Vintage Ini Ememobong, in this interview bares his mind on the latest revelations by Justice Inyang Okoro in his letter to the CJN, the subsequent rebuttals by those mentioned in the bribery attempt, and the allegations by Ita Enang that Governor Udom is only funding PDP projects. THEMAIL presents excerpts from the chat with the vibrant young lawyer who is spoke in his capacity as the Akwa Ibom State PDP Publicity Secretary…
What is your reaction to the press release of the APC Publicity Secretary on the allegations by Justice Inyang Okoro that members of their party tried bribing him to subvert justice?
Well, incidentally, the Publicity Secretary of the APC (with greatest respect) is relying on hear-say. He is talking about issues he is not knowledgeable about, except he is saying he went with them; but unfortunately his name has not been mentioned as one of those who were there. In matters like this, the law is simple. You can only adduce to facts that are within your knowledge. Except he says he knows and he is going to say that he slept with Umana, he ate with Umana, he dined with Umana all the days of the prosecution of the matter from the tribunal to the Supreme Court. That is the only point he can adduce to those things and now say because I was with him every time, I can say he was not there. But ordinarily he cannot say so. Unfortunately he is adducing to hear-say. It is commonplace that people of that party (APC) rely too much on hearsay. It is funny that the media office of Rotimi Amaechi would be replying and the media aide of Obong Umana Okon Umana would be replying. What is happening to their bosses? Justice Okoro did not speak through an aide. He wrote directly to the CJN. The onus lies on them to say that I didn’t not go. The only person who has said so, who has attempted to wriggle himself out of the mess is Pastor Ebebe Ukpong and he has not categorically said so. He now was trying to play to a relationship that he has with Okoro to insinuate that it is possible he might have gone. The introductory part of his letter gives credence to the fact that he has been going to the man’s house and that there is nothing strange in the man admitting him (into his house). He might not have told the man he was coming with Umana. So he showed that he has been going to My Lord’s House (Justice Okoro) and My Lord might not have suspected he was coming with someone whose matter was going to come before the Supreme Court. As long as Justice Okoro is concerned, Pastor Ebebe Ukpong had no matter before the Supreme Court. According to Ebebe’s publication, he has been his friend for over 30 years. Ebebe had access to his residence. So My Lord would not have suspected that Ebebe would come to his house with a litigant. The introductory part of Ebebe’s letter confirms that he has been going to Justice Okoro’s place and Justice Okoro has been coming to his place, and therefore they have easy access to each other’s place. Other than go himself as he has been going before, he decided to go with Umana. That is the confirmation. Umana and Amaechi should categorically come out on their own and say that they did not go there. It is not by speaking through proxy. We agree that he who speaks through proxy speaks by himself but in this matter the proxies did not follow them and they did not say they followed you. You must come out and tell us I was there, this is what I said, or I was not there. You cannot hide under your media aide to speak.
Do you mean that Amaechi and Umana are shying away from opening up on this matter?
Yes, of course, that is what it means. If someone makes an allegation and you now speak through a proxy, it shows that there is nothing wrong with your mouth. None of them is going for an operation in the mouth. Even if they are going for an operation in the mouth, are they not the same people who instructed the aides to speak? So if you can instruct your aide to speak, how come you cannot speak or sign the statement by yourself. It can be construed that they are shying away from opening up on the matter. When the truth confronts you, most times you’ll want to hide behind shadows. But there is no hiding place. Evidence will be adduced. I am certain that before My Lord makes such weighty accusations on people and mentions names, I believe My Lord has sufficient evidence. And when you look at the history of the people mentioned it is not beyond them. When you look at their entire history the kind of things they are accused of is not beyond them. It is something they would love/enjoy to do. Their media aide and the Publicity Secretary of the APC cannot speak for them on this matter, except otherwise that they are directed to speak. If they are directed to speak why not tell the persons involved to come out and speak for themselves rather just directed you to come and speak. What is holding them back from speaking? We feel deeply touched that someone who carries the name of a pastor would be involved in such an attempt to arm-twist justice. It is putting Christianity to shame. It just goes a long way to stating the fact that churches should watch who they give that title to. That title should not be for sell, whether you had been a commissioner or not. Things of God should be kept for those who have sanctified themselves and have kept themselves very clear. You see, there are some schools of thought that still links some of these person to the 2003 election petition tribunal bribery case; still in Akwa Ibom, in a certain hotel in Ewet Housing, these two persons from Akwa Ibom. Let’s leave it at that, when the time comes we’ll speak more.
Some schools of thought are of the opinions that if people in the APC had tried bribing Okoro, it is possible that people in the PDP had tried or even bribed the justice.
This is a mere assumption. If people from the PDP had met Justice Okoro he would have said so. I am not certain that there are many people in PDP who has such a relationship that Ebebe Ukpong has with Justice Okoro. Go and read his confession letter. I’m not sure. For me to have unrestricted access to the house of a judge, it would go beyond transactional relationship. If people from the PDP had visited any judge or justice, they would have said so. It is not a coincidence that people who have written to the CJN would always mention one name, mention one party. And this same party had their strategy document leaked to the press. Remember that long before we went to the Supreme Court that the strategy document was leaked to the press. And in that document they wrote that their problem was not the Tribunal and Court of Appeal but that when the Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia matter gets to the Supreme Court that they would approach the President to approach the justices. Is it coincidence? If they cat cries at night and the baby dies in the morning it is pretty simple to make a nexus to show that the cat’s cry and the baby’s death is one and the same event. Their documents leaked not our document. And today the Supreme Court justices have come out and said, of a truth they came, of a truth someone approached me and said Oga is not happy which now confirms that document that leaked. We don’t approach justices. In over 16 years of our existence we don’t. and if you look at a party whose duty is to win from the court you will discover that between the PDP and every party that has amalgamated itself into the APC that strategically the entire SouthWest went down to the ACN (then) through the court. We are not used to bribing judges, we are used to winning elections on the ground. Some people are used to winning elections in the court. Edo State, the only state they have in the South South fell from the court. Ekiti, Oyo, all those states fell from the court. So you can add one plus one and know where we are.
It is possible that the judges may have been sympathetic to the PDP, that is why they haven’t mentioned the names of those from PDP who may have approached them…
Assumption is the least level of knowledge, so we won’t go into the realm of assumption. We deal with facts. When you read the judgments of the Supreme Court, the entire judgments of the Supreme Court is one on all the matters concerning governorship petition. The card reader is unknown to the constitution. The card reader does not have legislative parentage. But when you go to the Court of Appeal, you will discover different judgments on same matter. It is not in contention that the Supreme Court did justice according to law. Look at it and you will see that they were consistent in all their rulings. Whether it is in Zamfara, whether it was in Rivers, whether it was in Akwa Ibom, Abia or Taraba, the law came out as one.
As a lawyer, what advice would you give to Justice Okoro?
As a lawyer, Justice Okoro is yet to brief me. All he needs is to keep his evidence water tight. I said something before that you cannot try a judge. I am happy today that the FG has realized it. It is not whether you are a SAN, it is not whether you are PDP or APC, the law is the law. You cannot try a judge. He must first be derobed. People went about canvassing different positions. Today the DSS, the Federal Government is now insisting, suspend them. Why do you want them suspended? It is because you cannot try a judge. As long as his judicial oath is still effective he cannot be tried. You need to suspend that judicial oath, suspend him from that office as a judge before you can prosecute him. So, it is for Justice Okoro to prepare his defence. And the people whom he has mentioned, the best thing is for them to approach the court under a civil case for defamation or for libel. And Justice Okoro will come with justification. Rotimi Amaechi said his lawyers will get back to Okoro, we are expecting their lawyers to sue Justice Okoro. That is the simple. Sue him because he is waiting. If I were to advise him, I would advise him to keep his evidence tight because there will be need for it very soon.
What will be the implications of this bribery scandal for your party come 2019?
There has been a consistent show of desperation by the members of the APC. But we can assure them that elections are won unit by unit, ward by ward, Local Government by Local Government. We will trounce them in the election roundly. Now that their bribery attempt has been exposed, I hope they will not attempt it again.
It is said that this is the first time in recent past that Akwa Ibom has been given so many appointments by the Federal Government. And it is believed that those Akwa Ibomites in APC who have been given appointments by FG will team up and oust your party as the ruling party come 2019.
Galvanize all the appointments they have received and see if it can amount to anything that can shake anybody. It is a Greek gift. Somebody has been appointed by the President and his duty is to carry the budget to the National Assembly and he only escorts the President’s Chief of Staff to the National Assembly. His hand does not touch the budget. Is that what you call an appointment? You now become an escort to a budget. The political clout they claim to have was given to them by the PDP. This is a test case for them to see whether they can win their units.
Recently, Senator Ita Enang said on air that all the projects Udom is doing are PDP projects. What is your reaction to that?
If he says Udom is doing PDP projects we agree. PDP’s promise when we went on campaign was to industrialize, construct roads, provide infrastructure, was to develop Human Capital potentials. So, those are PDP projects. When he joined APC to go on campaigns, all they did was to abuse Godswill Akpabio, was to call people names. They have no manifesto. So it is true we are executing PDP projects. We are executing PDP projects in his Local Government where he could not complete most of the projects he started. Ikot Udom is a PDP project. The reactivation of Peacock Paint is a PDP project. The Peace and stability in the state is a PDP project. All the opposites of the good things we have done are APC projects. We cannot fund APC projects, we can only fund PDP projects because PDP projects are development-based.