87 (11) of the Electoral Act (supra) provides thus:

‘’Nothing in this section shall empower the Courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election under this Act pending the determination of the suit’’

As events unfold, we will get to know who is right between the legal juggernauts.
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