The appearance of former Petroleum Minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet and former Governor, Obong Victor Attah at the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal as star witnesses of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress was hyped by the APC propaganda machinery as the bombshell that would tilt the ongoing case at the tribunal to its favour.
Days before their appearance, the social media was agog with hyperbolic expectations of how their mere presence at the tribunal would win the case for the APC. But when they appeared before Justices A.S. Umar, K.O. Dawodu and P. T. Kwahar, their testimonies only added to the string of inconsistencies and contradictions that have been the lot of the witnesses of the APC since the Tribunal began sitting. It turned out to be an anti-climax.
The central theme of the submission of the APC witnesses have been the worn out refrain that there was no election in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015. But each of the witnesses they have called after thorough cross-examination by the Counsels of Mr Udom Emmanuel, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has added to their confusion and in most cases turn out to confirm that elections were actually and they participated. In fact, an APC witness, Engr Emmanuel Alfred was so audacious to tell the Tribunal that anyone who appeared as a witness in the Tribunal and claimed there was no election on April 11, should be regarded as a liar.
The appearance of Atuekong Etiebet and Obong Attah merely added to the contradiction of the APC. Indeed few days earlier, Etiebet’s nephew, Okokon Etiebet who shares the same polling unit with the former Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, who had also testified as a witness of the APC, had accepted that elections actually took place in his polling unit and ward.
This was also a material contradiction of the claims of the APC gubernatorial candidate, Mr Umana who had claimed in his main petition that no electoral material got to Oruk Anam on the election day. Analysts wondered what the judges would take if someone who was at his polling unit on his election day agreed that election materials were distributed and sent out by officials of the INEC, and another probably relying on hearsay and staying several kilometers away, maintained that no material got to the Local Government Area. Who is to be believed?
Etiebet’s appearance was not without some drama. To prove his case, Etiebet had sought to tender some newspapers publication which he had made (lawyers at the Tribunal claimed he made the publication in anticipation of the his appearance as a witness at the Tribunal). But his attempt at tendering the newspapers crumbled like a pack of cards because it did not meet the legal requirements of such documents being admitted in court. They were subsequently thrown out.
Then come what APC had thought would be the bombshell: a video recording of himself purportedly on election day at INEC office in Uyo chanting the same refrain of no election in Akwa Ibom State. But apart from Etiebet’s testimony, there was nothing to indicate where the video which he claimed was shot by Personal Assistant, was recorded. Nor was there an indication to the date it was shot. The video shows Atuekong Etiebet stating that there was no election anywhere in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, but Etiebet and other APC witnesses who toe this line have not been able to explain how an APC candidate representing Orue Offong Oruko State Constituency won his election which was conducted on the same day. Analysts asked of what legal weight it was if Etiebet made a video by himself and proclaims there was no election. And the video was supposed to be bombshell!
Then enter Obong Attah. Like Etiebet he also “stormed” the Tribunal with a video evidence and it became apparent that they had made the videos in anticipation of court process. With some humour, Attah said that someone had recorded him using an ipad, and that he was once asked to show his tablet and he thought it was some kind of drug not knowing that the person was referring to an ipad. Like Etiebet’s there was nothing significant about the Attah’s personal video: no indication as to the date, and the crowd who stood by him could have been hired.
It is also significant that Atuekong Etiebet and Obong Attah agreed under cross-examination that their stories of no election in Akwa Ibom State were mere hearsays as they were confined only to their polling units on election day since they did not have accreditation and observer tags to move about to see what had taken place in other units.
Then Attah was asked why he had campaigned for a candidate of another party while he claimed to be a chieftain of the PDP. Silence, then a feeble answer of wanting to see things move well in the state. He was also asked why in 2003 he had caused his co-witness, Etiebet to leave PDP. Another round of silence then another feeble answer of if Etiebet had complained of injustice, he (Attah) was not the one who meted the injustice to him.
Before they mounted the witness box, many APC supporters at the Tribunal were full of anticipation that Atuekong Etiebet and Obong Attah had secret videos that would nail Mr Udom Emmanuel and the PDP. Indeed they had expected that the bombshell that the duo would drop at the tribunal would bring the trial to an abrupt end. A certain young man who claimed he came with Obong Attah had said the former was coming to show the video of how PDP hijacked ballot boxes and rigged. You can imagine the surprise and disappointment of everyone at the anti-climax of the duo showing video recordings of themselves to prove that there was no election in Akwa Ibom State on April 11.
Mr Benson Writes from Abuja