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By Samuel Effiong

The fact is that Rt. Hon. Okpolupm Ikpong Etteh of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won Hon. Eseme Eyiboh of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 25, 2023 election to represent the people of Eket/ONNA/Esit Eket/Ibeno Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives from June. While Etteh scored 33,001 votes to be declared winner, Eyiboh scored 16,909 votes to come second.

While Etteh and 12 others would-be representatives from Akwa Ibom State went for an induction workshop in Abuja where they will serve in the 10th National Assembly, Eyiboh was at the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo where he is trying to twist facts to make sure Etteh’s win is annulled.

However, instead of asking for the annulment of Etteh’s win for the fact that he thinks and knows that he scored more votes than him, he is, rather, trying and attempting to ‘disqualify’ Etteh from the elections. It is clear that he is doing this because he knows Etteh won the election free, fair and squarely.

Why he went to the Tribunal is left to him. Telling lies and fabricating facts against Etteh at the Tribunal, however, should not be left to him to do, especially now that he has added media frenzy to it.

The word ‘forgery’ connotes that someone produced a fake or adulterated version of a thing.

Saying that Rt. Hom. Etteh forged his certificates is the biggest of the lies Eyiboh is telling at the Tribunal. All the certificates presented by Etteh have been with him for years. They are the same certificates Rt. Hon. Etteh presented when both, he and Eyiboh, were in the PDP. Rt. Hon. Etteh had served as Eyiboh’s House of Assembly member while Eyiboh had served as Etteh’s House of Representatives member at some point while in the same political party. Both campaigned together, attended caucus meetings together and compared notes on the general interest of their constituencies. At that time, Eyiboh didn’t say Etteh’s certificates were fake.

It is laughable that Eyiboh claims to be a lawyer but does not know that by the 2022 Electoral Act, once a certified true copy or originals of documents presented for elections has been attested to have emanated from the issuing bodies by them, the case against the authenticity or otherwise of such documents naturally dies. The question that should bother Eyiboh and his team should be: Has the bodies that issued Rt. Hon. Etteh certificates denied doing so? Not one has.

At the Tribunal, the Registrar of Temple Gate Polytechnic, Aba, which was formerly known as School of Management and Technology, when Rt. Hon. Etteh studied there, Mr. Goodluck Ozemene said the institution issued Etteh a National Diploma. The Deputy Registrar of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Mr. Alexander Anukam said it issued Etteh a Higher National Diploma (HND). Mr. Akaninyene Inyang, Deputy Director, Examinations Certification Division of the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education said the Ministry issued Etteh a First School Leaving Certificate.

Does the date of issue of the certificate really matter? No, because it is immaterial to the case at hand. Even at that, Eyiboh must know that the least a candidate for elections needs in Nigeria is a First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC. That should tell him Etteh didn’t need to place himself at harm’s way. Every lawyer that is conversant with the Electoral Act should know that higher qualifications do not matter so far as the candidate can lay claims to having a FSLC. Eyiboh should also know that students can be given provisional admission until they meet requisite qualification requirements. For example, you can see a student who is in say, 200 Level of studies, sitting for the West African Examination Council, so that he can meet up with the requirements of the provisional admission he was given by an institution. A person who also feels like changing his career path can sit for a new secondary school certificate at any time to change the courses he had long had credits in his previous secondary school certificate. When there is an opportunity to present a secondary school certificate, he can decide to present the latest one. No one will tell if he had, or ask for, a previous one as all they want is a secondary school certificate.

Arguments by Eyiboh that Temple Gate Polytechnic (formerly The School of Management and Technology) was not accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is also immaterial to the case. How does that say the institution didn’t issue the certificate they issued to Etteh? If the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, accepted the certificate as a legal tender for admission into its Pre / Higher National Diploma Programme, who is Eyiboh to say they shouldn’t have? There was a School of Accountancy in Uyo, which is now the Uyo City Polytechnic which certificates were accepted by the University of Uyo and other higher institutions for admission into its degree and higher diploma programmes. Till date, School of Accountancy Diploma is still being accepted by Heritage Polytechnic and other Polytechnics for Higher Diploma Programmes.

Accreditation is a process. It is not a one day thing. Some institutions have produced graduates for over 10 years before they get the necessary accreditation. The legal instruments (an Act of the Parliament establishing them) of the University of Uyo and the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana, were gotten recently, in the life of the 7th and 8th National Assembly, by the intervention of Senator Ita Enang and Senator Godswill Akpabio respectively. Does it then mean because the two institution were not legal in the eyes of the law before then, all their graduates and holders of their certificates before are all in possession of illegal or fake certificates? No!

Ask a University or a Polytechnic Administrator what it takes to accredit an institution or a course of study in an institution, and you will understand why it takes long to accomplish same. Meanwhile, year in year out, they keep churning out graduates who are accorded same privileges as those from institutions that have jumped over the accreditation hurdle. This is because they know that the curricular used to teach the students are one and the same.

I believe the case seeks to just present Rt. Hon. Etteh in bad light other than get at the office he has won election into. And this is a wrong thing to do. How can a former co-traveler in politics who accorded you due respect wake up to say you are a different person because of a new political alignment? This is sadly a deep blooded hate and this should be condemned by sane humans.

Eyiboh should rather prove to the court how he won Etteh on ground (a near impossible thing to achieve though) at the election because he won’t be able to prove that Etteh’s certificates are fake and were not issued by the issuing bodies.

Eseme knows that he won’t win this case. When the case is over, I hope he will be a gentleman enough to join hands with his former political associate and brother to offer services that will uplift the development and growth of the people of their federal constituency.

Effiong, a concern citizen and a chieftain of the APC, wrote from Eket

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