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AKWA IBOM GOVERNORSHIP TUSSEL: Trials Of Engr Frank Okon


Engr. Frank Okon

Judge Kafarati

Governor Akpabio

Can Frank Okon overcome the great obstacles on his way and actualize his ambition of being the governor of Akwa Ibom State?

What happened at the federal High Court Two, Abuja, presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati, on Thursday, July 12, would for many years remain indelible in the memory of those who were privileged to be in court that day, other Nigerians and the international community who later got the news from the media. Weeks earlier, notification of judgement in the 2011 Akwa Ibom State governorship tussle between Frank Okon, an engineer, and Godwil Akpabio, a lawyer and governor of Akwa Ibom State, were sent by the same court to the parties involved. And the parties were in court to receive the much expected judgement.

However, after long wait, to most people’s amazement, Babatunde Ashada, registrar of the court, came out and dismissed the court without giving any reason! It was later rumoured that the judge had traveled out of the country that very day. Four days later, the Federal High Court, proceeded on along annual vacation which will last from July 16th to September 14th, 2012. It is now hoped that Justice Kafarati who is now back in the country will fix a new date for Judgement when the annual vacation is over.

In the meantime, some lawyers argued that the Judge could easily have given the Judgement which had been written, to another Judge to read. Again, they insist that he could also deliver Judgement during the annual vacation if he so wishes as skeletal court services continue during the period. However, some other lawyers alleged that the Judge’s hands were tied and there was nothing he could do in the circumstances. Those in this school of thought argue that the Judge could even have been deliberately placed on an international Seminar outside the country.

Okon, a former special assistant to former Governor, Victor Attah, was a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governorship Aspirant in the April 2011 elections in the state. He went to court seeking the nullification of the election of the April 26 governorship election on the ground that he was illegally excluded from the party primary held on January 15, 2011, which returned Akpabio as the party standard bearer. This, he argued before the court, breached his fundamental human rights.

According to Okon, he was screened and cleared by PDP to participate in the party primary initially held on January 9, 2011 which was later canceled by the party. However, “I was schemed out by the collusion between INEC, PDP and Akpabio from the subsequent re-run fixed for January 15,” he said.

Put together, Okon in an amended originating summons of January 5,  2012, formulated 10 issues for determination by the court, supported by a 65-paragraph affidavit he deposed to. Furthermore, he asked the court to grant him nine reliefs. Some of these are: a declaration that the purported re-run primary of January 15, 2011, which produced Akpabio as the Governorship candidate of PDP, did not comply with the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended; that the purported re-run was ordered by the National Working Committee, NWC, presided over by Okwesilieze Nwodo, then chairman of PDP after his tenure had been terminated by an order of an Enugu high Court could not have produced a valid candidate, making it unlawful, null, void and of no effect; that the re-run was discriminatory and prejudicial as he was not issued any notice of re-run by the party, thereby violating his constitutional rights; that the re-run did not comply with the 7 days notice condition before it was conducted with the purported notice issued on January 14 and the re-run conducted on January 15! According to PDP constitution, the NWC has no power to order a re-run; such power resides with the NEC. But the party argued in court that it was as a result of emergency, which Okon described as untenable “as no one is allowed to substitute or vary content of a document orally.”

Consequently, “The conduct of the January 15, 2011 re-run primary election was gross violations of PDP Constitution, the PDP Electoral Guidelines, the Electoral Acts as amended and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” argued Okon.

Okon also raised the issue of Akpabio’s eligibility when he did not have valid evidence that he paid his taxes in the three years preceding the primary. According to Article 14, Part IV of the PDP Electoral Guideline, “an aspirant to gubernatorial primary election shall not be qualified to be nominated or to contest  the primary election, if he/she fails to produce his personal income tax certificate as at when due for the last preceding  three years or evideince of exemption from payment of personal income tax”.

Accordingly, Okon averred that, “The requirement of tax payment is part of the party’s guidelines to be qualified for nomination; once an aspirant shows evidence of exemption from tax, he would have met requirement for nomination and failure to so qualify is fatal.” Against this background, Okon asked the court to declare him as the valid winner of the PDP Governorship primary in Akwa Ibom State; or in the alternative order a re-run of the party primary in the state.

When the court sat on May 3, 2012, the presentation of final briefs by all interested parties on the originating application earlier fixed for the day, was put off due to an application by Paul Usoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Akpabio’s counsel, raising a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court over the case. He cited the April 20, 2012 Supreme Court Judgement which dismissed the appeal by Timipre Sylva, former Governor of Bayelsa State, against his exclusion as candidate in the recent governorship primary in the state. The Supreme Court in the Bayelsa case held that the decision to sponsor a candidate for election is the internal decision of the political party, and not subject to being contested in court.

However, Lasun Sanusi, SAN, Okon’s counsel, argued that the two cases are fundamentally different. For instance, “Sylva was never cleared by the party to stand for election,” he argued. “In the plaintiff’s case, he was screened and cleared by the party to stand for that primaries election, and therefore has the right to challenge the conduct of that primaries election. Again, his name was conspicuously displayed on ballot paper for the January 9, 2011 election. So also was it on the result sheet of that election.” The Judge reserved the ruling of the preliminary objection to July 12 along with the final Judgement.

On its part, the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, which is the first defendant,  asked the court to dismiss the application against the commission for wrongful acceptance of a candidate for an election, saying the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act have not granted it any powers to reject a candidate for election that has been forwarded to it by the relevant officials of the political party. The commission pleaded that once that was done, only the court can decide the legitimacy of the choice, according to relevant laws. “As an umpire, INEC is enjoined to be neutral; hence, it must presume that any name forwarded to it by a political party is a name that emerged from a due process,” submitted the commission. However, it pledged to “Abide by whatever decision or order the court deems fit to make in the circumstance.”

On the other hand, Olusola Oke, SAN, counsel to the PDP, argued that claims by Okon that he was excluded to contest the primary could not be true as evidence showed that he was aware of the rescheduled election of January 15, 2011, but chose to stay away for personal reasons. The party further revealed that Nwodo’s signature was on the documents because they were signed in advance!

However, Sanusi countered that there is nothing in the constitution and regulation of the PDP to show that the party is authorized to accept as valid its documents printed in advance for an election, pointing out that if that is acceptable, then the party may publish the result of the election before they are held.

This was the state of affairs when the date of judgement was set. In Akwa Ibom State, the tension was palpable. There was visible fear at the Hilltop Manson, seat of power. And suddenly, the judgement could not be read. Meanwhile, Okon is on exile abroad. He has received several death threats; his phone and internet accounts have been hacked into to keep tabs on him. It’s a kind of David and Goliath duel as he has little weapons to fight other than the grace of God. His trial is the predicament of the average Nigerian who wants to exercise his right to run for any elective position of his choice as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.

Knowing that a sitting governor has a huge financial war chest and immense connections nationwide, the underdog should have the right to, at least contest, and lose honourably but not to be deliberately excluded from contesting. The court is still the last hope of the common man and Okon has left fate to God through the Court.

By Anayochukwu Agbo

Tell Magazine

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David Mark Versus New Media By Chinedu Ekeke


Senate President David Mark (Former Military Governor of Niger State and Former Minister of Communication)

He has the unenviable reputation of claiming that telephone was not meant for ordinary people when he was Minister of Communication.

David Mark robbed and killed many Nigerians in the past and to this day is continuing his atrocities. He pays himself N600 million every year. He hates the poor.

Nigeria’s Senate president, David Bonaventure Mark, is deeply troubled. And his present state of mind is justifiable. The criminal empire which prince he’s one of is at the verge of crumbling, or so he thinks.  He’s eyeing the kingship of the empire in a few years from now. He wants to rule and reign in the kingdom. He has amassed enough wealth and bought enough souls to make this possible. He dreams of joining the league of candidates for prison who became presidents of Nigeria in the last three or so decades.

But the turn of events, especially since January this year, has jolted him. It doesn’t seem as though he would have any smooth ride to the kingship he so much covets, neither would he have the rest of mind to consume the millions he has so far amassed. He recently heaped the blame on new media or social media. The credibility he has sought to build in the last thirteen years hasn’t even taken off the ground, to his utter dismay. Millions of Nigerians don’t see any reason to take him seriously. He knows – or thinks – social media is responsible for this.
Last Thursday, while declaring open a two-day retreat for Senate Press corps in Umuahia, Abia State, he said there was a need to check the use of social media as Nigerians were using them to demean their leaders. Hear him: “We need to change our attitude on how we report things about our country and we should emulate the foreign reporters who never report negative things about their countries.” So Mr Mark wants to sponsor – and pass – a legislation that would impose restrictions on the use of social media in Nigeria. Once that is done, his confidence in the empire will rebound, and his hopes of assuming the kingship will come back to live.
Again, Mr Mark is justified, because, you see, there’s so much money can buy; and there’s even much more plenty of money can buy. The more money you make without working, the more you want to spend without sweat. He pays himself N600 million from Nigeria’s treasury in one year. That isn’t heavenly or biblical year. It is earthly year as we know it; twelve calendar months, the one within which Barack Obama, the United States president, earns N60 million.
What Mr. Mark pays himself in one year is the salary of a US president for ten (yes, ten!) good years. What Nigeria’s number three citizen takes home, legally, in one year, is what the number one citizen of the world’s biggest economy, and only remaining super-power, earns in ten years. Because no president stays beyond eight years in America, it means what David Mark gives himself as earnings in one year is what will pay at least two American presidents – one for eight years and another one for extra two years.  That means before Mark concludes his four year term, he would have amassed enough money from our treasury that will pay United States presidents for forty years! You see why he has to checkmate social media? You can’t have access to such amounts of free money without being sensitive to any avenue through which opposition rears its envious head.
Interestingly, what Mark is supposed to be doing to be taking such a humongous amount home every year is the same job the United States Vice President combines with his official job as the Vice, and for which he earns less than one-tenth of the money Mr Mark allocates to himself. Actually, it is the president of the US, not his Vice, who earns up to one-tenth of Mark’s annual bazaar. So for taking home N600 million for doing nothing, why will David Mark not feel threatened by social media?
It is even more annoying because years before now, nobody knew how much of injury his avarice –and those of his ilk – inflicted on the nation’s treasury. It was easy for him to buy up the entire mainstream media peopled by brown-envelope-seeking journalists and editors in a hurry to join the resource-grabbing frenzy of those who rule Nigeria. His Ghana-must-go bags were handy for willing media people who had no regards for the sacred role the society, and their jobs, had thrust upon them. Today, Mark can’t control what gets into the new media. He can’t control the number of people who read just a tweet, or Facebook post or blog post, detailing how much David Mark grabs monthly from the purse of a nation in pathetic poverty. He can’t control who reads this piece or who doesn’t. He can’t pull down this website or the other ones linked to it through which this piece will be read by thousands or millions of Nigerians. And this is why he is troubled.
There is also the conscience – or even emotional – side to his discomfort. He hates the poor, and gets angry at the sight of any poor person enjoying whatever he (Mark) considers a luxury. Most of the people who attack him and his tribe of nation-killers on social media do so with telephone which, years ago, he had declared wasn’t for the poor.  The society-made super rich which Mark loves dearly can’t say anything wrong about him on social media. They are all colleagues in the nation-wrecking industry. Clearly, it is those “poor” ones, or those who should be poor but have somehow risen above it, that criticise Mark.
As Babangida’s minister of communication, he told whoever cared to listen to perish the thoughts of making telephone available to Nigerians. He stated, clearly, that telephone wasn’t for the poor. It was for the rich, eaters of hundreds of millions of naira from Nigeria’s commonwealth. Today, the senator watches even roadside mechanics clutching their phones, reading the internet and seeing how much of a curse to them this government has become. If you were Mark, you’d be troubled too.
He saw the shape of things to come from social media last January. The OccupyNigeria protests jolted him and his co-travellers. Forget the lies they took to the market of how opposition hijacked the protests, he knew that the power of social media was at work. But for lack of patriotism of the labour leaders who sold the protests to Mark and his government, the government would have been brought down. And since then, he has watched the social media project himself and the government in their true picture: enemies of the Nigerian people. He saw the Arab spring and how social media swept away his mentors in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and others. The senate president has stomached enough. He isn’t going to take it anymore.
It is a paradox that the same society which David Mark has so much undermined sent him to the Senate to represent them. It is even more shocking that the same Mark was made the president of the Senate, the nation’s symbol of democracy. Yet it is more paradoxical that the head of the institution which should bear the torchlight of democracy is the first person who has openly demonstrated his desire to outlaw the right of the people to freely express themselves.
Mr Mark’s ingratitude deserves a special mention. Here’s a man who was part of Babangida’s gang that collapsed Nigeria’s economy while their private economies, represented by their numerous bank accounts, blossomed. This is the same Mark who failed as a communications minister. Isn’t he supposed to be serving a lifetime in jail? Instead, he bulldozed his way through our polity and just happened in the senate. And for not taking a punitive action against him for his failure, he has got emboldened to punish us.
David Mark has always represented darkness in Nigeria. The senate he leads, which is an effective retirement house for former state treasury looters, has represented everything a nation’s senate should not be. While the lower house rose to the defence of Nigerians during the fuel subsidy protests, Mr Mark and his senate looked the other way round just to preserve the darkness which so much benefits him. While the lower house set up committees upon committees to perform their constitutional oversight functions on federal government ministries, departments and agencies, Mark’s senate chose silence which darkness brings.
He is preaching how reporters should follow their foreign counterparts. Unfortunately, the Senate president, like the other “leaders” in Nigeria, does not read. That raises another question: what does he do with the newspaper allowance he pays himself? If he reads American or British newspapers, then he would understand that a vibrant media will always question their leaders.
But let’s even assume Mark is right about foreign reporters not reporting the negatives about their countries; and we choose to emulate them, has Mark emulated the same foreign countries in insisting that politicians only earn realistic and sustainable salaries? Part of what he wants us to report is that he doesn’t pay himself ten times the salary of the US president, or that he hasn’t made efforts to frustrate, through his senate, the demand of Nigerians that subsidy thieves be prosecuted. Mr Mark hasn’t seen anything yet.
I understand he is a Christian. I would refer him to an interesting portion of the Bible.  It is John 1:5:
“The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.”
New media is the light of the 21st Century, it is shining forth and forcing darkness to give way.
In the coming days and weeks and months, we would know who gives way between David Mark and social media. But I am convinced it won’t be the latter.
 By Chinedu Ekeke

Culled from  saharareporters

Ghana swears in new president after leader’s death


The Late Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills

New Ghanaian President (Former Vice-President) John Dramani Mahama

Ghanaian officials swore in a new president Tuesday, hours after the death of the West African nation’s leader.

John Evans Atta Mills died suddenly at a military hospital Tuesday afternoon a few hours after becoming ill, Chief of Staff John Henry Martey Newman said in a statement. He was 68.

In a ceremony broadcast on state television, John Dramani Mahama — formerly Ghana’s vice president — became the country’s new president and ordered that flags be flown at half-staff for a week.

“This is the saddest day in our nation’s history. Tears have engulfed our nation and we’re deeply saddened and distraught. I never imagined that one day I will address our nation in such difficult circumstances,” Mahama said. “I’m personally devastated. I’ve lost a father, I’ve lost a friend, I’ve lost a mentor and a senior comrade.”

John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as Ghana\'s new president Tuesday.

New Ghanaian President (Former Vice-President) John Dramani Mahama

John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as Ghana’s new president Tuesday.

Officials did not specify what caused Mills’ death. The president had denied rumors about his health for months.

“Does my continued living pose a threat to some people?” he told reporters at a January event, according to the state-run Ghana News Agency.

On June 25, he returned from a medical checkup in the United States, the news agency reported.

Mills was a former law professor and a tax expert. He was Ghana’s vice president from 1997 to 2000.

Before his political career, he taught at the University of Ghana and also was a visiting lecturer at Temple University in Pennsylvania and Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Mills ran for president unsuccessfully in 2000 and 2004 before narrowly winning a runoff in 2009.

Mills’ death came several days after he celebrated his 68th birthday. He had said he would run for re-election in December.

In a statement read on his behalf by Ghana’s information minister Monday, Mills said his government had focused on developing the nation’s economy, according to the Ghana News Agency.

“We made a promise to expand our country’s infrastructural base in support of our economy take-off,” the statement said. “We also decided to invest in the people of our country so as to make them competitive both locally and abroad.”

Mahama said Tuesday that Mills was a “prince of peace” who “brought a distinctive insight into Ghanaian politics.”

The opposition New Patriotic Party expressed condolences in a statement Tuesday.

“We join the nation in mourning this sad loss to Ghana,” the statement said.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Mills when he visited Ghana in July 2009. Obama praised the country as a model for democracy and stability when Mills visited Washington this year.

“Ghana has become a wonderful success story economically on the continent,” Obama said. “In part because of the initiatives of President Mills, you’ve seen high growth rates over the last several years. Food productivity and food security is up. There’s been strong foreign investment.”

In a statement Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron described Mills as “a tireless defender of democracy in West Africa and across the continent.”

Part of a former British colony, Ghana was among the first African countries to gain independence, in 1957. It endured a series of coups before a military dictator, Jerry Rawlings, took power in 1981. Rawlings led Ghana through a transition to democracy about 10 years later.

Mahama, 53, is a former member of Ghana’s parliament who has served as director of communication for the National Democratic Congress party.

On Tuesday, the new president called on Ghanaians to respect Mills’ legacy.

“Our finest tribute to him at this moment is to maintain the unity and stability of our nation,” Mahama said.

Obama hailed Ghana as ‘model for democracy’.

By the CNN Wire Staff

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