From Okey Sampson, Aba
Today in all honesty could be said to be the day Abians are anxiously waiting for. It is a day that would either allow the status quo to remain in the governance of the state or alter the configuration in the political firmament of the state. By extension, it is the day the Federal High Court, Abuja presided by Justice Okon Abang would either grant the request of Gov Okezie Ikpeazu to stay the execution of its judgment ordering him to vacate office over alleged false information on his tax papers or insist his order must be executed immediately and to the letter.
The political logjam in “God’s Own State” started on Monday, June 27 when a Federal High Court, Abuja presided by Justice Abang ordered the sacking of Ikpeazu as governor based on tax related matter and subsequently directed that Dr, Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah be sworn in as the governor of the state immediately.
Ikpeazu went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling of Justice Abang and despite this, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, June 30, issued Ogah with a Certificate of Return, bringing a new twist to the whole scenario.
To ensure he remains in office while his appeal is being heard, Ikpeazu through his lawyers approached Justice Abang seeking his order for a stay of execution on his earlier ruling during the pendency of his appeal.
Ahead of this all important ruling this morning, the camps of the gladiators and other interest groups have been talking on the confusion in Abia of late and their expectations from the court.
The Chief Press Secretary to Gov Ikpeazu, Enyinnaya Appollos sees the judgment of the Federal High Court as a miscarriage of justice and the action of the INEC in issuing Ogah with Certificate of Return as illegal more so when the governor had filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal and off course, he was of the view the court would redress all that.
According to him, “the only power, authority and order exercisable by the Federal High Court was to disqualify the candidate from contesting the election based on section 31(6) of the Electoral Act 2010”. He reiterated that it was wrong for INEC to have acted the way it did.
To him, Ikpeazu remains the governor of the state more so since he has appealed the ruling of the lower court and in the eye of the law, no two persons can be governor at the same time.
It was his belief that the court would today enter ruling in his principal’s favour by staying execution on his earlier order pending the adjudication of the appeal filled by the governor.
In his reaction, Ogah’s aide, Peter Agba said they were not expecting anything less today other than the court affirming its earlier decision on the issue and paving way for Ogah to be sworn in as governor.
Agba sees nothing wrong in the court’s ruling and in INEC’s action. He said: “INEC acted wisely and within the ambit of the law by issuing Ogah with certificate of return”.
On his own, Chief Friday Nwosu, an aspirant in the PDP primaries in 2014 who is also in court against Ikpeazu over the same matter, said he faulted the declaration of the Federal High Court, Abuja that Ogah should be sworn in immediately and have filed an appeal against the judgment.
Nwosu, who the Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo state capital and presided by Justice I.A Alagoa will be giving judgment in his own case today, said the Abuja court ruling was a miscarriage of justice since according to him, it failed to consider the major details of the case.
To him, he should have been declared governor instead of Ogah having participated fully in the primaries as against the former who refused to accept the result of the primaries.
On its part, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Abia State Chapter, through its chairman, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere said it received with mixed feelings of approval and disapproval, the judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja which sacked Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of Abia State for tax related matters and declared Dr. Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah the governor.
The party while commending Justice Abang for his courage however faulted him for ordering the swearing in of Dr. Uche Ogah as the governor.
According to Ehiemere: “This order which we consider a huge error is not only unacceptable to APGA, but untenable in Nigeria’s 2010 electoral Act as amended which forbids any person that did not take part in all the stages of an election from being declared winner.
“Since there is no record anywhere to show that Dr. Uche Ogah won the primaries of his party the PDP, let alone take part in all the stages of the last governorship election in Abia, his declaration as the governor by the court is strange and alien to the law”.
He said his party’s stand was that if the appellate court was going to uphold the verdict of the lower court, “it should correct the error by issuing the right order which is to declare the candidate of APGA, Dr. Alex Otti who participated in the election, the governor”.
The party is also coming up with what may be termed an option ‘B’ and that is for the court to order a rerun election and in this case, the law should be allowed to fully run its course.
Ehiemere said as a party, APGA would not support the removal of Okezie Ikpeazu as governor through the back door and advised all parties involved to wait on the courts as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice said earlier in the week.
The APGA state chairman was of the view that all gladiators in the matter should take a cue from his candidate in the last governorship election, “Dr. Alex Otti whose peaceful mien and adherence to constitutionality before, during, and after the elections saved Abia from being plunged into anarchy, by being responsible and await the decision of the courts in the whole matter”.
Other Abians are awaiting today’s ruling with bated breathe and hoping that at the end of the day, there will be tranquillity in the state.
Chidi Omeihe, a resident of the commercial city of Aba said although he was not a politician, but was concerned about the recent political development in the state which he stated was a source of worry for some of them.
He was of the view that the parties involved should abide by the decision of the courts in the matter for peace to reign in the state.
A trader, Obinna Nwankwo while commending Gov Ikpeazu for the mature way he is handling the matter, urged supporters of the gladiators to remain calm and be law abiding as the courts do justice to the matter at hand.