Much ado about PDP protests 

The demonstrations by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the Imo governorship election have not gone down well with the presidency. But LEON USIGBE writes that the opposition may not relent until the Supreme Court reverses what the party sees as grave injustice. 

 

The main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not new to demonstrations to draw attention to what it believes are electoral infractions by government and, as well, to press home its demands for free, fair and credible elections in the country.  In October 2018, members of its hierarchy including National Assembly leaders and state governors embarked on a demonstration to protest the outcome of the Osun State governorship election. On that occasion, they stormed the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja to make the point that the electoral umpire should declare PDP’s candidate, Ademola Adeleke, as the winner of the Osun election after he was poised to emerge victorious before INEC ordered a controversial rerun.

The latest of the PDP demonstrations were largely targeted at the international community.  They followed the Supreme Court’s annulment of the election of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo state and the award of his post to the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator Hope Uzodinma, who came fourth in the March 11, 2019 governorship election in the state.

The Supreme Court reached its verdict by agreeing with Uzodinma that his votes from 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded from his tally declared by INEC. The court added all the votes from the 388 units to his total and shot him from the fourth to the first place in the poll.  However, the PDP pointed out yawning gaps in the judgment such as the fact that the computation by the apex court had caused the total valid votes to be over 100,000 in excess of the total number of accredited voters for the Imo gubernatorial election.

On January 31, 2020, the PDP stakeholders, led by its national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, members of its National Working Committee (NWC), Board of Trustees (BoT), members of the National Assembly, among others, took off from Legacy House, Maitama, the party’s alternate national secretariat and headed for the embassy of the United States (US) and the British High Commission to present a petition on the Imo election. Secondus rationalised the protest as a way to draw attention to an alleged attempt to truncate democracy by Federal Government’s use of the judiciary to reverse election results.

Contained in the letter he handed to embassy officials was the party’s argument that injustice had been perpetrated by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration at elections, particularly restating that the case of the Imo governorship where the party’s victory was allegedly overturned by the Supreme Court, an action he saw as a coup against the PDP.  The party therefore wanted the international community to take more than a passing interest in the issue to avoid an imminent breakdown of law and order.

In the letter entitled: Perversion of Justice: Deliberate Efforts At Truncating Democracy in Nigeria,” Secondus said the idea was to bring to their notice, a serious case of judicial compromise and deliberate perversion of justice by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which he said was now threatening the nation’s democracy as well as its peace, stability and corporate existence. The PDP has since followed up its visits to the Embassy of the US and the British High Commission with similar ones to the European Commission (EU), Embassy of France and the African Union (AU) offices in Abuja, advancing the argument that the Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Tanko, has become heavily compromised; lost its credibility and is now allegedly annexed to execute ignoble agenda of the APC-led Federal Government against the Nigerian people.

Secondus maintained: “With 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. 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.”

The national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, would however have none of the PDP argument as he has challenged his counterpart over his constant resort to demonstrations in protest of the outcome of elections. Oshiomhole believed that his party has been at the receiving end of questionable decisions by INEC and had taken the pains with equanimity, knowing that as a ruling party, it could not be seen to be openly castigating the institutions of government.

“If we choose to question, on the streets of Nigeria, all of the impunity we have seen that have affected the APC negatively coming from our courts, there will be no peace anywhere. But we have said that somebody must bear the price of peace. That is why we choose to keep quiet. It doesn’t mean the PDP has any valid case,” he said in a reaction to the PDP’s demonstrations.

The presidency has also weighed in, leaving nothing but harsh words for the main opposition party, for allegedly recruiting the media and wanting to sell a false narrative to the world with its marches to the foreign embassies against the Buhari administration and the Supreme Court over its verdict on the Imo state gubernatorial election.

“As part of this overall scheme, the PDP, with its belligerent politics, has been marching from one embassy to the other in protest against the Buhari administration and the nation’s highest court of justice, the Supreme Court. They are keen to give the impression that Nigerians are in support of them as they take to the streets, and they will go to any length to promote this false narrative,” presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, posited in a statement.

But in response to the claims, the PDP has charged the Buhari presidency to face its “self-inflicted ordeal and address the consensus concern of Nigerians over its poor handling of security issues, instead of seeking to blame the opposition and the media.” The party has already applied to the Supreme Court to review the Imo governorship election judgment and possibly reverse itself.  Until that happens, the party is likely to sustain its pressure to the consternation of the presidency.

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