FEATURE ARTICLE

Friday, January 24, 2020
ifeanyi_mmoh@yahoo.com
Jos, Nigeria
IN DEFENSE OF SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT FOR IMO STATE

n the wake of pronouncements by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on gubernatorial election of somestates since litigations passed from the state election tribunal/court ofappeal unto the Supreme Court, mixed reactions seemed to greet almost all theverdicts that has so far come. However, none of the mixed feelings so farmatched the reactions to the verdict on Imo state which was delivered last Wednesday18th January, 2020.

Having listened to the arguments and counter-arguments for and against the verdict that sacked Rt.Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as governor and brought in Senator Hope Uzodinma as therightful occupant of Douglas House Owerri, Imo state; I knew it was time to addmy voice – not to condemn but to defend the verdict – by bringing certainimportant factors that played a vital role in swinging the judgment to ournotice.

For me, the judgment was – first and foremost – evidence that our democracy was beginning to bud. For this reason, let me quickly elaborate on the 2 factors that affected the judgmentin my opinion. The First factor was the prayer of APC’s Senator Hope Uzodinma. Whilelistening to the summary of the verdict, it was clear that judgment dwelled onthe 388 polling units (PU) previously expunged by INEC.

According toUzodinma’s attorney, the 388 PUs which happened to be recovered by theintervention of the Supreme Court captured Senator Uzodinma’s stronghold. From thisassertion, it was possible to think – in the first instance – that INEC hadremoved them from the overall results because of electoral malpractices and ifthat was the case; were there no malpractice in other PUs as well?

Again, the fact ofhaving those 388 PUs removed from the total result was injury to everypolitical party that contested in that election. Hence it was unsafe to saythat they were Uzodinma’s stronghold as there are electorates in those pollingunits who voted for parties other than the APC. Unfortunately, that became theprayer of the APC and although it failed at the tribunal/court of appeallevels, the Supreme Court decided it had some merit.

My point is actuallythis: that the courts of law are vested with the powers to adjudicate on a caseor cases based on the prayers. They do this by evaluating the prayer in linewith the law. They do not have powers to advocate for what does not reflect ina prayer or the case. Therefore our idea that a judgment was compromisedbecause it did not meet our expectations must begin to change.

The Second factorwas what the PDP and Ihedioha failed to do. For instance, someone had said thatthe APC was not supposed to partake in the elections (in the first place)because their primary was inconclusive owing to the fact that both Chief UcheNwosu and Senator Uzodinma had claims to the party’s ticket. Fine; but did thisfeature in PDP’s/Ihedioha’s prayer?

I doubt if it did. ChiefUche Nwosu is said to have withdrawn from the tribunal because his earlier suitagainst the APC which claimed he (and not Uzodinma) was the rightful candidatefor the APC, conflicted with his current stand as challenger of PDP’s victory. Thisis the reason it was important we went to court with our prayers well-articulated.When the presidential elections tribunal began to receive petitions last year, Iwas surprised to know that the APC equally had grievances it prayed thetribunal to look into.

Now, indirectly suchprayers are intended to neutralize the petitions of the PDP. Interestingly,even the INEC had a prayer or two.

This tells that thefact it (APC) emerged winner of the presidential election did not mean it hadno prayers it wanted the courts to address. So, I expected that the PDP’sprayer would’ve being that the tribunal should disqualify the APC as a party onthe grounds of conducting no primaries and therefore not even worthy to approachthe tribunal to begin with.

This is because (as Isaid earlier) the tribunal like the court of law had jurisdiction to resolveevery grievance that is brought before it. This is a vital lesson for every Nigerianto take stock of instead of calling in on radio and TV programs everywhere tosay that the judiciary had compromised its stance and therefore should reverseitself. The courts of law are like computing machines; what you garbage into itis resolved and returned.

I recall thelandmark judgment that voided INEC’s conduct of elections in Anambra state in2007. Former Governor Peter Obi had approached the courts with the prayer that sections180 of the 1999 constitution be given interpretation in line with the law. He didnot even pray that the elections that pronounced Dr. Andy Uba as winner of thegovernorship election be nullified. Look at that.

Suppose the prayerhad been about election nullification; who could’ve predicted the judgment? Again,sometimes judgments are predicated upon a lacuna. The case of Osun state in thecase between Oyetola and Adeleke, comes to mind. The court had stood ontechnical grounds to award victory to Oyetola of the APC. The judgment of thetribunal lacked in merit says the Supreme Court; on the grounds that therequired number of judges present during deliberation failed to meet statutoryrequirement.

Back to the verdicton Imo state, the question of awarding victory to the aspirant/political partythat came 4th in the actual elections – for me – amounted towhipping up sentiments. The verdict was clear that judgment was predicated onthe 388 PUs prayers which by the courts’ determination, had unlawfully beenexcluded from the overall results by INEC.

Some of us may havehad this experience back in our days, when we had to go back to our facultieswith our result sheets in hand, seeking recalculation of the CGPA based onfigures we knew did not reflect our actual scores on a course or two. Not alllawyers are agitated by this verdict.

The judgment shouldserve to educate us on how to not approach the courts. If someone takes aprayer to the courts with the intent to oust you from office as governor, you shouldtake a prayer that must vitiate your opponent’s prayer in response. Case closed.

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