ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES
On social media, mainstream media and across the streets of Imo and beyond, the popular narrative is that Frank Ibezim, the Supreme Court affirmed candidate of my estranged Party, APC, in the Imo North Senatorial by-election either forged his academic certificates, didn’t attend any schools at all or is one impostor who claimed many qualifications, all of which he owned none. The courts have helped to advance these narratives by their judgements, upholding the disqualification of the former member of the Imo State Executive Council and a strong ally of the Minister of State for Education, Chief Emeka Nwajiuba. Lawyers have also come out with analyses and legal opinions hailing the decisions of Justice Ekwo and the Appellate courts which affirmed the judgement.
However, I will want to commonsensically interrogate these decisions, without laying any claim to jurisprudential expertise. I will leave the lawyers in the house to bail us out with explanations to the posers I will be throwing up as long as this issue is concerned.
One of the key grounds on which Ibezim’s disqualification is hinged, is the apparent discrepancies in his names across different academic particulars of his, but any logical and truthful observer would agree that these names could actually belong to the same man. These are the same names written in different ways and at different times. How this qualifies as forgery or perjury gets my head running on a spin of wonderment, especially, when it is glaring that no one has come out to claim that these certificates belong to him and when the issuing institutions have not come out to disown the certificates.
How it is difficult for a judge of a court to understand that Chuks is a short form of Chukwuma and that some people whose name is Francis choose to go by the short form, Frank, at various times in their lives, and that the placement of names could be confusing at times, are issues I do not consider criminal nor substantial enough to disqualify someone from holding political office. How an affidavit is also considered irrelevant in harmonizing these discrepancies in names raises further issues for curiosity to any critical mind.
An affidavit, if I was taught right, is a statement on oath affirming something to be true. It becomes criminal when the statement made on oath is found and proven to be false, then, the individual who deposed to such statement would be liable for criminal prosecution for perjury. I thought that criminal prosecutions are handled by the State against the individual suspect, how a private citizen could wake up one day and proceed to court to charge someone for perjury (a criminal infraction) opens new vistas to our criminal justice system, which legal experts would definitely need to enlighten us on.
I know a few people who confirm that Frank Ibezim was at Imo State University, Owerri at the same time with them. None of those whom I have interacted with mentioned that Frank Ibezim dropped out at any point in his undergraduate days, which would warrant him to go forging certificates. So, at what point did this same Frank forge his certificates? Was Imo State University subpoenaed to determine if they actually issued the said certificate? Does anyone else lay claim to being the authentic owner of any or all of these certificates?
I am afraid that our judiciary is setting very bad precedents and disposing of itself as a set of professionals incapable of pragmatic thought. If we continue on the trend of disqualifying candidates on the flimsy reason of discrepancies in the way they chose to write their names on their papers at different times in their academic journeys, then, we may be killing an ant with a sledgehammer.
Frank Ibezim could be guilty of been careless in his documentations during his days in school, but I am unconvinced that he forged any of his certificates. I think all he needed to do when he discovered that his choice of writing his name in different ways at different times could constitute a problem to him, was to swear an affidavit, clarifying that these names are his, and the certificates on which they appeared, albeit, in different formats, belong to him. This I think he did.
The APC needs to be punished for failing to carry out its business as a responsible political Party with due diligence which led to the Party not been able to have a candidate as at the day the by-election held. But, the idea of banning Frank Ibezim from participating in future electoral on the unproven accusation that he forged his academic certificates is wrong and unfair.