Tension has griped the political class as the Federal High Court Calabar is set to deliver judgment on a case between Sen. John Owan and Sen. Bassey Otu over who is the All Progressives Congress (APC) authentic governorship candidate for Cross River.
The Federal High Court had fixed today, Monday, October 24 to rule on Owan and Otu’s legal battle for Cross River APC governorship ticket.
Enoh had after the May 26, 2022 Cross River State governorship primaries, challenged the declaration and subsequent submission of Sen Bassey Edet Otu as the party’s governorship candidate by instituting a case in a Federal High Court, Calabar in Suit No. FHC/CA/061/2022 between him and APC, INEC and Sen Bassey Edet Otu. Otu polled 887 votes to defeat Sen Owan Enoh who scored 84 votes.
Arguing the case, the counsel to Sen. John Owan Enoh, Awa Kalu (SAN), said to be qualified to run for party primaries, the aspirants must be careened by the screening committee set up by the second defendant (APC) and cleared to run for party primaries, which is a major criterion for aspirants participation in party primaries.
He further argued that,”Our submission is that, based on the documents available to us, the third defendant (Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu), has not showed that he was fully cleared after screening and the plaintiff hasn’t equally indication that there was an appeal to the screening committee from the third defendant.
“From our point of view, the hearing has been concluded, because the proceedings where started by originating summons and its a simple and straight forward procedure. We withdrew the subpoena in other not to lose sight of the main complaints and of want of time.
“It is the first defendant who has submitted to the court what they call school leaving report and testimonial. The third defendant (Basey Otu), did not attach to the counter affidavit any such examination report.
“If the third defendant did not present his credentials and wasn’t cleared by the screening appeal committee, why and how did the National working committee of the first defendant fully clear him (third defendant) for the primary elections?
“What the guidelines establishes is for the National Working Committee to step in, with the authorisation of the national executive council so that authorisation therefore must be made visible.”
Responding, the counsel to the third defendant, Mike Ozhekome (SAN), argued that “after all said and done, the argument is whether the first defendant (APC) cleared the third defendant. We summit that the clearance of aspirants for primary elections is that of the party.
“The clearance of third defendant is to be done either by the screening appeal committee or the party, or the National Working Committee of the party. Those are the two bodies to clear a candidate. The plaintiff has admitted this fact in paragraph 6 i and n, of the plaintiff affidavit.
“Since the plaintiff has admitted that the national working committee has the power to clear a candidate who was not cleared by the creaming appeal committee, the plaintiff cannot argue, because the NWC has that power.
“But based on article 31(3) and (2) of the APC constitution which is exhibit f, (21) of the first defendant counter affidavit, On this point; we submit that the first defendant (APC) is in the best and rightful position to tell the court the aspirants that were cleared. Weather the NWC is right to clear the third defendant, is not the business of ths court, it is the internal affair of the first defendant(APC).”
According to him, “we were able to demonstrate that the third defendant in these proceedings
(Senator Bassey Otu), is qualify and over qualified to run for governorship in 2023; section 318 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), only identify reading up to secondary school level to run for political office.
Checks by Daily Sun revealed that some APC bigwigs and both camps of Owan Eno and Bassey Otu are tensed up over what what would be the outcome of tomorrow judgment.
The party stalwarts agreed that the outcome would really go a long way to setting the direction of campaigns ahead of 2023 poll.
A stalwart from Ikom, Emmanuel Agbor, 61, said: “If I tell you I am not worried, I am lying to myself. Those of us from Ikom are tensed up because Sen. Eno is our son and we pray he win at Court. We have been offering special prayers and we hand over everythig to God.”
A former House of Assembly aspirant from Yakurr local government area who simply gave his name as Ibor, said: “We cannot wait for the outcome. We queue behind Owan Eno and do hope that justice would be done with regard to his prayers. Our party would be the better for it.”
Also expressing worry at the outcome, Bassey Nyong, 38, from Akpabuyo local government area, said: “We are somewhat disturbed because it is slowing down Sen. Otu’s campaign plan. Dragging him to court even when the party has given him the ticket is anti-party.
“It is high time politicians play by party rules. But we are optimistic that Otu would come out victorious at the court on Monday.”
One of Sen Otu’s die-hard supporters and a member of Tinubu Presidential Campaign Council, Prince Ekanem Ekpo, said:” We are not worried about the Federal High Court judgment slated for today, Monday, October 24 because Otu has no case to answer. It is just a distraction. Sò we are sure of victory and have been going about our campaigns.”