Godwin Tsa, Abuja and Magnus Eze, Enugu
The Imo State governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja yesterday upheld the declaration of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winner of the March 9, governorship election held in Imo State.
The tribunal in a marathon judgment that lasted for several hours dismissed the multiple petitions challenging victory of Ihedioha for lacking in merit.
After reviewing the oral and documentary evidence placed before them, the Justice Umar Dogondayi-led three-member panel held that the petitioners failed to prove their cases.
The unanimous judgment had the support of Justices Amma Saheed and Justice Idayat Moji- Sule.
The petitions were lodged by the three political parties – Action Alliance (AA), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and their governorship candidates, Uche Nwosu, Hope Uzodinma and Ifeanyi Ararume respectively.
They had asked the tribunal to nullify the declaration of Ihedioha as governor of Imo on the grounds that he was unlawfully declared winner by INEC.
Meanwhile many Imo residents, especially those in Owerri, the state capital, went wild in jubilation yesterday, when the news broke of the tribunal victory of Governor Ihedioha over his challengers in Abuja.
The joyous mood that greeted Ihedioha’s victory after he was declared winner of the March 9, election on the streets of Owerri was replicated last night as residents trooped out to the streets in celebration.
Relaxation joints in the capital city and other parts of the state were beehive of activities as people mainly supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party partied.
Celebrations started moments it became clear that Ihedioha was coasting home to victory when the earlier two petitions were struck out.
Ward chapters of the PDP commenced victory parties at their local levels.
Reacting to the victory, Deputy Governor, Gerald Irona said that it was well deserved and an eloquent testimony that the decision of Imolites on March 9 to have a purposeful administration that would not only rebuild Imo, but also respond to the wishes of the people remained sacred.
Elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuayanwu also described the victory of Ihedioha at the Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja as justification that Imo people truly voted for him.
He also commended the judiciary, which according to him, has restored the confidence reposed in it.
He equally advised the governor to now fully settle down to clean the mess left in Imo by the past administration.
Former Minister of Aviation, Dr Kema Chikwe, on her part went spiritual.
She said: “We worship a living God. We are finally counted among the numbers as the Saints go marching on. To God be the glory and honour. God has settled our many years raging war with Hope and Araraume. The story of how David defeated Goliath is now clearer to them. God bless Imo PDP and all those who dedicated their efforts to ensure victory for this man God has given to Imo State, this man of valour, the Daniel that has survived in a lion’ den”
On his own part, state PDP secretary, Ray Emeana said that the dismissal of the three petitions against Ihedioha spoke volumes of the wish of the masses in the state to have a PDP government after eight years of misrule.
Also, Deputy Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Okey Onyekamma of the in a statement described as “justice served and a victory for democracy”
Onyekamma who represents Mbaitoli State Constituency attributed the tumultuous celebration heralding the judgment across the state as a sign that Ihedioha and PDP were the people’s choice in Imo.
The lawmaker enjoined the candidates who lost at the tribunal to team up with Ihedioha to rebuild the state.
Legal luminary, Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, said that Ihedioha is a God chosen governor and should be supported to rebuild the state.
Ahamba said he was not surprised by the judgment of the tribunal because the Imo State governorship poll was won fair and square by Ihedoha, adding that he knew if the judges did the right thing his election would be upheld.
He, therefore, appealed to the petitioners to support Governor Ihedioha in his effort of rebuilding the state rather than distracting him further from the real task of governance for which the people of Imo gave him their mandate, saying that he is sure that he will deliver.
Also, former Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere in a statement called on Imolites to join hands and support the Governor Ihedioha, whilst calling on politicians to allow him to remain focused on the challenges of rebuilding and recovering the state from its present state of squalor.
He, therefore, urged the governor to ensure that he lived beyond party politics.
Meanwhile, State Chairman of Action Action (AA), Anthony Uchendu yesterday said that the party has taken the judgment in good fate, but will, however, wait for the certified copy of the judgment to know where to go from there.