The deafening noise about the authenticity of the certificates of the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno was laid to rest on Friday following the judgement by the Federal High Court in Uyo.
Prior to Friday’s judgement, the PDP Governorship Candidate was going about his campaigns in preparation for the 2023 polls, but the certificate forgery suit hanging against him seemed to be a dent, especially in the eyes of ordinary citizens.
PRESSINFORMAT reports that one of the governorship aspirants and then commissioner for Economic development and Ibom Deep Sea Port, Mr Akan Okon had in Suit No. FHC/UY/CS/110/2022 alleged that Umo Eno, the PDP candidate forged his 1981 and 1983 WAEC certificates presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the PDP.
He further alleged that Eno’s voter’s card and birth certificate were also falsified and urged the court to disqualify him and announce him (Okon) the winner of the primary.
However, the Judge, Justice Agatha Okeke dismissed the suit for lacking in merit, saying that Okon acted on speculations and assumptions even as she awarded N15 Million damages in favour of Umo Eno.
Okon has rejected the ruling describing it as ‘a miscarriage of justice,’ stating that he would be heading to the appellate court.
Expressing reservations in a press statement he said, “both oral and documentary evidence abound that the certificates were forged, but the judge carefully avoided evaluating the parties and the noticeable discrepancies pointed out in the certificates.
“The legal team of Mr. Akan Okon however, believes that the ruling was done in error, consequently, they are set to test the veracity of the case at the Appeal Court.”
Akwa Ibom State has remained a PDP State since the inception of democratic rule in 1999, hence every successive government described the party as a religion in the State.
But it is instructive to note that the people’s perception and orientation about party has changed in recent times as voters now consider personality against party, therefore, 2023 elections may no longer be business as usual.
There have been divergent views and expectations over the recent judgement as some argued that the judgement changed nothing in terms of people’s perception of the victory of the PDP in 2023, while others believed it was a great boost to victory.
The spokesman of the PDP/Umo Eno Campaign Council, Prince Chris AbasiEyo had expressed high hopes that there would be an influx of strayed but intelligent politicians back to their fold (PDP) at the wake of the court judgement.
AbasiEyo also encouraged those willing to come back to the party to do so as the umbrella is wide enough to accommodate them.
In a press release he signed which was entitled: ‘Akan Okon vs Umo Eno: As the Court Pleases,’ AbasiEyo said, “expect more human traffic towards our Party and a huge boost to the camp of Pastor Umo Eno in the days and weeks ahead as intelligent politicians who were misled into believing lies filed in Courts, will be abandoning the sinking ships in droves to reunite with the God-ordained winning team.
“For those who were misled and even those who led others astray on a mission impossible, the Umbrella is still large enough to accommodate you and your interests. All it takes is patience. We dare to say that yesterday’s pronouncement of the Federal High Court and other similar decisions are unmistakable signposts to 2023.
“Be wise enough to see the direction they are pointing and timeously read the clear handwriting on the wall to make informed electoral choices. The Akwa Ibom Project needs everyone, including you.”
Similarly, the Coalition of Personal Aides to governor Udom Emmanuel said that the PDP’s victory at the Federal High Court would be replicated in the 2023 polls.
In a statement signed by the coalition’s secretary, Mr Ndueso Essien, the group said: “while we congratulate the Governorship hopeful, Pastor Umo Eno on his victory at the Court, we see yesterday’s victory as the prelude to the victory at the polls come March, 2023, as the entire Akwa Ibom State can now attest to the fact that Pastor Umo Eno is a man of veracity and character.”
However, in an interview with the Chairman of the Forum of Civil Society Organisations in the State and Advocate of good governance, Dr Harry Udo, he said the High Court ruling will not change much in terms of victory of the PDP in the general elections but on the reputation of the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Umo Eno.
“Nothing much has been changed except that the reputation of Umo Eno has been held intact. Nothing much has happened to the fortunes of the PDP as it were. I doubt that the victory at the law court has boosted PDP’s chances of victory at the election next year,” he said.
Udoh said the victory or failure of PDP at the polls was not tied to the court judgement but on the perception of the people over the emergence of the party’s flagbearer, saying that many people lost interest in the ruling party the moment the governor failed to be neutral and be a father to all during the primary.
He said that some people are still not at peace with the manner Pastor Eno was single handedly picked by the governor.
He added that even though the judgement of the Federal High Court was against Umo Eno, the people have already made up their minds on the party to vote for, saying that the PDP needed to put more efforts in persuading the people to vote for them in 2023, otherwise another opposition party may oust them by gaining sympathy votes.
According to him, “The judgement may be a booster to members of the PDP but will not really change the situation around the State because the apathy PDP seemed to have wasn’t because of the certificate issue but because of the emergence of Umo Eno. Leaders were not given the opportunity to choose and the governor did not make sincere efforts to assuage the pains of aggrieved members.
“Umo Eno is a nice person and I don’t think people really have a problem with him but with the governor the way he went about it, that is the angst, if people are voting against the PDP, it is not against Umo Eno but against the current governor. So those sentiments still remain; it’s left for the PDP to work hard, it’s left for Umo Eno to sell himself and try to assuage the anger of the people.”
Meanwhile, the Young Progressives Party, YPP, formerly unpopular in the Akwa Ibom political space is now a party growing at every leap and bounds in the State since the entrance of its governorship candidate, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan who was a stakeholder and governorship aspirant of PDP before resigning from the later.
Senator Akpan, popularly known as OBA while in the PDP, was not favoured by the governor as the anointed successor; therefore, at the eve of the PDP primary, he announced his resignation from the party and later joined the YPP where the then governorship candidate and chairman of the party, Pastor Nyenime Andy relinquished his ticket to him (OBA) through a re-conducted primary.
Senator Akpan carried along with him the former commissioner for Works and later Chief of Staff (CoS) to Governor Udom Emmanuel, who is the Senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom South, former House of Representatives member for Abak Federal Constituency, Emmanuel Ekon and former House of Assembly member for Uyo State constituency, Usenobong Akpabio who are the Senatorial candidates for Akwa Ibom North-West and North-East, respectively.
The party, which has become the main opposition party in the State (may be due to the suit against the governorship candidate of the APC) is growing like wildfire with structures and offices set-up across the 329 Wards in the 31 LGAs.
The party is making frantic efforts to oust the PDP in the State by 2023 as it is a common knowledge that the party is gaining the sympathy of the people, but the ruling PDP remains a stronghold, especially at the rural areas.