Agom's Victory , Odey's Performance And Ayade's Defection: Why C'River North People Are The Winners

By Inyali Peter 

On Friday, the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross River State finally put an end to the battle for the Cross River Senatorial seat. Rt. Hon. Jarigbe Agom of the PDP and Member representing Ogoja/Yala federal constituency was declared as the duly elected Senator for the Senatorial district. 

The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Sen. Steve Odey of the People's Democratic Party, PDP who had strong backing of Governor Ben Ayade winner of the December fifth by-election. He was subsequently sworn-in as Senator on the 16th of December after initial uncertainty surrounding the authenticity of his candidature. 

But that was the beginning of many problems that will follow, including the Governor dumping his former party, the PDP for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

Recall that shortly after the election and before Ayade defected to the APC, Justice Binta Mohammed of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had in her judgment declared Agom who was Odey's major challenger for PDP's ticket as the validly nominated candidate. 

Odey, on the other hand, also got a counter judgment from another High Court in Calabar affirming him as the candidate of the PDP. It was this judgment that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan relied on to swear Odey in as Senator. 

But a day after Odey's swearing in, there was another twist to the matter as Agom was again declared authentic candidate by the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal. Mr. John Alaga who instuted the suit against Agom had appealed the judgment of the High Court declaring Agom as winner. But the appellant court in a unanimous judgment, dismissed his appeal as frivolous, vexatious and abuse of court process.

Justice Peter Ige who read the judgment held that having not participated in the primary election of the party, the appellant, Mr. Alaga lacked the locus standi to institute the suit. INEC was ordered to issue Agom a certificate of return as the duly elected Senator and the commission acted accordingly. 

But , Sen. Odey who was neither listed as a party at High Court or Appeal, applied to the court of appeal to be given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court as an interested party. This turn out to be his biggest error 

As the  Supreme Court dismissed his appeal on February 25th, 2021 and upheld the judgment of the court of appeal that declared Agom as the validy nominated candidate of PDP and winner of the by-election. 

Agom, however was not sworn-in as the matter was still in the tribunal. 

Nevertheless, the legal tussle was finally put to rest on Friday with the Appeal Court judgment that declared Mr. Agom as the duly elected Senator. The appeals by All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Mr. Joe Agi, SAN and Odey were dismissed. 

Political watchers and lawyers alike have blamed the decision of Odey to join the Alaga vs Agom's suit as his biggest albatross. Had he not joined, they said, the Supreme Court judgment which the appellant court relied upon to give Agom victory wouldn't have had any legal effect on him. 

This judgment may be bad for me judging from a partisan perspective but generally, it good as it goes beyond the victory for Agom and PDP. The true winner in the battle are the people of Cross River North. 

This is so because, the Senatorial district has never had a really competitive Senatorial election before. Almost all the previous Senators in recent times have been foisted on the people by Governors. 

Apart from Senators Kanu Agabi and Musa Adede who were Senators between 1999-2007, all others that came after were products of the "The Governor Say" political idealogy. The idealogy which became prominent from the Sen. Liyel Imoke 's time simply prefess the supremacy of Governors. Whether the people likes it or not, anybody that the Governor annoints must be. 

That was how Sen. Ben Ayade who is now the Governor of Cross River State emerged. His predecessor, Sen. Gregg Ngaji second term win was a product of the Governor say idealogy. And the late Senator, Rose who emerged candidate and winner from her sick bed abroad was the icing on the cake. Even Sen. Odey whom had been sacked won the by-election because of the Governor's backing. 

Agom, when sworn-in will be not only the first Senator from Ogoja local government but the first in recent times that has emerged outside the circle of the Governor's say syndrome. And this is good for the masses because it will put all the political actors on their toes to work. 

Sen. Odey, despite going to the Senate with the Governor's backing will go down history as one of the most productive Senators from the zone even though here was barely seven months in the Senate. His performance is not unneconnected to the fact that he had a strong challenger and knows that it's no longer business as usual. So, even if he was holding brief for anybody as touted by many, he needed to perform for the people to even consider voting for whoever he was holding brief for and he sure did. 

His bill for the establishment of Federal Instute of Information Technology in Ogoja still stand as the fastest Cross River North Senator bill passed by the National Assembly. So, he'll not be leaving the Senate as a disaster but as record setter. 

Also, with Agom coming, he knows that he must maintain his impressive performance while in the  Reps as Senator to stand a chance against the ruling in 2023. Without performance, the people won't mind sticking their necks for anybody they know will work for them. 

Indeed, Cross River North is in for interesting times ahead of 2023 as all parties will sit up in their politics and governance. With the Governor now in APC, 2023 will present great opportunity for the zone to have a competive election where the people will have a pole of options to elect from. And this explains why the Governor's defection and Agom's victory are win-win for the people.

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