Buhari Drums Support for Usani?

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It is shocking that despite several calls for action by the leadership the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja and Calabar over the governorship tussle claims by the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani, President Mohammadu Buhari has kept sealed lips.

But some party loyalists have argued that the President’s action at the U. J. Esuene stadium where he lifted Senator John Owan Enoh’s hand as the governorship candidate of APC in the state was enough because “action speaks lauder than words”.

The leadership of the APC had called for Pastor Usani to either be suspended or out-rightly expelled for alleged anti-party activities, but President Muhammadu Buhari in different forum had thumbed up Usani for what he described as the Minister’s loyalty and commitment to his administration, and therefore asked Cross Riverians to be proud of the Pastor-cum politician.

President Buhari made the remarks at the palace of the Obong of Calabar during his visit to the Monarch in the course of his campaign tour of the state. The Obong, His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V, had appealed to the President to direct the contractor handling the Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba roads to hasten up especially from Odukpani axis which he said is in terrible state.

Apparently addressing the Obong and the entire kingmakers, the President said, “I have heard your appeal. Your son, the Honourable Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs feels very strong about what you have said. He will bring it up to my attention and we will look at it. By his (Usani) loyalty to this administration and commitment during Federal Executive Council (FEC), meeting you should be proud of him. We have been doing a lot in terms of infrastructure.”

Back at the UJ Esuene stadium, venue of the presidential campaign, Acting State Chairman of the faction of the State Executive Committee recognized by NWC of the party, Sir John Ochala, had appealed to the President to call Usani to order. He lamented that the Minster’s action of parading himself as governorship candidate was a clear onslaught against the party’s chances of victory at the elections.

“Mr President, we will like to draw your attention to a major distraction to our otherwise easy victory at the polls. This distraction is caused by your cabinet member, a member from Cross River state. We want to urge you Mr. President to use your good office to call him to order before it is too late,” he said.

Neither the President nor the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, responded. Moreover, the President’s silence over such important issue was interpreted by political analysts as tacit rejection of Ochala’s position. Few hours after the event, an order stopping INEC from publishing Senator John Owan Enoh’s name as governorship candidate of the party surfaced, suggesting some power play somewhere in the presidency.

The interlocutory order was contained in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1222/2018. It read in part: “An order is hereby made for the res to be preserved, therefore, all parties are to maintain the status quo ante pending the determination of this matter. Case reverts to 5th February, 2019 for hearing of the interlocutory application and the substantive matter.”

Media Spokesman for Sen. Owan-Enoh Campaign Organization, Dan Amor, in his reaction said “since our candidate, Sen. Owan-Enoh is not even a defendant in the case; the Order does not affect his position in any way. This is also applicable to our National and State Assemblies candidates. That assuming ( without conceding), that the said Order was a restraining Order of injunction, it would have been a nullity because the act had been concluded on January 17 and 30, respectively, as an injunction cannot lie or be subsumed for an act that has taken place, in law.”

Similarly, APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr. Bassey Ita, reacting to the trending media report purporting that an Abuja based High Court has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to recognize Pastor Usani as the Cross River APC Governorship Candidate instead of Sen. Owan-Enoh earlier presentedby the party, said the latest order was “an overnight injunction which has no place to fester” adding that it’s just one of those ‘jankara’ verdicts that has been exposed”

He said, “for the benefit of the doubt, no injunction that is granted after the INEC had published the final list of candidates can stand. The final list was published in the afternoon of Wednesday, January 30th while the court order came in the evening, hours after, making it an overnight injunction”.

This latest court order came weeks after an Abuja High Court, presided by Justice O. A. Musa, gave judgement in suit No FCT/HC/BW/CV/106/2018 recognizing Godwin Etim John-led faction as authentic executive of the party in the State. Gani Arobo Esq and Ayodele Shedrack Esq appeared for the APC while Oladele Oyelami Esq stood in for claimants.

The judgement, dated December 13, 2018, ordered the defendant (All Progressives Congress) “to recognize and liaise with Etim John as bonafide executive committee of Cross River State. The national working committee and Independent National Electoral Commission to receive all candidates (which) emerged from Etim John-led State Executive for 2019 elections.” The party had appealed the judgement.

 In another suit, the Minister is said to have dragged the APC, INEC and Owan-Enoh to FCT High Court, Apo to contest why his name was not submitted to INEC as the governorship candidate of the party.

Delivering his judgment, Olukayode Adeniyi held that the plaintiff failed to adduce evidence to substantiate his claims that he was indeed the party’s candidate. After the judgement, Sen Owan-Enoh’s supporters poured into the Streets celebrating what they saw as landmark judgement aganst Usani but the battle had raged on.

The Director General of Usani Campaign Organization Pastor Ene Cobham who spoke shortly after insisted that the judgement of 13th December 2018 given by Justice O.A Musa was still subsisting and not set aside by another High Court in Abuja, arguing that it was only the Appellate Court which has powers to set aside the judgement of 13th December 2018 which recognized Etim John as Chairman.

Disappointed with the President’s inaction over the matter, the determined party leadership led by the Edo State-born Oshiomhole vowed to show Usani Uguru Usani the exit door without any form of mercy. Series of meetings were held in Calabar and Abuja over how to handle the Usani ‘political monster.’

Recall that the National Working Committee (NWC) had mid-last year threatened to punish members across the country who instituted court cases over election primary matters unless such cases are withdrawn. Conveying the decision of the NWC, the party Chairman had asked aggrieved members of the party to immediately withdraw all cases related to the primaries in court or be punished accordingly. Sources said Usani was among the prime targets.

While plans were underway to give the Minister a bloodied nose, the President spoke: “We can’t deliberately deny people of their rights. We agreed that party primaries should be conducted either through direct, indirect or consensus methods, and if anyone feels unjustly treated in the process, such a person can go to court. The court should always be the last resort for the dissatisfied. For the party to outlaw the court process is not acceptable to me.”

With this, the NWC’s threat and plans therefore died a natural death. Usani was neither suspended nor expelled but the legal battle ensued.

Besides, unconfirmed reports say the President feels more at home with Usani Usani than Owan Enoh who he allegedly still sees as PDP man who could go back to his former party after winning the elections.

A political analyst, Ekpenyong Archibong, believes strongly that the President’s public endorsement of Owan Enoh notwithstanding, the Minister was drawing political strength directly from Aso Rock to confront bigwigs in the party.

“If the President did not believe in that course, he would have since kick Usani out or how comfortable would a parent be with recalcitrant and wayward child? There is a drummer somewhere in the bush playing for the masquerade to display. You cannot blame the President for taking such stand. There is an adage which says once beaten, twice shy. If Saraki, Dogara and even our own Ita Giwa and Soni Abang could go back to PDP, what is the guarantee Owan Enoh would not defect after the elections particularly if Atiku wins the presidential election? It is possible, politicians are unpredictable.

 “Usani has always been in the opposition since 1999 even during the PDP’s days of political exploits, and has never yielded to the temptation to jump ship. It is only natural for the President and any other person to trust and believe in him,” he stated.

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