I strongly feel the pains and anguish of Imolites whose polling units were among the fabricated 388 the Supreme Court relied on to award 213,456 votes to Senator Hope Uzodinma and on the basis of that declared him winner of the 2019 Imo governorship election. More so for those who religiously undertook their civic responsibility on March 9, 2019, by going to their polling units to vote for the governor of their choice. The worrisome outcome of their efforts has naturally etched in their minds a lasting devastating impression, which the apex court is fascinatingly set to amend by accepting to review the January 14 ruling rightly considered by many as a miscarriage of justice.
I have made this observation and expressed the concerns therefrom because I am involved (not just involved), I played a leading role during the Imo governorship election and my polling unit, 014, Umugakwo Hall, Eziama/Okpala Ward 4, in Ngor Okpala Local Council, regrettably constituted one of the 388 unfortunate polling units in Uzodinma’s net. It is number 75 of the tabulated document he tendered to the Supreme Court, where he purportedly recorded 656 votes and gave only seven to Ihedioha.
Evidently, the figures were forged and, therefore, lacked credibility given that both the governorship and House of Assembly elections held the same day were cancelled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the collation centre at the local government headquarters in Umuneke. This was widely reported by various media organisations. INEC hinged its action on over-voting (the number of votes recorded being more than the accredited voters). As such, there was no result from our polling unit. The compelling question is, where did the figures emanate from?
The cancellation was replicated by INEC in the polling units across the state where excessive voting and large-scale violence marred the elections. The affected polling units in the state are the 388 where Uzodinma is today claiming that his votes were excised. The result is unlawful statistics that are over and above INEC authenticated data being bandied in deceitful push to get the Supreme Court’s final endorsement. This is after Uzidinma suffered woeful failures at the election tribunal and Appeal Court, where Ihedioha’s victory was reaffirmed. INEC drove this sacred and verifiable reality home eloquently when it tendered Form EC40G to both the tribunal and the Appeal Court to demonstrate that elections in the 388 units were cancelled for various reasons and, therefore, no results could have emanated from the surreptitious 388 polling units.
With more than 40 polling units’ results cancelled in Ngor Okpala, the local council was the hardest hit. This was one key reason why the irate youths set the INEC office on fire. The claim on the 388 polling units and the resultant fabricated results to justify the claim were done in the most unintelligent and inelegant fashion. First, the minimal votes allocated to Ihedioha, compared with vast number of votes ceded to Uzodinma contradicted the generally recognised and unassailable fact that Ngor Okpala is Ihedioha’s stronghold, having represented the area with Aboh Mbaise Local Council in far-reaching effective manner for 12 years, with several infrastructural development projects to his credit.
Besides, Uzodinma’s statistical data either outstripped the registered voters and or the PVCs collected. Instances abound in Central School, Eziama, which appeared on the document’s number 66, where Uzodinma was recorded 781 votes with only 663 PVCs collected and Development Primary School, Eziama, number 67, he was allocated 600 votes with only 430 collected PVCs.
It is puzzlingly confounding whether in Uzodinma’s 388 polling units those without PVCs, therefore, legally unqualified to participate, voted. This underscored the large-scale illegality inherent in the document, making the judgment review compelling and pertinent.
This nullity is evidently a recurring decimal in the other polling units in other zones of the state, including Okigwe and Orlu. For instance, Uzodinma was allocated 290 votes, as against 232 PVCs collected, in Ama Nwokoro Umueriwuala unit in Orsu council, which appeared on number 15, while, in Umueze 1, Umuehi Hall unit, in Ehime Mbano number 13(5), out of 437 collected PVCs, the APC candidate was given 450 votes.
It’s also imperative for the apex court to use the judgment review slated for Monday, March 2, 2020, to take a another look at APC’s sponsorship of two candidates in the same governorship election as affirmed by the Supreme Court. The apex court had on December 20, 2019, ruled that Uche Nwosu who was the candidate of Action Alliance, was also APC’s flagbearer in the Imo governorship election. It was on account of the affirmed dual nominations his candidature was invalidated by the same Supreme Court on January 14, 2020. But, in another breath, the apex court equally endorsed Uzodinma as the candidate of the APC. Did the court recognise two candidates for one political party in the same election? To many Nigerians, going strictly by the court’s ruling and the disqualification of Nwosu as a consequence, Uzodinma’s candidature in that election was at best a nullity. This profound realisation makes veritable clarifications during the review desirable and judiciously imperative.
Understandably, Nigerians and indeed members of the international community have expressed deep concerns over the Imo governorship conundrum, given its peculiar and unprecedented nature. This is largely underscored by the countrywide and global protests it has generated, and also wide-ranging comments reportedly credited to various individuals including elder statesmen, diasporans, legal luminaries, religious leaders, scholars, professionals, civil society activists and even artisans.
The consensus is one that the apex court should leverage on the judgment review to correct the mistakes of the earlier ruling by ensuring that justice is not only done but seen to have been done. And two, that a new panel be put in place by Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed, to administer the review outside the justices that handled it at first.
I align completely with the two submissions. The first will essentially enrich the nation’s jurisprudence, show the apex court as courageous, sagacious and truly supreme. It will have a far-reaching impact on salvaging the judiciary and democracy, both of which have been worst hit by the Imo crisis, while the second will help confer greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the outcome of the review.
•Dr. Uganwa wrote from Owerri