Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Supreme Court judgment on Imo State governorship poll was expected to clear every doubt on the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state. However, the court verdict has put the apex court on the spot, with the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) demanding a review and reversal.
The Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), had declared the PDP candidate in the governorship poll, Emeka Ihedioha as winner of the keenly contested election.
The electoral body, stated that the total number of accredited voters for the Imo governorship poll was 823,743; total valid votes was 739,485; total cancelled votes was 25, 130 while total valid votes is 714,355.
The result indicated that PDP’s Ihedioha scored 273,404 votes to emerge the winner; Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) polled 190,364 votes to secure second place; Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) was third as he mustered 114,676 votes and Uzodinma came fourth with a total vote of 96,458.
Exasperated by the outcome of the poll, the AA, APGA and APC governorship candidates had challenged the election results at both the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, albeit unsuccessfully.
Regardless, the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment , on January 14, nullified Ihedioha’s election and ordered INEC to issue certificate of return to Uzodinma as the winner of the March 9,2019 Imo governorship poll. The apex court had added votes from 388 polling units hitherto cancelled to the scores of the APC candidate, thereby placing him as the winner of the contest.
Expectedly, that judgment elicited diverse reaction in the polity. While the APC has continued to celebrate the verdict, the opposition PDP sees it as a a miscarriage of justice, with members of the party and others taking to streets, in Abuja and other parts of the country, to protest the judgment.
In recent time, no Supreme Court judgment on any electoral matter has generated the kind of interest the Imo governorship case has generated in the polity.
For the opposition party, there was no way the APC candidate could have won the Imo governorship election, especially as the ruling party could not win any seat in the Imo State House of Assembly election held same day as the gubernatorial poll. Consequently, the opposition party has continued to demand for the reversal of the judgment.
A breakdown of the state assembly indicates that PDP won 13 seats, while the Action Alliance (AA)and APGA won eight and six seats respectively.
The PDP National chairman, Uche Secondus, while addressing journalists in Abuja, on the Imo governorship election, faulted the declaration of Uzodimma as the duly elected governor of Imo State. Secondus questioned the rationale for adding votes from 388 polling units, hitherto cancelled to the score of the APC candidate.
Secondus noted that “With the verdict, the Supreme Court executed a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo state as well as other Nigerians, and such must not be allowed to have a place in our democracy, “
“What is more perplexing is the fact that INEC produced a schedule of reasons why results were not produced from the 388 units.
“Indeed, election did not even take place in most of the units for one reason or another, like violence, etc and so no result could possibly be obtained from those units. The results were not merely rejected or cancelled by INEC.
“None of the candidates or their Counsel, except perhaps APC, as we speak, are aware of the number of votes scored by each party from the 388 polling units. The Tribunal or Court of Appeal did not mention or ascribe any figure from the units to any party in their decisions.
“In fact, in the cross examination of the APC Candidate, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, he could not read any figure from the “Oluwole” results. He said that the figures were not clear. And so it beats our imagination where the Supreme Court conjured and manufactured the figures it used in declaring Uzodinma/APC as duly elected.”
“ How then did the Supreme Court arrive at its decision to allocate results to void a lawful governorship election and imposed an unelected person as governor?”, the PDP leader queried.
Secondus accused the APC of allegedly manipulating the system to gain an undue advantage in the governorship dispute, vowing that the judgment will not stand.
Regardless, the ruling party said no matter what the PDP thinks about the Supreme Court judgment, the APC will continue to celebrate it..
“APC is not interested in whatever PDP is saying about the Supreme Court judgement on Imo State because we are busy celebrating now. We don’t want anybody especially the PDP to interrupt our celebration mood…We cannot stop PDP from crying because they have the right to do that. So, let them enjoy the crying while we enjoy the celebration,” the APC spokesperson, Lanre Isa- Oniru told Daily Sun in a telephone interview.
Nevertheless, Ihedioha said the judgment is more about the country’s democracy, especially as it has put the judiciary and the electoral process on trial. The former Imo governor noted that he has nothing but pity for anyone celebrating his ouster.
He, said: “it is not about Emeka Ihedioha. It is not about Imo State. It is about the future of our country and democracy. Its about what do we do tomorrow. .. I am calm and we are calm, and that is why you see in Imo, there is calmness. The calmness is coming out of shock, it is coming of disbelief. It is coming out of the fact that people are saying, let us still see, can this be possible! We are waiting for answers and I believe there will be answers.
“ This is not the time to celebrate. I pity anyone who is celebrating that sad event. If anyone is celebrating, that person is not a student of democracy. Our forefathers worked so hard to get us to where we are, and that is indisputable. So at a time like this, what are we bequeathing to the future generation?
“ Our children are asking questions that have not yet been answered and the facts speak for themselves. I hope they will be addressed. It is a redefining moment, it is a time for sober reflection because to my own understanding of lawmaking, it is about precedence, it is about reference, and so we need to be guided on how to move forward.”
Speaking at an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the PDP, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar said it is imperative for the opposition party to mobilise Nigerians to resist alleged threat to the country’s democracy by the APC.
He said: “Our government govern very well from 1999 up to 2015. As true democrat, we conceded power to the opposition hoping it will further entrench our democracy development and unity but alas, Nigerians have been proved wrong by the governing APC.
“It has become necessary for us to mobilise Nigerians to resist the threat to our democracy, unity and development.
“But what cannot wait is that we should not take what has been happening in our democratic processes from the role of INEC, security agencies and the judiciary for granted.
“ If we take all these roles for granted that will be the end of our hard earned struggle and including our founding members who are today not alive.”
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told journalists at the end of the NEC meeting that the party has resolved to deploy all constitutional means including civil disobedience to compel the government to respect the rule of law.
“We totally condemn the utter desecration of judicial values, climaxing in the national embarrassment of the Supreme Court manufacturing votes and relating same to the APC and its candidate in the Imo governorship election, thereby robbing the people of the state of their mandate freely given to our candidate, Emeka Ihedioha.
“We assure Nigerians that the PDP through all available constitutional means including civil disobedience will insist that this government respect the rule of law, and desist from influencing the judiciary, INEC and our security agencies. “
Last Sunday, members of the PDP across the country took to the streets to protest the ouster of Ihedioha as Imo governor. While the opposition party leadership staged another protest in Abuja on Monday to drive home their displeasure over the verdict..
Secondus stated: “We are a nation governed by law, therefore, all we are seeking today is for our very highly respected jurists at the highest court of the land; we’re not against you, we’re against the error. And by the special grace of God, I know you will revisit the error.
“And all we are saying is for you to review this error because the figures are not adding up. We therefore, call on the leadership of the judiciary, to please, we are all human beings. God is the highest. We know that they worship God, all of us worship God, to revisit and reverse the Imo State judgement because we believe that the figures are not adding up. That’s why we’re here so that the world will hear us.
“We are a democratic nation, and therefore, all democratic nations of the world are hearing us – United States, United Kingdom, even the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS. We believe that people at the highest court of the land will hear our cry today, and revisit, review, and if possible, reverse,the judgement. That is justice that will be done, not only to the people of Imo State but for Nigerians who are crying”, Secondus stated.
For the PDP 2019 Vice Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, the national chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, would not been governor of Edo State if the PDP had done what “APC is doing today”.
Obi said: “I was a minority party, I won election and PDP did not intervene…I went to court, PDP did not intervene. I benefited from it. Adams Oshiomhole wouldn’t have been governor, he wouldn’t have been a beneficiary of judiciary if PDP did what APC is doing today. He benefited from it.
“So as a beneficiary, I am appealing to the judiciary to save this country. What happened in Imo State is enough to kill our democracy. Let us ensure that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. My appeal to APC, please, do not kill this democracy”.
Analysts say with the opposition party vowing not to soft-pedal in its quest for a reversal of the Imo governorship verdict, the last certainly has not been heard about the 2019 Imo gubernatorial contest.