The basic academic qualification of the Kaduna State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship candidate, Hon. Isah Mohammed Ashiru to contest the 2023 election is now a matter of dispute at a Kaduna State High Court.
A former Governorship aspirant of the party Prof Mohammed Bello who has since decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) is averring that the GCE certificate presented by the PDP candidate to enable him contest the Governorship election does not belong to him, as required by law.
Prof. Bello, who is the defendant in an action for defamation instituted at a Kaduna High Court before Hon Justice Edward Andow by the PDP Candidate is reinforcing ealier allegations he made against Ashiru to the effect that he had no school certificate, which formed the basis of the defamatory action.
In a litigation reminiscent of the suit that led to the voiding of the 2019 Bayelsa Governorship election won by David Lyon of the APC as a result of certificates presented by his running mate Dr. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, the Kaduna Court is being ask to hold that the PDP candidate presented a false certificate to INEC based on conflict of names in his certificates.
In his statement of claim, the Hon Asiru (plantiff) is seeking damages amounting to N100m for alleged damages suffered as a result an interview granted by Prof Bello accusing him of forgery and presenting a false certificate to INEC.
Led by his lawyer Mr Emmanuel Hon Ashiru averred that Prof Bello at press conference and in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service made disparaging allegations to the effect that his (Ashiru’s) GCE O’Level is forged.
Hon Ashiru maintained that the said words were defamatory in their plain and ordinary meanings and had therefore thoroughly disparaged his reputation as a governorship candidate and an upright and responsible citizen who has built his good name overtime.
He presented to the court copies of a 1980 GCE O’Level certificate, diplomas from the Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic, Kaduna Polytechnic and a masters degree in Public Policy and Administration from Bayero University Kano among several certificates, claiming that the allegation of forgery against him by the defendant was false and malicious to lower his acceptability among the electorates of Kaduna State.
Beside Ashiru avers that Prof Bello made the statements maliciously “in that it was meant to advance the defendant’s relevance and acceptance in his new political party (APC) while affecting the plaintiff’s reputation negatively…thereby diminishing his chances of becoming Governor of Kaduna State.”
He therefore urged the court that apart from an order compelling the defendant to pay damages of N100m, further orders compelling him to retract his defamatory/libelous statement by publishing retractions in the social, print and electronic media and a perpetual injunction from further defamatory utterances was required.
Prof. Bello a former PDP Governorship aspirant turned APC chieftain represented Auta Maisamari Esq pleaded justification and fair comment,insisting that the paintiff was not entitled to any damages for statements that were true and factual.
He insisted that the plaintif not only presented false school certificate to INEC but also lied severally in the INEC form CFOO1 in almost all the answers he provided to questions asked and deposed to an oath purporting the said false answers to be true
He pointed out that the 1980 GCE claimed by the plaintiff displays the name of Mohammed Ashiru different from all other certificates which dispaly Isah Mohammed Ashiru or several other variations which are not and cannot be said to be the same with the name displayed in GCE O’ Level he submitted to INEC as his own.
He said the plaintif presented no evidence to INEC or in the documents pleaded before the court that he was indeed the same person in the subsequent certificates and in the forms submitted to INEC which shows different variations of the names Isah Mohammed Ashiru or Ashiru Mohammed Isah or Mohammed Isah Ashiru or Isa Mohammed Ashiru or Isa M Ashiru or Isa Ashiru .
He maintained that in the absence of an affidavit or any other evidence to draw a nexus between these names the court must hold that the PDP candidate Isah Mohammed Ashiru cannot be said to be the same person referred to as Mohammed Ashiru captured in the 1980 GCE O’Level presented to INEC and therefore an assertion that he has no certificate cannot be defamatory.
Relying on several precedences including the recent case of PDP vs Degi-Eremienyo (2021)9 NWLR( pt 1781) at Page 290 to 291 and Modibbo vs Usman (2020) 3 NWLR the defendant maintained that it was already settled in law that there’s evidence of fraud when the names in documents purportedly belonging to one person are varying and are conflicting .
In PDP vs Degi-Eremienyo the case that aborted the governorship election of the David Lyon of the APC hours to his swearing in the Supreme Court had held that Lyon’s running mate Biobarakuma Wanagagha Degi-Eremienyo had forged his certificates because of variations in the names of the various documents he presented.
” the 1st respondent did not explain why in 1990, inspite of alleged error in 1984, Rivers State University of Science and Technology still inscribed the name: ‘Degi, Biobarakuma’ on the certificate at page 62 and not Biobarakuma Wanagagha Degi, his name at birth or Biobarakuma Degi appearing on his 1990 declaration of age.
” It is clearly fraudulent for one person to allegedly bear several names that he used variously, chamelonically to suit the changing environment. ”
Legal analysts are unanimous that the ruling of the court will be of significance to the election . If the court agrees with the plaintif that he had been defamed the issue of his basic qualifications would be deemed to have been favorably resolved but if on the contrary the court accepts the defence of justification by the plaintiff it would portend grave consequences for the qualifications of the plaintif as a governorship candidate.
The case has been adjourned to November 15 for exchange of briefs