By Frank Ulom
The Supreme Court has finally put an end to the tussle between Senator Bassey Otu and Senator Sandy Otu, All Progressives Congress, APC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidates for the 2023 governorship election in Cross River State.
The battle between the duo started 10 months ago after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC announced Senator Otu of APC as the winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in the state. The matter has lingered from the Tribunal to the Appeal Court.
However, on Friday 12 January 2024, the Supreme Court put an end to the tussle by dismissing the appeal brought before it by Senator Onor of PDP.
The Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Heleen Morenikeji Ogunwumiju, said the PDP and its governorship candidate failed woefully to substantiate the allegations of non-qualifications to stand for election made against Governor Otu.
Justice Ogunwumiju described as nonsensical the allegations by Onor that the governor was not educated up to Secondary School.
Ogunwumiju held the PDP and the governorship candidate chickened out to establish their allegations when confronted at the tribunal to do so.
Although no cost was awarded against them, Justice Ogunwumiju dismissed the petition in its entirety for being baseless and lacking in merit.
The Supreme Court upheld the concurrent findings of the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal which had earlier separately dismissed the petition for want of merit.
CONVERSEER reported earlier that the Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal had dismissed the appeal filed against Governor Otu by Senator Onor who proceeded to the Supreme Court
Onor had, however, approached both the Tribunal and Appeal Court, insisting that Otu and his Deputy, Rt. Hon. Peter Odey must be disqualified from the race for allegedly holding dual citizenship, certificate forgery, and not being a member of the APC at the time of the election.
However, the lower courts dismissed the Onor and PDP’s petitions, agreeing with the governor’s submission that the PDP cannot challenge the governor on the grounds of party sponsorship and nomination because they were not aspirants during the APC governorship primaries.
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Speaking shortly after the Supreme Court judgement, Governor Otu said his victory at the Apex Court is dedicated to the electorates who braved all the odds on 18 March 2023, to vote for him and the APC.
He said: You (electorates) demonstrated your dedication to our nation by braving the elements, sacrificing your time, and putting aside personal endeavours to answer the call to vote for the candidate who would lead Cross River State as Governor.”
The Governor stressed that with the outcome of the election finally laid to rest, “it is now a time for statesmanship. As your Governor, I humbly call upon the wisdom and expertise of our esteemed statesmen to join me in building a prosperous and egalitarian Cross River State. We need your patriotism, peace, empathy, zeal, and integrity to achieve the vision we all desire for our state.
“To my esteemed electorate, I wish to state categorically that the scorching sun, the howling wind and other elements you braved while you queued patiently to cast your vote for me, is an opportunity cost for good governance. I cherish your sacrifice, I salute your courage.”
He re-affirmed his “commitment to good governance by ensuring that the citizens are healthy, well-educated, prosperous and socially empowered to compete favourably with their contemporaries in other states. This is the trajectory of my administration – which is people-centred. Governance is a convergence of ideas, no matter how diverse they may be.
“Therefore, I welcome opinions and constructive criticisms from well-meaning Cross Riverians both within Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Together, we are determined to bring smiles to the faces of our people. By working together with love, we can lighten the load and achieve our goals.”