• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Abia guber case: As burden shifts to apex court

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The jaundiced judgment of the Owerri appellate court on the Abia gubernatorial election currently places a socio-political burden on the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the apex court of the land. The Owerri Appeal Court would have set a new and dangerous precedence in the political history of Nigeria if not that there is still a window for further redress in the apex court. There are many “firsts” that the appellate court ruling would have foisted on Nigeria and on our social fabric.

One, if not for the opportunity of the Supreme Court, this is the first time one federal constituency would produce a governor and a deputy. This is the first time one man and his cousin would be governor and deputy at the same time. Alex Otti, the guber candidate of APGA, hails from Arochukwu while his deputy, Uche Eme-Uche, hails from Ohafia, two close communities belonging to the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, which is being represented by Hon. Uko Nkole.

Second, this would have been the first time somebody who never raised a candidate of a state constituency in an area would then turn around and ambush the results from the area for cancellation. APGA did not field House of Assembly candidates for the two state constituencies in Obingwa (Obingwa East and West), yet it ambushed the results of Obingwa for total cancellation.

Third, this would have been the first time somebody who never raised a candidate for a federal constituency would ambush the results from that constituency for total cancellation. APGA did not field any candidate for Obingwa/Osisioma/Ugwunagbo Federal Constituency, yet it ambushed the results from Obingwa and Osisioma for total cancellation. Solomon Adaelu of the PDP representing the above federal constituency did not have any APGA rival in the electoral contest.

Fourth, this would also have been the first time a governor would be disenfranchised together with his siblings, cousins, relatives, village and community. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is being denied his own vote, the vote of his wife and children, the vote of his siblings, cousins and relatives. He is being denied the vote of his state constituency and the vote of his federal constituency even when his opponent did not field any candidate in these areas.

This would have also been the first time somebody would celebrate victory before the pronouncement of judgment and also boasted that the Supreme Court judgment would also be in his favour. The APGA candidate reportedly held a victory party in his Arochukwu country home on December 29, 2015, where he also allegedly boasted that in event of the matter proceeding to the Supreme Court, he had also been assured of victory at the apex court.

Indeed, what these facts point to and reaffirm is that the Abia scenario is a pre-meditated plot and a pre-meditated ambush against the votes and aspirations of the people of the three local councils that were generally criminalized and penalized by the Owerri appellate court. It is a contradiction that the same Owerri Appeal Court has affirmed results in the federal constituencies in these three local councils where the same voting papers, ink, ballot boxes and other materials were used as with the gubernatorial election which held on the same day and where the same human elements voted.

Remarkably, if the Supreme Court allows this precedence, what it means is that all what a political candidate needs do is to sit back in his house (without any campaign or mobilization and without bothering about fielding candidates) and plot a coup against the results from his opponent’s catchment area. This is the truth of the incident in Abia.

It has indeed baffled the world that a band of jurists could blatantly criminalize and penalize entire three local government areas based on the report of a card reader that was inconsistent on the day of election and thereby disenfranchise over 300,000 registered voters with PVCs, when it was common knowledge that the card reader was a huge failure both on the day of the governorship election and that of the presidential election. If there was a case of over-voting in Booth 1, there cannot be over-voting in Booth 2. If there was over-voting in Ward A, there may not be over-voting in Ward B. Therefore, it is illogical to penalize entire three LGAs of about 40 wards. This smacks of total political annihilation of Ngwa people who constitute the largest ethnic nationality in Abia State.

Notably, this particular judgment has further raised doubts about the Court of Appeal’s consistency. But for the Supreme Court ruling on the guber case of Zamfara State, where the electoral mandate of the governor was reaffirmed, nobody could have said categorically what the position of the court was with regard to use or non-use of card reader machines during the governorship election. Only recently, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, came short of mentioning the Abia case when he admonished the justices of the Court of Appeal and urged them to be consistent. The CJN said: “As the guardians of the law, we must not only be just but also convey certainty in our justness.”

Another argument is that if there was over-voting in the three LGAs, the difference between the court-determined margin of the candidates (50,000 votes) is far below the total number of registered voters in the three LGAs, which is precisely 228,932 going by collected PVCs. It is also illogical that an area of strength of a candidate will be completely expunged in determining the outcome of that exercise.

The Appeal Court judgment would have launched the state into anarchy if not for the calm and peaceful disposition of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who has called to sue for peace. But right now, the burden has shifted to the apex court. The world is waiting with bated breath. The Justices of the Supreme Court are known to speak nothing but the law. The law is clear on over-voting. And here lies the faith of Abians that the mandate of Governor Ikpeazu is sacred and safe.

Godwin Adindu