By Johnny Eyo Esq
As the controversies surrounding the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) in Akwa Ibom State, Umo Eno, especially, the latest allegations of certificate forgery and falsification of date of the birth, continue, more and more questions are being raised over the man’s personality. As a renowned clergyman, one of Umo Eno’s biggest selling point was his perceived integrity, which, unfortunately, is now subjected to questioning.
Since Mr Akan Okon, one of the PDP governorship aspirants in the State, instituted a case against Umo Eno over alleged certificate forgery and falsification of date of birth, there has been very obvious panic with the government quarters through their reactionary efforts which have mostly been placed with errors. From sponsoring fruitless media attacks against Akan Okon, issuing an ego-laden press statement, to an afterthought reunion with old schoolmates, Umo Eno seems to be beating around the bush as far as the allegations are concerned. Mr Eno has deliberately refused to address the main issue and every move he makes raises further questions on his personality.
Forgery of any kind is a criminal offence. For avoidance of doubt, section 463 of the Criminal Code provides for three years imprisonment for forgery while sections 362 to 364 of the Penal Code deal with forgery with punishment of up to 14 years imprisonment with option of fine or both. Section 465 of the Criminal Code Act defines forgery thus:
“A person who makes a false document or writing knowing it to be false, and with intent that it may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine, whether in the State or elsewhere, to the prejudice of any person, or with intent that any person may, in the belief that it is genuine, be induced to do or refrain from doing any act, whether in the State or elsewhere, is said to forge the document or writing.
“A person who makes a counterfeit seal or mark, or makes an impression of a counterfeit seal knowing the seal to be counterfeit, or makes a counterfeit representation of the impression of the genuine seal, or makes without lawful authority an impression of a genuine seal, with intent in either case that the thing so made may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine, whether in the State or elsewhere, to the prejudice of any person, or with intent that any person may, in the belief that it is genuine ,be induced to do or refrain from doing any act, whether in the State or elsewhere, is said to forge the seal or mark.”
According to details the writ of summons by the Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, the allegations against Umo Eno are too damning to be taken kindly. Ordinarily, for a party that claims to mean for the people, by now, the PDP should have retrieved the governorship ticket from Umo Eno and ask the man to subject himself for investigation to prove his innocence. But sadly, the powers that be within the Party are hell-bent on foisting Mr Eno with alleged criminal baggage on Akwa Ibom people.
In addition, the PDP’s insistence on Umo Eno is clearly a recipe for self-destruct. In February 2020, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, sacked Mr David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as governor-elect of Bayelsa State, barely 24 hours to his inauguration. Mr Lyon, who won the November 2019 governorship election, was sacked by the apex court on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the November 16 governorship election in the state.
The Bayelsa incident remains a landmark case in Nigeria’s political history. The rumours that people within the PDP are mounting pressure on Akan Okon to withdraw the case from court. Should Mr Okon succumb to the pressure, which is extremely very unlikely, the PDP will only be extending the evil day because already other political parties are queueing up to take up the case. So head or tail, Umo Eno is a very bad choice for the PDP and the state. With all the revelations about his personality, no amount of politicking or lobbying will erase the question on his integrity.