By Declan Emelumba
When someone fantasizes over something that is obviously beyond reach, it begins to verge towards hallucination . That is why those operating under the influence of drugs deserve some pity when they build castles in the air. In their drug-infested minds, they often believe they are making sense while in reality they are merely wallowing in sheer illusion. It is indeed illusionary to be fixated with an idea, a dream or sheer fantasy. This is a type of disease that afflicts those who live in denial or who refuse to accept the stark reality of a loss or failure. In extreme cases, this could also verge towards extreme folly. In both cases, however, the victims need to be nursed back to life and reality through patient and painstaking reminders of the events that may have triggered their temporary state of psychosis.
This write-up has been provoked by Amanze Obi’s latest tantrum, titled “Burden of a grisly past,” which appeared in The Sun Newspaper of Monday, July 4. Obi tried desperately to tarnish the reputation and diminish the status of the new acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, because of his role in the Supreme Court judgment of January 2020, in which Senator Hope Uzodimma was declared the duly elected governor of Imo State.
I cannot exactly say that Obi, a former commissioner in Imo State and an arch-supporter of Emeka Ihedioha has lost his mind. But his fixation with this Supreme Court judgment that restored the filched mandate of Gov. Uzodimma of Imo State leaves much to be desired. His emotional attachment to the case, which often sees him going overboard to pillory the Supreme Court justices, gives the impression that all may not be well with him. It has been two long years since that Iandmark verdict, but Obi has not got over the judgment. His attitude is such that he would have overturned the judgment, if he could create a higher court with him as the sole judge. But wishes are never horses. In his hollow magisterial pontifications, Obi would have taught those judges the rudimentary aspect of street law, which relies on sentiments, emotions and beer-parlour gossip to deliver judgment, instead of clear evidence and hard facts, as demanded by law. Unfortunately, it will take him more than 30 years to acquire a law degree and gain the experience of the Supreme Court justices to be able to adjudicate on such complex cases that come before them.
When a man who knows next to nothing about law goes on to claim relentlessly that he knows the law more than nine Supreme Court justices put together, then he is simply suffering from a chronic fixation with fantasy. Nothing can be more ruinous to a man’s intellectual integrity than a wilful decision to remain fixated with a sentimental position, even when hard facts make such a position untenable. This is certainly where Obi has placed himself.
He saw the recent change of guard at the Supreme Court as yet another opportunity to regurgitate his puerile diatribe against the justices who restored Gov. Uzodimma’s mandate. Having pinned a garb of dishonour on the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammad, Obi went ahead to declare that his successor, Justice Ariwoola, was morally unfit to lead the judiciary because they did not allow his principal, Ihedioha, to enjoy his stolen mandate with him (Obi) as one of the major beneficiaries. Mr. Obi flagrantly abused the freedom of expression when he described the judgment of the apex court as fraudulent and went on to refer to the justices who decided the case as corrupt. By so doing, he assumed the positions of the accuser, the adjudicator and the judge. What a pity! I shudder to think of what would become of citizens, if an iota of power is bestowed on such people with mob mentality, who will never accept that they can be wrong. How does someone assign to himself a level of understanding that surpasses that of a seven-man team of justices of the Supreme Court?
For the records, at the time Ihedioha, who as the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was declared governor by INEC, even the returning officer in Imo State could not establish that Chief Ihedioha met the constitutional requirements of securing at least one-quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas in the state. On that basis alone, in the eyes of the law, Ihedioha ought not to have been declared the winner of the contest. All objective observers of the gubernatorial election in Imo State knew that Ihedioha did not win the election because he failed to meet the constitutional requirements to be decalred governor. For Obi, it was okay that Ihedioha was declared the governor even when he did not win the election. For him, that is justice because it favoured him, his principal and his political party, PDP.
But the hard truth, which the Obis of this world cannot obliterate, is that the man who won the election is the current governor of Imo State, His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma. At the end of the election, INEC, acting in collusion with PDP, placed him fourth with the erroneous belief that he would not have the locus to mount a legal challenge against the result as declared by the returning officer of INEC. Indeed, the question should be asked as to why INEC was in a hurry to declare Ihedioha winner of the election when it was obvious he did not satisfy the constitutional requirements to be so declared. Section 179(1)a of the Nigerian Constitution states that a person can be declared governor, if he receives the majority of yes votes as against the no votes, while 179(1)b, specifies in addition that the person must have scored not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all LGAs in the state. As at the time INEC declared Ihedioha winner of the election, he only met this constitutional requirement in 11 of the 27 LGAs of the state.
Two-thirds of 27 is 18. On that strength alone, in the eyes of the law, Ihedioha should never have been declared the winner and, legally speaking, he was never a governor of Imo State.
To put things in perspective, what was the prayer of Uzodimma at the tribunal, appeal court and the Supreme Court? He simply asked that the over 200,000 votes which were cast in his favour in 388 polling units in the state, but which were excluded from the results declared by INEC, be ascribed to him. He argued that, if those lawful votes were added to his tally of votes from other polling units in the state, he would and should be the rightful winner of the election. Mathematically, this would give him enough votes to move from the fourth position to the first position. Expectedly, Uzodimma tendered sufficient evidence at the tribunal to back up his claims. The police also produced duplicate copies of the said results to support and reinforce Uzodimma’s claim. Remarkably, INEC could not contradict the documents presented by Uzodimma and the police.
In spite of the convincing and weighty evidence presented by Uzodimma and the police, the tribunal, led by someone who came from a state with business relationship with Amanze Obi, refused to rule in Uzodimma’s favour. The Uzodimma camp took everything calmly and desisted from making disparaging comments against the tribunal chairman even when the ruling was leaked to PDP governors who were meeting in Port Harcourt a day before the judgement day.
As a democrat, Uzodimma took his quest for justice to the Court of Appeal, where he was also denied justice. To his credit, one of the judges gave a minority judgment affirming Uzodimma as the duly elected governor of Imo State.
Undeterred and convinced about the merit of his case, Uzodimma approached the Supreme Court in search of justice. What the Supreme Court did was to merely give justice to a man who had been grievously wronged by the electoral umpire in collusion with a political party notorious for stealing the mandate of unsuspecting politicians.
The judgment of the Supreme Court was a mortal blow to those who thought they could steal other people’s mandate. I think because there was no retroactive punishment for such felons, people like Obi still have the audacity to insult the justices of the Supreme Court.
If Ihedioha and the returning officer of INEC who colluded to rob Uzodimma of his mandate had been put on trial and possibly convicted for election fraud and subverting the course of justice, Amanze Obi would not have been engaging in this fatuous fantasy.
If Ihedioha was made to refund the billions of naira of state funds which he mismanaged while he illegally occupied the government house, the hard truth of their election robbery would have jolted Amanze Obi out of his present state of fantasia. Then, of course, he will not have the energy to continue to live in denial.
It is disturbing that even when the Supreme Court condescended to hear the appeal made by Ihedioha to review its own judgment Amanze Obi and his ungrateful cohorts were still not satisfied with the outcome. And because the judges did not give judgment in their favour, they stand condemned.
And, like a psychopath, any reminder of the source of his sickness triggers uncoordinated and illogical outbursts. Not surprisingly, Amanze Obi is further enraged because the current Chief Justice of the Nation, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, was the man who ruled that the post-judgement appeal lacked merit. What would be the basis for merit after the votes from 388 polling units had been rightly ascribed to the owner? To Amanze Obi, justice would only have been served if Uzodimma was denied the votes from the 388 polling units and allowed Ihedioha to hold on to a stolen mandate. Obviously, he has not considered the fact that this would also have amounted to disenfranchising the citizens who voted in these polling units. If the Supreme Court had done that, it would have been spared the tar brush by the baying mob led by PDP and Amanze Obi. And they would have hailed Justice Ariwola as, “a Daniel come to judgement” – just as they have been hailing the only one Justice of the Supreme Court who gave a dissenting verdict.
Unfortunately, matters of the law and justice do not operate that way. There is no way the opinion of one Supreme Court Justice could be superior to that of six of his colleagues. There was also no unanimity in the rejection of the Supreme Court judgment that restored the mandate of Hope Uzodinma as Amanze Obi would want his readers to believe. The crowd that welcomed Governor Hope Uzodimma to Owerri for the swearing in did not reject the verdict of the apex court of the land. The hundreds of thousands of Imo citizens who voted for him were delighted that the Supreme Court had the wisdom and courage to restore the stolen mandate. The ecstatic citizens of Imo State who were pissed off by the corruption – infested and short – lived PDP government needed a fresh air and warmly welcomed Uzodinma to office. The idea of rejection remains the fixated fantasy of Amanze Obi and his fellow travellers.
It is quite surprising that the opposition in Imo State are not tired of lampooning the Supreme Court for its patriotic duty of retrieving a stolen mandate from a brazen ballot box robber. Since the advent of the current democratic process in 1999, the Supreme Court has retrieved such mandates from seven usurping governors in seven states. In all these cases, the citizens of the affected states accepted the verdict as the final outcome of the electoral process. Why is the case of Imo State different? Is it because PDP’ lost out? Could it be because Amanze Obi has an axe to grind with either the current Chief Justice of Nigeria or with Uzodimma? Whatever be the case, the Supreme Court has ruled and Senator Hope Uzodimma remains the Governor of Imo state. No degree of hollow whimpering or hate writing or speech can ever change the fact. Instead of dwelling on such futile engagements, all citizens of the state should unite behind the legitimate government and seek ways to contribute to the development of the state.
• Emelumba is the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Imo State