Ayade, Agi go spiritual, hold parallel rallies ahead December 9 judgment
Since the Supreme Court fixed December 9 for judgment on the legal tussle for the governorship seat of Cross River State, things have not been the same again in the state. There has been tension as rallies, solidarity meetings and lobbying have become order of the day.
Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) had sued the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Ben Ayade and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over issues of perjury and others in a pre-election matter after the party’s primaries that declared Ayade winner.
Agi who came second in the December 8, 2014 governorship primary alleged that Ayade falsified his age that he was born on March 2, 1969, 1968 in different documents and March 2, 1966 in a bio-data issued by the University of Ibadan, which is against the PDP guidelines. Ayade won at the High and Appeal courts.
When the matter came up for hearing on September 27, 2016 in the Supreme Court, counsel to the appellant (Agi) Mr. Ken Ejemanze (SAN), urged the court to hold that Ayade made false age declaration, adding that by that action the governor violated Articles 14 (a) and 15 (2) of the
The provisions of the PDP Electoral Guideline prescribe disqualification for aspirants that falsified their data while filling nomination forms. The PDP lawyer, Mr. Ferdinand P. Ibegbulam, shocked the entire court as he aligned himself with the arguments advanced by the counsel to Agi, saying the party is compelled to protect the provisions of its guidelines.
After the drama of September 27, the governor on October 7, rushed back to Calabar to garner support from his followers after about a month’s stay away in Abuja.
As top government officials organised a rally at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport to welcome and express their solidarity with the governor, supporters of Agi equally put together a parallel rally same day in support of Agi in Ogoja. At Ayade’s rally, it was obvious that the governor has gone spiritual ahead of the December 9 ruling when he said: “God is greater than any law and any might.”
Ironically as the governor was calling for God’s intervention in the matter, some of his supporters who were at the airport to receive him openly carried a coffin with an inscription “Joe RIP” and a red banner with an insignia of a skull and cross bones as they danced round with dexterity.
At the airport rally, made up mainly of government officials and students, Ayade said he came into governance with great dreams for the people and “God will never stop them. God will not. God is greater than any law. God is greater than any might. You might have the intellect or legal capacity. You may have the capacity to manipulate anybody but you can never manipulate God.
“Let it be God’s will that brings peace and unity. Let God’s judgment prevail. God is wonderful. God will not forsake us at this point because God sees the heart. God sees our heart. I came into this office through the inspiration of God and I swore in that name of my late parents that I would always do that that can help the people. Today we are before the court of man to decide the fate and destiny of Cross River people. God shall take control. God shall establish himself. The lion of Judah shall conquer because truly in the name of God I am totally innocent.
Ayade said he has been preoccupied on a daily basis with the welfare of the people and the salaries of the workers in particular, stressing that the manipulation of man over the current predicament will come to nothing.
“Even before I came here today my battle is the payment of local government salaries … worry no more, cry no more, and fear not. If the worst happens, it is God’s will. We have no capacity to appeal at this level. We can only appeal to God. But God you know our heart, you know the case in question. This is not brotherhood anymore; this is extreme. I have never seen this in my life … God called me and said come and be governor. I am a child of God. I am a servant of God. No man can put God down … at the fullness of time, God will reveal himself to man.”
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Niger Delta Development Commission Affairs, Mr. Victor Ekpo who was at the airport rally, commented on its significance, saying, “that goes to show you how the people of Cross River state love their governor because they came en-masse to welcome him.
On the coffin, he said, “it has a spiritual effect. The people are saying make the soul of the matter rest in peace that means we don’t want the case again and as far as Cross Riverians are concerned, they know the matter is dead. It is not that somebody wants to kill Joe Agi.”
Reacting to the governor’s rally and the carrying of coffin, a former PDP Senatorial Aspirant in Northern Senatorial district and former Special Assistant, Contact and Strategy to the governor, Rev. Ray Ugba Murphy, said what is going on is “a pretense and that is the same way they are pretending talking about God. First of all, the problem between Governor Ayade and Joe is a problem within the party. They are both members of the same party and not enemies. They are citizens of the same state, same senatorial district, members of the same profession, Ben is a lawyer and Joe is a SAN and you see them allow people carry a coffin and write Joe Agi on it, it is very sad. It is to tell you the level which governance has dropped in Cross River”.
He said that he does not believe that it has gotten to the level of wishing anyone dead insisting that the whole idea of people carrying coffins in the name of politics was condemnable. He argued that it was an intra-party matter and that Agi was exercising his rights as a citizen who felt cheated and resorted to the court for redress.
And in far away Ogoja, followers of Agi comprising youths and women, organized their own rally drumming up support for Agi with chants that by God’s grace he would be the next governor of the state. Preceding the rally, the youths and women matched through major streets of Ogoja with banners carrying inscriptions like: ‘Cross River State Youths Support Joe Agi,’ ‘We have confidence in the Judiciary,’ ‘Perjury is a crime,’ ‘The law should be allowed to take its cause,’ and many others.
Speaking after the peaceful rally, the leader of the rally group, Mr. Justin Ogar, said “the rally as a matter of fact was meant to tell the world that by the grace of God, Joe Agi, is the ordained governor meant for Cross River state and the stolen mandate has to be recovered through the judiciary which is a process of addressing issues that are
Secondly we did the rally to tell the world that we Cross Riverians have absolute confidence in the Judiciary and God. Carrying of coffin, such an action should be strongly condemned because it does not show maturity and peace in the process of seeking justice. As far as I am concerned, such an act is tantamount to thuggery, violence and desperation.
Since the governor came back, not much has happened in the state in terms of governance except solidarity visits by different groups declaring support for Ayade. Prominent among these groups are members of the State House of Assembly, the Traditional Rulers Council led by Chief Etim Okon Edet and some youths.
However, members of the State House of Assembly paid a courtesy visit on the governor and urged him to remain focused in his quest to develop the state. Led by the Speaker, Mr. John Gaul Lebo, they pledged total loyalty on Ayade, saying, “This is your turning point, for after December 9, the Ben Ayade’s new dimension will have to emerge. By December 9, you will value the office of the governor because your current trial ahead is a trial of the innocence. I want to assure you that as a House, we are strongly behind you in prayers. You have done so well in Cross River State and in the last few months we passed through a lot with you as a governor. We believe that the clarity of your vision as a leader is not in doubt and it is obvious that you have given us a drive to galvanize our collective intelligence as a community to put together in supporting the political and economic direction of Cross River state.”