Stakeholders including students, market women, traders and artisans, yesterday, thronged the streets of Umuahia and Aba to register their displeasure over the verdict of the Abia North Election Rerun Petition Tribunal which upheld the election of Mao Ohuabunwa.
The Tribunal chairman, Justice James Abundaga in delivering judgement in a petition filed by former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu who was candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) against the election of Ohuabunwa, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) said the petitioner failed to prove allegations of malpractice beyond reasonable doubt.
After the judgment, stakeholders thronged the streets of Umuahia and Aba to register their displeasure over the verdict.
Though it was a peaceful protest, the protesters moved from one street to the other, carrying placards with different inscriptions such as, “Kalu is the authentic winner”, “Appeal Court return OUK”, “We want OUK”.
A student of Abia State University and a native of Ututu in Arochukwu LGA, who requested anonymity, said: “It is saddening and worrisome that the people’s wish can be denied. The March 16 rerun election was going on peacefully until the PDP thugs and agents, including serving state officials, stormed some polling units in Arochukwu Local Government to snatch ballot boxes and papers which they thumb-printed and stuffed with their own materials.
“More shocking is the fact that the INEC returning officer, Dr. Ejike Nwankwo who had earlier declared the election inconclusive due to irregularities in some wards at Ohafia and Arochukwu LGs, could come back a few hours later to declare Mao Ohuabunwa as winner.”
According to Chief Chidi Onuoha, a community leader in Amaokwe Item, “I know that at the end of the day, the will of the people will come to pass.
“Kalu is a selfless politician and no doubt, we will continue to fight for him as he is the true winner of the elections.”
In her remarks, Mrs.Nkem Nnamdi, a trader at the popular Ariara international market, Aba said: “all we want is to have our son, Dr. Orji Kalu, in the National Assembly.
“He performed well as governor and he can take Abia North to the next level.”
…Kalu heads to Appeal Court
The Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) candidate in the March 5, 2016 Abia North senatorial rerun election and former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu said he would appeal the judgment.
He stated this through his counsel, Perfect Okorie, at the Umuahia High Court premises, yesterday, after the judgment delivered by the election tribunal
Kalu said he did not agree with some of the issues raised by the tribunal, stating that he disagreed with most of the issues the tribunal relied on.
“That is why we have the higher court; if you feel aggrieved you go to appeal. I know that the Court of Appeal with see it differently. Kalu said.
“This, definitely, is the beginning of the process; I am positive that at the Court of Appeal something different will happen.”
Reacting to the tribunal verdict on behalf of his principal, Kalu’s Special Adviser, Kunle Oyewumi, said: “The tribunal struck out our petition without considering the merit of the whole case.
However, we shall appeal the judgement.”
While thanking Abians, especially the people of Abia North for their support thus far, Kalu urged them to remain law-abiding and calm.
The tribunal chairman, Justice James Abundaga in dismissing Dr Kalu’s petition against the election of Mao Ohuabunwa, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) said the petitioner failed to prove allegations of malpractice beyond reasonable doubt.
Meanwhile, a non-partisan group, Democracy for Nigeria (DFN), has described the decision of the Justice James Abundaga-led Abia North Election Rerun Petition Tribunal as biased, adding that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returning officer, Dr. Ejike Nwankwo who had earlier declared the election inconclusive should not go unpunished for his inconsistent decisions.
According to the Secretary of the group, Comrade Abel Udensi, the future of Nigeria’s democracy depends on the sincerity of the election umpire.
“In view of our resolve, we would not fail to stand up against any act that is capable of setting our growing democracy backwards.
“Recall, after the rerun poll of March 21, many civil societies and non-governmental organisations had called a press conference to register their observations about the high level of rigging, violence and manipulation that characterized the poll.
“We are shocked that the court could strike out the petition of the Progressive Peoples’ Alliance (PPA) candidate and uphold the election of Mao Ohuabunwa despite the illegality perpetrated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its agents’.”
He noted that the ruling of the tribunal was not in tandem with the tenets of credible election.