By Kemi Yesufu
‘Nothing wey Emeka Ihedioha no go see for Supreme Court’, for some has replaced the jocular, ‘Nothing wey Musa, no go see for gate’ antidote Nigerians use in explaining astonishing happenings. It is somewhat ironic that Emeka Ihedioha, who naturally isn’t associated with jokes and street banter, an individual often accused of walking with a chip on his shoulder and being a little too serious, now is the subject of street and online banter. Beyond the protests held in different parts of the country, the banter around Ihedioha shows how much of a topical issue his ouster at the Supreme Court has become.
On Tuesday January 14, the Supreme Court gave a ruling on the Senator Hope Uzodinma Vs Hon. Emeka Ihedioha case in respect of the Imo gubernatorial election held on March 9 2019. The Supreme Court delivered a verdict which surprised a whole lot of people. Many had taken it for granted that Ihedioha who enjoyed a popular mandate with his victory celebrated on the streets in Owerri, having triumphed at the elections petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal would have his election upheld by the apex court. The reverse was the case as the seven-man panel of the Supreme Court set aside the judgments of both courts and declared Sen. Uzodinma, who was a distant fourth in the March 2019 election as governor.
I heard of the Supreme Court ruling just 30 minutes after it was delivered. My mother, who comes from Imo State called from her village to confirm, if rumors that Uzodinma had been declared governor by the Supreme Court was true. I returned my mother’s call after a call to a colleague who covered proceedings at the apex court. He confirmed that Ihedioha had been removed as governor and replaced with Uzodinma. My mother told me her village was in mourning and after many conversations with other relatives, even weeks after the shocking verdict, it is safe to say Ndi Imo may continue to mourn unless the Supreme Court takes another look at its ruling on their state.
So, yes, I am not out to give an impartial, academic opinion on the Supreme Court ruling on the Imo governorship election. I am an interested party, an individual who is strongly connected to Imo, as many steeped in Igbo culture and tradition know that an individual enjoys full rights of a citizen in his/her mother’s village. My mother being an Imo indigene automatically qualifies me as an indigene. I therefore reiterate that my intervention is as commonsensical, as it is partially titled in a push for the prosperity, happiness and welfare of Ndi Imo.
I stand with the overwhelming majority of Imolites, who stoutly reject Uzodinma ‘s leadership as they didn’t vote him in, and support Ihedioha’s audacious return to Supreme Court. The former governor is asking in a motion on notice filled at the Supreme Court, that the court set aside as a nullity the judgment it delivered on January 14. The summary of Ihedioha’s motion urging the Supreme Court to set aside its ruling is that it was fraudulently obtained by Uzodinma.
Ihedioha in the motion on notice filed pursuant to section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution, section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 2004, and the inherent jurisdiction of the court, has asked the court to review its judgment on the ground that it was obtained by fraud. Ihedioha submitted that , “the Appellants/Respondents (Uzodinma), fraudulently misled this court into holding that a total of 213,495 votes were unlawfully excluded from the votes scored by the 1st Appellant/Respondent in the election”.
He further submitted that “the 1st Appellant/Respondent admitted under cross-examination that he was the person (and not the 3rd Respondent [INEC] or any of its officials) who computed the result that gave him the 213,495 votes alleged to have been excluded from his total votes in the election”.
The motion which was filed by the legal team of the former governor headed by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) was in respect of appeals Nos: SC. 1462/2019; SC/1470/2019; CA/OW/GOV/05/2019and petition No: EPT/GOV/IM/08/2019, between Senator Hope Uzodinma, All Progressive Congress (APC) and Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It is the contention of Ihedioha that the judgment is a nullity, as it was obtained by fraud.
I side with the former governor’s position having read several documents related to the case.
One of these documents is the motion on notice filled by Ihedioha’s lawyers which averred that: “The fraudulent nature of the additional votes was demonstrated by the fact that the total votes cast as shown in the 1st Appellant/ Respondent’s computation was more than the total number of voters accredited for the election and in some polling units more than the total number of registered voters.
“The fraud was also demonstrated by the fact that the result computed by the 1st Appellant/Respondent showed only the votes of the 1st Applicant and the 1st Appellant/Respondent without specifying the votes scored by the other 68 candidates who participated in the election.”
Also highlighted to the apex court, as pointing to fraud are Exhibits 63RD1 to 63RD19 (INEC Forms EC40G), which show that there were no valid elections in the 388 polling units where the additional 213,495 votes claimed by the 1st Appellant/Respondent were allegedly generated.
Outside of the Supreme Court, an issue that has greatly worried me and others concerned citizens is the fact that the apex court relied heavily on the testimony of PW54, Rabiu Hussein, a Deputy Commissioner of Police and the results tendered by him (marked Exhibit PPP1 to PPP366) to mysteriously give 213,695 votes to Sen. Hope Uzodinma of APC, thereby projecting him from a distant fourth position to first position and declaring him governor of Imo State. The reason given by Supreme Court was that the votes were unjustly excluded in 388 Polling Units. It however ignored the fact that (whether) elections held in the 388 polling units, had to be established first by eye witnesses from the 388 units before the issue of exclusion will arise.
A scrutiny of the purported results from the 388 polling units shows the high level of fraud that was presented to the court. There were several inconsistencies in the computation of votes in the table of votes for the 388 units. To start with: At No. 69 on the Table presented by the Uzodinma, there were 492 registered voters; but APC miraculously scored 819 votes, PDP 7. This is 334 voters more than registered voters, talk more of accredited voters which is lower. Also, No. 285 on the table presented by Uzodinma to the tribunal, there were 449 registered voters; out of which APC scored 780 votes ; PDP 4. That is 335 voters more than registered voters. Further at No 377 on the table, the registered voters was 367; APC scored 367 votes; PDP 4 votes. That is 4 voters more than registered voters.
At No. 384 on the Table, the Petitioners himself claimed that registered voters was 526; that APC magically scored all 526 votes; PDP scored 2 votes. Meaning that there were 2 voters more than registered voters.
Another issue the Supreme Court will have to consider in order not to undermine the supremacy of Nigeria’s constitution is Section 179(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution which states clearly that to be declared elected as governor, a candidate must not only have the majority of total votes cast but also one-quarter of votes cast in two-thirds of the Local Government Areas in the State. Uzodinma, did not break down in the petition he submitted, how he met the constitutional requirement above.
I have taken a lot of space to explain why it is expedient for Ihedioha to go the route less travelled by seeking that the Supreme Court reverses itself. Many have argued the wisdom of the apex court resorting to the unusual by setting aside its judgment on Imo, as it could lead to a floodgate of persons returning to the apex court to rescind other rulings they don’t agree with. But the Imo case is quite peculiar and I share the view of those who say that Ihedioha has a good chance based on the principle of peculiar facts, which states that no two cases are the same, though the court does rely on procedure.
The Supreme Court is the court of final adjudication, but it doesn’t make it infallible, as it made up of human beings, who I often describe are as different from the smartest robots because they can apply discretion, most especially when it is based on the need for fairness and justice. The court may not be able to help Imolites or any aggrieved party with recent allegations of $12m (N4.3bn) fraud leveled against Uzodinma, as reported in Punch Online on Sunday January 19. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) might be handicapped by the immunity clause in investigating and ensuring justice over allegations of Uzodinma issuing a N200m dud cheque, but the Supreme Court isn’t hindered to display its traditional wisdom and courage by restoring the wishes of Imo voters by correcting its mistake of January 14th.
Kemi Yesufu is CEO/Editor-in-Chief of Frontline News Online