It has become public knowledge that Joe Agi, SAN has filed his petition challenging the by-election of the Cross River North Senatorial District which declared the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner. His petition is based on two grounds.
For a start, there is need to bring to the fore that, the petitioner sued both Dr. Stephen Odey and Hon Jarigbe as 1st and 2nd Respondents as well as the PDP as the 3rd Respondent. We must understand that, in election petition matters, the returned candidate and his party are sued as Respondents.
However, the absurd scenario here is that, two individuals and the PDP are being sued as Respondents. This is an indication of a brewing problem somewhere, and if not nipped in the bud, will create an avenue for the tribunal to graciously accede to Agi’s prayers and declare him as the senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District in the senate. Simple legal jurisprudence will show that a party that won an election cannot have two candidates contesting in that election.
A look at the grounds upon which the Petition is brought shows that, ground one touches on the issue of PDP having no candidate because two persons are laying claims to the sole ticket of their party.
The 2nd ground which is very germane, and has the effect of making PDP lose the senate seat is that, Odey is being accused of making false declarations on oath to INEC. The basis of this, is the fact that, he has a criminal conviction hanging like the sword of Damocles over his head. This evidence being presented by Agi, SAN, seem unassailable and Odey cannot disprove this. The records are of public knowledge and same cannot be waved aside. This looks like the biggest joker Agi, SAN has up his sleeves and can knock off the bottom of PDP’s pot.
The fact that two persons are being sued as PDP’s candidates is an indication of an anomaly, which further exposes the party and puts it on the precipice of losing the senate seat.
Understandably, Agi sued both individuals in a bid to ensure that whoever is eventually declared as the authentic candidate of PDP already has his name on record as a party at the tribunal. The implications are that, before that stage is reached, both individuals have time limits to file their answers to the petition. The simple questions will be, What if both individuals file answers that are at variance? And who, between both persons, will the PDP tag along with? Can Odey answer to ground 2 of the petition?
A calm review of the facts that have played out prior to this time shows that, Hon Jarigbe, having obtained a court of appeal judgment in his favour declaring as the authentic candidate of PDP should be allowed to defend the petition.
Secondly, if Hon Jarigbe is allowed to defend the petition, ground 2 of the petition will die automatically. The said ground has nothing to do with him, more so that, the petitioner cannot amend his petition based on the strict laws regulating election petitions.
On the whole, the larger interest of the party is to be looked at and considered, and not the ego or ambitions of individuals. The Appeal Court found Stephen Odey guilty of FRAUD but Stephen lied on Oath as reflected on his INEC Form, exhibited by Joe Agi. Reps Ipsa loquitur.
Leroy Mkpang is a Cross River born Political Analyst and writes from Lagos State.