In my March 4, 2023, opinion on the Enugu governorship election, I was very categorical in stating that Peter Mbah would not be governor of Enugu State.
First, I was firm in my conviction that he would lose the election to Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party. I hinged my reason on the soaring image of Edeoga, which at the time already commanded statewide appeal. I was right because Edeoga eventually won, though some centrifugal forces congregated in Abuja and conspired amongst themselves to delay the victory.
Second, I also argued that in the unlikely event that Mbah won, he would not be governor of Enugu State because he submitted a forged NYSC Discharge Certificate to INEC. It is this latter position that the present discourse will centre on.
Hear me again! Peter Mbah will be sacked by the Enugu Tribunal. And even if he survives the Tribunal’s hammer, the Supreme Court will definitely axe him. Reason? He parades a forged NYSC discharge certificate! This thing is as clear as broad daylight.
To be clear, I am not oblivious to the concerns and discontents people have about the Nigerian judiciary. I must concede that those reservations are not unfounded. I reckon with the fears of people who saw a certain Ahmed Lawan become a candidate of a political party in an election primary he did not participate in. I also would not close my eyes to the injustice that ensured that someone who came a distant 4th in a governorship election was thereafter catapulted to number one by the court. Need I talk about how Akpabio became a senator in 2023 and eventually rose to become the Senate President?
All the above instances happened under the watch and with the active complicity of the Supreme Court. It’s the combined effects of the above factors that have made some naysayers conclude that it’s not yet Uhuru for Edeoga and the Enugu Labour Party. While I acknowledge the reality of the above apprehensions, the good news is that Peter Mbah’s case will be treated differently for a number of reasons.
One, Nigeria is presently torn between allowing Peter Mbah to remain as a governor and sustaining the NYSC scheme. One must give way for the other to remain in place. Unfortunately for Mbah, his case has one leg of it that threatens the existence of an institution of the Nigerian state, the NYSC. The NYSC has proven beyond reasonable doubt in the Enugu tribunal that the certificate Mbah parades was not issued by them. So, Mbah’s continued stay in office is an affront to the Constitution, the grundnorm of our laws. He has become a moral burden on the Nigerian state, and I am certain the judiciary will offload him.
Two, Peter Mbah’s defeat at the poll was so overwhelming that the persons who helped him in Owo and Ugbawka to produce the wonder votes could not cover their tracks well. They left lots and lots of evidence in their trail that cannot be wished away by the judiciary. Edeoga’s team was able to piece these pieces of evidence together and made a very sound presentation at the Tribunal.
Three, like the Biblical Saul, the people who conspired to foist Peter Mbah on Enugu people, at some point in the course of the hearing at the Tribunal, decided to clean out their closets. Unlike Hope Uzodinma’s case, wherein INEC’s submissions helped Gov. Uzodinma, INEC’s testimony at the Enugu Tribunal appeared like the confessions of a Born Again Christian who suddenly decided to confess his sins after an encounter with Christ. INEC, the chief culprit in the Enugu electoral heist, literally became a hostile witness to Mbah at the Tribunal. While I may be reluctant to x-raying the reasons for their sudden volte-face, what is however important is that INEC largely agreed with the submissions of the Labour Party at the Tribunal.
Four, the political permutations and power play at the centre, most of which involve the powers that be at the highest level of governance in Nigeria, would consume Peter Mbah. Without prejudice to the exclusive powers of the judiciary to determine Mbah’s fate, I know for a fact that the ongoing discussions amongst those who control the levers of power are seriously weighing against Mbah.
Five, in Oyetola vs. Adeleke, the Supreme Court recently held that it’s only the issuing authority of a certificate that has the sole authority, to the exclusion of any other authority or entity, to validate or repudiate the certificate issued by that authority. Peter Mbah and his coterie of lawyers knew this, and that was why they did everything to stop NYSC from coming to testify at the Enugu Tribunal.
Unfortunately for Mbah, the NYSC was able to dismantle all the legal bottlenecks put in their way of appearing at the Tribunal. It was when it dawned on Mbah that NYSC was coming to testify that he ran to the SSS in search of elusive cover. Unfortunately for him, the SSS’ evidence is too watery to be given any probative value by the Tribunal.
While I would refrain from going into the conversation around the authenticity of the SSS agent who testified at the Tribunal, especially against the background of the allegation that the so-called agent answered a name that is not contained in the SSS’ staff directory, one thing that is certain is that the Supreme Court will not overrule its recent judgement on Osun election in the Enugu case.
Therefore, as Peter Mbah begins to wind down his short-lived administration, my advice for him is to curtail the number of queries that might be coming his way when the immunity cloak falls off. Already, there are reports of mindless looting and plundering of Enugu State resources in a bid to recover electoral expenses before the hammer falls. Mbah should remember that he would be answering a case of certificate forgery when the immunity evaporates and cannot afford to have EFCC come after him in addition to the forgery case.
Asogwa, a lawyer and foreign relations expert, is the CEO of Afri Forecasts and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.