Imo gov debacle: As PDP waits for answers
In this piece, LEON USIGBE examines the dilemma of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the Supreme Court’s removal of Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suffered some bitter judicial disappointments in the past including the Supreme Court’s judgment on the 2019 presidential election. But none is any way near the devastation wrought on its psyche by the apex court’s decision to wrest the Imo State governorship sear from EmekaIhedioha, its candidate, and gave victory to the previously fourth placed candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the March 11, 2019 gubernatorial election, Hope Uzodinma.
In reaching its verdict, the apex court awarded, to Uzodinma, all the votes from 388 polling units, which the APC candidate had pleaded were unlawfully excluded from his tally, catapulting him from his previous fourth place as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the first position in a judgment that has bewildered many in the country. In the INEC-declared result of the March 11, 2019 governorship poll, the total number of accredited voters was 823,743; total valid votes was 739,485; total cancelled votes was 25, 130 and total valid votes, 714,355. The result indicated that PDP’s Ihedioha scored 273,404 votes to emerge the winner; Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) polled 190,364 votes to secure second place; Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) was third as he mustered 114,676 votes and Uzodinma brought up the rear among the four with a total vote of 96,458. However, at the Supreme Court, the total valid votes increased to 950,952 when the previously voided 127, 209 were added to Uzodinma’s tally. The Supreme Court did not explain how it computed the new result or what each of the candidates scored in the 388 concerned polling units or the difference between its own computation and the INEC-declared results, and it has not also indicated that it will provide any explanation in the future. Whenever such explanation do come though, observers hope, it will include whether it is legal for the Supreme Court to unilaterally increase the total accredited votes by any margin after the accreditation and the election.
A pained PDP has been left wondering where the apex court got its figures to hand Imo State to the APC. Some of the questions the PDP is asking for answers are whether Uzodinma called 388 witnesses from the 388 polling units as demanded by law to speak to the results to obviate the principle of dumping which the Supreme Court used against the PDP and its candidate, AtikuAbubakar, in the last Presidential Appeal. The party wants to know whether the presiding officers and or party agents of the 388 polling units were called to testify by Uzodinma/APC, who were the petitioners. The opposition party is also asking: what are the figures from each of the various 388 polling units generated and allocated to Uzodinma/APC by the Supreme Court and whether the Supreme Court, by its declaration, is saying that all the votes from the alleged 388 polling units were for the APC alone in an election that was contested by over 70 candidates. “None of the candidates or their counsel, except perhaps APC, as we speak, are aware of the number of votes scored by each party from the 388 polling units. The Tribunal or Court of Appeal did not mention or ascribe any figure from the units to any party in their decisions,” PDP’s National Chairman, Prince UcheSecondus, declared. The PDP believes that the judgment has also raised the questions as to whether the Supreme Court has powers to formulate and allocate votes as election results, and whether the results declared by the court were certified by INEC as required by law.
Loss of credibility
The opposition is further confounded by the Supreme Court’s decision to declare Uzodinma the winner of the Imo governorship election when it considers the outcome of the Imo state assembly election held on the same day using the same accredited number of voters. According the results declared by the INEC at the end of polling, the PDP won 13 seats; the AA got eight; APGA, six and the APC scored zero out of 27 seats. Therefore, for the PDP, awarding the gubernatorial victory to a party that voters seemingly ignored in the assembly election is contrary to reasoning. Hear Secondus: “How then did the Supreme Court arrive at its decision to allocate results to void a lawful governorship election and impose an unelected person as governor? The fact is that, the Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Tanko, has lost its credibility and no longer commands the respect and confidence of Nigerians. If the people no longer repose confidence in the Supreme Court, then our democracy, national cohesion and stability are at great risk.” He further asked: “But can any judge who sat on that panel go home and sleep well? Can any judge who sat on that panel face his creator and swear that impartial justice was done? We think not.”
Flurry of meetings
The court’s judgment prompted a flurry of meetings of the main opposition party and at the end, Secondus concluded that based on the outcome of the judgment, the Supreme Court as presently constituted under the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammed, is compromised. After a meeting of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), which appraised the Imo judgment, Secondus indicated the party’s fears that there might have been an orchestrated plot to use the court to strip the PDP of the other states it controlled whose cases are pending before the apex court. This has to be stopped. But how became PDP’s dilemma. Secondus maintained that the CJN who has “annexed to execute ignoble agenda of the APC-led Federal Government against the Nigerian people,” must resign and the apex court’s gubernatorial election panel disbanded. The party boss accused the court of awarding fictitious votes to Uzodinma, describing it as “highly irrational, unfounded, a provocative product of executive manipulation and a recipe for crisis, which should not be allowed to stand.” He said by the verdict, the Supreme Court executed a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo state as well as other Nigerians, and such must not be allowed to have a place in our democracy.
Call for recusal
PDP’s argument for Justice Mohammed’s recusal of himself from other petitions pending before the Supreme Court is grounded on the fact, according to the party boss, that “we had intelligence before the verdict on the Imo Governorship that the hierarchy of APC had decided that they must use the Supreme Court to capture the states won and controlled by the PDP such as Imo, Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa and Benue.” Based on that, he said the PDP could not trust the impartiality and independence of the panel headed by the CJN, to adjudicate on the cases.
Also curious to the PDP is the bearing or lack of it on the final outcome, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case between UgwumbaUcheNwosu v. Action Peoples Party delivered on December 20, 2019, which deals with the issue of double nomination. Nwosu had contested and won the primaries conducted by the APC in 2018 and his name was forwarded to INEC as the gubernatorial candidate of APC. But Nwosu also contested and won the primaries conducted by AA. The Supreme Court ruled that he contravened the law by “allowing himself to be nominated by two political parties and therefore voided his candidature. Observers are of the view that the implication of this is that Nwosu was the nominated candidate of APC in the election. However, his nomination became void because he had secured double nomination, which should have left the APC with candidate in the March 11 election and so, Uzodinma could not have, validly, also be the APC candidate in the same election.
Atiku Abubakar and PDP NEC
At a hurriedly called 87th meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP, Atiku, whose appeal against the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the 2019 presidential election had been struck down by the same Supreme Court, told the party hierarchy that the time had come for the PDP to mobilize Nigerians to resist the threat to the nation’s democracy, unity and development. While calling for reforms to address the challenges in the last elections, he added:
“But what cannot wait is that we should not take what has been happening in our democratic processes from the role of INEC, role security agencies and the judiciary for granted. If we take all these roles for granted that will be the end of our hard earned struggle and including our founding members who are today not alive. What can we say we have done to their struggles as they lay in their graves! Therefore, as long as we are alive it is our responsibility to reincarnate the struggle they led that brought about the democracy today that the APC government is threatening.”
The communique that emerged from the NEC in which the PDP expressed its resolve to protect and defend democracy and its institutions in the country, was scathing in itself. The PDP NEC maintained: “We reject the destruction of our Democratic institutions and values especially the independence of the legislature, the politicisation of the judiciary and the compromise of our security and electoral institutions. “We note with pains the constant abuse of the rule of law, the muzzling of the civil society and advocates of free speech as well as the ordinary Nigerians.
“We totally condemn the utter desecration of judicial values, climaxing in the national embarrassment of the Supreme Court manufacturing votes and relating same to the APC and its candidate in the Imo governorship election, thereby robbing the people of the state of their mandate freely given to our candidate, Rt. HonourableEmekaIhedioha.
“We note that this calculated injustice has made the judiciary under the CJN, Tanko Mohammed, no longer the last hope of the common man but rather the lost hope of the common man in Nigeria. The Supreme Court by this judicial Summersault, has eroded the faith and confidence of Nigerians in participating in elections and showcasing that there will be no need for election in the future.
“We assure Nigerians that the PDP through all available constitutional means including civil disobedience will insist that this government respect the rule of law, and desist from influencing the judiciary, INEC and our security agencies. We will not allow the judiciary, legislature, security agencies and other institutions of government and democracy to become departments of the APC.”
As far as the APC, the beneficiary of the Supreme Court’s judgment, is concerned, the PDP does not reserve the right to be the sole beneficiary of “electoral fraud.” Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of the ruling party, said it was reckless for the PDP to attack the Supreme Court the way it did because of the judgment. “The PDP is not only reckless. It believes it is its birthright to benefit from electoral fraud. Courts are bound to interpret laws according to the constitution. No court has the power to bend the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended,” Oshiomhole declared.
Waiting for answers
Ihedioha met with the national leadership of the PDP over the weekend in Abuja and affirmed that he is waiting for answers over the way the apex court stripped him of his mandate. However, he said the ruling will not shake his faith in Nigeria and democracy but instead, strengthen his resolve as an individual, and he also advised the leadership of the main opposition party to remain resolute in their quest to ensure the deepening of democratic ideals in the country.The PDP has already called for a review and reversal of the Imo judgment and has stated that one of its plans to pressure the Supreme Court, the APC and its federal government to desist from actions that can jeopardise democracy and avoid anarchy in the country, is civil disobedience. Even though such election judgment reversal has no precedence in Nigeria’s democratic history, the PDP wants to see the correction of what is to the party, a grave injustice done to the people of Imo State in particular and the nation’s democracy in general.