It is heart-warming that the Supreme Court is set to review its verdict on the 2019 Imo governorship elections petitions which annulled the election of Governor Emeka Ihedioha and installed Hope Uzodinma as the governor. In that judgment which generated widespread demonstrations from both within and outside the shores of this county, the apex court had admitted 213,295 votes which it said Uzodimna scored from the 388 polling units he claimed to have been excluded from by the INEC in the overall votes he scored at that election. The court then proceeded to add it to the 96,458 which Uzodinma scored from the 3135 polling units where elections were held and declared by INEC. That bought the total number of votes scored by Uzodinma to 309,753. Imo state has a total number of 3,523 polling units.
Based on the new votes credited to Uzodinma, the Supreme Court declared that he satisfied all the conditions to be sworn-in as the governor and ordered he should be immediately sworn in. But the judgment did not go down well as it was generally regarded as a travesty of justice. It also made history as the first time the judgment of the apex court of the country would attract such a welter of public outrage, demonstrations and condemnation.
The details of that election as released by INEC showed that the total number of accredited voters stood at 823,743 while valid votes were 714,355. Out of the valid votes, Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP scored a total of 273,404 votes, Uche Nwosu of the AA had 190, 364, Ifeanyi Araraume of the APGA got 114,676 while Hope Uzodinma of the APC came fourth with 96,458 votes among other political parties.
When you add the 213,295 votes admitted by the apex court to the total number of valid votes recorded by the INEC, it overshot the total number of accredited voters by 104,907. That is a clear indication of an arithmetic error. It is not possible to have more voters than the total number of accredited voters. And if this figure in excess of the accredited voters is subtracted from the 309,753 credited to Uzodinma by the Supreme Court, his total score will still fall below 273, 404 votes scored by Ihedioha. That is the issue to review. There are other irreconcilables arising from the results of the 388 polling units that formed the basis for the declaration of the APC candidate as the winner of that election. The first has to do with the exclusion of all the other political parties in the election as evident from the unclear result sheets on which basis the apex court declared him winner. What can be gleaned from those illegible results sheets are results purportedly scored only by the APC and the PDP. Why the contest was just a matter between the two parties in an election that featured about 70 political parties is the reason the apex court needs a thorough review of the facts of the matter.
An analysis of those results sheets further showed over-voting in many of the units. Where there was no over-voting, Uzodinma scored more than 80 per cent of the total number of the votes recorded with instances of votes scored higher than the total number of registered voters in some other units. These are obvious instances of electoral infraction that our electoral laws frown at. And the admissibility of such results is a serious issue to contend with.
Even then, the court has to satisfy itself with the propriety of admitting results from the 388 units which INEC clearly disowned because elections were not held there for reasons ranging from violence to other infractions. There is also the issue of how a candidate that came forth scoring only 96, 458 votes from 3,135 polling units was able to gather 213, 295 from just 388 polling units said to have been omitted by the INEC.
The alarming disparity between the votes he secured at the 388 contentious units and what he got at the 3,135 units spread across that state is part of the discontent with the ruling of the Supreme Court. This fact becomes more glaring when it is juxtaposed with the standing of the parties in the state assembly election held simultaneously with the governorship election. In that legislative election, the PDP got 13 seats, AA 8 seats while APGA got 6 seats making up the 27 state constituencies of the Imo House of assembly. Curiously, the APC did not win a single seat including the local government of its APC candidate.
Moreover, the apex court was curiously silent on the spread of votes scored by Uzodinma that qualify him to have satisfied the constitutional spread of gathering one quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the local governments of the state. And for a candidate that could not secure a single seat in the state assembly, the possibility of meeting that requirement seems a tall order. Perhaps, had the apex court presented the tabulation of the local governments from which he got the results, the air of suspicion hovering over the decision of the Supreme court would have been stymied. It is good a thing the Supreme Court is taking another look at that judgment following the application for review by Ihedioha. This is more so against the background of the position of those who had sought to hide under the time frame set for the disposition of election petitions to obstruct justice. That time frame has been kept. The review has nothing to do with it. Those who sought to capitalize on the time frame for the disposition of elections are not saying they did not see he errors in the apex court’s judgment.
They are not faulting the arithmetic errors and the attendant incongruity in awarding judgment based on errors of calculations. The Supreme Court has to re-visit that judgment because of the fundamental implications it has for the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. There is the need for another look at that judgment because it has wider implications for democracy and the sovereignty of the electorate as expressed at the ballot box. It is at the heart of representative democracy and the rights of a people to choose their leaders.
What is the purpose of going out for elections in the future if a candidate could get to power irrespective of the choice, direction and sensibilities of the constituents? The issue is not just about Ihedioha. It is also not about Imo state. It is about the future of democracy, the inalienable rights of a people to determine those to preside over their affairs. It is about the choice of the people which is an irreducible decimal in representative democracy.
These are the choices we are confronted with. The Supreme Court must do something to redeem public confidence which has waned considerably by that singular judgment. It is being looked upon to assert its independence in keeping with the principles of separation of powers, checks and balances against the excesses of the executive and the legislature. This is the time for it to act and restore public confidence in that institution as the last hope of the common man.
Omeihe writes from Lagos