Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
There is palpable tension among members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as leaders of the two political parties and the people of Imo, await the decision of the Supreme Court on a suit filed by Emeka Ihedioha, seeking a review of the apex court’s judgment on the state’s governorship election.
The Supreme Court fixed March 2 to hear the application, which was originally slated for hearing on February 18.
In a unanimous judgment on January 14, the apex court nullified the election of Ihedioha who was the candidate of the PDP in the 2019 governorship election in Imo.
The court declared in his place, Hope Uzodinma of the APC as the duly elected governor of the state.
Since then, issues relating to the judgment have continued to elicit diverse reaction in the polity, with PDP leaders kicking against it.
In the aftermath of the judgment, PDP leaders and members embarked on several protests in Owerri, the Imo State capital, the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), as well as in other states across the country to demand a reversal of the verdict.
Apart from the street protests, the opposition party equally petitioned the United Nation and European Union missions in Nigeria, as well as the British High Commissioner and American Ambassador to Nigeria over the Imo governorship judgment.
Speaking during the protest in Abuja, PDP National chairman, Uche Secondus, said the PDP is not against the Supreme Court justices but rather that the party believed that there was an error in the apex court’s judgment on the Imo governorship dispute, which should be corrected.
“We are a nation governed by law; we’re not against you, we’re against the error. And by the special of 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, called 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”.
After series of protests, the PDP and Ihedioha formally filled an application for a review of the judgment three weeks ago. Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma and the APC have also filed an objection asking the Supreme Court not to accede to the request of the opposition party and its governorship candidate.
According to the opposition party, the error, which it wants the apex court to correct was that the number of votes in the March 9, 2019 governorship election was inadvertently increased by 127,209 votes.
It noted that the number of accredited voters was 823,743, out of which, 739,485 were votes cast while 25,130 were cancelled votes, leaving 714,355 as valid votes, stating that with the addition of 127,209 to Uzodinma’s 96,458 votes, the total number of votes in the election increased to 950,952.
The opposition party in a motion filed before the Supreme Court by its counsels led by Kalu Agabi(SAN) had contended that “having regard to section 140(2) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the appellants/respondents divested this Honourable Court of the relevant jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/ Respondent as the winner of the gubernatorial election conducted in Imo State on the 9th day of March 2019 by branding or stigmatizing the entire election as invalid.
‘This Honourable Court had no jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/Respondent as elected in an election petition which was based on two inconsistent and mutually exclusive grounds, to wit, (i) that the 1st applicant was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election, the implication of which is that the majority of votes cast at the election were valid; and (ii) that the election was invalid for non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the implication of which is that the election be annulled.
‘This Honourable Court did not have the jurisdiction to declare the 1st Appellant/Respondent as elected in the absence of any proof that the votes ascribed to him met the mandatory geographical spread stipulated in section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). “
However, Uzodinma in his objection wants the apex court to dismiss the PDP petition on the ground that it is status barred, noting that the window allowed by law for election petition has elapsed.
The Imo governor through his lawyers led by Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN, said Ihedioha’s application, “being a proceeding relating to or arising from election of a governor is barred by effluxion of time”.
“Having delivered its final decision on the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Appeal No. SC. 1462/2019 between Senator Hope Uzodinma & Anor v Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha & 2 Ors., the Supreme Court has become fuctus officio and divested of jurisdiction over the same subject matter.”
Apart from filing for a review of the apex Court judgment, the opposition party had in a letter jointly signed by its National chairman, Uche Secondus and National Secretary, Umar Tsuari demanded a fresh panel to preside over its application.
The party in the letter dated February 14 and addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Tanko said: “Your Lordship would recall that a panel of Hon. Justices of the Supreme Court presided by your good self on Tuesday, the 14th day of January 2020 delivered judgement on the above appeal. Your Lordship may further recall that on February 5th, 2020 the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) filed an application praying that the judgement of 14th January 2020 be set aside on grounds of nullity of the judgment, among other grounds.
“The judgement sought to be set aside has generated so much misgiving not only among lawyers but in the general polity as a whole because of the uncertainty it has introduced into our electoral jurisprudence, its potential for crisis in our democracy, the irreconcilability of the calculations contained therein and their resultant effect.”
It added “… we hereby request that the 7 persons that heard the case earlier, recuse themselves from participating in the consideration of this new application.
“We are not unmindful of the fact that a litigant cannot dictate to the Court the panel that should hear its case. However, due to the extraordinary circumstances and the nature of this case, we think that our request is a fair one that meets the justice of the case.
“Consequently, we feel it as our patriotic duty to hereby humbly request that your Lordship constitute a different panel of this great Court (other than the one that delivered the judgement) for the purpose of hearing this application.”
However, the dismissal of the APC application for the review of the Supreme Court judgment that nullified the election of David Lyon as governor-elect of Bayelsa State by the apex court has heightened anxiety, ahead of the court sitting on the Imo governorship case.
Regardless, the PDP National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the party is confident the Supreme Court will treat the Imo governorship case on its merit.
Ologbondiyan, in statement on Wednesday said the opposition party’s demand “on Imo is not in any way in contestation of the authority and finality of the Supreme Court but a patriotic effort to assist the Supreme Court affirm its infallibility by correcting the inherent mistakes in the judgment which came as a result of misleading presentation to it by the APC.
“It is therefore instructive to note that the various election matters before the Supreme Court were brought on clearly distinctive grounds and each should be treated on its merit before the law. “
The PDP spokesman added that the “ only reason APC was pushing for a review of the Supreme Court’s valid and flawless judgment on the Bayelsa and Zamfara governorship elections was to cause confusion and blackmail the Supreme Court from treating the Imo case on merit.”