Nigeria’s most serious problems of governance are all underwritten by an all pervading climate of impunity that blocks change.
What is playing out in Imo North Senatorial district is a clear case of powerful individuals throwing everything at their disposal in an attempt to either keep themselves in power or intimidate average Nigerians into abandoning any dream of joining active politics.
Frank Ibezim’s political ambition seems to be the latest casualty of powerful political gladiators in the country
On the 5th of February 2021, The Supreme Court of Nigeria, upheld the 4th December 2020 decision of the Appeal court which held that Frank Ibezim was wrongfully denied fair hearing by the trial court that earlier disqualified him as the candidate of the APC in the December 5th 2020 Imo North Senatorial by-election.
The High court, in a suit which Ibezim was not party to, had ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to replace him with Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume as the APC candidate for the election.
With the Supreme Court victory, Frank Ibezim seemed set to be issued a certificate of return as the rightful winner of the December 5th senatorial election in Imo North.
The very next day being Saturday 6th January 2021, the Court of Appeal in Abuja surprisingly upheld the disqualification of the same Frank Ibezim as the candidate of APC in the election for allegedly submitting forged educational credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and inconsistency in his name. In bringing down the hammer on Ibezim, the judge hit Ibezim with a lifetime ban from holding public office.
With the conflicting judgement of 5th and 6th January 2021, the swearing in of Frank Ibezim as Senator representing Imo North was put on hold.
The true situation
Following the death of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu in 2019, the Imo North Senatorial seat became vacant. The election initially scheduled to hold on October 31, was postponed due to the nationwide #EndSARS protests.
The Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) eventually fixed December 5th 2020 for a by-election to fill the vacant seat.
Primaries were earlier conducted by various political parties and Frank Ibezim defeated Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and nine others to emerge as the APC candidate.
Senator Ifeanyi Ararume having failed to secure the nomination of the APC after the Primaries has been on a hunt to get Ibezim disqualified. He went ahead and instituted several suits against Ibezim in Owerri, Portharcourt and Abuja apparently hoping that one sticks.
The Senatorial District bye- election was ultimately held on December 5, 2020 and was contested by 14 political parties. Surprisingly, the electoral umpire announced no particular candidate winner, but rather awarded victory to the APC as a party.
The Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Francis Ezeonu, said the decision of the Election Management Body to return the party without a candidate, was due to conflicting judgments of the Appeal Court sitting in Owerri and the Federal High Court, Abuja on the eve of the election.
It was thought that the Supreme Court decision of 5th February 2021 finally put to rest the question of who the authentic APC candidate for the election was. However with the Appeal court decision of the next day upholding his disqualification by a lower court, it is imperative that we look at how they arrived at the decision in the first place.
Specifically, Justice Ekwo of the High court, held that there were discrepancies in Ibezim’s WAEC’s Statement of Results and Certificate of Results with one having 9 and the other 7 subjects and therefore ruled that Ibezim was guilty of forgery.
Most legal luminaries following the case questioned how forgery or perjury (which are criminal allegations) could have been established against him especially when the issuing institutions have not come out to disown the certificates. One wonders why the court found it difficult to differentiate between a statement of result and a certificate of result. A Statement of Results contains all subjects which the candidate registered for or intends to sit for; whereas the Certificate of Results simply lists only the subjects the candidate actually PASSED.
From the available records which were also tendered in court, Ibezim registered for Nine subjects as is evident on his Statement of Results. Out of the NINE subjects registered, he cleared SEVEN and triumphed with overall GRADE 1(ONE) result as is clearly reflected on his Certificate of Results.
He didn’t sit for two subjects (Statistics and Accounts), and they were accordingly not listed on the Certificate of Results where ONLY PASSED subjects are listed. It was the otherwise difference in the number of subjects listed on the Statement and Certificate that the opponents are propagating as Fake Results. Perhaps there is need for WAEC to educate the Public on this because many people are in this same position.
It was with this Statement of Results that he gained admission into the old Imo State University, now Abia State University where he studied and graduated with Bachelor of Science Degree (B.Sc) in Industrial Chemistry. He subsequently completed his NYSC in Rivers State and was accordingly given a certificate.
Also of importance is the issue of discrepancies in Ibezim’s name, which the court claims are “irreconcilable”; that is Ibezim Chukwuma Frank and Ibezim Francis Chukwuma. It is important to note that there is no discrepancy in the names as they appear on his certificate. ALL the certificates bear IBEZIM, FRANCIS CHUKWUMA.
However, the voters card has the variation of the name and bears “FRANK” instead. One wonders how anyone can honestly say that “FRANCIS” and “FRANK” are irreconcilable. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Frank Ibezim swore to an affidavit to “reconcile” the names but this too was not enough for justice to prevail.
The general belief in Imo State is that Frank Ibezim is being haunted by more experienced politicians who are visibly irked by his effrontery to join the Senatorial race. A race that they feel should be left for goons and vagabonds.
*Stanley Azuka, writes from Owerri, Imo State