Esse Umoh, a legal practitioner, scion of Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in erstwhile Cross River State and Director in the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Obong (Barr.) Gerald Umoh, is a thoroughbred professional, unionist and politician. He cut his political teeth when he became Akwa Ibom State Chairman of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN). He later became its National Deputy President and President. He is a native of Ikpe Ikot Ekpe in Ikpe Annang, Essien Udim Local Government Area. He shares his experience in the 2019 General Elections with Managing Editor of Ibom Telegraph, Darlington UDOBONG. Excerpts:
You are a reputable youth leader that rose from student unionism to national youth politics. Why did you take a shot at the Essien Udim State Constituency seat in the State House of Assembly?
I am just responding to the call of my people, the people of Essien Udim. They have asked me to go to the House of Assembly and give them quality, effective and productive representation. I am not going to be a failure in the House of Assembly. My representation must trigger down to the grassroots. I do not want to be an elite representative, one that drives in black tinted cars with police whom the people cannot access.
Though the Essien Udim State Constituency seat appears to be in a stalemate, your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has claimed victory in the March 9, 2019 House of Assembly election of Essien Udim. What makes you feel you won that election?
I knew I was going into the election with somebody that has failed the people. I knew I was going into the election with somebody that was not qualified. The law says election process should be announced at the Units. The records we have show that PDP won in almost all the Units except for one or two Units. The overall results collated also showed that PDP won. So, it is not a question of what makes me feel. The records are there.
But it is alleged that the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr. Nse Ntuen, declared himself winner to that election. What do you have to say about that?
Nse Ntuen was never qualified to contest the House of Assembly elections. He has committed a criminal offense. Anybody that lies under oath is liable of plagiary. The certificate Nse Ntuen used from the University of Calabar, which he claimed that he had a Second Class Upper (2.1) Degree in Social Sciences, was not issued from that University. I am challenging him to challenge me in any court of law.
Nse Ntuen does not have what it take to go the House of Assembly the second time. He is a man full of violence. He has exhibited this negative virtue all his live and the 2019 House of Assembly election was not an exception. But unfortunately the law caught up with him and his cohorts. The law says anyone who forcefully engages any staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to collate or declare him as the winner will not be recognized by the law, because the process is not recognized by the electoral law. He felt he could use the army, police, headed by SP Idorenyin Akpabio, and civil defense to hijack the process and declare himself winner to a seat he has remained a failure for four years.
What actually transpired in Essien Udim? Can you share your experience during the elections with me?
Elections of March 9, 2019, commenced in Essien Udim Local Government Area in a peaceful manner and about three hours into the elections, some team of policemen, led by SP Idorenyin Akpabio and Hon. Emmanuel Akpan, went Ukana East and other wards in Essien Udim to hijack election materials and kidnap the ad hoc staff recruited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They shot sporadically in the air and scared away most of the voters. They used a coaster bus to cart away the election materials to an unknown destination. I was in my Unit in Ikpe Annang when I received text messages and phone calls on the incidence. We have video clips of the incidence. Event at that, they could not take majority of the Essien Udim Units and so elections were conducted successfully and I won convincingly in almost all the Units that the elections were conducted.
We had Units and Wards that they could not hijacked, places like Adiasim, Odoro Ikot-1, Ekpenyong-2 and a few others. In Ukana East, where Emmanuel Inyangetoh comes from, he used armed men to cart away all the materials. In all these, I was not perturbed because I knew I was on ground, I was the preferred candidate and I knew Essien Udim people would vote for me and I was voted for.
While the results were coming in at the Collation Centre, my opponent, Nse Effiong Ntuen, came in with a team of armed men and tried to put in the results of the Units that were hijacked but the INEC ad hoc staff refused. The ad hoc staff was beaten seriously for refusing to accept the results. His inhuman treatment on the ad hoc staff also confirmed the statement Nse Effiong Ntuen made prior to the elections that ‘his election will be a-do-or-die affair.’
As a candidate, I was not allowed access to the collation centre. I was even threatened with a gun by a soldier. Nse Ntuen and his cohorts went to the Collation Centre with Armoured Personnel Carrier. I narrowly escape death at the collation centre because I because I became a target of the Warsaw war. The PDP Chapter Chairman of the Essien Udim mistakenly went into the collation centre and was beaten to pulp. He was later abandoned at the Divisional Police Station when they thought he was dead, even the DPO ran away thinking the man was dead. I called the DPO for over two hours to come and release the man for us to take him to the hospital and he refused. But I thank God, we are fortunate to have INEC that is unbiased. They have reported that the results of the elections Essien Udim State Constituency were marred with irregularities and they have also said that they cannot issue Certificate of Return. It is a national issue. The same thing is applicable to Governor Rochas Okorocha and two others.
As a lawyer, I know the law. I know that every legal process has a time frame, especially that of the electoral process. Immediately after the conduct of elections, any issue arising from the election process is addressed at the Election Tribunal and it is only the Election Tribunal that has such power. Therefore, I know that Nse Ntuen forced the Collation Officer to collate and announce Essien Udim results in his favour. I know the Election Tribunal will address the abnormality. My prayers at the Election Tribunal are as follows: Firstly, I am the one that won the elections at the Units. And the law says the process should be announced at the Units. The results we have showed that. So, let the Election Tribunal declare me the winner of the election that was held on the 9th of March 2019.
Secondly, Nse Effiong Ntuen was not qualified to contest that election with me reasons being that he has committed a criminal offense. He should be disqualified because he used fake documents. Anybody that lies under oath is liable of plagiary. The certificate Nse Effiong Ntuen used from the University of Calabar, which he claimed he had a 2.1 (Second Class Upper) in Social Sciences, was not issued from that University. I am challenging him to challenge me in any Court of law that his result was issued from the University of Calabar. Yes, he went to the University of Calabar and had a 2.2 (Second Class Lower) and that result is still pending at the University of Calabar as we speak. There is no University in this world that can issue it student with two certificates. If he is saying that it was a mistake, let the Registrar of the University of Calabar write to me that the result that Nse Effiong Ntuen was given a 2.1 was a mistake, and that Senate of the school approved the result by mistake.
He used that fake result in 2014 and used it again in 2019, it is intentional. If you claimed that you finished school in 2013 and that there was a mistake on your result, it behooves on you to write to have written to the University for correction and the span of 2014 to 2019 is a long time for the University of Calabar to have written to Nse Effiong Ntuen or to have replied to his application for correction of result. People correct results, let Nse Effiong Ntuen show me the application he made as at 2014 when he received his statement of result. A good student knows his GPA even before his final examinations. You cannot tell me that you had a 3.04, which he had, and tell me that you had a First Class. From the final result of Nse Effiong Ntuen, he had a 3.04 GPA. It is not enough to tell people that the University of Calabar made a mistake on your result, show us the evidence that the University of Calabar made a mistake on your result.
What is your position and that of your party, the PDP, on this?
I am calling on the Election Tribunal to investigate whether Nse Effiong Ntuen had the locus to contest election with me. My ground is that he used forged certificate from the University of Calabar to contest the election.
What is your advice to your supporters and the people of Essien Udim?
My advice, which is also a solemn appeal, to my supporters and the people of Essien Udim, is for them to wait for the Election Tribunal to say something and whatever the Election Tribunal says, we will go by it. And where we are not satisfied with any of the decisions, we have options to approach the Court.