While the quest of the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi to assume the nation’s top job is gaining huge momentum and gathering mass support across the country, allegations of forgery and perjury are being reported at different levels within the party.
The crises, already being heard at the courts, have rocked the Lagos State chapter of the party, as the state chairman, Ifagbemi Awamaridi who doubles as the party’s governorship candidate, accused the party of illegally trying to replace him with former governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, Gbadebo Rhode-Vivour, ahead of the 2023 governorship poll, despite not withdrawing from the race.
A similar case was reported in the Imo State chapter of the party where its Senatorial candidate for Imo North, Dr. Okorondu Nwachukwu on July 13, petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over alleged moves by the party to illegally withdraw his candidacy and ordered for a conduct a fresh primary.
Speaking through his solicitors in the petition, Nwachukwu said, “Our client state unequivocally that the purported letter of withdrawal and accompanying affidavit (if any was submitted by the party to the commission) were forged.”
Most recently on Sunday, a former presidential aspirant of the Labour Party, Faduri Oluwadare Joseph, claimed that the National Chairman of the party, Julius Abure, forced Peter Obi on them as consensus presidential candidate, adding Abure lied to Nigerians that his (Joseph’s) withdrawal from the race was voluntary.
Now fast becoming a custom in the party, the same illegality was replicated in Ebonyi State, according to Awamaridi who made the revelation to a news outlet in Lagos on October 3.
Awamaridi has now backed up his claims as he exclusively made available to Information Nigeria the forged and original INEC documents of Oko-Eze, along with court documents and a letter to the Nigeria Police seeking investigation into the allegation.
In the interview, Awamaridi stated that he, along with some other state chairmen of the party, had just discovered another similar fraud in Ebonyi where the party, just like in Lagos, was trying to replace Splendour Oko-Eze, the duly elected governorship candidate with one Edward Okereke Nkwegu, who had participated and lost the All Progressives Congress governorship primary. Eze Oko, according to Awamaridi, was also replaced with one Hon. Jioke Godwin as the Chairman Caretaker Committee of the party in the state, although the former’s tenure had not elapsed.
According to him, the party forged Oko-Eze’s signature on the Form 11b of the withdrawal form, and back-dated the form for replacement candidate, despite Oko-Eze not accepting to withdraw his candidacy.
Awamaridi revealed that the date on the said withdrawal form was August 3 while the date which the replacement candidate was said to have signed on his INEC form on oath was August 2, indicating that the replacement primary was done before the initial candidate allegedly withdrew, which he said shouldn’t have been.
Speaking further, he said that the same August 3rd when the illegal withdrawal of Oko-Eze was done by the party, was the same day the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki upheld the June 9 primary that produced the same Oko-Eze as the party’s governorship candidate in the state, adding that the matter is now being investigated by the Nigeria Police.
The petition the solicitors of Oko-Eze sent to the Deputy Inspector General of Police titled, ‘Report of Forgery, Perjury and Criminal Conspiracy’ and dated September 7, 2022, further revealed that “the membership card attached to the said ‘Letter of Voluntary Withdrawal’ which they submitted to INEC is forged and doesn’t belong to him, as the membership card number of our client is totally different.”
It is worthy to note that the Appeal Court, Enugu Division had in an unanimous decision in September, set aside the August 3rd judgement of the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, as it upheld the power of the party to decide on its caretaker leadership while also setting aside the lower court’s decision to restrain the party and INEC from substituting its candidate as being speculative and anticipatory, and agreed with the party that nothing was placed before the lower court to support the claim.