By Jude Atupulazi
Hon Barr Val Ayika, former State Assembly member for Njikoka 1 State Constituency, and currently House of Reps member-elect for Anaocha, Njikoka, Dunukofia Fed Constituency, speaks with Fides Editor-in-chief, Jude Atupulazi, on his mandate, the distractions of the tribunal, and his resolve to deliver on his mandate.
Hon. The trend now is that most candidates are in court, either trying to take what they believe is their mandate or sustain their mandates, are you in court?
Yes, I am. Not one even, but two. I’m at the elections petition tribunal to answer for a petition filed by “my brother” Hon Dozie Nwankwo, the candidate of APGA in the general elections. I am equally at the tribunal to defend a joinder; an application by Richard Egenti, who challenged my primary election victory at Abuja High Court which later went to the Court of Appeal, Abuja and later at the Supreme Court, and his attempt to upturn my victory at the primary elections was declared a nullity. And the meaning of nullity in law is something that never existed in law. The legal jargon will say it does not exist de jure but it does exist de facto. In fact it existed because there are documents to show there was such an exercise, but in law it goes to no issue, it doesn’t really exist. Nothing will be attached to it. So the implication actually is, as of 3rd of October, 2018, that I emerged victorious in the primary election organised by my party PDP, in order to field a candidate for Njikoka, Dunukofia, Anaocha Federal Constituency, and my name subsequently on the 18th of October, 2018, submitted to INEC, as of that point, I became the candidate of PDP for the 2019 general elections. The little interruption by Egenti, by way of the trial court, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court; by that judgement of the Supreme Court, that the exercise was a nullity, it means that my candidacy was as constant as the Northern Star, was as steady as Mount Zion, like the Rock of Gibraltar that never shakes and ever remains the same.
Now to my greatest surprise, the APGA candidate, Dozie Nwankwo, also went to the tribunal to challenge my victory at the general elections, indirectly repeating the same thing that Egenti played. This time around, he is claiming that my name was not submitted to INEC; that the PDP recommended that Egenti won the primary; that PDP did not at any time submit my name to INEC. These things will fall like a pack of cards because the best evidence you can talk about in law is a documentary evidence. And all these things we are talking about are all in documentary form. If you talk about the Section 85 of the Electoral Act, we have evidence that PDP wrote to INEC in compliance with 21 days requirements for primary elections. We have evidence that is in compliance to Section 87 of the Electoral Act, which requires that all political parties that want to field candidates should conduct primaries. My own party fell under Sub-Section 4 of Section 87 of the Electoral Act which talked about indirect primaries. And again the guidelines of my party made it clear, coupled with the Electoral Act provisions, that whoever scores the highest number of votes in the primary election is the winner of that primary election and his name will be forwarded to INEC. That was my case. I won the election, my name was submitted. Again the Electoral Act, either by Section 34 or thereabouts, made it clear that one week after the submission of Form CF001 and Form EC4B4 by the candidates, it must be published in different constituencies where the candidate is contesting elections. It is on record, corroborated by INEC officials, that my own form was published at Njikoka, Dunukofia and Anaocha Local Govt Headquarters. Again, the document with which my name and other 10 House of Reps candidates of PDP were submitted to INEC, was there. The acknowledgement copy with which INEC acknowledged the receipt from the candidates of PDP for the Federal House for 2019 elections for Anambra was also attached. A report written by the INEC official who came and monitored the primary election of PDP in my constituency in line with section 85 of the Electoral Act also is there. Police report for primary elections, because in primary elections, police also comes around, is there.
So in a nutshell, I am saying that, I am really at a loss as per what is the claim of my brother in the elections petitions panel. That will be my summary of it because in the face of the presence of all these documents mentioned, somebody is still saying, you are not a candidate, you are not sponsored by any political party, there is no independent candidacy as provided by Section 65, Sub-Section 2B which states that you must be a member of a political party and must me sponsored by that political party. My membership ID card has been there, 2011 to 2015, I was in the House of Assembly as a member of the PDP, so my membership of the party is not in question.
I am also aware that there are moves from some of your opponents to stop you from being sworn in, can you confirm that?
Oh yes, it’s really unfortunate that in this very little and short life that we have, some people; may be out of ignorance or lack of knowledge of what life is all about, like to play God and would be boasting as if they can add one hair to their head. Some people are calling me and alleging of some surreptitious, covert and overt dare-devil moves to be sure that I will not be sworn in. This was the same thing they tried to do as of when I wanted to collect my certificate of return. But the living God who gave me victory and the prayers of the people who voted me in, made sure that their devilish acts didn’t come to fruition. And I believe that the same thing also will repeat itself, that I will be sworn in with my other elected members because there is no law stopping me from being sworn in, just like all other elected members. I believe that all their devilish plans will not manifest because the Living GOD that I worship, and who my voters worship, will see me through.
Are you encouraged by the fact a precedence has already been established on this; as in Buhari’s case where he was sworn in despite moves for him not to?
Well, yes, because in law, just like we have it in the Electoral Act, that no court should stop primary election or general elections; that is left for INEC.
If somebody has been elected, with Certificate of Return issued, if you have any grudge, all you need to do is to approach an election petition tribunal; that is what the law says. Any other move is illegal and in court we call it nullity.
Ok in this matter, what role is INEC playing, are they for you or against you on the allegations that there was no primary election?
INEC is with me 100%. In fact INEC is defending the victory more than me because the law made it clear that once INEC declares a result, they are legally bound to defend the result. So that’s why sometimes when you go to court, you see INEC defending a member of the APC on one hand and an APGA member on the other hand. INEC is an impartial umpire. They are not part of the politicking. All their duty is to defend the results that they declare.
Beyond the election petition matters, would you say that these things are distracting you from pursuing your objective of representing your people?
Yes, 100%. I mean I never knew that it could be as distracting as it is because initially, I was saying anyway, it’s ok, before the inauguration or this and that. Remember I was doing some projects ever before the matter was instituted. I had about 5 projects I was undertaking. And come to think about it, the financial implication is overwhelming because once you call a lawyer and say elections petition, he goes into millions. Again, you also will have to go and hire a senior advocate because my brother is using one of the most famous senior advocates.
In fact, in his team of lawyers, there are three senior advocates. And for the judges, there is this feeling, which may or may not be real, that they listen more to senior advocates because they believe that they already know the law more. So if you bring just any other lawyer, it may not augur well with you. So it is really distracting. I have taken up the 2018 budget to really see what it’s all about, it took me almost 2 days to fish out one single thing there. You have over 3000 pages there, so someone going to represent a Federal Constituency needs time to concentrate. I have said before the inauguration that I should have been able to prepare about 5 motions that I want to submit to the House, but because of these interruptions and distractions, I have not been able to accomplish that. So it’s really disturbing.
So can you let us know some of the projects that you were planning to do before now?
One of those things that matter is our health. Health they say is wealth. I wanted to discuss with one of the people involved in the National Health Insurance Scheme to find out the details of how some of my constituents, starting with the elderly ones, since I have 22 communities that I represent, I could say ok, in a community, let me single out, 10 aged men and women. In totality you will be having about 220 of them, to find out from the people in charge of the scheme how much it will cost every month, so that I will calculate and find out if it is something I can afford. And if it is something that is affordable, I will know if I can increase or reduce the number. But it is something I must really have to do.
Again for pregnant women, one of the most frequent calls I receive from hospitals are women who have given birth, especially through operation and they don’t have money to pay. They will call you and say their wives and children are held hostage in the hospital because of lack of payment. I also don’t know why the government has not considered it something worthwhile to capture as many people as possible in that policy. So that’s part of what I want to do.
Then again, I was also trying to recruit some group of people picked from different localities called Committee for Sanitation and Water Supply, because I consider it as something very fundamental and important that every secondary school within my constituency should have a functional borehole. And also a number of other things I was working on before the distractions came. An adage says “afu ife ka ubi, elee oba”, so I have to abandon the projects for now and go defend my mandate.
From the projects you enumerated, it seems your objective is slightly different from that of your predecessor, is that an indication that you are not very satisfied with the way he was going?
Well, he didn’t really do anything, that’s the thing. I can’t remember any project that he did, but I’m aware that he took time to pay out stipends to some young fellas in the neighbourhood. I really can’t tell of any project that he did, but for me, my idea of it is that, I am not into white elephant projects, my attention will be focused mainly on those basic things we need. You see if you look around, you will see that in this 21st century, there is still high incidence of defecation in the public which is not meant to be. We shouldn’t be like irrational animals. So am going in there to lay foundation for those basic things that are needed by society. I’m not going into e-library or building libraries, no. I will do those things that will add value to our lives; that will make us rethink and know that we are humans, not animals who just walk by the road side and start defecating. We will have toilets and amenities that are required as minimal basic requirements, I will go into those things.
Despite the distractions, what is your assurance to your constituents? Are you assuring them that things will get better, that they shouldn’t fear; or that because of the distractions you wouldn’t be able to meet up with your promises?
I think it will be too big a promise, because by the time my colleagues will be in Abuja aligning and realigning, struggling for committees, I may be here in Awka facing my elections petition matter because I believe part of the reason why that matter was instituted was to distract me; to make sure that I will not perform optimally. But they say a true captain is known in times of storm. Sometimes we need friction for us to move around. The eagle flies against gravitation.