By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
HOW many times in a life time can one change names? There seems to be no limit. Why do people change names? The answers are as many as the people you ask. Neither legality nor morality, some claim, is offended if you change your name.
A name is important as an individual’s official, even private, identity. Some change names with minimal regard to their importance and implications.
Could they be the ones who have come up with that seemingly incorrect line, “What are your names?”. You could expect an answer like, “My names are…, but I am addressed as…, also known as…, and also called… just call me anyone”.
Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu Okezie is at the centre of a plethora of name changes that is central to the election petition case before the three-man National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal 4 Panel of Honourable Justice Samson P. Gang, Chairman, Honourable Justice Kabiru Ibrahim Ahmed, and Honourable Justice Abdulfatai Baba Sekoni, members, which rounded up on 14 August 2023 in Umuahia.
Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN, in his final addres, remarked that the petitioner, Chief Ifeanyi Frank Chinasa of the Labour Party’s case was built on questions about Benjamin Kalu Okezie, who made several changes to his names.
Kalu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, born as Umunna Okezie in 1971, had made these distinct and different changes to his name, according to Usman’s address:
•Affidavit of Change of Name of 17th day of June, 2002
•Affidavit of Change of Name of 10th day of January, 2011
•Deed Poll of 6th October, 2011. South Africa Gazette No. 25492 of 03 •October, 2003 for change of name
Punch Newspaper of Thursday August 29, 2002.
Usman said the changes provided grounds to doubt Kalu’s identity and ownership of the education documents he uses. Benjamin Kalu Okezie has documents bearing these names –
•The 1st Respondent’s First School Leaving Certificate which he obtained in 1983 but was issued in 1987 has the name Umunna Okezie.
•The name in the 1st Respondent’s Leaving Certificate and Testimonial of 1988 is Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie.
•The 1st Respondent’s West African Examinations Council Certificate of 1991 bears Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie.
•The name in 1st Respondent’s Bachelor of Laws Certificate of 1998 is Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie.
•The name of the 1st Respondent in the Council of Legal Education Certificate of 2011 is Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu.
•The 1st Respondent’s NYSC Discharge Certificate of 2011 has Kalu Benjamin Okezie as his name.
•His Certificate of Call to Bar of 2006 has the name Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu.
•The name in the 1st Respondent’s Statutory Declaration of Age of 2002 is Kalu Benjamin Okezie.
•The INEC Form EC 9 for 2019 election submitted by the 1st Respondent bears Benjamin Okezie Kalu.
•INEC Form EC 9 for 2023 election submitted by the 1st Respondent has the name Kalu Benjamin Okezie.
In the course of the trial, Kalu had deposed on oath thus: “That consequently, upon these changes and steps, the Registry of the Supreme Court enrolled me as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria with my name Kalu Benjamin Okezie on the 6th day of June, 2012 with enrolment number SCN/078630.”
Usman dug in on the deposition, drawing the attention of the tribunal to the facts that the Certificate of Call to Bar and Council of Legal Education Certificate Kalu tendered had “Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu” on them and not “Kalu Benjamin Okezie”. The Call to Bar Certificate read 6th day of September, 2011 and not 6th day of June, 2012 when Kalu said he was called to Bar. Usman continued that if Kalu was called to the Nigerian Bar on the 6th day of September, 2011, he would have enrolled at the registry of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the same day.
“The 1st Respondent could not have enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 6th day of June, 2012, nine (9) months after his Call to Bar. The 1st Respondent had the burden to explain to the Honourable Tribunal the reason for his delayed enrolment, if at all he was called by the Body of Benchers and enrolled before the Supreme Court of Nigeria,” Usman said.
Usman raised more issues. Kalu’s 2006 Certificate of Birth and his 2002 Statutory Declaration of Age obtained in 2002 also bear Kalu Benjamin Okezie. An age document is one of the mandatory documents for registration at the Nigerian Law School. Usman wondered how the Call to Bar Certificate and Council of Legal Education Certificate will bear different names Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu and not Kalu Benjamin Okezie which is also on Kalu’s NYSC certificate.
Usman said since it was evident that the first respondent lacked the necessary qualifications to stand for the election, the tribunal should nullify Kalu’s victory and declare Chief Chinasa as the rightful winner.
Kelvin Nwufo, SAN, Kalu’s lawyer, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit. Kalu, he said, did not forge any documents and that all the contested documents bearing different names of Kalu had been duly reconciled and published in the Federal Government Gazette, as the law required.
Counsel of All Progressives Congress, APC, Viginus Nwankwo argued that the burden of proof in Kalu’s names lay with the petitioner. He stated that the burden was not adequately discharged. He was in tandem with Nwufo in asking that the petition be dismissed.
Ifeanyi Chukwuka Igbokwe of Action Alliance, AA, asked that the election should be cancelled as INEC excluded his party’s logo on the ballot paper. INEC stated that AA had no candidate in the election. Its candidate’s name was submitted outside the time the law provided.
Latestst reports say Igbokwe has disclaimed the suit. He said neither the petitioner nor the counsel was known to him. Igbokwe said he was celebrating with his brother, who had been elected the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Outside the tribunal, the counsels bantered in more accessible language, called each other by name or honorifics, in an ambience that belied the battle of a few minutes earlier.
It is important to know what people are. It is more important to know who they are, by name. If you ask the Honourable Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives his names, he has a rich repertoire from which to draw answers.
The tribunal will announce a date for the judgement.
PASSENGERS are STILL being asked to disembark and walk across checkpoints in the South-East. It doesn’t matter if it is raining or if those being humiliated were old, infirm, infants, or pregnant women. The “punishment” is repeated at every checkpoint. Who ordered this practice? When Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe raised the matter on the floor of the Senate, they stopped for a few days. Perhaps, they know that the Senate is on recess.
•Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues