Akwa Ibom APC: Udoedehe Enlists Support Of Online Media Platform In Last Effort To Save Political Career

 

By Inemesit Akpan

“It is pertinent to note that the result sheet in question was produced by APC, signed, endorsed and ratified by APC and forwarded to INEC by APC; not Obong Stephen Ntukekpo. If there was a forgery as alleged, then APC is in the best of positions to explain or complain. But that is not the case here”.

The embattled former National Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) Pastor John James Akpan Udoedehe has embarked on a well – coordinated and funded media effort to save his wobbling political career. In last ditch moves which clearly reek of desperation, the Governorship hopeful has in recent times engaged in series of letter writing and sponsored features in leading dailies particularly Premium Times, all in a bid to enlist public sympathy by obfuscating facts and creating a false narrative in a bid to continue to blackmail the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON who is the leader of the Party in Akwa Ibom State.

The Congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) started on July 31, 2021 and ended on October 16, 2021 with the State Congresses in most states. Within this period, the Akwa Ibom-born politician who recently started donning the ecclesiastical cassock, was National Secretary and solely responsible for the conduct of the Congresses. He deployed the full weight of his office and powers and ensured that all positions were filled by hand-picked cronies most of whom did not purchase the nomination forms and couldn’t have participated in the congresses of the Party in Akwa Ibom State in the first place.

It is strongly suspected that Pastor Udoedehe and his 8554 minions in the 329 Wards of Akwa Ibom State who paraded themselves as Ward officers did not pay for nomination forms contrary to the Guidelines. Further findings reveal that about 75% of those who were fielded by Pastor Udoedehe as Local Government Officers in the 31 LGAs of the State either did not purchase nomination forms at all or paid for same on the 6th and 7th of September, 2021 after the conclusion of the LGA congresses on September 4, 2021. And like the Ward and LGA officers, it is also suspected that Udoedehe used his position and issued nomination forms to Mr. Ekanem in raw demonstration of power and opportunity. Mr. Austin Ekanem hails from same Senatorial District where the Governorship of the State is zoned to.

On the basis of these infractions of the APC Constitution and Guidelines, the officers who were elected on July 31, 2021 proceeded to the High Court of Akwa Ibom State to challenge the brigandage foisted on the Party by Udoedehe.

In a considered ruling delivered on August 25, 2021 Suit No. HIT/28/2021, the Court restrained the APC and the Wards Appeals Panel Committee led by Senator Abubakar Girei from recognizing or using any other list for the purpose of the LGA congresses except the one presented to the Court. The CECPC which Udoedehe was firmly in charge of characteristically flouted the Order of Court and proceeded to “ratify” the list comprised of Pastor Udoedehe’s minions.

But Udoedehe’s boisterous dance steps at the National Secretariat wobbled when the judgment of the Federal High Court changed the music. In a landmark judgment delivered on March 17, 2022, the Federal High Court set aside the hurried swearing in of Udoedehe’s childhood friend and man Friday, Mr. Austin Ekanem and affirmed that Obong Stepehen Ntukekpo was the duly elected Chairman of APC in Akwa Ibom State having scored the highest number of votes and was therefore declared winner.

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Like a mortally afflicted blind bandit, Udoedehe has lashed out in all directions. He has accused the Courts of issuing a “black market” judgment insisting that the judgment was “procured”. It was then convenient to point accusing fingers at the Minister of Niger Delta and former two-term Governor of Akwa Ibom State Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON as the brain behind his misfortunes.

Upon conclusion of the State congress of October 16, 2021, the summary result sheet was signed by Yusuf Sheriff Banki and Sule Yakubu both Chairman and Secretary of the Congress Planning Committee respectively and forwarded to the appropriate quarters. In the said result, Obong Ntukekpo was the winner having scored the highest number of votes.

However, by some strange occurrence, another result sheet surfaced and is now being bandied about with Obong Ntukekpo listed as tenth on the roll and allocated votes to suit Udoedehe’s fancy and spite majority of stakeholders in the State.

What happened in Court

While in office as National Secretary, Pastor Udoedehe ensured that all results from the State were thoroughly scrutinized, screened and replaced with names from his pet political group so as to secure the Party’s nomination at a possible delegate’s election. He was confident and unapproachable. With his hand in the pocket, he would boast the he was clutching unto his party governorship ticket and not his genitals!

In putting up a fierce legal challenge of the actions of Pastor Udoedehe, Obong Ntukekpo through his Lawyers, applied, paid for and obtained certified true copies (CTC) of all result sheets pertaining to Akwa Ibom State congress in INEC’s custody. Armed with these documents, he approached the Law Court seeking to be affirmed at the Chairman of the Party who actually won the congress of October 16, 2021.

In the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Mai Mala Buni and Udoedehe were sued in their official capacities as National Chairman and Secretary of CECPC respectively while APC and INEC were also joined as Defendants.

In their respective defences, none of the parties could successfully discount the position of Obong Stephen Ntukekpo. While Mala Buni and APC argued over the jurisdiction of the Court, Udoedehe was more interested in giving Banki Sheriff the platform to document his Facebook stories. Banki alleged that the document was a forgery and should not be relied upon. He claimed in his counter affidavit as he is doing now that Obong Stephen Ntukekpo did not contest the congress. But later in the same document contradicted himself when he admitted that Obong Stephen Ntukekpo contested the congress but did not win. In the face of such glaring and irreconcilable contradiction, the Court had no difficulty in applying the law and discountenancing those paragraphs of the affidavit and same were struck out.

The case did not change even after enlisting the support of their natural ally Mr. Mike Igini – INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State. Igini, it was who further compounded their woes when he failed to apply to be joined in the suit to tell his story. Apparently, Igini’s version (as usual) was in conflict with the position of INEC Headquarters, Abuja.

Where then is Obong Stephen Ntukekpo’s offence? Should he have kept quiet and allowed Udoedehe ride roughshod on everyone in furtherance of a blighted gubernatorial ambition while desecrating the rules of the game? Did Udoedehe think he was infallible and invincible?

It took Mr. Banki Sheriff 3 full months after the congress to raise alarm of an alleged forgery. It took him and Udoedehe – who was still in office at the time – two full months to discover that the documents APC under his watch forwarded to INEC were not the ones they would have wished.

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Totally distraught with the outcome of proceedings at the Federal High Court, Senator Udoedehe on the one hand, APC and Mai Mala Buni on the other filed separate Appeals. Curiously, Senator Udoedehe’s appeal was filed on March 28, 2022 when he had left office as Secretary. On April 7, 2022, the APC and Buni withdrew their Appeal and same was dismissed leaving Udoedehe with a badly limping Appeal. The lean chance of success of his Appeal has led to the unrelenting media attacks against the APC leadership and Senator Akpabio. To worsen his woes, the APC National Chairman swore in Obong Stephen Ntukekpo in deference to the judgment of Federal High Court. In a series of letters to the National Chairman Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator Udoedehe had threatened to commit him to jail for contempt. He has pleaded to be allowed to exercise his right of Appeal and defend himself in Court, arguing that he never sued the party.

In furtherance of the desperation to get Obong Ntukekpo out of office and out of the way at all costs, a detachment of Police detectives were despatched from the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), Abuja to Uyo to hunt down Obong Ntukekpo. Their mission, it appeared was beyond routine Police operations. Obong Ntukekpo insists he was never invited to appear and answer to the allegations piled against him by Banki Sheriff. Onlookers who saw the unnecessarily large contingent of armed men in unmarked vehicles around the highbrow Shelter Afrique area report that the men stopped to inspect a local stream around the community before proceeding on their manhunt.

Obong Ntukekpo, like every responsible citizen, has presented himself to the Police and has made statements accordingly and is back home attending to official duties at the ultramodern State Secretariat of the APC located on Ekpo Obot street in Uyo.

What is relevant from Ntukekpo’s interaction with the Police on Monday and Tuesday is that his traducers have been in a blind haste fishing for evidence to incapacitate him so they can take over the Party leadership and make up for already lost grounds. Unknown to them as in every cooked up and poorly choreographed play, there are bound to be fatal errors and inexplicable gaps.

For instance, in his petition dated January 11, 2022, Mr. Banki Sheriff did not accuse Obong Ntukekpo. By that petition, he inadvertently accused the party leadership of complicity in forgery. But how does a Party forge its own documents and to what ends? Between Mr. Banki and APC, there was no intermediary, so at what point was the document forged? Was it forged before it was presented to APC for ratification by CECPC or it was compromised enroute APC National Secretariat and INEC Headquarters especially when INEC admits the document was forwarded to it by APC?

The rather belated infantile tantrums by Akwa Ibom REC in aid of his allies has not been of much assistance to Banki and his college of sponsors as same is food good enough for only a section of the media as the syndicated reports making the rounds have shown. To lend credence to Banki’s unsubstantiated allegations, Mr. Mike Igini has packaged a report from his stable to suit their narrative which has become a convenient reference material. Mr. Igini is notorious for taking up positions which are at variance with those expressed by National Headquarters of INEC. A case in point is when he misled the Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to believe that there existed an INEC “back server”, a position which INEC vehemently debunked. Alhaji Atiku went on to have his petition and subsequent appeal dismissed on grounds of incompetence. Igini’s present disposition is therefore not surprising.
“I have never seen this man; never heard his name before. Mr Ntukekpo did not participate in the congress”, Banki Sheriff swore on Tuesday before interrogators at the Force Criminal Investigation Department. However, when confronted with the same video he was seen and heard yelling out the name of “Stephen Ntukekpo”, he was speechless. The said video confirms that Mr. Ntukekpo was an aspirant in the congress. It invariably means he was screened and cleared to contest the congress contrary to the lies peddled by Banki and Udoedehe in their counter affidavit before the Federal High Court. The puzzle around the alleged forgery will also explain the discrepancies in the figures eventually announced by Banki and that which was submitted to APC in the summary result sheet. Why the duo have chosen the path of falsehood is baffling.

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Banki has questions to answer before Law enforcement

Sule Yakubu was the Secretary of the Congress committee. The allegedly forged summary result sheet also bears his signature. He maintains that his signature was not forged and wonders how that of Banki could have been forged. In an affidavit deposed to by Sule Yakubu at the Federal High Court and made available to the Police, he has maintained that neither his signature nor that of Banki Sheriff were forged. He further insists that both signatures are original. This is opposed to misleading reports in the media that “…the secretary of the congress organising committee, Yakubu Sule’s signature, was also forged”.

To drive home his point, in letters dated January 20, 2022 and addressed to the DSS, Sule Yakubu had also complained of impersonation and forgery. He insists that he did not write the letter dated January 18, 2022 which Banki Sheriff heavily relies on. He said, “the letter dated January 18, 2022 purportedly signed by me is totally strange to me as I did not author it or authorize anyone to do so on my behalf”. Writing further, Sule described the features of the offending letter as bearing striking similarity with the one written by Banki Sheriff on January 11, 2022.

Writing further, he explains: “for instance … it bears same or strikingly similar content as the letter dated January 11, 2022 and authored by one Sheriff Banki Yusuf who served as the Chairman of State Congress Committee (SCC) for Akwa Ibom State. It carries same size and font characterisation and design as the letter dated January 11, 2022 and authored by Sheriff Banki Yusuf”. Sule concluded: “To all intents and purposes, the letter seeks to achieve same purpose as the letter dated January 11, 2022 and authored by Sheriff Banki”. Who impersonated Sule Yakubu and forged his signature on the letter dated January 18, 2021? Only Banki Sheriff can answer this question.

While Sule Yakubu has restrained himself from naming Banki Sheriff as the felon, there is every likelihood that the forger is no other than the man who has sought to reconstruct the outcome of the congress of October 16, 2021 by making spurious allegations to the Police, DSS and INEC to deflect attention from his complicity in a crime that he perpetrated.

It is pertinent to note that the result sheet in question was produced by APC, signed, endorsed and ratified by APC and forwarded to INEC by APC; not Obong Stephen Ntukekpo. If there was a forgery as alleged, then APC is in the best of positions to explain or complain. But that is not the case here.

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