Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Former Deputy Chief of Staff, Abia State, Dr Madukwe Ukaegbu, has dismissed media reports that the recent ruling on Abia North Senatorial District, which called for supplementary election was tantamount to sacking the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
According to Ukaegbu, “Orji Uzor Kalu was never sacked. What happened was that the tribunal said while he remains the senator of the Federal Republic and the Chief Whip of Nigeria, coming from Abia North Senatorial Zone, certain areas that the petitioner claimed that there were violence and results and so on and so forth, the tribunal said they should go back and redo it.”
Ukaegbu, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), further said even if the supplementary election is held, Senator Kalu will still trounce his opponent, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa in his Arochukwu domain.
What is your take on the recent tribunal ruling on the Abia North Senatorial Election?
My take is that the tribunal took a look at the issues that were presented before them and then ruled on the matter, even though I personally disagree with the outcome of that ruling. And my disagreement is based on the premise that you cannot in one breath, look at the figures that were given to you by the petitioner and then the respondent and then the electoral umpire, INEC, and still cannot make conclusion on a matter that the respondent himself who is a senator of Abia North, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, leading his opponent, former Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, with 10,000 votes and not say the election is over. I don’t understand it. I don’t legally get it.
Are you saying that the tribunal didn’t peruse the evidence brought before it very well?
That is what I am thinking. I wish I can go into the mind of the jurists to say what was in their mind. But as a lay person who is not a lawyer, but who is informed on electoral matters, my conclusion would have been if I put things into perspective as it were, seeing that the electoral umpire in whose domain, with the observation of both contestants in this election, would have been able to come up with a resolution based on the figures because election is about numbers. They would have seen that the 10,000 votes are irrecoverable by the loser, Mao Ohuabunwa.
Having called for a supplementary election, if it takes place, what will be the outcome?
If you look at what they have, the place in question is Arochukwu Local Government. That is where you have most of the supplementary election to be conducted. And if you look at it from that perspective, it then raises the issue of what happened. This is supposedly a place where the former senator, Mao Ohuabunwa, should be strong. And he was arrested. He was arrested by the police in the area in question and his people were also arrested in the area because there was a police case against him which was well publicised.
So, this judgement is more like a miscarriage of justice?
It is! It is! But because I am not in the mind of the jurists, that is why I am being careful not to label it anything except what I perceived it to be so that my statements will not be miscarried by people. I wanted to be as objective as possible that Arochukwu Local Government is where Mao Ohuabunwa comes from and Mao Ohuabunwa, the former senator, is from Aro where the violence was perpetrated during that election and he was the chief instigator of the violence based on the police report and himself knows it. He knows it! He and his co-travellers, they were aware of what I am giving to you because I was the returning agent for APC in that election which involved President Muhammadu Buhari in Abia North; Orji Uzor Kalu in Abia North in APC; Honourable Orji Iroh, he was there. We call him Opotoyom. He was also the federal candidate for APC and so on and so forth. Of course, when you talk of the three senatorial candidates that contested in that election, they were Bourdex, Chief Ogba Onuoha, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and then Mao Ohuabunwa. Those were the three senatorial candidates of that zone from different parties. But the reason why I am mentioning this is for the record that Mao is from Arochukwu and he should give a better beat of what actually happened in Arochukwu for that violence to be perpetrated which himself carried out.
Has your camp appealed the judgement?
We will appeal the judgement as soon as possible. We have 21 days to do that. In 21 days, our appeal should be there at the Appeal Court in Owerri.
What is your assessment of the judicial pronouncements in recent time regarding the conduct of the 2019 elections? Are you really satisfied apart from the case of Abia North?
I am not satisfied. I have said so right from the beginning. I have said so that I am not satisfied. From the way things are, it seems that there is something going on in terms of the law being neglected, the procedural law being neglected because from the preliminary information that we gathered, most of what the tribunal gave to the petitioner, were not requested by the petitioner, in which case, the tribunal went on wide Christmas gift to the petitioner. And that is something that is there for everybody to see because they never requested for most of the things that were stated in the final submission and the final judgment that they gave. The petitioner never requested for most of them, but they still went ahead and gave it. That is what I want the public to know and also to understand.
And what is also very important, extremely important, is the fact that most media houses and newspapers were using the word ‘sack:’ Orji Uzor Kalu sacked. Orji Uzor Kalu was never sacked. What happened was that the tribunal said while he remains the senator of the Federal Republic and the Chief Whip of Nigeria, coming from Abia North Senatorial Zone, certain areas that the petitioner claimed that there were violence and results and so on and so forth, the tribunal said they should go back and redo it. As a result of that, they ruled that some parts of that election were nullified. That was what happened. And people just ran amok to say that Orji Kalu was sacked. And you could see most televisions doing that. I don’t know why they were doing that.
Are you still confident that if the supplementary election takes place, Senator Kalu will defeat Mao Ohuabunwa?
Of course! If elections are held in the areas with the electoral umpire being responsible to his duties and making sure the safety of the voters and also those who are participating in the election are guaranteed because what has happened in Arochukwu, Mao Ohuabunwa believes in violence, he usually uses thugs, he is well known for that and that is just why I am particularly concerned that INEC and the security agencies should be aware of this because they have the record. All these things I am saying are on record. They should be able to do the needful by making sure that the security agencies provide the adequate security to make sure that in case there is a substituted voting, we will be able to now consolidate. But no matter how many times the election is done, Orji Uzor Kalu is going to win the election. But we are hoping that the appellate division will be able to use their wisdom to look into all the shortcomings of the tribunal in Umuahia and make those corrections so that the hope of the common man can be restored.