The Supreme Court judgment that dethroned Ihedioha

The Supreme Court judgment that dethroned Ihedioha


The Supreme Court judgment that dethroned Ihedioha

Introduction:

In Imo State, South-east Nigeria in the past 96 hours, it has been a mixture of joy and jubilation on one hand and tears and tribulation on the other, since Nigeria’s Supreme Court dethroned Governor Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and replaced him with Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As a result of this judgment, Uzodinma received his ‘Certificate of Return’ from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and was subsequently sworn in as the governor of Imo State on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. The governor-elect and his deputy, a professor, Placid Njoku, were sworn in by the Chief Justice of Imo State, the justice, Pascal Nnadi. The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Imo State Government House (Douglas House). Some were laughing, others were crying.

Joy and jubilation seem to be the portion of the APC and Uzodinma camp while tears and tribulation seem to dwell among the PDP and Ihedioha estate. In other words, Ihedioha’s haters seem to jubilate, his lovers seem to mourn.

The opposite was the case in the past seven months up to March 9, 2019, when Ihedioha was declared winner of the Imo State governorship election for which he had prepared and planned for over eight years. He had contested in 2015 but lost to the then incumbent, Rochas Okorocha. He made a second bid four years later when Okorocha was no longer the incumbent and was declared winner by the INEC.

Three of the co-contestants, all of them former members of the PDP, headed to the tribunal to challenge Ihedioha’s victory.

What each candidate pleaded

Hope Uzodinma: He came fourth in the elections with about 96,000 votes, but he did not contest results INEC announced other than saying results disallowed from 388 polling stations which favoured him must be added. Agreed with INEC that the election was free and fair and tendered copies of his agents’ results in court as well as got the Nigeria Police to tender their counter copy.

Ifeanyi Ararume of APGA claimed that the election was marred by violence and thus asked for a rerun due to ballot snatching and electoral crimes. Lawyers said he did not call any material witness to prove his case. They said he did not challenge the votes canvassed from the 388 polling booths.

Uche Nwosu of AA claimed he won APC primaries and went to court. It is not on record that he has vacated such claims but still contested the election as AA candidate. He was to be disqualified for double candidacy.

Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP who was declared winner in that election is said not to have challenged results from the 388 polling booths probably relying on the fact that INEC deemed it fit to reject them. He was said to not have tendered an alternate record of his participation at those booths. In the eyes of the law, he was deemed to have conceded the results.

The verdict:

The Supreme Court ruled that the votes from the 388 polling units which were duly signed by the ward officials from INEC should not have been rejected by either local council or state headquarters officials of INEC. In that case, they accepted 213,295 votes and added this to the 96,000, making Uzodinma to overtake the number one, Ihedioha who had over 273,000 votes. The apex court thus, ordered Ihedioha to vacate the seat and that Uzodinma should replace him. By this, the Supreme Court asked the opposition PDP to vacate for APC. This immediately reverberated like the overthrow of Celestine Omehia in Rivers State in 2007 for Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi that did not contest the election to take over; the case in Anambra State where Peter Obi was asked to come back and take over as governor of the state when Andy Uba had already formed government.

The losers usually call this ‘evil verdict’.

 

Imomatics

PDP sympathizers have released figures to help people understand how the judgment was arrived at, for good or for bad. This calculation allegedly rendered by the Supreme Court is now being touted ‘Imomatics’ (Imo Mathematics). This goes like this:

 

A: INEC results

Total Accredited voters…..823,743

Total votes cast–……………739,485

Cancelled votes……………. .25,130

Valid votes……………..       ..714,355

 

B: INEC results

Votes scored by each candidate before the Supreme Court Judgment:

 

1. Emeka Ihedioha………….273,404

2. Uche Nwosu……………… 190,364

3. Ifeanyi Arerume………  ..114,676

4. Hope uzodinma…………  ..96,458.

5. Others had………………..  . 39,433

 

Grand total…………………….714,335.

 

C: Supreme Court figures

 

The Supreme Court in its judgment added 213,295 votes to Hope Uzodinma’s original votes of 96,458  thereby bringing his total number of votes to 309, 753 votes.

At last, the votes stood thus:

1. Emeka Ihedioha…….  273,404

2. Uche………………. ……..190,364

3. Ifeanyi…………………….114,676

4. Hope Uzodinma  …….309,753

5. Others have ……………. 39,433

 Total…………  …….  …….927,630.

Conflict:

1. Supreme Court Judgment Votes …… ..927, 630

2. Voters accredited by INEC was…… . …  823, 743

3. Unexplained difference ………103, 887

 

The concept of Cross Petition: Tragic defensive error?

 

Painful but legally correct – Kenneth Ikonne, SAN

 

Some legal experts led by Kenneth Ikonne, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), have analysed the judgment and came out with a damning verdict of ‘correct’, though painful. They argue that when a point needed to counter a petition against is weight, you file a cross petition to enable the court treat it as substantive point. It is called setting up of fact.

In his review, Ikonne said: “Ihedioha indeed did set up facts in his reply to the petition rehashing the serial infractions that led to the exclusion of the results of the said 300 plus polling units. But that was legally not enough, in the absence of a cross petition. Besides, such renditions by a Respondent in a mere Reply or Statement of Defence are clearly incompetent. The reason for the incompetence was made clear by the Court of Appeal in National Judicial Council & Ors V Hon Justice Jubril Babajide Aladejide Ejena & Ors.

“The law is that it is a plaintiff who by his statement of claim primarily nominates issues to be tried in a suit and which he relies on to have the judgment of the court. For a defendant, it is only necessary to resist the plaintiff’s claim on the facts pleaded. It is not for a defendant to set up facts which would convey that it is not just setting up a defence but setting up a new case of his own. He can only do so by way of a counter claim.”

Beyond the legalistics

Lawyers can argue till thy kingdom come, but how does the ordinary Nigerian understand that his votes got him not the person he had in mind?

What is the future of elections in Nigeria?

The jury system of judgment which is used in the US, UK and some other advanced democracies operates on the principle that the judge being a legally trained person may possess all the technical skills but that justice is better served when ordinary minds with enough education listen to the facts of a case and make a decision. They would think and reason like ordinary people and seek what justice is perceived to be in any case in hand.

So, legalistics apart, how would the ordinary Nigerian who voted in an election feel when the courts use very remote technicalities to hand power to someone strange or remote to the one in the mind of the people?

With violence and rigging seemingly guaranteed in almost every given election in Nigeria, what would be the future of elections in Nigeria? A young graduate who just started work in Port Harcourt said she did her best not to go out to vote in the 2019 election because she did not believe her vote would count, and that it was not worth the risk of guns and bottles on Election Day. When she heard of the Ihedioha debacle, she turned round to her co-workers to ask them if she had not been vindicated. She may be wrong.

Many say in elections in Nigeria, it is either the laws are not adequate enough to guarantee fairness or even when the laws are there, officials do not seem to give a hoot. Shooting usually starts in the evenings preceding the day of elections till it’s time to snatch ballot boxes, later, results. Yet, no man is in prison in most states on account of election violence or fraud. The young graduates growing into voting age seem to lose the enthusiasm when they come face to face with violence or rigging. Most NYSC members are warned from home not to participate in election. Many have died trying to conduct elections.

This could be why many have called for digital voting arrangements to enable the middle and upper class people vote. Most of them do not fancy coming out to queue up and expose themselves to gunshots or violent actions. These threats seem to make votes not to count. There seems to be racy decline of confidence in elections in Nigeria.

Who makes a governor: Votes or Supreme Court?

The recall of Obi to come finish his tenure in Anambra may have excited Nigerians but the dethronment of Omehia to hand over to Amaechi seemed to cause shock and surprise. Many could not understand how a man who did not contest an election would be sworn in as the winner. Experts said it bothered on jurisprudence.

Whatever the case, many now ask, should the court help enthrone the will of the people or to import and impose rulers? These sticky points seem to reduce confidence in the electoral system. The situation seems to reduce confidence in elections when they see the court impose candidates and election results.

This could be why Calistus Pedro in Port Harcourt called for not only digital voting but for all cases to be ended before swearing in.

I have run a good race – Ihedioha

Before handing over, Ihedioha addressed the people of Imo State and Nigeria in which he concluded by saying in native tongue that Imo is for all. He said so after appealing to Imolites to extend hand of cooperation to his successor the way they did to him. Many have commended that posture.

Though he made it clear he disagree with the Supreme Court, he mentioned the fulcrum of his administration as restoration of merit, unity of purpose, honesty, transparency and inclusiveness. Saying he had put in machinery for handover, he distanced himself from any attempt to loot property of government.

On milestones, he stated: “It is significant to note that Imo State was looking good again. We were declared the least corrupt State in the country, the fastest state growing economy in Nigeria and the most improved, in terms of the deployment of Information Technology in service delivery. Our infrastructure was significantly coming to life, civil servants and pensioners were now being paid as and when due and optimism returned to Imo State. It is on record that we were acclaimed as the most sports and Diaspora friendly state. Most importantly we returned life and activities to our local governments. Yes we had good plans to make Imo the centre piece of commerce, industry, technology, tourism by providing good leadership and first class infrastructure. Under our watch, Imo became safe with our systematic approach to securing lives and property.

“All these were made possible by your prayers, support and sacrifices. I therefore, appeal to all Imolites, especially our teeming supporters to remain calm and to shun any action that is capable of resulting in a breach of the peace. We can always have different parties, but we would have only one Imo State.

“It is incontrovertible that we ran a good race, fought tough battles, (including, principalities and powers) and governed the state well, with the fear of God, accountability, transparency and entrenched due process. We step aside with implicit faith in the Sovereign Lord who reigns over the affairs of men.”

Lamentations of Ihedioha’s kinsman

A 55-year old man from Mbutu in Aboh Mbaise, Collins Joseph Uche, asked to see where justice resided in the judgment of the Supreme Court, apart from either trying to award states to the APC or trying to appease some individuals.

He said: “I speak as an Mbaise person who can be considered to be a kinsman to Ihedioha. First, how would the apex court alone see the need to recognise results that were rejected by those who saw what happened, people mandated by the Electoral Act to so decide? How would the Supreme Court say they saw what the tribunal did not see, and what the senior judges at the Federal Appeal Court did not see? Did they study their own law in the moon?

“How can the Supreme Court see massive votes for a candidate whose party did not win one single seat in parliament? If it were in the days of parliamentary system, how would the president ask a man who got no single vote in parliament to go form government?

“Did the Supreme Court not know that the former governor (Okorocha) fought his party (APC) by taking away the entire party structure in Imo State to AA in retaliation for not allowing him his way? Did the apex court not know that both AA and APC candidates came from same Orlu zone and thus shared their votes to allow Ihedioha from Owerri zone run away with majority votes?

“Did the Supreme Court not care to know that APC had no pillar and thus Imo people were voting for PDP or AA and APGA? Who were the people voting for APC? How did the court import extra 213,000 votes in an election where Okorocha’s camp could only muster 190,000 votes? How does the court explain the fact that by adding their 213,000, the number of total votes has surpassed number of accredited votes, a fact that often leads to cancellation of any election?

“Is the Supreme Court saying they want Orlu zone to rule forever, after eight years of legitimate reign and eight stolen years? Are they saying there is greater urgency of justice in making Uzodinma win than in making Owerri zone take their turn to govern?

“Finally, in a country where winner takes all, where governors and presidents take everything to their zones, is the Supreme Court saying that the projects started in Mbaise should perish again? Houses have been demolished to allow roads pass, electricity line is on the way, roads are springing up, and the Supreme Court has halted the destiny of a people for decades to come, and they call it justice?”

The contradiction of prophecies on Imo

A rural prophet, Rev. Eric Onunji, general overseer of True Believers Church at Nnorie in Ngor-Okpala Local Council Area of Imo State, came to national limelight when he predicted that Ihedioha was going to win. This ran counter to the statements made by other prophets. At the end, Ihedioha won. Many hailed Onunji.

On New Year Day or Cross Over Night, Rev Fr Mbaka shook the world when he said he saw APC’s Uzodinma taking over from Ihedioha. That too has come to pass. This has prompted many to wonder what went wrong that the same God that spoke through Onunji went to speak to Mbaka to bring in another governor.

Those who reviewed both prophecies have argued that both may have been inspired by same God. To them, Ihedioha won when God said it, and Uzodinma took over when God also caused it to be said.

Reviewing the prophecies deeper, the persons reminded Nigerians that Onunji had also given condition for Ihedioha, that he must place a copy of the Holy Bible on his desk as a symbol of the presence of God and covenant between him and the common man that he will always work for the suffering commoners of Imo.

It will be recalled that Onunji had vehemently rejected any form of donation or even offering from the Ihedioha delegates who came to collect the prophesy. The GO had said he did not want Ihedioha and his people to misunderstand the will of God or mix it with demand for money.

When Ihedioha won, he did not pay any visit to the rural church but was said to have sent some persons to convey his appreciation. Many wondered if those persons did not send themselves just to pacify the rural church.

Probably to reduce sulking, one of Ihedioha’s close associates came to the rural church on January 5, 2020, to do his personal thanksgiving and to present his three male children and wife to God, something he said he does every year. There, he pleaded with the church to bear with them, that as soon as the Supreme Court disposed off the case, he would try to get the governor and team to come honour True Believers Church.

Speaking to newsmen earlier, Onunji said he did not allow Ihedioha people to give any kind of money to his church because most prophets have made money the higher objective. He said what was more important was for Ihedioha to realise that it was God that gave him victory and so install a Bible on his desk and rule by the tenets.

Some insiders interpreted that to mean that Ihedioha was to invite the True Believers Church leaders to pray and dedicate his desk and the copy of the Bible. Onunji did not say this was his expectation, when contacted. It is also not clear if Ihedioha understood it that way.

This was the situation of things when Mbaka exploded with his prayer against Ihedioha and this took over attention of the masses. And it came to pass.

It will be recalled that Onunji, then a young pastor directly commissioned by the Holy Spirit, had been sent and he delivered a warning to then Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, in Aso Rock, to vacate office. IBB did and lived. He was said to have been sent to tell Sani Abacha same thing. He did, but Abacha ignored it. He did not live.

Onunji had predicted that Muhammadu Buhari would win in 2015, and he did. He had predicted that Goodluck Jonathan who was been rooted for by easterners, would lose, and he lost. He also predicted that Ihedioha would lose in 2015 and this brought him hostility from most Mbaise politicians and Ihedioha lost. This could be why Ihedioha may not have felt any warmth when he was told that the same prophet had prophesied that he would win this time. But he won. On any of these occasions, Onunji did not collect a kobo as offering or donation. What is true however, is that everyone in True Believers Church at the moment (including Onunji) is sad, very sad.



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